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Nothing can be more unnerving than to be awakened in the middle of the night by your ferret rendering a blood-curdling screech and viciously attacking his cage, with his long incisors angrily gnawing at the bars like a savage animal. If you are a new ferret owner, you were likely attracted to this cuddly creature’s playful personality and this new behavior has caught you completely by surprise. Below, we will look at the reasons why your ferret is behaving like this and how to stop him from biting the cage.
Your Ferret is Bored
In most cases, ferrets bite their cage because they are bored. Ferrets are not like other small animals and are not meant to be confined for an extended amount of time. The primary reason for them to be caged at all is for their own safety. Our homes are full of dangers to a curious and highly energetic ferret and so it is not wise to leave them on their own without supervision.
The problem is that we are busy people and sometimes forget that he needs to be free to roam and play like he would in the wild. At the very minimum, ferrets need to have four hours of time outside of their cage every day, and in many cases, they will need even more.
As a general rule of thumb, the younger the ferret, the more time he needs. So, if the question, why is my ferret biting the cage, is weighing heavy on your mind then start giving them more time outside of their confinement and see if the behavior doesn’t change.
If their frantic behavior is happening most often in the middle of the night and you’re giving them a sufficient amount of free time, then try adjusting their playtime schedule. For example, rather than letting them out first thing in the morning or in the middle of the day, consider letting them out for a few hours before you plan to retire for the night.
While your ferret is out, get him to play as much as possible so that he is fully exhausted before he goes back in. After a good hard play, feed him well and turn out the lights. Anyone who is thoroughly tired and has a belly full will be quite satisfied and will be able to sleep through the night with no problem.
If you aren’t able to give him more supervised time out of the cage, set up a ferret-proof play area for him to engage in. Your ferret will always want to spend more time with you, but if that is not possible, he still needs his free time to roam in a safe environment. A designated area outside his cage will allow him to explore and tap into his natural instincts without fear of harm.
Many owners attach a ferret playpen to the cage so they can at least get out and stretch their legs a little whenever they can. If you have a nice secure one that is escape-proof, you can have your little friend scurrying back and forth from the cage to the playpen for hours on end. Just make sure your playpen is sturdy enough to withstand the strains the little guy will put on it. They are known for running at full speed into walls and doors so if the playpen is not made of durable material, rest assured, it is just a matter of time before they knock it over. Also, make sure that the spacing between the bars is small enough so they can’t get their tiny flexible bodies through them, and that it is structured in a way, that they can’t climb out of it.
Playpens can be an extension of the cage or it can be a complete separate area that is safe for ferrets to play. The secret to a successful playpen is not how well it confines your pet, but it is in what you put in it. The more variety you put in the playpen, the less he is going to want to get out.
Another excellent cure for ferret boredom is to make his cage more appealing to him. Give him a variety of toys to keep him entertained. Ferrets love things that make noise and do surprising things, but he won’t be satisfied with just one or two toys. You’ll need to have a wide variety of interesting things he can engage in and switch them out every couple of days so he doesn’t lose interest.
Ferrets also love small things that they can dig for and hide in different places. Make sure that your cage has a dig box where you can hide different little surprises each time he goes in. If it is large enough, you can give him plenty of new surprises every day that could keep him occupied for hours.
It’s a New Ferret
If it is a new ferret biting the cage, his cage biting may be his way of adjusting to a new environment. Here, patience is the key. You must give him time to adjust to your schedule so that the sooner he learns your routine, the sooner he will settle in and make your home his home. Ferrets tend to sleep for the majority of the day, so you want to make sure he’s awake as much as possible when you’re awake.
Wake him up when you get up in the morning and try to keep him occupied while you’re moving about. If you have to go to work, make sure he has plenty to do when you leave. If he is asleep when you come home, wake him up again and make sure he gets in a really good play time. He should play as hard as possible before going back in his cage. Finally, feed him well before you go to sleep.
If you are consistent with this routine, it won’t be long before your new ferret adjusts to the way things are in your home and you won’t have to worry about your ferret biting the cage at night anymore.
It’s In a Ferret’s Nature
Some ferrets just won’t like their cage no matter what you do. Most ferrets are perfectly fine with going back in their cage when playtime is over, and others will resist no matter what you do. These tend to recognize the cage as a form of confinement and will resist. They know that once you close the door to their cage, they will be locked up until you decide to open it. They may not even want to leave the cage, but they don’t like the idea of losing that option.
You can’t punish them for this; it is part of their nature and no amount of discipline will remove that desire from them. However, if you need to know how to make a ferret stop biting the cage when they just don’t want to be there, here are a few helpful little tips.
First, you need to start helping them to associate the cage with good things. After playtime, place a small treat inside the cage so he begins to connect the cage with something good. Always create a fun environment inside, filled with ferret safe toys that they will find interesting. Some owners hang small little moving baby mobiles inside to distract them. Your goal is to gradually get them to see the cage as a fun place to play and not as a prison.
If you have an attached playpen, leave the cage door open as much as possible so your ferret is free to run in and out at will. When he gets a little tired, he will happily go inside on his own to rest. Once he learns that freedom is possible, he won’t be as distressed. If your ferret is sufficiently tired, he will fall asleep quickly and you can quietly go and latch the door while he is sleeping.
If All Else Fails
If none of the above suggestions help you and you’re still wondering why won’t my ferret stop biting the cage, then you can regularly spray the cage bars with a bite deterrent spray like Fooey! Ultra Bitter Spray or a product more specialized for ferrets, Marshall Time Out. Ferrets do not like the taste of these sprays and will soon learn to avoid them.
There is good reason to be concerned with a ferret biting cage bars. It is not only a nuisance to you, but it is also a danger to them. Depending on how aggressive your little friend is, they could chip or break a tooth, which could interfere with their ability to eat. If this happens you may be in for some significant vet bills in helping them to recover.
It will take a little time and even more adjusting for both of you, but if you persist you will find that your ferret will learn your routine and this will open up plenty of new bonding opportunities for you to spend together.
In the beginning, there will be times when you might be awakened at three in the morning, but as long as you maintain a consistent routine and ignore the behavior, the two of you will finally be in sync like a well-oiled machine with a bond that neither of you will want to break.