Why choosing the right litter for your ferret is important
Ferrets eliminate waste every 3 hours because they have a very fast metabolism. This is why the litter needs to be cleaned out daily. If you do not clean a ferret’s litter every day, their environment becomes unhygienic and odors starts to build up. Plus, ferrets are clean animals who don’t like having too much poop in their litter box. If you don’t clean your ferret’s litter every day, there’s a good chance she will stop using the litter box and develop the bad habit of going outside of it.
Not all litter’s are appropriate for ferrets. Some can even be dangerous. For example, ferrets explore the world with their noses; they want to smell everything to learn more about it. If you choose a clumping cat litter, which has a lot of dust in it, your ferret will sniff the litter often and breathe in that dust. This is dangerous and can cause serious respiratory problems.
How much litter should you use?
Unlike cats, ferrets don’t cover their stools after they are done. This means that they only need a thin layer of litter in their litter box.
How often should you clean the litter box?
Ferrets like to poop in corners, so the corner of the litter box will become the most soiled and will need to be scooped out daily. Female ferrets will also urinate in corners, but the position of a male ferret’s penis means that he will urinate toward the middle of the litter box. This means that you may need to completely clean out the litter box more if you have male ferrets.
While you may be able to scoop out the worst of the litter daily, a litter box for a single ferret should be cleaned out completely every week to ensure your ferret’s cage is hygienic.
The more ferrets you have, the more often you will need to scoop and completely clean their litter boxes.
The best ferret litters
- Recycled paper pellets. This is the best type of litter for ferrets. The litter should have very little dust (at least 99% dust free) and no added scents, as these can cause allergic reactions or irritation. Paper pellets are relatively cheap, very absorbent, provide natural odor control, are heavy enough to stay in the litter box when the ferret walks in and out, and are easy to clean. Recycled pellets are also an eco-conscious choice.
- Shredded newspaper. Some people find it more cost effective to get old newspapers, shred them, and then use them in litter boxes. However, shredded newspaper is not as absorbent as paper pellets and can be harder to clean.
- Puppy pads. Some people give up on litter trays altogether and simply place puppy pads into corners. This can get quite expensive, since puppy pads must be replaced instead of cleaned.
- Dust-free, plant-based clumping litters. The only clumping litters that are OK for ferrets are dust-free, plant-based ones like corn or wheat litters. However, these litters are light and ferrets are more likely to track them in and out of the litter box, which equals more cleaning for you. Some ferrets do eat these litters, which is not good for them. If using a plant-based litter, make sure your ferret isn’t developing a taste for them. If they do, you will need to change to another kind of litter.
The worst ferret litters
- Wood shavings. Many people make the mistake of believing that ferrets can live in the same kind of environment as rats, hamsters, or guinea pigs, and thus keep them in a bed of wood shavings. This is dangerous. Wood shavings contain a lot of dust that your ferret will breathe in, causing respiratory problems. Wood shavings also contain phenol, an aromatic hydrocarbon that can dramatically alter your ferret’s liver enzymes and cause liver failure.
- Clay litters. This type of litter is not safe for ferrets because it becomes muddy when wet. Ferrets will wipe their rear ends by scooting in the litter box. If you are using a clay litter, it will stick to the ferret’s butt and cause irritations when it dries. Clay also contains dust that your ferret will breathe in, causing respiratory problems. Finally, if your ferret eats clay litter, it may cause a blockage in their intestines, which can be deadly.
- Regular clumping litters. Clumping litters meant for cats are extremely dusty and can cause respiratory problems in ferrets. Only use litters that are at least 99% dust free.
- Silica-based litters. Silica-based litters include litters that are pearls, beads, or gel-based. Silica litters can cause silicosis, a respiratory condition caused by breathing dust containing silica.
- Corn-cob litters. These shouldn’t be used because they may contain mold and are dusty. Also, some ferrets may develop a taste for this litter and ingesting it could potentially cause an intestinal blockage.