Bathing & Grooming

Ferrets, for the most part, do not need bathing very often at all. While some ferrets don’t mind being bathed, you really only need to bathe them once or twice per year. Bathing will not clean them of their scent and in some cases may actually make it worse. If you bathe them too frequently, many times their skin will start producing extra oils to compensate, which will make them smell stronger. The best thing to do is to change their bedding every few days (or at least once per week) and clean their litter pans every day. This usually keeps the odor level down.

Nail trimming

Keeping nails trimmed is important. Long nails can easily catch on things and ferrets may panic and hurt themselves trying to get free. There are a couple of ways to trim nails quickly and with minimal stress to the ferret:

If you are doing this alone, put the ferret on its back and drip a couple of drops of Ferretone or Linatone on their stomach. The ferret will usually stay relatively still and lick at the spot. While they are distracted, they usually won’t mind having their nails trimmed.

An alternative is to have someone hold the ferret by the scruff of the neck and put Feretone on his/her fingers. The ferret will go limp and hang there while scruffed and the Feretone will distract them.

Cut the nail just longer than the pink line inside it. Place the cut parallel to where the floor will be when the ferret stands, to prevent the tip from breaking later. Be careful not to nick the line or the toe, since in either case it’ll bleed a lot and your ferret will decide nail clipping is not a good thing. If you cut this area by accident, use a styptic stick (like Kwik-Stop) to stop the bleeding or hold a piece of tissue or paper towel over the nail and elevate the foot for a few minutes until it stops.

Cleaning ears

Cleaning ears is also very important. They shouldn’t need cleaning more than once a month, but if they seem dirty, dampen a cotton swab with sweet oil (made for cleaning babies’ ears) or a ferret ear cleaner and gently clean them.Do not use peroxide or water, because wet ears are much more prone to infections.

Hold the swab along the animal’s head rather than poking it into the ear, to avoid injuring the ear. Yellowish or brownish-red ear wax is normal, but if you see any black substance your pet probably has ear mites, which should be taken care of.

There are a number of products made especially for cleaning pets’ ears. Your vet should be able to tell you about them.

The bath

To bathe a ferret, you can fill a tub or kitchen sink partway with warm water. Be careful about the temperature. Many ferrets like warmer water, but you don’t want to scald them. Keep the temperature so that it is warm, but not hot, to you. Some ferrets like to play in the water and this can be a good way to keep bathing time from being stressful.

When you’re ready to bathe them, use a ferret shampoo or a no-tears baby shampoo. Wet the ferret and lather them up. Pay careful attention to the back legs and tail, since this is where much of their scent comes from. They’ll likely start struggling at this point, so be careful that they don’t slip out of your hands or hit their heads into the faucet. Rinse them thoroughly to get the shampoo fully rinsed off (dry shampoo residue can cause dry skin). You may only want to wash up to the back of the ears to keep the shampoo away from their faces and out of their ears. Then use a damp washcloth and gently wipe their faces.

When you have older, sick, or weak ferrets, you may want to use a “waterless” shampoo (but not any powders) or baby sweet oil, which can also help get things out of fur.

Drying off

This is where the fun starts. Most ferrets get very excited after they’re done getting bathed. Trying to get them dry before they run off is a challenge. Some people put towels in a box and let them run around in it until they’re dry. Others use terry cloth bathrobes and let them run through the sleeves. We typically hold onto them, wipe them down with a hand towel, and then let them run loose in the bathroom with towels all around and the door closed. Sometimes a hairdryer set to the lowest setting helps dry them faster, but most will run away from that. Immediately after a bath, many ferrets will go nuts, bouncing around and rolling against everything possible to dry off. Mainly they’re trying to dry themselves, but they get excited from the whole process, too.