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I have four ferrets but they don't all get along. Each pair of ferrets doesn't like the other. At the moment they have separate play times outside of the cage. They're also caged separately in case that wasn't clear.

I've tried letting them fight it out to work out their dominance issues repeatedly over a period of about a week at a time. I also tried doing this for one month with no visible change in behaviors.

What I did was let everyone out of the cage and let them have it. I tried to keep them busy by playing with them and their toys and distracting them from the other ferrets. If there was a scuffle, I watched for any violent biting, grabbing, and rough shaking (ferret grabs the back of the neck and shakes violently from side to side). If I saw any of this, I would pull the fighting pair apart and put the aggressor in a "sin bin", a cat carrier, for three minutes to let them know this behavior was bad. Despite trying to be as consistent as possible, I've had no luck.

There's never been any injuries that involved blood or breaking skin, just a minor irritation from the biting. No one's ever peed or pooped from being too nervous or scared either.

One pair is clearly more dominant as now the other pair tends to just run and hide and wait for me to put them back in the cage. They also lose (at least I think they're losing) most of the scuffles that happen.

Is there anything else I can try to get them all to play nice together?

  • not an exact answer, but looks similar to your problem: smallanimalchannel.com/critter-experts/ferret/… – woliveirajr Nov 5 '13 at 19:09
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    @woliveirajr I've tried a lot of the things in your linked article; I've even put diaper rash cream on their necks. It tastes bad enough (though non-toxic) and doesn't get everywhere like bitter spray. – Cuthbert Nov 7 '13 at 13:39
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Hitting your fuzzy buddies isn't a good idea. Even a gentle tap is a bad idea. It can make them fear you, even if it is a soft tap on the back. They are more likely to become more aggressive. Time out in the carrier and scuffing them and gently dragging them across the floor is the best way. My kiddos dominance fight alot. Until there is blood there is no need to intervene because they are just establishing a pecking order or who is in charge and who isnt.

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+25

I never had to deal with fighting before. However I had worst behaving ferrets. Whenever they did something that I did not like I would slightly tap them on their back. If it continued then I would completely stop paying attention to that ferret for the remainder of the day. You must have noticed how attention seeking they are, so their worst punishment is being ignored.

So for example what you are doing by putting them into sin bin is correct. Do keep in mind however that certain behavioral problems are very difficult to weed out, so all you can do is just keep at it and keep punishing foul play. Eventually they will learn. For me it took four months to teach them not to bite and not try to eat my keyboard wire or destroy the keyboard(they had beef with keyboards for some reason).

  • I don't quite know what you mean when you say "tap them on their back." The only way I'd punish my ferrets is by scruffing firmly, a timeout, pinning them, or with bitter spray on the object they shouldn't be eating. – Cuthbert Nov 7 '13 at 19:39
  • @d2jxp You know how when you have a child and when they do something bad you would give them a light smack on the back? Ferrets are easily scared and very fragile so do not do it forcibly or with a lot of speed, just identify that you are dissatisfied with them. Or come up with some kind of gesture that you do on them that means that you are unhappy with their behavior. For me it reached a point where as soon as I raised my palm above my head (I never actually hit them or anything it was more display), they would instantly stop misbehaving for a very brief period of time. – Quillion Nov 7 '13 at 19:46
  • Eh.. I disagree.. Scruffing and pinning a ferret is supposed to imitate what a mother ferret would do to discourage bad behavior. I met a guy in a pet store who thought it was a good idea to "bop" a ferret on the nose for biting.. I'd probably bite back, too, if someone was hitting me on the nose. I don't think striking fear into my ferrets is the right answer here. – Cuthbert Nov 7 '13 at 19:52
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    @d2jxp I agree with you about the fear part. I didn't strike fear into them, and originally I have tried normal means of just pinning them as suggested by pet store. I have no idea how you do it, but I have never successfully managed to pin my ferrets, and when they were in rebellious stage, trying to pin them would just leave me with bloody fingers. My only means of not getting my fingers torn to bits was just a very gentle tap on their behind to let them know they did something wrong. It worked like a charm whenever and they were never scared of me. – Quillion Nov 7 '13 at 20:05
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    @d2jxp They came from a pet store. I went to the pet store throughout two weeks almost every day to observe the ferrets there. And ended up picking two most active ferrets that I saw. They were complete rebels when they arrived. First day the male hid behind a fridge and while I was trying to get him out the female destroyed my whole room and hid my items all over the place. It was a crazy period of time to train them and teach them what to do and not do, my hand still has scars from all the biting. But I would have more ferrets if I could, one of best pets ever. – Quillion Nov 7 '13 at 20:22

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