Ferrets Fight After One Gets Operation

Will two ferrets that fight after a separation due to surgery ever get along again?

Q: I own two ferret hobs named Ted and Arnie. They are both coming up on 2 years old and have lived together since the day they were born. Recently, Arnie had to have a rather big operation on his neck to remove an abscess (so big it left him with a 5-inch scar). I was told to keep the boys apart until it had healed. We are now five weeks down the line, and hair is starting to grow back.

I have tried to put my ferrets back together very slowly. I have a large shed that is turned into a “playpen,” and I put one in a carry cage in the pen and the other running around. I have done this for about a week. When I do put them together (supervised!), the ferret that didn’t have the operation is very violent toward the other one. He grabs his neck and refuses to let go. I have had to pry him off a few times now. I am petrified he is going to cause the scar to reopen or, worse, another abscess.

How else can I get them together again? I have not seen Ted like this before. He is very stressed, walks up and down the cage most of the time and seems to really miss Arnie, but he keeps hurting him when they are together. I do not have enough room/equipment for them to spend the rest of their lives apart, that was not the idea of having them. I’m open to any help you can give me and will try all. I hope you can help, as I am very worried.

A: Since you refer to Ted and Arnie as hobs (intact males) and not as gibs (neutered males) it could be a hormone problem that is causing the ferrets to fight. Many adult male ferrets, even siblings, will fight with each other when in rut.

You didn’t say how Arnie got his abscess in the first place. It could be that the two ferrets have been fighting or playing very rough for a while now. Unfortunately, separating the two after Arnie’s surgery has estranged him from Ted. Arnie may also have picked up some unusual scents while at the vet’s office, if he was there for a while after his surgery, so Ted may not recognize his scent and is treating him as a newcomer ferret.

If your ferrets are not neutered, having this done may help break the tension between them. (You will need to give the hormones time to work their way out of your ferrets’ systems). If they are already neutered, then you may have to go through a formal reintroduction period with them. This may include swapping bedding or having them take turns being in the travel cage. You can also try bathing both of them with an odor-neutralizing shampoo so that they smell the same. If Ted finds that Arnie smells just like him, he may relax a bit. Offer the ferrets treats together and try to make them realize that nice things happen when they are both together.

Ted’s pacing is most likely not a sign that he misses Arnie. He probably just wants to get to the “intruder.” Arnie is probably giving off fear pheromones, which also triggers Ted’s tendency to attack him.

Talk to your veterinarian about getting something to relax your ferrets. Many veterinarians are familiar with holistic remedies to calm pets. In the meantime, keep the ferrets apart for a few days to let them calm down. Let each ferret out to play separately for a while. When you try them together again, spray Arnie with a bitter spray sold at pet shops so that if Ted does try to bite him, he will learn that Arnie doesn’t taste good. All you can do is be patient and keep trying; hopefully, things will click with them again.

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