How to Bathe Your Ferret Correctly

Ferrets are playful and curious animals. Therefore, they can get dirty easily, since they get into every nook and cranny available. Even so, bathing them too often is not recommended.
How to Bathe Your Ferret Correctly

Last update: 02 June, 2021

Ferrets are small, quiet, loving, and playful companions. These mammals (Mustela putorius furo) were domesticated more than 2,000 years ago and their popularity as pets has been growing ever since. Therefore, knowing how to bathe your ferret is something you should take into account as an owner.

Ferrets themselves have a natural musk-like odor, which is milder in neutered specimens. However, believing that their natural aroma will disappear with a bath is a misconception. Despite that, it isn’t good to bathe a ferret very often. If you want to know more about this topic, keep reading.

The domestic ferret

The ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is a subspecies of the polecat (Mustela putorius ) and belongs to the weasel family (Mustelidae), as indicated by Animalpedia. Despite its popularity as a pet, in some countries it isn’t legal to keep this species at home, so find out before purchasing a pet.

According to the Ferret Association, the house ferret is different from the wild black-legged ferret (Mustela nigripes), an endangered species native to the Midwestern United States. If the domestic ferret escapes, it rarely survives more than a few days in the wild, unlike its feral relatives.

Therefore, if you have a pet ferret, you should make sure that your home is escape-proof.

You’ll be surprised what one of these animals can do and learn. For example, ferrets recognize their names and can even learn to do tricks or use the litter box. As long as you reward them with suitable treats for them, they’ll find a reason to internalize new things.

The name in English (ferret) comes from the Latin furonem, which means thief. This nickname isn’t anecdotal, as ferrets love to hide any object; every owner can assure it. In addition, they also like to dig, hide, and play with guardians.

Bathing your ferret is easier than it sounds.

What you should know before you bathe your ferret

As stated above, ferrets naturally have a mild, musky odor, a scent that is greatly reduced when sterilized. In addition, they also have olfactory glands that release odors as a defense mechanism. These can be removed surgically, but it isn’t recommended.

Therefore, the scent of ferrets is normal and doesn’t mean they’re dirty. According to the Dumb Friends League, bathing your ferret so that it doesn’t produce this smell won’t help, because after bathing, its dermal glands are responsible for replenishing lost oils – in order to protect its skin.

In the days after bathing, the ferret’s odor may even increase.

So if you’re going to bathe your ferret, be sure to do it only if necessary. It’s recommended to give them a bath when the animal has got dirty when getting into a nook or if it’s very hot.

How to bathe your ferret

Like cats, ferrets groom and groom themselves – another reason not to bathe them regularly. Therefore, bathing your pet should only be an activity that you do very few times a year, because if you do it often you can damage its skin – so says the Friendly Ferret portal.

Some ferrets don’t like water, but according to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, most ferrets enjoy baths and love to play with water. You can even fill your sink or bathtub a little with warm water for them to enjoy, especially during the summer. If you decide you want to bathe your ferret, then follow these tips.

1. Keep the water at the correct temperature to bathe your ferret

A ferret’s body temperature is higher than ours. Therefore, you shouldn’t use hot water – warm is best – and make sure that your ferret can touch the surface with its feet, as this will allow it to rest and not get stressed. If your pet doesn’t like water, it’ll try to get out, but to avoid this, you can use treats suitable for ferrets.

2. Gently apply the shampoo to the animal

A good choice of shampoo are those made exclusively for ferrets or for domestic cats. The softer the better. You can also use human baby shampoos, as they are very mild and won’t irritate the animal’s skin.

Apply the shampoo to your hands, scrub it, and then apply it to your ferret’s hair. Scrub its belly, tail, legs, and the rest of the body, except the head. At this point, you can reward it with another treat. Hold the animal in your arms at all times, gently by the skin on the back of the neck — or while it’s standing on its hind legs.

After shampooing, you can put the animal under the tap or use a cup to pour water over it to rinse it off. After this, you can give them a toy, to see if they want to have fun in the bathtub.

3. Dry the animal well

Remove the ferret from the water, remove any excess water, wrap it in a towel, and dry it as much as possible. The moment you let it go, it will start to behave like crazy; it will run and jump to try to get dry.

Oatmeal bath: a different option

Bathing your ferret with oatmeal is a very good option, because it won’t remove the oil from the animal’s body, but it will clean its dirt. Add to this the fact that there are no chemicals that can irritate it. The type of oatmeal you should use is colloidal oatmeal.

The bath plan is simple. Put colloidal oatmeal inside a sock and put it in the water where you’re going to bathe your ferret. After a few minutes the water will turn cloudy: at that point, put your ferret in, rinse it and dry it.

Grooming tips

Another way to avoid having to bathe your ferret too often is to follow these tips in order to help it lead a cleaner life and not increase its odor. We’d like to highlight the following:

  • Clean your pet’s ears every 2 weeks to avoid accumulation of wax or mites. You should also trim its nails every 2 weeks.
  • Wash the animal’s bedding every 2 weeks and feed it a healthy diet.
  • Ferrets shed their fur twice a year, so comb your animal during these times to help it shed its hair.
  • Brush its teeth at least once a month, with ferret toothpaste and a small, soft pet toothbrush.
  • Feline hairball laxatives — 1 to 2 milliliters or 0.25 inches — can be given 2-3 times a week as a gastric hairball preventative.
A ferret is looking at the camera.

Finally, don’t use powder baths for your ferret, as they won’t clean it well, and won’t minimize its smell and, in addition, it can cause respiratory problems for the animals. As an owner, it is important that you know all their care and needs – in addition to knowing how to bathe your ferret – to give them a healthy and happy life.

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