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Bathing Your Ferret

Should you give your ferrets a bath?

This is something that gets asked quite a bit, and the answer really depends.

Ferrets really shouldn’t be bathed all that often. Why? Firstly, it’s not the best for their skin and coat, and can cause them to become extra itchy. A ferret’s skin is always producing natural oils. These oils are what contribute to their ferret-y smell. Now, you would think that bathing the ferret often would get rid of these oils, which would help make a less smelly ferret, right?

WRONG! Bathing your ferrets does strip the oils that make the smell, but when they are washed away, the body realizes they are missing, and will work extra hard to reproduce these oils, making them even smellier. This can easily cause a lot of owners to get into the cycle of over-bathing their ferrets.

Smelly Ferret = Ferret Bath = Removes Oils = Temporarily Better Smelling Ferret = Oils Reproduced Worse = Smelly ferret = Ferret Bath and the cycle continues…

Ferrets rarely need baths. If you’re feeding a high quality diet, and cleaning their cage often, you should find that NOT bathing your ferret will help their smell decrease. If you’re used to bathing your ferrets a lot, or just recently switched to a higher quality diet, it may take some time for the smell to ‘level out’.

Reasons you might need to bathe your ferret:

Ferrets get excessively dirty and you are unable to get them clean with just water. Some examples would include getting into a cat’s dirty litter box, or getting into something sticky like sap from a pine tree.

If your ferret gets dirty from something simple like digging in the yard, a simple ‘bath’ which just water will work just fine, and won’t strip the oils from their skin and coat.

Once you’ve determined that your ferret really needs a bath, what should you use? We suggest oatmeal baths. We do not use any type of soaps. We feel that it’s less harsh on their skin, and helps even further with not stripping their oils, but still does the trick.

All you need is a clean sock, and plain oatmeal (not the instant type). Fill the sock part way with the oats, and either tie a knot to keep it shut, or wrap a rubber band or hair tie around the top (you want to make sure the oats don’t get out).

Fill your bath tub (or a large plastic storage bin) with water. You want the water to be a little warmer than luke-warm, but not hot. Ferret’s have a higher body temperature than humans, so what you feel is warm, might be cold to them. You also want to be careful to not make it too hot, so they don’t get burned.

You don’t need to fill the tub very much. Just enough that it covers a little bit of their body. They shouldn’t have to struggle or swim to keep their heads above the water. I would also recommend putting a large towel on the bottom of the tub. This gives them traction so they’re not slipping everywhere, and will help raise them a little out of the water if they’re feeling scared.

Once you have a towel and the water in the tub, throw your oat-filled sock into the water. I like to squeeze the sock in the water to help get some of the oat in the water. The sock helps keep the chunks out of the water, while still allowing oat ‘powder’ to come out. If you do this, it will make the water look a little murky, but that’s okay!

When you first put your ferret in the water, make sure to keep an eye out for any potty accidents in the water. Some ferrets will have accidents in the water, and that’s okay! Just empty everything and start the process over so the water is clean again.

*Potty Tip: catch your ferrets napping, and wake them up. Wait for them to go to the bathroom as ferrets normally go after waking up, and then give them their baths. 

Using a cup or your hand, scoop the water from the tub and pour onto your ferret’s body, avoiding their heads. Unless they are extremely filthy, there should be no reason to soak their heads. If you really have to clean their head, use a washcloth dipped in water and lightly wipe their head, making sure you avoid their eyes. I sometimes will take the sock and squeeze it over their backs as well.

One you’ve gotten their bodies wet, I like to use my hands to kind of rub it in a little (almost like lathering a shampoo). Usually they enjoy the extra pettings.

Once this is done, I empty the tub, and start with just clean warm water without the oat sock, and repeat the process of using your cup or hands to now rinse their bodies. Once they’re rinsed, I empty the tub again, and switch the soaking wet towel, with a couple of dry towels. Most ferrets will dry themselves off by running and crawling through the dry towels. If you let them run around the house afterwards, they will use the carpet, bedding, rugs, etc. to dry themselves off.

*I would not recommend using a blow dryer on your ferrets. Ferrets are prone to overheating, so the high heat may overheat them. If you use the cold setting on the dryer, it could cause them to get really cold. Towel drying works best!

Now that you’re finished, you’re left with a clean ferret 🙂

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