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How to Bathe a Ferret for Stress-Free Grooming

Mychelle Blake
Ferret lying in soft blanket

Keeping your ferret clean is part of a regular health care routine for your furry pet. While ferrets are generally very clean pets, baths are important for their skin and coat health and can reduce their musky odor, though in some cases it can make it stronger.

How Often Should You Bathe a Ferret?

There's some discussion among ferret lovers about how often you can bathe a ferret, with some opinions falling on no more than once a month, with others saying no more than three times a year. You will have to judge based on your individual ferret what works best. Too many baths too soon can dry out their skin and fur and lead to additional problems like irritated skin and skin infections. One compromise is to wash your ferret with water only if he's dirty and save the baths with shampoo for only a few times per year.

Ferret taking a bath

Can Bathing a Ferret Reduce Their Scent?

Some ferret owners believe that bathing their ferret can eliminate the musky odor that is a common trait of the species. While bathing them can reduce the odor somewhat, if you bathe them too often, you can actually make the scent worse. The musky scent is caused by oils secreted from the ferret's skin, and you may find that the odor is even stronger within a week of giving them a bath. This is due to the bath actually causing these glands to work overtime and produce more oils to replenish the ones that were washed away.

Keeping Your Ferret Stress Free During a Bath

Giving a ferret a bath can be stressful for the ferret, so if this is the first time for both of you, go slowly and pair the bath with things the ferret loves, like some tasty ferret treats.

  1. Start out by letting him explore the area where you be giving him baths. This means either the bathtub, sink, or plastic tub that you will be using. Place him inside, without any water, and let him move about. Pair this with some treats.

  2. Slowly add some water in while giving him treats and talking to him in a happy, calm tone of voice.

  3. Make sure that you keep the water level low so your ferret can stand in the water with his feet touching the ground so he feels stable and there's no fear of drowning. Some ferrets do better if you put a plastic or rubber bath mat in the tub so his feet feel more secure.

  4. Continue talking to your ferret in a happy, relaxed tone of voice and let him get used to the water. End the "bath" after about five to 10 minutes without using any shampoo, as you are just getting him used to water at this point.

  5. Depending on how your ferret accepted being in the water, you may want to repeat this step a few times before moving on to actually bathing.

  6. Realise your ferret may never come to love bath day, but he can learn it's tolerable and there are benefits to the experience. Just keep it positive and don't press him if he's frightened during the process.

    A ferret is playing with cork stopper in water at home

Cleaning the Cage Is Part of the Bathing Process

If you're going to bathe your ferret, make sure you include cleaning their cage and replacing their bedding as part of the process. You want to clean any items that will be holding bad odors and dirt away before putting your clean ferret back inside. If they have a litter box, clean this as well before returning him to the cage. All of this should be done prior to giving the ferret a bath, so the cage is ready to go once they're cleaned.

How to Give a Ferret a Bath

Once you're ready to give your ferret a bath and you've acclimated him to the bathing spot, it's time to clean him.

  1. Gather the supplies you will need to bathe your ferret before you do anything. You will need:

    • Some dry clean towels, with at least one place on the floor or counter before you start the bath

    • Shampoo made for ferrets, such as 8 in 1 FerretSheen. You can also use a baby shampoo with a tear-free formula.

    • Ferret conditioner can help with their skin oils, but itbisn't necessary

    • A bathing spot, such as a bath tub, sink or a plastic tub.

    • Warm (not hot) water

    • Some ferret treats and ferret toys

  2. Fill the bathing area with warm water that is neither too hot or cold. Fill the tub up with enough water so he can get wet but can still stand if needs to.

  3. During the bath, you will need to support the ferret with one hand to keep him feeling secure while using your other hand for bathing. You will also want to mix in giving him treats throughout this process.

  4. Place the ferret in the tub and gently scoop water with your hands onto him to get his body, tail, and legs wet. Avoid getting water on his head, ears, and eyes.

  5. If your ferret enjoys toys, you can toss a ball in the water so he can bat at it while you work on cleaning him.

  6. Place a few drops of the shampoo in your hand. A little shampoo goes a long way, so you only need about a ¼ teaspoon of shampoo in your hand. Some ferret owners will warm up the shampoo first by placing it under hot running water or in a bowl of hot water. This can make the ferret more comfortable but isn't required.

  7. With your other hand, pick the ferret up above the water and then rub the shampoo gently through the ferret's fur. Work it through their body, legs, and tail. Avoid getting shampoo anywhere near the ferret's head, particularly his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.

  8. To wash the ferret's head, you can either use your fingertips to clean gently while avoiding sensitive areas, or you can dip a cotton ball or cloth in the water and dab at his face area gently. Repeat this with a damp cloth to rinse out his fur.

  9. Place the ferret back in the water and scoop water onto them and run it through their fur to rinse out the shampoo. You can use your hands to scoop the water, or a cup. If your ferret likes water, you can even use the running faucet as long as you protect his head area.

  10. Empty out the water and add some fresh water in and continue rinsing him. If you still see bubbles running out in the clean water, this is a sign you need to rinse the fur out more. If you have to do this a few times, this is a sign you used too much shampoo and should readjust the amount next time.

  11. If you decide to use conditioner, add it once the shampoo is rinsed out using the same steps.

  12. Place your ferret on the dry towel that you have on the floor or on a counter and wrap the sides around the ferret to make a "ferret burrito." Gently rub the towel all over his body to get the excess water out. If the towel becomes soaked, replace with a dry towel.

  13. Make sure he is as dry as possible before putting him back in his cage, as a damp ferret can catch a chill and get sick. At the same time, many ferrets find this part of the process irritating, and you don't want to stress him out by rubbing him too much with the towel. If your ferret dislikes being toweled off, place him in a small area like a plastic tub or small cage and fill it with towels. Most ferrets will tunnel and roll around the towels and dry themselves off and enjoy doing it on their own.

  14. If your ferret isn't afraid of a blow dryer, you can use it for drying him. Make sure you keep the dryer to the lowest setting.

    Ferret relaxing on a towel

Ferret Grooming Needs

In addition to bathing your ferret will also need a regular grooming regimen.

Bathing Your Ferret Doesn't Have to Be Stressful

Some ferrets adore playing in water while others find it very unpleasant. Always work with the ferret that you have and accommodate their personality and fears by moving slowly and pairing baths with treats, toys, and gentle, happy talk. If you follow the steps, you and your ferret will get through the bathing process with flying colors!

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How to Bathe a Ferret for Stress-Free Grooming