Ouch! - Ferret Biting.

Black ferret

Ferret biting is annoying, naughty and…painful!
However, there are ways to train your ferret not to nip. In order to do this first you need to understand ferrets and why they bite…yep there is a reason for it, believe it or not!

There are different types of biting:

1.There is the ‘I’m Scared’ bite,

2.‘I’ve done it for so long and you have done nothing about it’ bite

3.and the ‘Lets Play!’ bite

Let’s start with the ‘I’m Scared’ ferret biting. Most humans have different reactions when they are scared, these can vary depending on the human’s personality. Some humans run, others cry and some fight. The same goes for ferrets.

When scared some ferrets will run, others will scream (if you have never heard a ferret scream then be happy that you have been able to maintain your eardrums!) and then we have the biters.

The ‘I’m scared’ ferret biting is the most painful bite of all, because they mean to do damage. I have had ferrets draw blood before…they don’t just bite, they actually latch on and don’t let go! It’s rather painful.

The ‘I’m scared’ ferret biting normally occurs when the ferret is out of its comfort zone. An example of this can be when you first bring your new fuzzy home.

The little thing has just been taken away from the familiar smells of friends and family…how would you feel?

Another example of this type of biting can also be when a stranger handles him/her. If the ferret is only used to you handling it…then it will not like another person doing so (this also depends on the ferret).

Ferret bite picture

The ‘I’ve done it for so long and you have done nothing about it’ ferret biting is unfortunately…the fault of the human.

Yep, I know us humans tend to have big ego’s and don’t like admitting when we are wrong, but if you want your ferret to stop biting then…admit that you have a problem. You probably spoil your little fuzzy wuzzy and let him/her get away with too muchy wuchy. Yes???

Ferrets are very smart creatures and they will take advantage of anything…even YOU…where allowed. So let’s start educating our ferrets that it’s not good to bite the hand that feeds it.

Another reason for relentless nipping can also be depression or boredom. Ferrets are not naturally caged animals therefore if they are cooped up for too long they may develop nipping habits. Have a closer look at your ferret, does he/she seem depressed? Do you let it out of its cage for long enough? Is it mentally stimulated in and out of its cage? Does it have enough toys to play with? Do you play with it? Do you change its environment and make it interesting?

Ferrets are extreamly intelligent animals and if your want to keep one or a few as companions...then you better make sure you can provide the mental stimulation they need. Otherwise you may end up with a biter! Goodluck with that...

Now let’s talk about the most common type of ferret biting…the ‘Let’s play!’ ferret biting.

Have you ever sat down and watched a couple or more ferrets playing with each other?

If you have then you probably noticed that they always seem to look like they are hurting each other! I don’t know about you, sometimes I can’t help but cringe when I see how rough they are with each other!

They wrestle, bite, pounce, crocodile roll, nip, squeal, pull, charge and then try to run away when they see that the other one is coming for them. So tell me…do you now know why they nip during playtime? That's just the way they play!

In fact ferrets must think that we are the biggest cry babies when we tell them off for biting! They just assume that we are just as thick skinned as they are and don’t understand why we can’t handle a little bite.

So there you go, now you know the main reasons for ferret biting. So how do you stop ferrets biting???

First of all never let a ferret get away with biting you (or he will think its ok). There are different methods that you can use. Start off with the gentle one’s and if they don’t work then move on to the other ones.

But first, when punishing your ferret MAKE SURE you never loose control. You have to understand that they don’t know any better and YOU are the responsible one to teach them not to do it. Be short and to the point and NEVER overdo it…you could seriously hurt your ferret!

  • Always start off with a firm “NO!!!" or "HISS" (sound effect) - ferrets hiss at each other when they are angry or annoyed at something, make sure you raise your voice enough for them to startle.

  • Try blowing air it their face - some don’t like this very much. I don't really find this method works too well as they usually see it as a game...

  • Stock-up on bitter spray- spray it where they are biting you, so that they get a nasty after taste! They will think twice before doing that again...

  • You can squirt water in their face - they will probably jump with surprise...but beware some of them actually like this, particularly on hot days!.

  • Scruff them!!! - This is my favorite method. I find scruffing along with a loud NO!!! or HISS very affective. If the gentler methods don’t work then you can try scruffing/scuffing them by the skin on the back of their necks and giving them a LIGHT shake.
Check out the video below for a tutorial on how to scruff a ferret.

  • Isolate a ferret that has been biting - Either put them in their cage or lock them in a secure room and give them a little bit of time out time to think about their naughty ferret biting behavior. This is another very successful technique!

We have a little cat/ferret carrier cage in our room (where they play) and every time one of them bites...we "throw" them into it. This way they can think about their behavior while watching the other ferrets play and all the fun that they are missing out on.

If you incorporate this with a little squirt of water in their face for every time they bite or scruffing and a harsh NO!!! or HISS (it has to be an instant reaction), then you should have a fooll proof method of teaching your ferrets not to bite!

For the more extreme cases, where ferrets draw blood and don’t let go…here is what you can do (these methods can be seen as cruel...and I agree...so don't abuse them!). PLEASE BE CAREFUL and don’t overdo it, always be in control of your emotions!

    • If a ferret has latched onto you viciously, causing a painful bite and drawing blood - try flicking them on the nose using your thumb and pointing finger or middle finger (just like you would after picking your nose and flicking it into the air…come on admit it…we have all done it once in our lives!).Don't do it too hard, just enough for them to let go (I find this a very successful method of making them let go>
  • In very extreme cases:

    • If this doesn't work then try sticking your finger into the ferrets’ mouth and cause them to gag. DON’T stick your finger too far down…you don’t know what’s down there!
  • With the very difficult cases I found that the nose flicking was enough for them to let go. Please be gentle with your ferret and NEVER bite back…you might loose your nose!

    To avoid these situations, always make sure you handle your ferrets a lot and socialize them not only with other ferrets but also with other humans…otherwise your friends will become the victims and will start spreading rumors that ferrets are evil…we have all heard a few stories before, haven’t we?!

    A properly trained ferret should not bite viciously…they might still try to nip during play when in a frenzy of ecstasy but, with a stern ‘NO!’ they should look up at you with innocent eyes and say “I’m sorry I totally forgot that you’re a WOOS!” and go on playing nicely.

    When purchasing a new ferret make sure that it is from a credible breeder (or a Ferret Welfare Society - they will allocate an appropriate ferret) as some ferret biting behaviour comes in the form of genetic predisposition. This means that some ferrets will naturally be more nippy. Just be consistent with your training methods and this shall decrease.

    Let’s start showing non-ferret people that ferret biting does not occur as much as they think. Let’s educate our fuzzes and show all dogs and cats that ferrets are better then they are!

    To learn more about ferrets please have a look at my other pages.

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