As tiny as their teeth are, ferrets can produce some painful bites. They don’t always mean it though, and even when they do, they might just have a good reason for it. So how should we, as ferret parents deal with this problem?
The most important step in teaching your fluffy carnivore not to bite is finding the reason behind their actions. Observe when your ferret bites. Are they scared or playful? Could they be biting out of sheer boredom?
Like any other animal, ferrets experience worry, excitement, and even jealousy. For that reason, look into the things their bites may be communicating. Choose your actions accordingly.
Biting when excited and playful
Rough biting is the most natural thing for a ferret in its playful mood. When they are still just kits, ferrets use play to learn how to fight and survive. Furthermore, their skin is thicker than ours, and they are used to squeezing harder.
Don’t be alarmed if your ferret bites you until it draws blood, it’s probably not trying to harm you. Keep your composure. Your goal here should be to teach your pet that strong bites hurt.
What you want to do is quite simple, and if you have been looking around for advice on this topic, you probably already know of this training method.
- Stop play
The moment you feel the painful bite, stop playing with your ferret, and pull away. Don’t react, don’t shout, pull yourself out of their jaws, and proceed to step two.
- Pick them up by the nape of the neck (scruff them)
Hold firmly but gently your ferret by the skin on the back of the neck, raise them to your eye level. They might wriggle around and try to escape or nibble at you to continue the game, but don’t let them go. They should be allowed to calm down in that position.
Don’t let go if they bite your hand. If you do, they might take that as a sign, they can get what they want if they bite. This could make the biting problem harder to solve. Don’t shake them. Many people suggest shaking them or even hitting them on the nose. This may be effective for some ferrets, but the point of scruffing here is to let them calm down. You are trying to put a stop to their play. Making them more excited or anxious won’t help you achieve this.
- Tell them “No.”
Holding them there, tell them a firm “No”. You must not shout or show anger. This is a training exercise. It is not meant to scare them.
- Put them away
When they have calmed down, you should put them away for a few seconds. Just place them on the ground. If your energetic friend wishes to resume the game and no longer bites, you are good. If they repeat the behavior, you may want to do the training exercise again.
If your ferret doesn’t stop biting in play:
After scruffing them and telling them they’ve done bad, place them in an isolated space like a transportation crate. Leave them there only for a couple of minutes. This is most effective for young ferrets as they don’t like their game interrupted. If they learn to see punishment as a result of biting, they’d be more careful with their nibbling.
Biting when anxious or uncertain
Many ferrets bite only when they are afraid or anxious. If they have suddenly been thrown into a new environment, they cannot be sure that it is safe for them.
Biting is a defense mechanism, and you shouldn’t immediately turn to disciplinary methods. Since they are unfamiliar with the surrounding area (or their new humans), they can become quite anxious. If you make a sudden unusual movement, they might think you are going to hurt them.
Give them time and space to familiarize themselves with everything.
While they are doing that, here are a few things you can do to help them relax:
- Don’t move things around, let them explore everything.
Get them to adjust to their environment by walking them around the house. Show them all the smells; allow them to get familiar with their living space as well. After that, their new home would not be as scary for them.
- Don’t be in a hurry to approach them. Allow them personal space and enter it little by little. Allow them to come to you, sniff you and play with you.
When bedtime comes around, you could even try caressing them to get them familiar with your touch. When they are at ease, you’d be able to pet them for longer periods of time. This will not only make them calmer but will also show them they can associate your touch with safety and relaxation.
- Take care of their living space, give them food, water, and comfort.
This way, when you approach them, they will have fewer worries and fears. If your pet is not well physically, they may feel vulnerable. In such situations, they are more likely to defend themselves in any way they can.
A way to deepen your relationship with your biter is to give them a shirt that smells of you as bedding. Put it in their cage, so when they sleep, they feel your smell. Once they are exposed to that same smell again, they will associate it with relaxation and would be less anxious around you.
Biting when jealous or bored
Ferrets are playful and jealous creatures. They are awesome because they will establish a tight bond with you once they get to know you. They will want to play and interact with you too.
Sometimes, though, this blessing is served with a side dish of a thousand little bites on the feet and ankles. This is most common when your ferret is in its energy-ball mode and wants to play. If you ignore them for too long, they may resort to biting to get your attention.
Luckily, this is the simplest issue to solve
Just play with them.
Ferrets aren’t complicated. When getting one, you should be aware that they do two things: sleep and play. They need entertainment to stay active and healthy.
In addition, they also need social contact. You should consider getting more than one dooker. A lot of ferret owners choose to do this because it allows them to get the pets to play together. This keeps them busy when you aren’t able to give them attention.
Quick and easy solutions to try
- Give them a toy to nibble on, so they bite it instead of you.
Cat toys work great for this purpose, anything the ferret can chase, drag, or roll around would do the job. Make sure you pick something that won’t be harmful to them if they manage to tear out a piece.
[For more tips on how to choose a good toy check out this article.]
- Spray your hands with something that discourages biting.
Things like lemon juice could work, but some ferrets can quickly get used to the taste. Most people use apple spray, so that might be a good option for you as well. It’s not toxic or harmful, and it’ll keep ferret mouths away.
- Use FerreTone to make them lick you.
If you prefer to feel their small adorable tongue instead of their needle-sharp teeth, FerreTone is a good option for you – just spray it on your hands. It helps your furry friend by providing essential fatty acids and vitamins. And best of all, ferrets love it!
- When they play with you without biting, reward them.
- Give them treats and other rewards
- Play with them longer
- Use the toys they enjoy to play with
All in all, encourage positive behavior.
To build the best relationship with your dooker, you must be consistent and persistent. For kits, training may take only a few weeks; for older ferrets, which have habits that need braking, training of any kind might take months. Be patient and show them love.