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Ask The Behaviorist
Small mammmals: Dr. Kathy Quesenberry answering questions
Please be aware that the following suggestions are
general advice and are not intended to be a
substitute for taking your pet to a veterinarian.
Posted February 6, 1998 | next set


Question:

I have a spite / Female ferret that has developed an interesting problem. I bought Amber to keep my hob Talon company in September of last year. When I bought her I escorted her out of the store by a leash. She was not with me more than one month when she began to resist the leash. To the point that she would rather be dragged and let her feet be injured rather than to pick up her feet and walk. I've given up on the "princess." She also wants it both ways. She wants to go with me and Talon or she tears up the cage while we are gone.

Tell me what you think is her problem. I'm about to give up on her. By the way she was 14 months old when I got her. She resist being house broken, and I'm seriously considering giving her up and getting a kit again to train the way I trained Talon. Yes, he's perfect, 99.99% housebroken, and 100% on the leash, and actually he loves it.

Jenni-ann Littsey
Madison Heights, MI
jlittsey@earthlink.net



Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

I congratulate you on training Talon to a leash; Amber's behavior is more normal for a ferret! Even though leashes and harnesses are widely sold for ferrets, most ferrets, in fact, are like cats and don't train well at all. Therefore, I think that Amber is just being a ferret. As far as being housebroken, she may not have been given a litter box early in life, and she may not have learned what that was for.

I think I would just let Amber alone as far as the leash goes. You may have more success with a kit. You could consider having three ferrets rather that give her up!



Question:

I have an 8 month old Albino Rabbit named "Zipper." He is altered and litter box trained. I have two questions for you. The first is the best way to restrain (hold) him to trim his nails—he loves to be pet but not picked up or held!! The second is Zipper's tremendous SHEDDING PROBLEM!!!! Are there supplements or medicines that can help because daily brushing does nothing—it appears as if he is molting. Any suggestions are solutions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Kristen Surace
Peekskill, NY
WILLOW2@webtv.net



Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

There are two good ways to hold a rabbit for nail trimming. The first is to roll him up in a towel, jellyroll style, with just his head exposed. Then pull out one leg at a time to trim the nails. The second is to hold him on his back in your arms like a baby. Hold his back legs with one hand and his front legs with the other hand so that he doesn't kick. Then a second person can clip his nails. You could also take him to your vet once or twice a year to have this done.

No supplements or medicines will prevent shedding. Some rabbit breeds shed very heavily, while others don't. You just have to suffer through it. Rabbits will ingest lots of hair - so to prevent furballs from forming in his stomach, make sure he is on a high fiber diet. Give Zipper free choice hay dairly, preferably timothy hay. Limit pellets to º cup daily. Also, feed him high fiber vegetables. If he won't eat hay, feed a high fiber rabbit pellet, with a fiber content of at least 20%.



Question:

Hi yes my dwarf rabbit who's 6 and a male hasn't been fixed. He's constanly running circles around me and getting to be a nuisance. He's been to the vet a couple years ago and I was told he should have had the procedure when he was younger, now its risky? Also I have heard conflicting numbers regarding their life span from 6 to 13 yrs. Is there a correct age??

(name witheld by request)



Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

The life span of rabbits is usually 7 to 12 years; the smaller breeds, such as dwarfs, tend to live longer. If his behavior really is a nuisance to you, you can consider having him castrated. However, since he is older, he should have a complete physical examination, including blood tests, before he undergoes anesthesia. Although the procedure is simple, anesthesia in rabbits is a little more risky than in dogs and cats. Therefore, make sure you have the operation done by a veterinarian who is experienced in working with rabbits. Otherwise, you could just try to tolerate his behavior until he lives to ripe old age.



Question:

I have 4 ferrets, 3 males and a female, all neutered. The males have a definite heirarchical structure. The "second" male bites the younger (but as large) male (sometimes) and the female (often), not causing physical injury, but inflicting discomfort/pain. I'm responding by removing the victim from the situation and scolding the "second" male. These incidents keep occuring. Is there anything more I can do?

(name witheld by request)



Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

I think removing the victim from the situation is about all you can do, short of always keeping the second male separated from the others. Most animals in groups have a hierarchy, and I know of no training technique in ferrets to change this.



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