Ferret FAQ: Ferret Grooming

Grooming is an important part of ferret ownership. Having a regular grooming schedule doesn’t just keep your ferret looking better, but will keep it feeling better too! Check out the questions below if you have questions about how to groom your ferret!

Some ferret owners never bathe their ferrets unless they get into something or they have fleas. Others bathe their ferrets anywhere from once a month to once a year. It really is a personal owner preference.

What you have to remember is that ferrets’ skin produces oil, and bathing a ferret too often will actually result in a stinkier ferret! The more you bathe a ferret, the more oil his skin produces. At the same time, a frequently bathed ferret has drier skin, which makes the ferret scratch more and can cause skin problems. A good rule to follow is no more than once a month.

The main thing you can do to keep the smell to a minimum is to change or wash bedding once a week and empty litter boxes frequently. Ferrets themselves, unless they are intact (when they haven’t been neutered), don’t really have a strong smell.

Nails should be trimmed once a month at the very least, though twice a month is better. When ferrets’ nails grow too long, they get caught on things, and can even rip completely out. This is obviously very painful for the ferret and can get infected. If never trimmed, the ferrets’ nails will eventually start to curl under, which again is very painful for the ferret. Frequent trimmings help to keep your ferret’s nails healthy and strong.

To clip your ferret’s nails, you will need:

  • Ferret or cat clippers – scissor style with a notch at the bottom of the blade for the nail are the easiest to use. Avoid using human nail clippers, as they pinch the nail before cutting, and can actually crush it if not sharp enough!
  • Styptic powder or gel – accidents do happen, and you need to have something to stop the bleeding when they do. Cornstarch or flour can also be used, but they are not as sterile.
  • FuroTone or another treat to distract your ferret.

You can cut your ferret's nails by yourself or with a helper. If it’s just you, here’s what you should do:

Ready all of your supplies! Put your ferret on his back in your lap or on a blanket or bed on a tabletop. Pour a little FuroTone on your ferret’s stomach. (Wear old clothes until your ferret gets used to this feeling – he will react when the FuroTone hits his belly, which splashes the FuroTone around!) As your ferret licks off the FuroTone, clip his nails. Not sure where to clip? Look at your ferret’s nail – there is a small red line in there called the quick. You want to cut about 1/8" above that. Cut the nail so when the foot is on the floor, the edge of the nail will be parallel to the floor. This will prevent the nail tip from breaking later.

Clipping nails with a helper is obviously a bit easier. Just have your helper scruff the ferret while you clip the nails. Give the ferret some FuroTone after you're done as a reward.

If you run into a ferret who just absolutely hates having his nails cut, you have a couple choices. You can cut a few nails at a time once a day until all nails are finished, you can sneak the ferret while he’s sleeping and stop as he starts to wake up, or you can wrap the ferret up in a towel. If you use the towel method, leave the ferret’s head and one paw sticking out. You will need a helper for this method. He or she will distract the ferret with FuroTone while you clip.

For more information, check out our article on How to Trim Your Ferret's Nails.

Yes! Good ferret dental health is even more important for ferrets than it is for us. Bad dental health can lead to periodontal disease, which allows bacteria to enter your ferret's system. This can cause tooth rot abscesses, increased susceptibility to infections, lethargy resulting from low-grade infections, kidney and liver problems, and even heart diseases such as endocarditis or pericarditis. So, as you can see, the ramifications of not maintaining proper dental health are not limited to plaque buildup and problems eating!

Brushing your ferret's teeth can seem like a difficult task at first, and it will take a little getting used to, both for you and your fuzzy! Be gentle with your fuzzy, and understand that the first few times are probably going to be a little alarming for her. You might want to ease into the brushing procedure by scruffing your ferret and just getting her used to having you touching her teeth. So how do you brush a ferret’s teeth?

First, wet the bristles of a ferret toothbrush and apply a very small amount (slightly larger around than the tip of a pencil eraser) of pet toothpaste. If your ferret hates the flavor, you can add a small amount of FuroVite or FuroTone to it to improve it.

Second, scruff your ferret, or, if this is your first time or you find it too difficult to do alone, have someone else scruff the ferret.

Third, gently – with minimal pressure – massage the sides and bottoms of the back teeth, working your way up to the canines and incisors. Pay special attention to the molars, as their tongues can’t reach back here to clean off the teeth, and plaque and tartar buildup will be significant. Don’t try to brush the inside surface of the teeth.

And finally, when you’re done, give the ferret some FuroVite, apologize, and watch her give you a dirty look and run away!

The buildup from soft treats and foods should come off easily if you are brushing regularly enough. The frequency of the brushings will depend on the ferret and her diet. Ferrets that receive lots of soft treats and foods (baby food, soft diets, duck soup) should have their teeth brushed weekly. The rest of our fuzzy friends will need their teeth brushed every other week, or twice a month at the very least. Don’t assume that kibble is enough to keep their teeth clean! The kibble forms a kind of paste that tends to stick along the gum line and in between teeth, and brushing regularly helps to remove that.

Brushing at home doesn’t mean you never have to take your ferret in for a dental cleaning at the veterinarian! No matter how faithfully you care for your ferret’s teeth, you will eventually start to see serious tartar buildup, which is when it’s time to head to the veterinarian. If you’re not sure what tartar looks like, take a look at your ferret’s teeth. If you see what appears to be grayish, greenish spots on your ferret’s teeth, that’s tartar, and your ferret needs a cleaning. Veterinary visits for a full cleaning (dental prophylaxis) should be done every one to three years, depending on how quickly your ferret’s teeth get dirty.

For more information, read our Step By Step Guide to Brushing Your Ferret's Teeth.

Much of the odor that people attribute to ferrets is actually the odor of ferret ear wax, which is rather stinky! You should clean your ferret’s ears at least once every two weeks, though once a week is best. Cleaning ears regularly prevents infections and ear mites.

The ear wax should be red, brown, or gold colored. Lots of black ear wax is a sign of ear mites. If you see this kind of ear wax, make a veterinary appointment as soon as possible. Left untreated, ear mites can cause deafness and even more serious problems.

To clean your ferret’s ears, first warm the ferret ear cleaning solution a little bit. This isn’t necessary, but it will make the experience slightly less unpleasant for your ferret. Scruff the ferret, and put a few drops of the cleaner into the ferret’s ear. This will help loosen the wax that is in there.

Gently massage the base of the ferret’s ear to work the cleaner inside. Then moisten a cotton swab with the ear cleaning solution and clean the outer ear and inside at the base of the ear. A ferret’s ear canal is shaped like an L, so as long as you don’t push hard, you won’t hurt it.

Continue using a moistened cotton swab until the wax is gone. Then use a dry swab to finish cleaning the ear out and dry it. Make sure to follow up ear cleaning with a yummy treat!

For more information, read our Step By Step Guide to Cleaning Your Ferret's Ears.

Your ferret may be experiencing what is known as "Rat Tail." You can clear this up by cleaning his tail thoroughly with soap and warm water once a day, and every other day cleaning his tail with an over the counter acne medication suggested by your veterinarian.

Eventually the tail will be clean and pink again. After this point, the hair will start to grow back and you can just check it weekly and during seasonal coat changes to make sure that the rat tail isn't coming back.

Yes! Ferrets can definitely get hairballs, especially during the spring-shed season. Hairballs can be very dangerous for ferrets. Ferrets can't vomit up hairballs as cats can, so if they can't pass the hairball in feces, it can get stuck in your ferret's stomach or intestines and form a blockage. Blockages are life-threatening conditions that require surgery.

Do you think your ferret may have a hairball blockage? Some of the signs include:

  • Tiny, stringy stool
  • Coughing
  • Sudden loss of appetite and weight
  • Vomiting or dry heaves
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Rubbing face on the carpet
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating
  • Swollen belly that is painful to the touch

Sometimes ferrets will get a floating partial blockage that causes them to exhibit these symptoms only occasionally while other times they are fine. If your ferret starts showing symptoms of a blockage, take him to the veterinarian immediately, even if the symptoms go away! If you aren't already, start giving him or her a ferret hairball remedy to try and help the hairball through your ferret's system and keep an eye on your ferret's feces to see if he passes it.

The best way to help prevent hairballs is to give your ferrets a hairball remedy regularly. Once a week is usually fine for most of the year, but during the spring shed, you should give a hairball remedy or a laxative to your ferret at least a few times a week. If your ferret is "blowing" his coat (shedding all of the guard hairs leaving only the soft undercoat), administer the hairball remedy daily.

If you have multiple ferrets but only a few are shedding, you still need to give all of them a hairball remedy. Ferrets groom not only themselves but their cagemates. So if a non-shedding ferret grooms a shedding ferret, the non-shedding ferret is also at danger of developing hairballs.

To prevent hairballs, you should also wash ferret bedding and vacuum your house frequently. Loose hairs will be lying everywhere, just waiting to stick to your ferret, so keeping the environment clean will help. Brushing your ferret to remove loose hairs also helps.