How to Train a Ferret
Ferrets are fun, inquisitive little creatures that take readily to training. They are distracted easily, so you must be consistent with your training. With some patience, you can teach your ferret things like how to use a litter box or how to come when called. You can also help it unlearn bad behaviors, such as nipping at your toes or fingers.
Training a Ferret to Use a Litter Box
Begin by keeping the ferret in the cage to encourage litter box use.Starting your litter box training in the cage makes it easier on you and the ferret. The ferret likes to stay clean, so it will be interested in having an area to use the bathroom that's away from its sleeping area.
- After the ferret gets the hang of the cage, you can move to a slightly larger room, such as the bathroom.
Show your ferret the litter box when they wake up.Put your ferret in its litter box first thing in the morning after it wakes up. Avoid waking a ferret that is asleep, so you don’t startle it. This routine encourages the ferret to go to the bathroom in the correct place.
- One of the best times to use this technique is in the morning when your ferret has been sleeping overnight. Most of the time, your ferret will want to use the bathroom when it wakes up.
- Repeat the process several times a day for a week or so until your ferret gets the idea.
Praise the ferret when it uses the litter box on its own.When you see the ferret go in the litter box on its own, immediately pet it and praise it. That lets the ferret know that you approve of this behavior and that it should continue it.
Put the ferret in the litter box if you witness an accident in action.Watch for bathroom-going behavior. Typically, a ferret will lift its tail and scoot back a little. If you see this behavior when the ferret isn't in the litter box, pick up the ferret and put it in the litter box to encourage it to go there instead.
- Don't scold your ferret or try to push your ferret's nose in its accident. It won't understand what you mean, and you will just make it fear you.
Move accidents back into the litter box to encourage your ferret to use it.When your ferret defecates outside the litter box, use a paper towel or glove to move it into the litter box. You can also rub a little litter into a urine spill and put it in the litter box.
- When the ferret notices its own scent in the litter box, it will be more inclined to use it.
- It's also a good idea to leave a little bit of the ferret's feces in the litter box when you clean it so the ferret still associates it with the bathroom.
Put beds where the ferret has had accidents.When your ferret keeps returning to a certain corner to use the bathroom, start by cleaning the area thoroughly. Then, place towels the ferret has slept on or a hammock in that corner for the ferret to discourage it from using the bathroom there.
- To clean the area, wipe up the mess with a rag or paper towel. Use a wet paper towel to scrub it down a little. Spray it down with a cleaner meant for neutralizing pet odors, and then wipe it up.
- Ferrets don't like to go to the bathroom in the same place they sleep, so when you add bed paraphernalia, it discourages the ferret from using the bathroom there.
Discouraging Bad Habits Like Biting
Say "No!"and make a light hissing noise.When your ferret has a bad behavior like biting, discourage it each times it happens. Start with a verbal warning, such as "No!" Add in a little hissing so the ferret gets the right idea.
- For a behavior like biting, set the ferret down away from you, which discourages more biting.
- If the ferret is digging somewhere you don't want it to, move it away from the area.
Scruff the ferret if it immediately does the behavior again.Repeat the initial warning again, but this time pick the ferret up by the scruff of the neck. You can support the ferret's back end if you wish.
- The scruff is an extra flab of skin at the back of the neck. You can grab the flab to hold your ferret. However, never hold your ferret by its neck.
- Once you scruff the ferret, set it down away from you again to discourage biting, if that's the behavior you're trying to correct. Alternatively, move the ferret away from the area where it's digging, if that's the issue.
Give the ferret a short time out if it returns to the same behavior.Do the same verbal warning again, but this time, put the ferret away for a short time out. Ideally, you should set it in a crate away from you.
- Use a crate instead of the cage. You don't want to associate the cage with punishment. Make sure the crate doesn't have blankets or anything interesting in it. Let the ferret out after 5 minutes.
- Don't use the same crate that you need to use for transportation.
Use consistency to help the ferret remember.If you only discourage the behavior sometimes, the ferret will get confused. Make sure to reinforce that this behavior is not appropriate every time the ferret does it.
Redirect the ferret to encourage good behavior.Sometimes, just redirecting the behavior to a more appropriate behavior can solve the problem. For instance, if your ferret is nipping your ties, buy cat or ferret toys that your ferret can nip and wrestle with. That way, your ferret can still enjoy this playful biting, but it won't be nipping at your fingers and toes.
- If your ferret tends to move things around in its cage, that's a sign it's bored. Try giving it more things to do, such as providing more toys in the cage and letting it out more often to play.
Spray bitter apple on yourself to discourage biting and chewing.Using bitter apple on your hands or toes can discourage your ferret when it's nipping. Your ferret won't like the smell, and it will usually stop biting you. You can also spray it on areas you don't want the ferret to chew or scratch.
- Bitter apple is completely natural, and you can find it at most pet stores.
Using Clicker Training to Teach Tricks
Pick a treat that's ferret-friendly and easy to consume.Choose boiled chicken breast cut up in little pieces or baby food that is solely meat. You'll use these treats as a reward to reinforce the behavior you choose.
- Ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning meat-based treats are always the best. Avoid treats that have vegetables or grains in them.
- You can use a small spoon or even your finger to dole out bits of baby food.
Buy a clicker for training online or at pet stores.Clicking works well for training because it is a consistent response that you can use immediately when your ferret does something you want to encourage. It's a faster response then offering a treat or even praise, so your ferret will have an easier time figuring out the behavior you want.
- You can also use a loud clicking ballpoint pen.
Teach the ferret that a click is a good thing by following it with a treat.Start training your ferret by clicking and then offering the ferret a treat a few times in a row. Repeat this process several times a day until the ferret understands the "click" is positive.
- You'll know when your ferret starts to understand because it will immediately look for a treat after you click.
Encourage the behavior you want.Set up a scenario to increase the likelihood that your ferret will do the behavior you want with a click and treat. Alternatively, watch the ferret for the behavior you want to encourage. Then offer a click and reward.
- For instance, if you want to teach your ferret to come, try putting it in the crate you normally use to carry it places. Close the gate. When the ferret is looking at you, open the gate, and lure it out with a treat towards you. As it comes towards you, offer a click and give the treat to the ferret.
- You can also use clickers for litter box training. When the ferret uses the box, give a click and a treat to encourage the behavior.
Add a verbal common and signal.Once the ferret starts getting the idea, say the word you want to associate with the trick. It can also help to add a hand signal or gesture to reinforce the idea.
- For instance, when you want your ferret to come, you might say, "Come, Rover," as you tap the ground to encourage it to come your direction.
- Keep rewarding the ferret with a click and a treat when it comes your direction.
Phase out the clicker, and rely on the command.Once your ferret starts to understand, reinforce the trick by making it a little more difficult. Eventually, you can stop using the clicker and just say the command.
- For example, you might have someone hold your ferret across the room and practice calling it to you. Use the clicker and treat to reward it.
- If your ferret seems to understand, try just using just the command, rewarding it with a treat when it comes.
QuestionWhy can you not give ferrets veggies or fruits?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFerrets are strict carnivores. Fruits and vegetables are not part of their natural diet, and like cats and dogs, some fruits and vegetables can be poisonous.Thanks!
QuestionI have to go to work every day. What do I do with my ferret?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFerrets sleep around 18 hours a day. They also work their way around your schedule, which is highly helpful. Just lock them in their cage and make sure you spend time with them when you get home from work.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get my ferret to stop biting its cage?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerCoat the cage's bars with lemon juice. Ferrets usually hate the taste of it, and will stop biting after they get a taste.Thanks!
QuestionCan a ferret live outside?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWild ferrets can, yes. However, never keep a pet ferret outside, even in a cage -- it could overheat or freeze to death.Thanks!
QuestionDo ferrets and dogs get along?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the animals, but ferrets can get along with both cats and dogs.Thanks!
QuestionCan I spray bitter apple in and around his cage for potty training?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, because the bitter apple spray will deter your ferret from wanting to enter or go near his cage.Thanks!
QuestionDo ferrets and cats get along?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the animals in particular. They may or may not get along.Thanks!
QuestionCan ferrets play outside without freezing to death? If so, for how long?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf it's under 70 F, don't take them outside at all. If you wouldn't feel comfortable outside in just a light jacket, it's too cold for them.Thanks!
QuestionMy room is always cold, will a ferret be able to survive in there?Joseph ZemenauskasCommunity AnswerIf your room is under 70 F, then you may need to either increase the heat with your home's conditioning system, or place a heater near the cage. The ambient temperature for a ferret's living space should be 70-75 F.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if my ferret tries to attack my cat?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSeparate them. Slowly get them used to each other, and do not leave them together unsupervised.Thanks!
What do I do if my ferret trys to get at my shelfs? I have a lot of idols he might bite them
What do I do if my ferrets escape their cage?
- When teaching your ferret tricks, gradually lower the amount of treats you give to them but do reward them with treats every once in a while to reinforce the behavior.
- Never hit or swat your ferret for doing something "wrong." It's just following its natural instincts.
- Some ferrets may try to game the system by performing tricks on their own to get treats. Make sure to only reward them when you say the cue, asking them to perform the trick.
- Be patient, as different ferrets learn at different speeds.
- Never keep a ferret and a hamster in the same cage!
Video: Ferret Training 103: Litter box training
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