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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 18, 1998 | previous set


Hi! I have male ferret named Harley. He is neutered and has started sleeping all day and playing all night. Now, I don't really mind this 'cause he is paper broke (mostly) but I seldom get to play with him 'cause he gets up at our bed time. Are ferrets nocturnal animals? He runs loose in the house like a dog. We used to keep him in a cage at night but not anymore. He is well behaved (for a ferret) so we see no reason to cage him.

Becky Wilson
Enid, OK

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

Ferrets normally spend about 75% of their day sleeping and 24% playing. They do love to play at night, but if this is disturbing you, you should probably try to keep him more stimulated during the day so that he will be tired at night. I would also suggest caging him at night and whenever no one can observe him. Ferrets are notorious for getting into things, and especially for eating anything made of rubber or foam. This can cause obstruction of their intestines, which will require surgery to correct. So be very careful about giving him free roam, even though he is well behaved.


My guinea pig makes a purring sort of noise when I first pick her up and when I pet her. When she's walking around normally she just squeaks. Does the purring mean she likes being petted or hates it?

Rochester, NY

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

Purring in guinea pigs is one of their social noises. When they don't like something, they will chutter, whine, or squeal. Sounds like she likes you.


I have a rat called Mad Max and at the moment he really is acting quite true to his name. He is a brown-hooded male and he just goes crazy all the time, like he's really hyper. Could it be stir crazy or going without mating or what??

Sydney, Australia

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

It could be that your rat is more active because of sexual hormones, breeding season or perhaps he is just looking for interaction. Rats are quite social; you might consider purchasing a second male to keep him company. This might calm him down a bit.


I have a pet rabbit who is pretty intelligent. He can be very aggressive with me, whimpering and grunting and trying to bite, especially when I try to pick him up. He will come to me if I sit on the floor or lay down so I can pet him. What would cause him to be so aggressive?

(name witheld by request)

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

Aggression is common in both male and female rabbits, especially during breeding season. There isn't much you can do to correct it, other than avoiding situations in which he becomes particularly aggressive. If he is otherwise healthy, you could take him to a veterinarian experienced with rabbits to have him neutered. He should calm down, although it may take a few months after surgery to notice a real difference in his behavior.


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