Okay, you've welcomed a new ferret friend into your home...now what?
By Patricia Larson, LVT
Ferrets are inquisitive and social pets but, like any animal, it’s important to start with an introduction. During this time, you will learn about each other while slowly building up that trust that is essential to all relationships.
Tips for Bonding with New Ferrets:
Be aware of your body language.
Stay calm and move slowly, stay low, and don’t tower above your ferret.
Avoid rapid movements.
Moving quickly or aggressively could startle your timid new friend and lead to them being hesitant and suspicious of your intentions.
Coach calmness with the kiddos.
Too much hyperactivity and enthusiasm at the beginning of your new relationship may make your ferret fearful of children. Give your family’s furry new pride and joy time to acclimate and teach your kids to respect your new friend’s boundaries.
Give your ferret some space.
Avoid cornering your ferret. Experiencing fear and the perceived absence of an escape route can lead to nipping. Don’t force your ferret into that situation.
Stick with it!
Bonding with any animal takes time and effort. Don’t be discouraged if your new ferret doesn’t seem to be interested in being your best friend right away.
What To Expect With Your New Ferret
Day 1: Introducing Yourself
The most important thing to remember on day one is to be patient. Your ferret may be a little shy and cautious to start. It’s a big day for them, coming to a brand-new home and meeting their new family for the first time. All this change can be a little overwhelming for them.
To help, make sure that your little one gets some time to unwind and explore their new cage and get acquainted with where they can find food, water, and a place to sleep. Spend some time with them but go slow. Let your ferret come to you, and have treats ready to give when they do approach.
If you can, give them a piece of clothing that smells like you in their bed, so they can get accustomed to your scent. Don’t feel discouraged if they are hesitant to approach this first day.
Week 1: Building Trust
The best way to build trust with your ferret is to spend quality time with them every day. Ferrets should be getting time outside of their cages every day to play and explore. Set up a space where they can do this with you. Hang out together in this shared space while you read a book or play with toys with them. Keep those treats handy for when they come up to check you out. Talk with them, keeping your voice soft and soothing. Avoid making sudden movements that might startle them or forcing them to interact when they don’t want to. This is the time that you will begin to learn about your ferret’s personality, so let them be themselves.
Month 1 and Beyond: Becoming and Staying Friends
Continue to build a thriving friendship with your ferret by spending quality time with your ferret through regular, daily interactions. The best way is to simply include them in your everyday activities. Bring them in the bathroom while you get ready in the morning, have them help you make dinner, and invite them to join you on the couch for movie night. Just make them a part of the family.
Fun Ferret Bonding Activities
- Set aside a little playtime each day – a period where your ferret has your undivided attention. Offer fun and interactive toys so that they can play with you and show their silly side.
- Ferrets are inquisitive, playful, and love to jump out and pounce at you. Give them tunnels, hides, and other places they can explore.
- Utilize small toys that they can chase and carry back to their favorite treasure troves.
- Cat wands are also a favorite for your feisty friend and can be a wonderful way to use the power of play to continue strengthening your bond.
Ferret Snuggle Time
- Another favorite pastime of ferrets is the nap. They get so into it that sometimes it’s hard to wake them up after, their limp, unresponsive bodies in a literal “dead” sleep.
- Utilizing bonding bags, such as Oxbow’s Enriched Life Cozy Cave, is a great way to keep your pet ferret close while they snooze.
- Setting up a comfy corner in their play area where you can take a nap with them is also an ideal way to spend time with them. After all, who doesn’t love a slumber party?
- Ferrets are inquisitive and whip-smart, so they are easily trainable. Using positive reinforcement techniques is a great way to bond with your ferret while teaching them adorable tricks.
- Ferrets do well with clicker training as well. Give a click when they do the behavior you’re looking for and then give them a tasty treat.
- Train your ferret to roll over, sit up or spin around, the sky’s the limit!
- Grooming is another behavior that ferrets exhibit that can strengthen your bond. Like many other animals, grooming goes back to when your ferret was little and was cared for by its mother.
- Your ferret will likely enjoy being groomed by you. Take a warm damp washcloth and slowly give your little one a bath, starting from their nose and working your way back with short sweeping motions. Make sure to get in ears, between toes, and other hard-to-reach places.
- Don’t be surprised if your feisty ferret friend becomes limp and relaxed or even falls asleep during their spa day.
Ferrets are social and inquisitive companions and they are such a joy to have around. Following these bonding tips will get your relationship off on the right foot and hopefully lead to many happy and playful years to come!