Ferret Aggression and Ways to Stop It

I’ve found that a frequent concern among new ferret owners is ferret aggression and how toPanda Ferret 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 You may eat more than usual, smoke more than usual, talk too much, become withdrawn, and so on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 carryGetting Started with Pet Ferrets 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.

Ferret Biting and Ferret Aggression – What to Do About It

Guest Post by Michael Hearing

Pet ferrets, just like any other pets or even us humans, have widely varying individual personalities. So some ferrets are just a little more, well, “high strung” than others. And this means that if your ferret displays aggressive behavior or tries to bite and nip, you need to determine the cause of this feisty ferret behavior.

So let’s narrow down the aggressive ferret behavior to biting and nipping. Here are some of the main reasons why ferrets do this.

  • This particular ferret is just plain mean. It’s very rare because almost all fuzzies are playful and loveable. But occasionally, especially when it has been rescued and has suffered abuse in the past, a ferret becomes extremely aggressive as a defense mechanism and simply as a way to survive.
  • Obviously, ferrets don’t possess the power of speech, but they still have ways to tell you things. And one of these ways is by nipping. Your ferret may bite because he is ill or suffering from a serious disease. A formerly well behaved ferret that begins to bite should be taken to the vet.
  • Ferrets are carnivores – you can tell that just by looking at their teeth. But before they were domesticated, they were the prey of larger carnivores. It’s just natural, then, for baby ferrets and young kits to react with a bite when they are startled or feel threatened.
  • If your new fuzzy is an adult ferret that nips, the reason for this behavior may be very simple. It may simply be that the previous owner(s) never taught this ferret not to bite. Or, perhaps even worse, your ferret may bite and nip the previous owner(s) inadvertently encourage this behavior instead of discouraging it.
  • The most common reason for ferrets displaying aggressive behavior, especially biting and nipping, is simply that they still don’t trust humans. Ferrets that have been abused or have never learned to trust will often bite.

The first two ferret biting problems you may not be able to do much about. But nipping that stems from the other three causes – young ferrets, untrained ferrets, and untrusting ferrets – you can generally do something about.

For babies and kits that bite, the solution may be as simple as giving them a time out. When they nip, just put them alone in a pet carrier for a few minutes. Ferrets are very social animals, and they usually don’t like this. Just remember that the goal is to discourage the aggressive behavior – not to reward them with a nap time.

Usually, though, you will need to take a firmer approach, especially with aggressive older ferrets. Here’s what worked with my wife’s panda ferret, Possum.

When Karen first got Possum (as a new baby brother for Rikki), he was not quite threeStopping Aggressive Ferret Behavior months old. And being young and not fully trusting us, he would occasionally try to bite. So when he did that, Karen would pick him up gently (so as not to provoke further aggressive behavior) but firmly by the scruff of the neck while supporting his hindquarters with her other hand. Holding him up this way, she would give the firm, clear command “No!” In addition, she would sometimes sit down so that Possum’s bottom was supported on her leg. And then Karen pointed and shook the forefinger of her free hand at him to emphasize theStopping Ferret Biting and Nipping message.

Just a few times of this did the trick. Now that Possum is a little over a year old, he is a slightly pudgy, laid-back, non-biting ferret.

There are other aggressive ferret behaviors and more techniques for discouraging and redirecting them. You can learn about these in the recently published Getting Started with Pet Ferrets. (iPad and Nook owners can sample the book here.)