How to Prevent Ferret Bites?
Over the years, ferrets have found their way into the premises of many a household. As cute and playful furry little mammals, they have recently garnered a lot of attention as a popular house pet. And rightly so as they exhibit mischievous yet lovable qualities that many adore.
However, ferrets definitely have earned a reputation of being somewhat rambunctious and therefore challenging to tame. They sometimes have a proclivity to bite, and while you can vaccinate your animal to prevent infections, it is wise just to avoid the ordeal altogether. Here are some tips.
How to Prevent Ferret Bites?
These are some of the immediate ways you can prevent bites. But they're only for the short term.
One of the ways you can, for the initial phase, discipline your pet and at the same time prevent bites is by the scuffing method. It's somewhat similar to how you'd grab a cat by the scruff of the neck. This renders the ferret somewhat defenseless, and it can be handled safely.
This type of discipline is rather popular, as you can just grab the animal and temporarily displace it or put it away somewhere until its temperament becomes calmer. Be very careful, and pinch at the loose skin located at the back of the ferret's neck. Then you just gently pick the creature up. That's all there's to it.
Some people prefer to vocally discipline it after they pick it up like that though. And you definitely could to that. Just grab the animal and lift it up, all the way to your face and then you can say something like “No!” or “Bad boy!” to let it know that it is misbehaving. Be sure to close the mouth with your fingers.
Another good way to prevent biting through the use of discipline is by giving the ferret a time out. This is more of a psychological form of behavior control that can provide some time for your pet to learn what to do and what not to do. It can also be a form of discipline for other ill behaviors as well.
When your ferret is acting feisty and gets all nippy, just grab it by the scruff and put it in a box, carrier, or cage and let it be. This is particularly effective for the case of baby ferrets or kits, as they are much more playful and don't like alone time. So over time, it'll work.
The trick to time out is that since most ferrets view it as something bad, they will slowly make the connection that if they bite, they will get the time out, and that means alone time. Once they make the association with biting, they should stop biting and behave. Kits are particularly keen on picking up that prompt.
Use of A Chew Toy
Some ferrets, however, can't let go of their habits. No matter how times you scuff them or give them the time out, they go back to biting. Some ferrets can have that insatiable personality trait. So, what you do then is introduce something else that your ferret can sink its little teeth into- a chew toy.
There are some toys you can get for your ferret at a pet shop, but if ferret toys aren't available for any reason, chew toys meant for dogs or cats can also be an alternate solution. Whenever your pet is acting up, just toss the toy item in front and encourage the ferret to go after that instead of you.
Prompting your ferret to the toy will slowly, over repeated sessions have the animal recognize the toy as something to bite. The goal is to teach the ferret to only bite toys, not people. Many people prefer this because it is a sort of win-win; the ferret gets to bite, and you are safe from its maws.
Use of A Repelling Fragrance
As the most immediate solution to just get your pet to behave, use of a repellant spray simply means spraying a chemical whose aroma ferrets typically despise. You could spray it on the thing your ferret tends to bite. For example, your hands or toes, or ankle. You might even spray it on furniture it is inclined to bite.
The most common chemical that comes to mind is bitter apple spray; ferrets simply hate that bitter taste. The bitter lime spray could also do the trick. The goal is simply to have the ferret not bite. Both these products should be easily attainable as they are available at pet stores and are relatively inexpensive.
Now you should remember that this is only a temporary solution. Don’t spray on everything. And never spray your ferret directly, or otherwise, it may become fearful and defensive. It is only meant to stop the animal from biting temporarily. Afterward, proceed to train your pet.
When training, keep some key factors in check. Your pet is a creature composed of feelings and emotions. So, it should come to no surprise that you cannot just strong arm your way to disciplining an animal. Never hurt your ferret in the disciplining process; that never does anything right.
Even when it comes to verbal discipline, do not yell at your ferret. Sure, it may not be able to understand what you said, but it still can catch your tone and will register it as an act of aggression. And consequently, it will act in self-defense. If you scare your ferret, it will bite back.
Prevention in The Long Term
To prevent bites in the long term, you need to dig deeper and find the cause. Resolving that can ensure preventing bites from ever happening again.
Train from Childhood
Baby ferrets, or so-called kits, like most animals, learn better as juveniles, as the brain is more plastic. Have the animal associate reward with good behavior and some form of reprimand with ill manners. With trial and error, they’ll learn, and you’ll have yourself a well-mannered pet.
Never hurt your pet. You can assume a tone of authority without sounding threatening or aggressive. Ferrets are very social creatures, and consequently, so, they have instincts that respond to tones of authority. You have to let the animal know that it should not bite, rather than it must not bite.
As the principle of the carrot and the stick, offer your ferret a carrot, in the sense of giving it a snack, its favorite food maybe, or any other positive consequence. You could play with it as a reward for behaving or maybe just praise it; it’ll definitely pick up on the tone you used to praise and be happy.
See Also: Ferret Sounds and What They Mean
Earn Their Trust
This is usually much more challenging for the case of adult ferrets because they already have developed a mindset and it resists any attempt made to change it. With kits, they don’t usually know better and ease up to humans much more easily than fully grown or even adolescent ferrets.
Initially, it starts with food, particularly if your ferret is very unruly. Make your presence known and be very conspicuous about offering food to the animal. This will sow the seed. You can even change areas where you feed them, so that, they associate the food with you, and not the area or place.
Next comes the more difficult part, contact. Ferrets, being social animals, see physical contact as a form of trust and if you can safely do that, you've earned its trust. Start small, just a few pets or so. Eventually, you can move on to full-on grooming your pet. This can also be seen as a reward you offer for good behavior.
Tackle Fear Biting
A fear biter is usually a ferret that has been handled roughly in the past. The bite is essentially its way of defense against threats. You might mean well, but these types of ferrets often misinterpret benevolent approaches as malicious attacks. And consequently, they bite.
The first rule to dealing with a fear biter is no punishment. If you punish such a ferret, this might reinforce the idea of you being an enemy, and it will then go on to double down on its behavior. Just make sure you’re safe from its attempts to bite, and then slowly work towards it again, approaching with care.
Be very gentle; slowly pet the ferret and work your way to its comfort zone. Eagerly reward good behavior, either with praise or snacks or grooming. Training sessions should not wear the animal out, keep them brief and let the ferret rest. Don’t use an authoritarian tone; be loving.
Discourage the Playful Biter
On the other hand of the spectrum, ferrets that are just a little too happy might bite as well. Sure, this is natural, since kits engage in play, and said play involves biting, among other things. However, you are not a ferret and don’t possess the thick fur that protects them from being wounded.
When it does bite, do not engage in play. This is kind of the way you would discipline a spoiled child. Do not coddle your ferret. If they bite, walk away. If they bite during play, stop playing and ignore your pet. This will instill the notion inside their mind that biting is a no-no, and they’ll stop.
You can bolster this instillment by adding rewards in for calm behavior. It can be a tasty snack or petting and grooming. Or you can play with your ferret for some more time. Whatever you do, do not hand out rewards if they bite, even a little. Be strict about this aspect.
Eliminate Biting as Any Form of Communication
This simply means to refuse your ferret anything and just behave negatively whenever they bite. Take biting off the table. And be sure that your ferret understands that. Give them zero incentive to bite, and they will learn, and they may just give up the habit altogether.
Again, this will involve a lot of psychological prompting. If your ferret bites to get attention, ignore it. If it bites to be picked up don’t pick it up, and so on. Basically, make it clear to your pet, that you will not respond positively to biting in any situation. This will give it no reason to bite.
On the other hand, be very responsive, and even rewarding about other ways your ferret communicates with you. Nuzzles, or simply just approaching you and showing that it is aware that you can be cues that it wants attention. Give it just that and only to these cues.
What to Do When You Are Bitten
If worst comes to worst, and you are bitten, fear not, you most likely will be just fine. Just follow this simple set of guidelines.
Preemptively Have Your Pet Vaccinated
When your ferret is vaccinated, it means not only good for your pet but also good for you. The animal enjoys a disease-free life, and you can safely handle it without fear is contracting that illness yourself. One of the glaring issues when it comes to disease spreading is the spread of rabies.
Vaccines are often available at pet stores. They usually come in relatively cheap and in a wide variety. It is advisable to at the very least vaccinate your ferret against the most common diseases, particularly those that are life-threatening or those that can cross over to humans.
Primary First Aid
If it draws blood, immediately wash the bitten area. Initially, you should wash with just tap water and after the blood is gone, apply a warmer wash. This will ease the pain, and you will feel better. The water should also wash away any impurity and dirt from the wound.
The second time around, you are to sterilize the wound. Rubbing alcohol is a makeshift solution that usually does the trick. However, there are more modern sterilization methods using more specialized solutions suited to each particular type of wound or cut.
Seek Medical Help
Now, the bite could be a serious one, particularly if it is by an unvaccinated ferret. If that is so, then you should not run the risk of being afflicted with any disease and promptly seek medical help. You yourself can get a vaccine shot or some other type of medication.
Even if the ferret is vaccinated, you could still get a precautionary shot, or some other sterilization done just to be safe. Sometimes the virus can circumvent vaccinations and be active once inside a new host. So, to be on the safe side, check with your doctor. You should also have a routine check-up of your pet as well.
See Also: Difference Between A Ferret and A Weasel
Ferrets are definitely a good way to spend time and interact. But a prerequisite should be that you sustain no harm from them and vice-versa. And by taking these steps you can be a happy pet owner, and your ferret will be a happy pet.