A Ferret Manual

Here’s an excerpt from our soon-to-be-released little book titled A Ferret Manuel: How to Train and Manage Your Human. It’s a humorous, ferret’s-eye view of the often comical relations between humans and pet ferrets.

So, you’ve finally acquired your very own human, have you? Good. Good for you and congratulations! It sure beats being crowded together with a bunch of total strangers in a tiny cage at the pet store, doesn’t it? But . . . while this is a great accomplishment and a first step toward a happy life in a home of your own, your job is just beginning. You have a lot of work and a long road ahead of you.

First of all, humans aren’t really very teachable. But, then, there are very few animals as inquisitive and intelligent as ferrets. That means training your human will require, in varying degrees as your unique situation demands, inventiveness, persistence, consistent application, and time.

Okay, let’s get started.

Introduction – An Overview of Human Nature

Following are the four important truths about or principles of human nature that will form the foundation of our guidelines and rules for training and managing your human. Remember these and adapt your training tactics accordingly, and you should see some success in your human-training efforts.

1. Humans are basically lazy creatures.

The thing you need to keep squarely in mind at all times is that adult humans are lazy. They don’t sleep nearly as much as we do, but they are far less active when awake. They seldom run, they don’t hide under the bed, and they never get on top of the dresser and play among the knickknacks. Even human kits (“children,” I think they call them) usually don’t play as vigorously as ferrets, and I’ve never seen one do the ferret “war dance.”

Because they are lazy, then, and slaves to the law of inertia, humans are just downright hard to train. The difficulty lies in getting them to change a behavior. For some bizarre reason, they prefer the familiar and easy to the better course. And never forget that humans just aren’t as smart as ferrets. There’s really nothing you can do about that, though.

For a human, it takes a lot of effort to learn something new and change a thinking pattern and/or a behavior. That’s why they dig in their heels and resist change: because it takes effort. Ironically, though, humans often expend more energy resisting change, owing to their inherent laziness, than they would actually making the change. (But, remember, they’re just not all that bright.) So, one of the keys to successfully training and managing your human will be persistence. You will simply have to work at it assiduously until you’ve achieved the desired results.

Just don’t give up. Success could be right around the corner.

2. Humans are incorrigible creatures of habit.

This truth about human nature is tightly bound up with the first one above. Because humans are lazy, they are also creatures of habit. They tend to keep doing the same thing the same way over and over because – well, because it’s just easier for them that way. It will take a lot of effort on your part to get your human to do something in a new and different way.

But the good news in all this is that once you’ve trained your human to engage in a certain behavior, your work is usually done with respect to that particular thing. Your human will keep doing whatever-it-is out of habit without thinking about it. While this aspect of human nature makes training your human quite a bit of work, it does mean that managing a behavior once inculcated is fairly easy.

Suppose, for example, you don’t like the food that your human has been giving you. You can’t, of course, just tell your human about it – she can’t speak our language. (Again, keep in mind that humans aren’t as clever as we are.) But after you’ve put in the necessary training effort (using some choice training tactics I’ll get to in a little bit), most of your work will be done. When your human learns to buy the kind of food you like best, she will keep doing it simply out of habit, even if she forgets the reason she started doing it in the first place. Once trained, humans are generally pretty easy to manage . . .

And here are links to our other ferret books:

Getting Started with Pet Ferrets

Ferret Toys: Keeping Pet Ferrets Happy

“Danny and Oliver: A Ferret-Rescue Tale”


A Great Book on Ferret Care and Ferret Health

As you know, I started adding more fuzzies to my family after I found Rikki Tikki Tavi at work oneFerrets Playing night. When I found Rikki, I didn’t know anything about ferrets as pets. I had to rely on my friends who used to have pet ferrets and on their so-called expertise and knowledge.

It turned out, though, that they weren’t the ferret experts I thought they were. Almost everything they told me about ferret care was wrong.

A lot of people just told me to do some research online. But, since I didn’t have a computer at the time, that didn’t work out very well. It also made it hard for me to find any good ferret books.

I finally did find a book at our local pet store – Ferrets (Barrons) by E. Lynn “Fox” Morton and Christine Mathis. This book helped me with the basics about how to take care of Rikki, but it doesn’t really go into a lot of detail.

Poor Rikki had to put up with my ignorance. And then poor Possum got thrown into the mix and also had to suffer through my lack of knowledge about ferret care.

A few months ago my husband bought me another book – Ferrets for Dummies by Kim Schilling. This book has become my Bible on how to take care of my little fuzzy kids. And, boy, were they happy that I was finally learning something!

You wouldn’t believe all the things I found out I was doing wrong. Even Rikki and Possum’s vet didn’t know about some of the health issues Ferrets for Dummies covers. Kim Schilling goes into great detail and covers everything from getting started and getting a ferret to ferret health issues to saying goodbye when the time comes (which I hope is a long ways down the road for me and my babies).

I highly recommend this book for first-time ferret owners. Once you get it, it will likely become your ferret Bible too.