Ferret Training Tips

By Matthew Humphries

1. Litter box training

Ferrets are not drawn to use their litter-boxes like cats, so patience and treats work best to insure a potty trained fuzzy in your home. Here’s how to do it:

1. Begin by training in a smaller space, such as your ferrets cage.

2. As with kittens, look for signs that your ferret is ready to go (such as spinning or backing into a corner) then placing them in the litter pan.

3. After each successful potty session, reward them with a treat immdediately.

4. When you feel comfortable that your ferret has the proper manners, begin placing litter-boxes throughout the areas (outside of the cage) they are allowed.

5. If you are still having accidents, especially in a cage, try placing food or ferret bedding in the offending area. If this area smells more like their kitchen or bedroom, your ferret will be less likely to continue the unwanted relief in that area.

6. Remember, even a potty-trained ferret can make mistakes. Be sure to clean these areas thoroughly, removing any scent with a cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle for Ferrets which will remove any ferret scent, keeping these areas free of the potty smell which could lead to further accidents.

2. Nip-training

Most new (generally younger) ferrets will nip people, including you. It is important to know, that in most cases your ferret is not purposely trying to hurt you. A ferret’s skin is extremely tough and you’ll notice if you have more than one ferret that they play rough with each other. Should your ferret nip new or old you’ll have to begin nip-training immediately. Anyone who tells you to nip-train your ferret by flicking his nose or by giving him a light smack is grossly mistaken.

Instead, use these methods accordingly:

  • Spray them with a water bottle
  • Blow lightly on their face
  • Make a loud, high-pitched “YIP!” sound (mimicking a ferrets own pain sound)
  • Cover their face
  • Use bitter apple spray on your hands or other prone areas
  • Give them a “time-out” in their cage It is important to be patient when training. Also, be sure to never place your ferret down if you are nipped. This will only help the ferret associate biting with freedom, which could lead to more problems down the road.

3. Dig-training

Ferrets love to dig. You can try using the methods listed under nip-training. Below, we have listed a few more tips for problems you may encounter.

1. Digging in the couch or bed. Couches or beds can be havens for your ferret. Unfortunately, many problems can occur due to digging in these items. Try placing a solid bottom on your couch or box spring so that your ferret cannot get into their inner workings. You could try removing the legs of your couch to further discourage this behavior. Remember, sometimes it’s best to have a safe and happy ferret, so limiting their access to areas with these potential problems/hazards in general may be necessary if the problem persists.

2. Digging in food or water. Should your ferret love to splash about his water, food or both, try using water bottles which limit the amount of water that your ferret has access to at one time. The same principal can be applied to their food. A ferret is less likely to throw about their only meal, so try limiting the amount of food in bowls should your fuzzy show an interest in food digging.

3. Digging in the litter. Litter digging can more than just distasteful. Some ferrets have been known to eat litter. Doing so may causes harmful blockages. If you discover your ferret does this, try changing only a little bit of your ferrets litter, leaving some dirty litter behind. Ferrets are less likely to dig in dirty litter.

4. Digging in your plants. Most importantly, many household plants are toxic to ferrets. If you are going to keep plants in your home, it’s best to keep them in rooms that are off limits to ferrets. If this is unavoidable, we recommend using bitter apple to treat the area surrounding each plant (pot, soil, table it is on, etc.). However, being the rascals they are, ferrets may soon figure out what areas of the plant can still be dug or chewed on because you cannot treat the whole thing, which is why we recommend keeping ferrets away from plants as a rule.

Remember, patience and persistence will be the most effective tools when training your ferret. Digging, as well as some other behaviors may be the result of boredom. Try changing your ferret’s surroundings (cage) often, as well as playing with them. Also, don’t leave your ferrets alone to wreak havoc, then return to scold them when left unsupervised. Ferrets are inquisitive, wonderful creatures. Be sure to reward this trait with plenty of games, toys, and of course; love…

Matthew Humphries – http://www.ferret.com

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