Q: The predisposition of ferrets to chew on rubber and plastic is well-known. Sometimes this leads to dangerous behavior, such as ingesting pieces of various items. My question is: What exactly is the appeal for ferrets? Is it strictly the texture, or possibly something off-gassed — or even something electromagnetic, as in the case of electrical cords? I have used bitter denatonium benzoate on sensitive wires, but it’s impractical to treat everything. My question is more regarding the nature of the appeal to my favorite pet, Salvador Dali, my ferret.
A: I, too, have often wondered what the attraction is for rubber, plastic and fabric for ferrets and for other animals. If the animal is actually eats the material then we are dealing with pica, which is a completely different issue and requires intervention by a veterinarian and/or behaviorist.
The best I can guess is that these materials feel to the animal like it is chewing on something “natural.” When an animal is eaten it is soft and hard at the same time (meat and bone), it is also chewy and great at flossing teeth (muscle). I can only imagine that rubber and fabric mimic these experiences.