Ferrets sometimes do things that make new owners think that their pet has a serious problem. Many vets have been called by frantic first-time ferret owners who were sure that the ferret had fallen into a coma. Actually, ferrets sometimes sleep so soundly that seem to be dead. Even if you pick them up, thump their chest, shake them, and pinch their toes, they hang from your hand as limp as a rag.
After nap time is over, the ferret will sleepily open his eyes and yawn as he wonders what is going on. Some ferrets do this so often that their owners get used to it. Others do it so seldom that it creates a panic each time because the ferret owner is afraid the pet is in a coma or has died. If the ferret is warm, has a moist pink mouth, and is breathing regularly, but slowly, he is not dead, just sleeping soundly. Comatose ferrets usually drool, have cold extremities, and may stiffen and moan during convulsions.
Is My Ferret Cold?
Another mistake made by new owners is thinking that their new ferret is cold. Often when you wake your ferret up and take him out of his cage, he trembles. People new to the world of ferrets sometimes interpret this as fear or think that the ferret is shivering because the room is too cold.
Adult ferrets tremble for many reasons such as excitement, anticipation, and probably other pleasurable ferret emotions that we humans can neither imagine nor begin to describe in words. They rarely shiver with cold, and fear is expressed differently. When your ferret has a chance to run around for a few minutes and gets some of the excitement out of his system, you will notice that he is no longer trembling, even when you pick him up.
Some owners of multiple ferrets get upset when their ferrets refuse to sleep in their own beds. Given a choice, ferrets like to sleep together for comfort, and in cold weather, for warmth. When given several hammocks or sleep sacks to sleep in, a group of ferrets will usually all get into one. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with their beds. Another worry is that whoever gets first ends up on the bottom of the pile and may not be able to breathe. Don’t worry; even though the ferret appears to be at risk, there is no record of adult ferrets smothering another in their piles.
When first released from their cages to play, many ferrets burst out of the door, run, leap, twist in the air, and carelessly collide with solid objects. They might run over to your feet, nip at your shoe, and go on another race around the house, sometimes making soft chuckling noises as they do. To the new ferret owner, it appears as if the ferret has gone mad.
Since this careening ferret will likely back up, arch his back, jump, and perhaps even hiss at the hand that reaches for him, the owner becomes convinced that the pet is either having a seizure of some sort, experiencing some sort of rage syndrome, or truly has gone completely crazy. Don’t worry; none of these suppositions is true.
Ferrets do not try to avoid running into things, probably because their vision is poor and they like to move at high speed. This behavior is just a normal ferret, expressing normal ferret exuberant behavior at being let out to play, and is a good indicator that the ferret is feeling well. Ferrets have a very high threshold of pain and truly do not appear to notice bumps that would make most other animals stop and lick the spot that was hurt.
Another action that causes alarm in some new ferret owners is that after using their litter box, some ferrets drag their hindquarters along the floor, the way dogs do when they have impacted anal glands. Sometimes the ferret’s owner will take the ferret to a veterinarian, worried that the ferret has a problem with the descenting surgery, or that he is itchy because of tapeworms or pinworms, constipated, or losing control of his hind legs.
In fact, your ferret is just using your floor for toilet paper. This is another very good reason for locating the litter box on a floor that can easily be washed. Although ferrets don’t cover their stools in their litter box, they do try to maintain their body hygiene.
This settling-in period is the most important time in a ferret’s life. How you handle it will ensure whether he is a neurotic and timid little fellow, or a captivating, precocious ferret. Be sure that your ferret doesn’t get any unpleasant surprises during his first weeks with you, and he’ll repay you with trust and affection for years to come.