Training Your Ferret

Nip Training

Ferrets can nip for a variety of reasons. Baby ferrets or kits can nip too hard as a way to try to get your attention, to entice play or out of fear and excitement. Ferret skin is much harder than human skin and they often do not mean harm. If you adopted a ferret from a shelter and it came from an abusive household, it could be nipping or biting out of fear. If the nipping or biting is coupled with hissing and backing away, give your ferret some space and wait until he or she feels secure again. Ferrets can also nip or bite as a way to show dominance. Below I have listed some tips on how to nip train your ferret.

  1. If your ferret nips, do not hit your ferret or "pop" him or her on the nose. This will
    only encourage biting and more fear. Clap your hands loudly and yell "No!" and
    put your ferret back in the cage immediately. He or she will start to figure out that
    nipping or biting equals a trip to the cage and no more playtime.

  2. Purchase some Bitter Apple, Bitter Lime or Fooey from the dog and cat training
    section of the pet store (or online at the Store).These
    products taste terrible (believe me, I tried a little). Spray a small amount on your
    fingers, toes or anything else your ferret likes to nip.

  3. If your ferret has suddenly become a "nipper" think about things you may have
    changed. Have you started wearing a new perfume? Have you started putting
    lotion on your hands and feet? Did you just wash your hands with soap? Are
    you wearing lipstick or lip gloss? Ferrets can react to certain scents, especially
    those that contain musk.

  4. If nipping is due to a dominance issue, gently scruff your ferret (hold the lose
    skin on the back of your ferret's neck between your thumb and forefinger) and
    gently and slowly drag him or her across the floor for a few feet. Sometimes just holding your ferret by the scruff briefly can do the trick. This is how one
    ferret will show dominance to another ferret and your ferret will understand this
    language and know you are the boss.

For more great tips on training and how to teach your ferret some Fun Tricks, purchase The EverythingFerret Complete Guide to Ferrets and Ferret Care.

Litter Box Training

Ferrets will naturally back up to go to the bathroom in a corner. This behavior is usually taught to kits by their mothers. However, some kits have been removed from their mothers too soon. Other older ferrets who have been adopted from other homes and not trained may need a refresher course. If your ferret is missing the mark, consider the following tips:

  1. When you take your ferret out of the cage to play, try waiting until they have
    used the bathroom (or check the litter box in the cage to see if there is fresh
    stool). Ferrets will always use the bathroom within the first fifteen minutes or
    so after waking up. But beware! Many ferrets will figure out your system and
    pretend to go to the bathroom just to get let out of the cage (my ferrets do this).
    Just be sure they actually produce!

  2. If your ferret is not using the litter box in the cage, try using a litter box with
    a lower front ledge. Many ferrets don't like to "hop" over the ledge of a litter
    box. They just want to back up. I actually made my own cage litter box by
    cutting a cat litter box in half. This eliminates the front ledge all together, and
    makes it less fun to play in. You can have some litter spill out of the front,
    however the excrement is always in the back corners of the box. It has worked
    wonders for me. Put bedding, toys and food in the corners you don't want your
    ferrets to use as a litter box. If you have recently purchased a new cage, you
    can expect litter box accidents. Ferrets will have adjustment issues when their
    environment has been changed. Just keep placing stool in their new litter box
    and try to put food and toys in all other corners. This problem should straighten
    out with time.

  3. Put litter boxes in just about every corner of the house to begin with. Use a
    ferret friendly litter box with a high back and low ledge in the front. Your ferret
    will usually pick out a few favorites. Place a heavy water proof mat under and
    around each litter box to protect your carpet from accidents. If your ferret likes
    to chew on the mat, spray it with some Bitter Apple. Again, if your ferret is
    going to the bathroom right in front of the litter box, a lower front ledge may be
    needed. Male ferrets seem to need larger litter boxes than female ferrets (due to
    their size).

For more great tips on Litter box training and how to teach your ferret some Fun Tricks, purchase The EverythingFerret Complete Guide to Ferrets and Ferret Care.