I’ve found that a frequent concern among new ferret owners is ferret aggression and how to stop it. Well, my friends, there could be several reasons why your fuzzy is aggressive and bites. And there are several ways to stop this behavior in pet ferrets.
One reason for your fuzzy’s aggression and nipping could be as simple as fear. This is often the case when your ferret is new to your home.
Think about it. How do you feel and act when you’re in a new, unfamiliar place and are around strange people? You probably don’t enjoy it all that much and get at least a little nervous. And because you are nervous, you will act in ways that show that nervousness. You may eat more than usual, smoke more than usual, talk too much, become withdrawn, and so on
Well, in the same way, your ferret may bite, hiss, and/or screech. He may even attempt to hide if he can. These are natural reactions to the new setting. So the trick is to do everything possible to make your ferret feel safe and comfortable.
The best thing you can do for new pet ferrets is to handle them a lot, talking to them in a very reassuring tone. The best advice I ever got on this was from Kim Schilling in her book Ferrets for Dummies. And that is to get a sleep sack or small backpack, place your ferret in it, secure it around your front, and carry your fuzzy around with you. Also, when you’re sitting or lying on the couch, keep your hand inside the sack, and pet and love on your fuzzy. This will help your fuzzy become a cuddler instead of a nipper.
Or maybe your fuzzy is acting aggressively because he is in pain. He may have a tummy ache, or maybe his ears hurt due to an ear-mite infestation. Or there could be other health problems causing the pain and the ferret aggression. In this case, when you treat the health problem, the aggression usually takes care of itself.
If you have a kit, it could be, like all babies, teething and using you as a chew toy. Give him something to chew on besides you. You can try treats made especially for ferrets or a toy that is ferret safe. Do not use a rubber toy made for puppies or kittens. Parts of the toy, broken or bitten off, could be swallowed, causing blockage in your ferret’s stomach and intestines. So make sure the toy is ferret safe.
Another possibility is that your fuzzy just wants to play tag. Tag is their all-time favorite game. Rikki and Possum will run and jump at my feet and nip at my ankles. That is my cue to run at them and tag them. Actually, I’m on my hands and knees after them. This way, I don’t run the risk of stepping on them.
Now that we have covered some of the reasons for aggressive behavior in ferrets, let’s see what can be done about it.
The one thing I want to stress is this: DO NOT strike your ferret. That will cause more fear and probably more biting. Your fuzzy will associate hitting with you and so may not want to have anything to do with you. This could also physically harm your fuzzy baby.
One method I have learned to curb ferret aggression that really works is what I call “scruffing.”
I nab my fuzzy by the scruff of the neck (in the same way a mama ferret would do to carry her baby or to discipline her baby) so I can have control of his head. Then, just like a parent, I scold my fuzzy and shake my finger at him. At the same time, I tell him, “No bite.” I then proceed to pet him and love on him. Ferrets respond better to affection and a loving tone of voice.
This procedure may have to be repeated and so may take a while to work, but never give up on your fuzzy. They never give up on you.