by Linda Maretich
More than once we’ve seen people being given, “add a friend” or “he/she needs a friend”, as the advice to almost any and every ferret problem there is, whether it’s medical or not.
This often happens when people haven’t taken the time to fully hear or inspect the issue or situation at hand before responding.
There are situations in which adding another companion to your existing ferret(s), can help and have a good effect on them. And yes, we all LOVE ferrets and the more the merrier, sure. BUT! Adding a friend, isn’t going to help in certain situations; it’s not going to make your intact ferret stop biting (he/she’s probably going to eat that friend), it isn’t going to fix your ferret’s stool problems (adding a friend might actually do worse if there’s a chance of ECE involved), adding a friend might not make your grieving ferret get over who they’ve lost (this is 50-50, sometimes it can help, but sometimes it just doesn’t and can also make it worse), adding a friend isn’t the answer to someone wanting to know how to start a raw diet either, and so much more. “Adding a friend” simply cannot be considered a cure-all to all things that ail ferrets, because it really isn’t one.
Certain situations call for certain solutions or actions first, before anyone even begins to think about adding a friend. We need to look at these situations from all angles and try to discern what the real issue is first and address that problem for what it is. Adding a friend can make some situations worse than before, like adding a friend to an intact hob, that will usually not end well, especially in rut. Hey, the hob might feel a bit better now that you have provided them with a victim for their fun, but you just ruined that other poor ferret’s life. Fights between intact ferrets can get ugly and fatal, and often requires them to be separated when in season for their own protection. Heather Downie, who is one of our admins and a breeder who is highly experienced with ferrets once had to rescue one of her hobs, Mayhem, from another of her hobs, Magic, who tried to rip his throat out, the damage was extensive enough that you could see Mayhem’s trachea.
Some ferrets, simply will not accept another friend, either because they don’t want the bonded one they lost to be replaced like that or they don’t get along well with others, or maybe they’re just a lone wolf (yes, a tiny, ferret-like wolf or is it wolf-like ferret?) that simply prefers to be by themselves. Not all single children are unhappy children after all, sometimes it just means they get to be spoiled more and soak up more one-on-one attention without needing to share with others. A new owner, still struggling with learning how to care and provide for a ferret (especially those with an adopted/rescued older ferret that may require more medical attention), isn’t usually in the best situation to just increase their numbers either. It’s also not in everyone’s budget to just add a friend, remember how we recommend having at least $1000 in savings for every ferret? Not everyone has that.
Above all, the golden rule to additions: You always need to keep in mind when adding a ferret, that you need to prepare for the possibility of them not getting along at all, meaning separate housing, and separate play times on top of it all. Just because you see it as adding a “friend”, doesn’t mean they will see this new ferret as one or even be willing to befriend them in any way. Not to mention you may not know how they will get along until a few weeks in, because you should always do at least a 2 week quarantine before doing any introductions. Sometimes there’s also honestly no need to add a friend either, and on that note, I’d also like to address the issue of “Ferret Math”.
“Have a ferret? Have another!”
“Oh, one more? Sure! Okay, now I have 15.. wait I think it’s 25.”
Ferret math… and we like to call it contagious because we love these wee darlings so much and who can say “no” to those faces, right? Unfortunately, it is up to us to be the responsible ones and make responsible choices when it comes to the care of these babies. We’ve seen it plenty of times before where others are pushing one another to get more and more ferrets, even when they already have their limit and even say they are now struggling financially with it.
“I’ve hit my limit, so let’s see if you can hit yours too, maybe even go past it!”
This isn’t fair to them or the ferrets (both those already owned and the new additions), nor yourself if you are in this situation. You cannot provide a ferret with a better life if you are unable to care for them with proper food, attention and medical care, and we all know that “ferrets” and “medical needs” go hand in hand.
We need to be more mindful of each other’s situations and actual ferret problems at hand, before we just throw it out there to “add a friend”.