Small Animal Pets

How to Teach a Ferret Not to Nip

Ferret kits must be taught not to nip. A ferret which has been bred to be a pet shouldn’t be vicious or bite, but ferret play does include mock combat, and young ones won’t know how hard they can put their teeth on you without hurting you. A playing ferret may run at you with his mouth open or even put his teeth on your hand, but if he presses down hard enough to hurt, you need to discipline him. Just remember, ferrets aren’t malicious, they just need to learn what behavior is acceptable.

A very few otherwise calm, gentle ferrets will react in an extreme way to a high-pitched noise such as one squeaky toy or the sound of rubbing fingers on a window or a balloon. Nobody’s quite sure why that sets them off, though it seems to be a protective instinct of some sort. If your ferret is one of those few who bites wildly at the source of such a sound, the best thing to do is to avoid making that sound around them. Flicking the ferret’s nose while his teeth are on you is a pretty common form of discipline, but it might not be the best. Your ferret might end up associating you with bad things rather than good ones. Also, it’s a very bad idea to use nose-tapping or other physical discipline on a ferret who has been mistreated or who acts unusually aggressive or frightened.

There are several alternatives, which you might want to try in combination:

If the ferret is biting too hard in play, try using a signal he already understands: a high-pitched “Yip!” (or “Hey!” or whatever), like the noise one kit makes when another is playing too roughly. On the other hand, if the ferret seems to interpret that as a sign of weakness, switch to a deep, commanding voice and act as stern as you can. Stopping the game by gently pinning the ferret down until he gets bored can work well, too. Confining the misbehaving ferret to a cage and ignoring him for a few minutes can be very effective, especially if there’s another ferret wandering around conspicuously having fun. You can cover your hands with Bitter Apple, either the spray or the paste, so nipping tastes bad. Some people have luck with either pushing a finger into the ferret’s mouth (sideways, behind the back teeth) or holding the mouth open from behind (being careful not to choke the ferret) immediately after a bite. Most ferrets find either of these uncomfortable, and it associates the unpleasant feeling with the taste of finger.

If you need the ferret to let go, try covering both his nostrils with your fingers. If he still hangs on, don’t keep them there long, though. If the ferret isn’t one of those who absolutely hate to be scruffed, that can help. You might also shake the ferret gently by the scruff, or drag him along the floor while you hiss. Both these mimic the way mother ferrets reprimand their kits. Obviously, don’t be so rough that you hurt him. You can also cover his face with your hand, which he probably won’t like.

Did You Know

If a badger is attacked by a person or coyote, its main enemies, it acts quickly. The badger digs itself quickly into a hole in a few minutes, throwing dirt and dust into its attacker’s face.

The difference between male and female blue crabs is the design located on their apron (belly). The male blue crab has the Washington Monument while the female apron is shaped like the U.S. Capitol.

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