Introducing a new ferret to your family is something you need to prepare for in advance. Sometimes fuzzies will bond immediately. Other times it will take weeks of fighting before they finally curl up together like a big fuzzy family. If you follow the advice below, you’ll be able to speed up the bonding and reduce the stress for both new and old fuzzies.
How you go about the introduction will depend on your current fuzzball family. Do you have all boys? All girls? A mix? Just one or fifteen fuzzballs? How old are they?
Let’s start with gender issues. Introducing a girl to a boy (and vice versa of course) causes the least amount of problems. Boy to boy intros usually run relatively smoothly as well. It’s the girl to girl intro you should keep your eyes open for. Expect a major catfight…
If your fuzzies are a bit older (+ 3 years), I would advise against introducing a new ferret kit to the family. A rambunctious, young fuzzy overflowing with energy is probably not what your older ferrets need. Also keep in mind that some fuzzballs dislike young animals. They will treat them like their favorite squeaky toy (more like a screechy toy) and drag it all over the place, hiding it in their favorite hidey-hole. Needless to say this kind of behavior is extremely stressful and traumatizing for the little kit you bring home. Of course this behavior is only temporary as it will disappear when the kit grows up. Nevertheless, you’ll need to pay extra attention until they can all get along like adults.
Introducing a new ferret to a fuzzball that has spent most of his life as an only ferret will be very stressful for the loner. He may not even know common ferret behavior the other fuzzy is showing. Don’t put them in the same cage unless you’re absolutely sure they get along. Are you going to adopt a ferret from a shelter? Then ask in advance if you can bring your fuzzy with you. That way, you can let him choose a new friend and save all three of you a lot fear and frustration.
If you have a whole bunch of fuzzies, set up a meeting with the most submissive of the family first. And keep in mind the above mentioned gender issues. So if your new fuzzy is a boy, introduce him to a submissive girl. Work your way up to most dominant different sex fuzzy. Then start with the most submissive same sex fuzzy and work your way up to the most dominant one. The more aggressive, dominant fuzzballs will accept the newcomer more easily if he’s already been accepted by the lower ranks.
Always have a separate cage ready before introducing a new ferret to the family. Your ‘sickbay’ cage will do just fine (make sure it’s thoroughly cleaned first though). Put both cages close to each other so all fuzzies can see and smell each other. As ferrets are particularly sensitive to smell, it’s a good idea to put the bedding of the newcomer into the other cage and vice versa. Your ‘old’ fuzzies will end up smelling like the new guy, making him less of a threat to them.
Make sure the first meeting takes place on neutral ground. You can ferret proof a room especially for this purpose. Or maybe ask a fellow ferret parent if you can use their ferret proofed room (the extra fuzzy smell that comes with is sure to distract all your fuzzies). There should be plenty of stuff to explore in the new room; toys, climbing furniture, new bedding, food, water, tubes and safe sleeping boxes. Follow the gender/dominance advice mentioned above, adding one fuzzball at the time to the room. If all goes well, add another one. As soon as things start going wrong, separate them in their respective cage and try again later.
Before introducing a new ferret, clean the toys, cages and the whole ferret proofed room as best as you can. The new guy will be less scared thanks to the lack of an overwhelming ferret smell. And your ‘old’ guys will be too busy trying to get their stuff to smell like them again to be too bothered by the newbie.
Consider bathing them together. Use the same shampoo for all fuzzies and they will have more trouble telling each other apart. As a bonus, bath time can be quite stressful and even fearful for some fuzzies, causing them to bond faster with the other poor fuzzballs who are in the same boat.
Bribe them. Get out the treats and Ferretone and let them all eat out of your hands together.
Carry them around the house together. Especially to place where your ‘old’ ferret normally doesn’t go. He’ll be too interested in all the new smells and sights to think about that new guy next to him.
When introducing a new ferret, brushy tails are normal. All fuzzies will be excited and perhaps even scared. It should go away after about 15 minutes. Bottle brush tails and lots of sniffing are good signs.
Some fuzzies will poop out of fear. This is a good sign to remove this fuzzy and put him in a safe place.
The alligator roll and dragging are pretty normal behavior for ferrets trying to establish their rank. Don’t let it go too far though. If it seems more aggressive or lasts longer than it should, break it up.
Biting and shaking is way too rough.
Prepare your ears for some screaming and hissing. Your new guy might be frightened of the other fuzzies. By screaming and hissing at them he tries to keep them at a distance. Again, if this seems to go on for too long, break up the playtime and try again later.
Biting until the other fuzzy bleeds is obviously a big no-no. Take them apart immediately, follow the tips above and try again the next day while distracting the aggressor as much as possible.
Important: Don’t step in too fast either. A lot of the time it all sounds and looks worse than it is. You have to let the fuzzies determine their new relationship on their own.
Introducing a new ferret to your other fuzzies can be a difficult process. But with the tips you just read, it should all go a lot smoother. Good luck with the expansion of your fuzzy family.