Ways to Help Litter Train your Ferret

By Mike Steele

You can train your ferret to use a litter box(es), however they will not take to it as immediately as most cats do. To start, make sure your ferret has a small area to work with like their cage, expanding upon this gradually as they become better trained. Keep in mind that a large cage may need to be partially block off in areas to insure your litter training success.

Many times it’s best to fasten your litter pan, so that it cannot be knocked over. At first keep some dirty litter in the pan to mark it as a bathroom and to discourage your ferret from digging. Make sure not to allow the litter pan to get too dirty, much like cats, ferrets may choose not to use the litter pan if they feel it is not up to their standards, reminding you that it’s time to clean by using the potty elsewhere; generally in locations you’d like them to avoid relieving themselves in. Also, many ferrets don’t like to share their litter pans. If you have more than one ferret, you may have to provide separate facilities for each! Generally, ferrets won’t soil their own beds or food, so take advantage of this by putting towels, tunnels, hammocks or food bowls in all the non-litter corners especially while your ferret is learning to find a pan. At first, you may want to hold off on cleaning their beds, as it will help teach your ferret that a corner is their bedroom, not another bathroom.

It’s important to remember that many ferrets use the bathroom shortly after waking up, so make sure your ferret uses the litter pan prior to letting them out. While outside their cage it is important to keep a close eye on them. You should place your ferret in their litter pan every so often, especially if you have extended time periods of play outside the cage. Ferrets have an extremely short digestive process, which can make for 8 or more trips to the potty a day!

Each time your ferret uses their litter pan, whether or not you’ve placed them there, you should give them a treat right away. Ferrets are fast learners, many times they will do anything to get a treat. Shortly after you’ve begun their litter training you may find that they “fake” using the pan so that they can get out of their cage or to get a treat. This type of behavior is generally ok, especially because it reinforces the desired behavior.

When training your ferret, positive reinforcement such as praise and treats will work best, however if necessary you can use a firm NO!, followed by cage time if you feel they need a stern warning. Tricks, such as rubbing your ferret’s nose “in it” won’t work. Mainly because they won’t be able to connect their mess with a bad behavior, also because many ferrets already sniff their litter, and litter pans. Be sure with all your training to be consistent, as well as timely. Scolding your ferret for messes you find when returning to a room you’ve stepped out of for a few minutes tends to send a bad message. As stated before, it’s best to monitor your ferret at all times, especially while they are out of their cage.

What if they pick the wrong corner

Sometimes your ferret’s favorite corner will not be the litter pan corner. You will find it best to place litter pans throughout your ferrets “travel areas”, however if this behavior continues try placing a crumpled towel or a food bowl in the suspect corner, making this space look more like a bed or feeding area than a bathroom.

These corners should be cleaned thoroughly with items such as vinegar, diluted bleach, or other products that have an objectionable odor. Doing so will help eliminate the ferret “bathroom” smell, but also serve as a general detterant. Be sure though to let the area dry prior to allowing your ferrets access. For the very same reason, you shouldn’t clean your ferrets litter pans with these products, at the very least not the same cleaning product you’re using as a deterrent elsewhere. Urine has a much more lasting effect when it comes into contact with wood. Make sure you protect such area with vinyl or linoleum, if possible, also using products such as Simple Green or other Pet Odor Eliminaters (Nature’s Miracle) to take away the “bathroom” smell that will continually entice your ferret to use this area inappropriately.

No ones perfect

While most ferrets can be litter trained, there can be variations in terms of acceptance and success between each ferret. Unfortunately, many ferrets are not as diligent as their feline friends when it comes to litter pan use, so you should expect an occasional accident. Litter Trained ferrets can have accidents while they are extremely frightened or excited, or off exploring a new area not available to them previously. You should expect a well trained ferret to make it to their litter pan 9 times out of 10. Remember, ferrets are small, so their accidents are small as well, making it easier to clean should an accident occur.

Ferrets are wonderful pets. They have their pros and cons much the same as any other. It’s important to be patient because sometimes even well trained ferrets need to be taken back to litter training school. Use these tools to help insure this success, repeating if necessary, but most importantly show your ferrets love and attention daily. This will make for happy ferrets, and more often than not, a happy ferret owner!

Mike Steele


“Information re-written with permission Ferret FAQ, By Pamela Greene”

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