Can ferrets be house trained?

ferret in a house

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If you have just joined the ranks of the millions of pet ferret owners in the United States, we’re sure you are excited to welcome your very own cheeky and furry friend to their new home. 

Ferrets are full of personality, but there is no escaping the fact that they are still wild animals at heart. For this reason, you may be worried about your carpets and sectionals especially as ferrets are known to mark their territory with their anal scent glands and enjoy chewing up just about everything!

Liquid and solid surprises underfoot are no fun either so it is vital to get the toilet habits of your ferret under control quickly. 

Given that pet ferrets are present in 326 out of every 1000 US households, it’s clear that they must be doing something right.

Indeed, you will be relieved to know that a pet ferret can be effectively house-trained. With time and patience, it is perfectly possible to litter-train a ferret and guide its behavior to make a housebroken, free-roam ferret a respectful house guest.

Read on for advice on how to make a success of litter-training a ferret as well as tips and tricks for keeping your pet ferret from wrecking your home!

Ideally, you want to keep ferret soiling to a minimum

Both wild and domesticated ferrets eat a diet that is rich in raw meat. This leads to urine and stool that can be extremely pungent, especially in an enclosed domestic environment.

The odor and unsanitary nature of ferret soiling is motivation enough for ensuring that you succeed at housebreaking. 

In addition, ferret urine and stool can shed viruses and bacteria that are harmful to human health including Giardiasis, Salmonellosis, Ringworm, Campylobacteriosis, and a range of parasitic infections. 

Ferrets defecate frequently, requiring a concerted effort to keep up with their toilet activity

A high metabolic rate plus a shortened digestive tract means that a meat meal takes as little as three hours to make the journey from one end to the other. This means that these little fellas can produce a lot of poop which can get everywhere if not contained by a litter tray. 

Poop marks the spot.

Stool can also be used to mark the corners of their cage as well as anywhere else the ferret considers part of its personal territory.

A ferret will seek out a suitable corner(which can be anywhere unless suitably trained) and back up into it defecateing with its tail raised over its slightly arched back.

The stools are not buried and these creatures have a tendency to drag their anus on the floor after opening their bowels.

Urination takes place along the same lines, with you ferret adopting a squatting position being a sure sign that they are taking a pee. Beware of another unsavouray habbit known as urine licking.

This involves the ferret licking and drinking its urine, or, worse still that of a cagemate.

Ferret voiding behaviors are every reason to encourage litter tray use as soon as possible. 

A key area of leverage for getting your ferret to use a litter box is that ferrets love to dig, therefore a  litter tray will be very inviting. 

A step-by-step method for litter training your ferret. 

  1. Observe your ferret in its cage: Understanding the habits of your ferret will provide the visual cues needed to recognize when it is going to defecate.
  2. Place the litter tray in a corner of the cage:  As ferrets will use corners for toileting, you gain a head start by placing the litter tray in the corner of the cage. Make you litterbox large to really encourage use of this prepared area. The litter box should be secured to the cage walls to prevent it being tipped over. You can also obtain a litter tray with high sides and one low entrance to keep things contained.
  3. Only a shallow layer of litter is required: The ferret will not bury its stools. The best choices for litter are an odor-free basic clay litter or newspaper. Fine clumping dusty clays can cause the ferret respiratory problems. 
  4. If your ferret starts to back into a corner, pick it up and put it in the litter box corner. You will need to put in the effort of repeating this until the ferret opens its bowels in the litter tray. 
  5. When your ferret uses the litter box, use praise and treats to reinforce the positive behaviour. If you are going to play with your ferret, place it on the litter tray and keep it there until it defecates or voids urine, then reward it with its playtime.
  6. Discourage your ferret from digging in the litter: Layer the litter with shredded newspaper to deter them. 
  7. Changing your litter box frequently: This encourages use and prevents the ferret from digging in its waste.
  8. If your ferret is free-roam, place litter boxes in the areas of the room it is allowed to explore: This will work best once the ferret is actively using the litter tray in the cage. 
  9. Soiled corners must be cleaned: Use an appropriate pet urine cleaner to remove soiling as soon as possible or the ferret will want to return to the same spot. 

Other top tips for ferret-proofing your home.

Once you have your house-training down-pat, you will also need to tackle other ferret behaviors that can damage your home if you let them out of the cage.

Free-roaming ferrets are good fun but activities like chewing, tunneling, and investigative play can get them into heaps of trouble. Just like child-proofing, there are some steps you can take to ensure that your furry friend is welcomed in your space anytime. 

  • Fill, block-off or mesh  any holes or gaps in your room that are larger than a couple of centimeters as your ferret could squeeze through. 
  • Look out for heavy items that your ferret could knock over and injure itself. 
  • Keep your ferret away from powercords that they may try to chew. Remote control buttons and other rubbery items are also risky for ferrets.
  • Watch out for your ferret burrowing into upholstered furniture to create a hide. If the furniture is shifted the ferret could be squashed. 

Rounding up.

House-training your ferret is a worthwhile investment of time and effort and should improve life for both you and your ferret. Remember that the process will take time with many mistakes and little accidents along the way.

Be persistent and I am sure you will both be enjoying a fresh clean and inviting space for exploration and play. 

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