From: Caitlyn Martin
Date: 2012-01-02 20:17:32 UTC
Subject: Re: [ferrethealth] Re: Please Help- I'm at my wits end
Over the years I've had three ferrets who started out as "bad biters".
All three ended up being some of the sweetest ferrets you would ever
want to have around. It takes patience, love and a willingness not to
give up. Please, please, please don't ever consider euthanizing a
ferret over biting. Any number of shelters, rescues and individuals
will take in a biter. I know I would if you were local to me.
The reasons for biting have been discussed at length but I'll add my
.02. I think it comes down to one of three things: fear, pain or
some activity on the part of people that reinforced the behavior as
positive rather than negative. The last of the three is unintentional
and people may not even realize they were doing it.
If you've been on the list a long time you've undoubtedly seen some of
what I've written about Pertwee, my most medically challenged ferret.
He came to me because a pet store couldn't sell him. He was supposed
to be a terrible biter. They didn't realize he was deaf. Somebody
would stick a hand in his cage, startle him and he'd lash out. That
was a fear reaction. All it took was one weekend to teach him he could trust people. Probably within a month or two we could startle him without fear of a nip.
Later on Pertwee was a sweetheart with everyone and anyone unless he
went to the vet office. He bit our vet severely several times and a
number of vet techs who were there probably have scars from Pertwee.
In the space of a year Pertwee went through heliobacter, a left
adrenalectomy, a right adrenalectomy, complete unresponsiveness to
prednisolone leading to an Addisionian crisis, and a nephrectomy to
treat unilateral polycystic disease, the first recorded case in a
ferret. He was poked and prodded and injected way too many times,
plus the diseased kidney was terribly painful for him. I don't know
if it was the sights or the smells of the vet office or people in
white lab coats. He'd be fine even there with me and with people he
knew. Anyone else he'd lash out, bite down as hard as he could, and
clamp his jaw down. He associated that office with pain.
We never broke Pertwee of vet office biting simply because he was a
lover and a kisser with everyone else anywhere else. Visitors? New
people? It didn't matter. Everyone was his friend. He just learned
that people at the vet office weren't. That was a combination of all
three factors: fear, pain and a learned behavior.
I had a similar situation with Nyssa. When she was three months old
she was eating bedding and ended up with a partial blockage. She was
in pain. I stayed with her and nursed her back to health. I remember
falling asleep during this and waking up to Nyssa licking my face.
OTOH, my housemate at the time made the mistake of picking up Nyssa
when she was in pain. Nyssa bit her severely on the chin and clamped
down. We had to pry her mouth open to get her off. That was a pain
Nyssa was a sweetheart with everyone and anyone after that except for
my housemate. It took a long, long time, as in maybe two years, for that trust to be rebuilt but eventually Nyssa was sweet with her as well.
Zephyr, my nine year old, also was a bad biter with everyone and
anyone when I adopted her. It took a few months of patient training
but Zephyr became a sweetheart too. She loves people in general now
and gives kisses easily.
I'm not going to give specific advice because every ferret is
different. They all have their own personalities. You have to learn
what works for them and what doesn't. One thing I will say: physical
punishment is NEVER the answer.
Again, please don't give up. If you really can't be patient any
longer then consider surrendering the ferret.
All the best,
Caity and the dynamic duo
Zephyr and Chin Soon
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