Do you know why do ferrets bite?
How to get a ferret to stop biting?
To know the answers to those questions, here is where you need to be. Today I want to share with you information about ferret biting. We will focus on questions like how to stop a ferret from biting, do ferret bites hurt, what to do if a ferret bites you, and many other situations. The first and the most important thing you have to know now is that you can stop the ferret from biting. Before we get to the ferret bite training question, let’s talk about why and how to ferrets bite.
Do Ferrets Bite?
One of the things you must prepare yourself if you want to get a ferret is that ferrets bite. No, that doesn’t mean they will hurt you on purpose or that they are wild animals, it means that biting means more to them than to other animals.
Ferrets bite because biting is the way they communicate. Ferrets have very thick skin and for them, biting isn’t a big deal. But, it is not the same when a ferret bites another ferret or human. Ferret biting ferret while playing won’t hurt them. If a ferret bites you with the same force as the other ferret, you will have a wound.
That is why you have to teach your ferret to be gentle when biting or not to bite at all. Your ferret has to realize that humans (or other animals) don’t have thick skin and it needs to be gentle with them. The baby ferret biting is the most common biting situation and the best time to train them to stop.
Do Ferrets Bites Hurt?
If you train your ferret not to bite then it won’t hurt. During play, ferrets will still try to bite you because that is what they do. There is not a chance in the world that a ferret won’t put your finger in his mouth and close it. But, the difference is how hard it bites.
A trained ferret won’t bite you, that ferret will simply press its teeth around your finger. You will feel light pressure and that is all. As I’ve already said, ferrets communicate through biting so you can’t completely remove that action from their lives. What you can do is lower the biting intensity.
During our playtime, Yoda always grabs my fingers. But, those aren’t bites, those are soft nips you can compare to small hair clips you put around your finger. It is like they want to remind you that they are here but they can’t pull your sleeve.
Why Do Ferrets Bite?
Besides their communication, there can be other reasons for ferret biting. Most of them are connected to their health and socialization.
Ferret Doesn’t Know Better
If you have a ferret who isn’t socialized then he doesn’t know better. Socialization in ferrets is a time they spend with their mother, their siblings, and the ferret owner before the ferret goes to the new owner. In that period a ferret should learn how to bite, when to bite and when not to bite.
Baby Ferrets Are Replacing Teeth
Just like every carnivore, baby ferrets have a pretty sharp set of milk teeth before they replace them with “adult” teeth. That transformation can make any carnivore nervous, including ferrets. Their mouth itch and the only release they have is biting. If you are one of the few things around a baby ferret to bite, you will be the release.
Fill the ferret room with toys safe to bite, don’t use rubber, sponge, or soft plastic that your ferret can swallow. It can lead to blockage which is very dangerous for ferrets. Learn more about ferret blockage in this post.
Ferret Is Neglected
Another socialization-related source of ferret biting can be negligence. If you have a ferret and you don’t let it play outside the cage and you don’t play with it, it will start biting out of sheer frustration.
There is also a possibility that your ferret starts biting the cage because he wants out! So, make sure your ferret spends at least one hour or two in the morning and an hour or two in the evening outside of the cage.
You Don’t Interact With Your Ferret
How can a ferret get used to human touch and see that human hands or feet aren’t toys if you don’t spend time with him? How can you grab a ferret if he is biting? This is a vicious circle and you are the one to break it.
You can start with baby steps. When your ferret is sleeping, slowly start petting the ferret. If he doesn’t mind, continue with it. After a few days, try to pick up a sleepy ferret, place it in your lap and pet him. Gradually change your interaction from when he is sleeping to when he is awake.
Ferret Is In Pain
If you have a socialized ferret and he started to bite, it can be a health-related problem. If your ferret bites you when you touch a certain part of his body then it might be some health-related problem. Don’t force pressing that part of the body. Go to the vet so you can find out what is the problem and deal with the injury.
Ferret Is Under A Lot Of Stress
If you adopt an adult ferret, the ferret can start biting. That can be because a change in environment makes him nervous or he was saved from an abusive owner. Either way, give your new ferret time to adjust, have patience, and don’t give up on him. Once the ferret realizes he is in a safe place, he will stop biting because he doesn’t have to protect himself anymore.
Biting In Adult And Baby Ferrets
It is never too late to train your ferret not to bite. But, the best period when a ferret should learn not to bite is when he is young.
Kits are perfect candidates for any type of training because they don’t know anything. They don’t know how to act with other ferrets, other animals, even humans. When a baby ferret is biting too hard, his mother hisses or scruffs and corrects that bad behavior. Mother and siblings are responsible for interaction between ferrets and during playtime, the owner is responsible for human interaction.
During that period, a ferret owner comes into the picture so a baby ferret can get used to human hands, petting, and carrying around. That is why it is very important for a kit to stay with mother for at least 3 months, even more. Also, that is the reason most baby ferrets from pet shops come to you with a biting problem – they aren’t socialized.
When a ferret is an adult, he has experienced all those situations at least once in his life and he acts accordingly. It is more challenging to train an adult ferret not to bite, but it is not impossible.
If you adopt an adult ferret who is biting, give him time. There is a big chance a ferret just needs to adjust to the new surrounding. Although, most adult ferrets who weren’t abused don’t bite at all so you probably won’t have any biting troubles.
If you saved an abused ferret, give him time before you start with the biting training. That ferret will have to gain trust in humans again, then he will reconsider biting or not. When you break his defense shell, he will probably become one of the nicest ferrets you have ever met, which makes all this worth it.
Why Is Ferret Socialization So Important?
Socialization in baby ferrets means keeping the training part to a minimum. A socialized ferret shouldn’t bite, knows how to use a litter box and how to play with other ferrets.
Ferrets From Breeders
If you buy a ferret from a respectable breeder, you will get a socialized ferret. You won’t experience a biting ferret, you will experience an adorable nipping ferret.
Ferrets From Pet Farms Or Pet Shops
If you buy a ferret from a pet store or from any ferret farm, you won’t. Ferrets in pet shops are often neglected and separated from their mother when they are 2-3 months old. They don’t know that biting is bad, they have no idea what a human is and what it means to be held.
That is why most pet shop ferrets are biting and that is why you are the one to teach them not to. When you buy a ferret from a pet shop, prepare for a biting training that will last a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
Adopted Abused Ferrets
The same story is with abused ferrets. Abused ferrets may go through socialization but the abuse made them forget all that. If you don’t have experience with ferrets, don’t go with a bitey ferret who went through abuse. If you want to go, you have to be prepared that rehabilitation is a long process that will take your time, strength, and patience. But, if you don’t give up, you will end up with the best ferret ever so it can be worth it.
How To Get A Ferret To Stop Biting?
Now that we know what are the reasons for ferret biting, we have to make it stop. Here are a few tips and tricks so you can stop your ferret from biting you, your family, and your friends.
Not every option will work on every ferret. So, try each option until you find the perfect one for your ferret. But, there is a catch. You have to try each option a couple of times and I recommend starting with the first one because it is not a real punishment, it is more like an adjustment period.
You have to give your ferret time to realize that biting is bad so don’t give up on the option after 2 or 3 tries, give each option at least a week.
OPTION 1: Work With Your Ferret – My Recommendation
Every ferret that comes into a new home is scared, so you have to earn his trust. Let him explore your room, but make sure everything is ferret-proofed. Give him food, play with toys on a string, hang around so he can get used to you. Try to pick him up under the armpits, give a few strokes, and put him down. If he starts to bite, simply hiss and abort your interaction. Ignore him, do something else and after a while come back and try again. Do everything again, give him food or treats, play with him and try to pet him, etc.
This is the longest option and it will last a couple of weeks, even months, but in my opinion, it is the best. The key is for ferrets to associate hissing with bad things. That way you can hiss if they are biting, jumping on a piece of furniture they mustn’t, touch something they shouldn’t.
I used this method with my ferrets many times. Now, I can use my coffee table when ferrets are out of the cage. Before that Yoda went crazy when a glass of water was on the table. Now, Yoda comes near the glass, I hiss and the glass isn’t that interesting anymore. So, this method is good for other things, not just the ferret biting problem.
OPTION 2: Gently Pinch To The Ground And Hiss
Reduce ferret biting by acting like a ferret mom. Young ferrets can be very energetic and to them, you have to be the mother. A ferret mom punishes kits when they misbehave. She does it by pinching them to the ground and dragging them by the scruff.
You don’t have to drag your ferret, but you can gently pinch him to the ground and hiss. Hold your ferret like that until it relaxes, then release. Don’t press your ferret too hard to the ground, you don’t want to injure him.
OPTION 3: Scruff Your Ferret
Again, you can play ferret’s mom. You can do that by picking your ferret up by the scruff, hiss at him (that would his mother do), and gently shake him. Leave the ferret’s butt on the floor so the ferret doesn’t hang in the air.
Your ferret will probably struggle, but that isn’t because you are hurting him. Hold him by the scruff until it is calm, then put him down. If you use scruffing as a punishment like in this situation, then don’t use it in other situations when you need a calm ferret, for example, nail cutting. Use other options for cutting nails and you can read all about them in my ferret nail cutting post.
OPTION 4: Find Something That Tastes Awful
To stop ferret biting, you can find something that has a horrible taste and put that on your hands. Vinegar or lemon are good choices. Don’t use any chemicals or too hot spices it can be too much for your ferret.
When your ferret bites your hand, he will feel that horrible taste and release your hand. After a few tries, the ferret will connect that taste with human hands. If it is a horrible taste, he won’t bite anymore.
OPTION 5: Timeout Method
Timeout is another method for raising ferrets. Every time your ferret bites you, hiss at him and put him in the timeout. A place for timeout should be a box you use only for that. Don’t use a cage or transporter because a timeout is a punishment. A cage and transporter are part of his regular life and you don’t want your ferret to connect them to punishment. Put the ferret inside the box for 3 minutes (not longer, the ferret will forget why he is inside), and when he bites you again, repeat the process.
What To Do If A Ferret Bites You?
If a ferret bites you, the first thing you have to do is remain calm. Don’t panic and don’t pull your hand back. If a ferret has his teeth in your hand, pulling will only make it worse. You will make your wound worse and you can hurt your ferret. Don’t move the hand and any other part of the body, the chance is that a ferret will open his mouth on his own.
Activate Gag Reflex
Depending on the position of the bite you can do one thing. If your fingertip is in the ferret’s mouth you can try to push the finger deeper in the mouth to activate the gag reflex and hiss at him. That will make him open his mouth immediately and he will think twice before he bites you again since it was not a great experience for him. Hissing is good because his mother did it when he did something bad.
Press The Corner Of The Mouth
If a ferret still doesn’t release his grip from your hand or you can’t activate the gag reflex, do the following. Gently grab your ferret at the corner of the mouth (on both sides) and lightly press that spot. That pressure on the mouth should make him open the mouth.
Do not under any circumstance hit your ferret or toss it away from you. You will only make the biting worse because the ferret will have to defend himself from you. DON’T ABUSE ANY LIVING BEING.
Biting Related Questions
Why Is My Ferret Biting Me During Playtime?
If your ferret bites you mostly during playtime, it is because he sees your hands as toys. To avoid that, don’t play with your bare hands with your ferret. Use toys like a mouse on a string, stuffed animal, balls with bells, etc. Read my post so you can find the types of toys your ferret will love and play with them.
Why Is My Ferret So Aggressive?
There are a couple of reasons for your ferret to be aggressive. If you have an adopted ferret, there is a chance he was abused by a previous owner. Then he isn’t aggressive towards you, he is aggressive towards everyone and you have to let him see that he is safe now.
If you have an intact male, then it can be hormonal. Intact males can become aggressive during mating season. Besides aggression, you will also notice a stronger smell in that period. But, remember, only intact males (they aren’t neutered) are the ones that get affected by mating season.
Can A Ferret Bite Your Finger Off?
No, a ferret can’t bite your finger off, but he can injure you pretty seriously. Remember, ferrets are carnivores, and people who feed them with raw meat give them rabbit meat and bones so a ferret can break bones with his bite.
Only a severely abused ferret will bite you that hard to try to bite your finger off. The entire process would take time, it is not possible for a ferret to bite off a finger in one swift motion so this possibility is close to zero.
How Painful Is A Ferret Bite?
If a ferret is socialized and your finger ends up in his mouth, you won’t feel a thing. Most ferrets won’t bite you, they will gently nip your hand or your finger.
My Ferret Biting Experience
Frida – Little Miss Bitey
When Frida came to me, she was a biter and I must say, ferret biting is not that cute scene. For the first 2 weeks with Frida, my hands were covered with little holes where her teeth were. She wasn’t biting out of fear or attacking me, she only bit when I tried to grab her or pet her.
So, the method which helped me the most is pinching Frida and hissing at her. When she bit me, I gently pinched her to the ground and hiss at her that would last for a few seconds. She was still and then I let her go. She would jump and start dooking, but she didn’t grab my hands. I used this method for about two weeks and she completely stopped biting. Since then she only bites when we are playing and that is a gentle nip. If she bites hard during play the next second she starts licking that same spot like she wants to say: Sorry I got carried away!
There is also one other thing I did. Since Frida was so adorable I wanted to pet her a lot, but she wouldn’t let me. That is why every time I saw her sleeping I started to pet her. After a while, I took her in my lap while she was sleepy and she fell asleep there. After that, I grabbed her while she was awake and held her in my arms for few seconds at the beginning (every time longer and longer) so gradually she got used to me and my cuddling sessions. Now, whenever I grab her she just relaxes and waits until I am done with it so she can continue doing what she did. This was a long period, it lasted a couple of months but I did get my daily cuddle sessions with her in the end.
Yoda – Not A Biter
Yoda was biting the first week and only while playing so I can’t say Yoda was a biter. When Yoda bit me I corrected that behavior with hissing. Yoda still sometimes bites toes when it is playtime but that is also gentle nipping so we can live with that.
Be more stubborn than ferrets!
The first and most important part of raising a ferret: Don’t give up! Choose one method, try it for a while, if you see results stick to it. If you don’t, try another method. Remember, every ferret is different and the last thing you should do is to give up. Different methods work on different ferrets. Ferrets, like other pets, require dedication and work. Work with your ferret, show him that you are his family now and you will have the results you are looking for. They are stubborn but you have to be more!
HITTING OR THROWING YOUR FERRET WON’T MAKE ANY PROGRES. YOUR FERRET WILL CONTINUE TO BITE AS A DEFENSE MECHANISM. YOU CAN ONLY MAKE THINGS WORSE AND MAKE HIM BITE EVEN STRONGER.