9 reasons why ferrets bite and how to stop them?
Is your ferret really biting you or just mouthing?
Before we give you the reasons why your ferret might bite you, let’s first learn the difference between biting ferret and just mouthing ferret.
Mouthing is a natural behavior in ferrets, your ferret will use his mouth to nibble you a little when you play with him, it is also his way of communicating and interacting with you … etc.
This is normal behavior for not only ferrets but many other pets, especially when they are young.
Mouthing is not painful, and if your ferret bites you a little while playing know that it’s not serious, and if you feel sometimes that he bit you a little harder than usual quickly withdraw your hand, stop playing with him so that he understands that he went a little far and should not bite so hard.
Biting is when your ferret bites you and hurts you, even makes you bleed and this bad behavior we will try to correct in your ferret in this article.
We will then see why ferrets also bite their cage mates, their cage bars, their toys …etc and how to stop your ferret from using his jaw for destructive and non-communicative reasons.
Let’s dive in …
So , these are the 9 main reasons for ferrets biting and how to stop them?
1- Your ferret is teething and not yet biting
This is when your baby ferret starts to change his baby teeth and replace them with his adult teeth. When their adult teeth start coming out of their gums, like we did when we were babies, this bothers your ferret a bit and he feels like a pain in his jaw and this makes him want to bite everything he finds, including your hand, your feet, toys, his cage…etc.
What to do when your ferret is teething?
You just have to be patient and when your ferret will be 9 months old, he will have to stop biting you and everything he finds because at this age he is done teething and he has now his 34 adult teeth all out of his gum and his teeth are not itching anymore!
If your ferret bites you after 9 months it is not because of the teething, it could be because of the other reasons that will follow.
2- Ferrets biting because they’re learning Bite Inhibition
In this case your ferret has not yet learned to measure the force it uses when it bites you and does not yet know how to bite less hard and is completely unaware that it hurts you when it bites you, there are two reasons for this:
Your ferret was separated from his mother prematurely before she could teach him what the limit is when he bites his brothers and sisters!
Your ferret’s former parent or breeder did not teach your ferret bite inhibition.
What to do to teach your ferret or young ferret bite inhibition?
You have to bite train your ferret by using salmon oil for example as a treat and reward your ferret every time he lets you handle him and does not bite you!
Above all, avoid dropping him and never put him down or yell at him when he bites you. What to do in this case?
Wait a few seconds after he bites you, scruff her/him, put your finger in his mouth to open it and free yourself from his jaw.
With a little treats and patience, you will teach your ferret to dose his bites and not to bite you very hard when he plays with you and will be satisfied with delicate bites (just mouthing).
3- Your ferret is biting you because of frustration, stress and boredom
There are two reasons that will stress your ferret in this case
The first is because your ferret’s cage may be too small and he feels cramped inside, you will also see him biting the bars of his cage, his bed, his hammock, his bowls … and your hand if you introduce in the cage.
The second reason for your ferret to bite you hard is that maybe you don’t take him out of his cage often enough for his playtimes or you don’t give him enough time to play and interact with him and you put him back in his cage too quickly before he can even get tired and satisfy his need to let off steam, jump, run, play, chew, etc.
Look for other signs of stress such as fleeing, hissing, over grooming, biting, and hiding …
What to do in this situation to get your ferret to stop biting you and its cage is ?
1- Make sure you put your ferret in a large cage and equip it with everything necessary for its comfort, don’t forget to cover it during the day too.
2-According to the American Ferrets Association, ferrets need at least 4 hours outside their cage every day. So make sure you take your ferret out at least 2 hours early in the morning and another 2-3 hours at dusk for his daily playtime.
3- Think about free roaming, this could also be the solution for your ferret to become calm, and really enjoy his life and stop biting you, just think about potty training or litter box training him before free roaming your ferret
So remember that your ferret’s cage is large enough to let him out as soon as you have the opportunity, especially in the morning and at the end of the day, only put your ferret in his cage when he sleeps by himself preferably.
Get your ferret enough enrichment so that it does not get bored, a network of tunnels and safe stuffed toys, a ball … will prevent him from getting bored and bite you after that.
Also think about involving your ferrets in your daily life by letting them accompany you around your house and why not also schedule outings with your ferrets in the park twice a week for example so that they stress a little and change their daily routine.
4- Your ferret is not yet being familiar with handling
The reason your ferret bites you so often may be because he hasn’t learned how to interact with humans, especially you.
He may not yet have understood why you’re handling him and this makes him nervous which results in your ferret biting you just because he’s confused and doesn’t know how to react to the fact that you’ve picked him up in your arms, lap, etc.
The reason is also due to the bad socialization especially if you did not buy your ferret from a passionate breeder, who will normally let the ferret mom socialize her kits and then get these little ferrets used to being handled.
What to do to familiarize your ferret with handling?
First of all, you should never release your ferret when he bites you every time you handle him, you should not reinforce this behavior by releasing him after a bite!
Otherwise your ferret will understand : ” it is enough to bite to have what I want ! “So you must resist the pain and continue to interact with your ferret despite the bite.
You can put on a woolen jacket with sleeves and even start this training with gloves so you don’t feel the pain of the bite too much.
You also need to petting and handling your ferret much more often so that he gets used to your hands and so that he is confident in your presence and finally understands that you are only a play partner and not a threat or a competitor!
That’s how you can strengthen that bond between you and your ferret , get him to trust you and to enjoy being held and pet and to definitely stop biting you that hard.
5- Fear may be the reason why your ferret is biting you
With ferrets, the best defense is attack and your ferret bites you because maybe he is afraid of you, of humans in general because of a bad experience with you, its previous parent, at Marshall farme …
It could be because of a wrong move on your part like hurting him by clipping his nails, squeezing him a little too hard, a child pulling his fur to hurt him, he is injured because of a fall and you hurt him when you touch him…etc.
How to solve this problem of defensive biting in your ferret?
Start by never shouting or hitting your ferret even when he bites you and just neutralize him by scruffing him in order to put him in his place and to stop this bad behavior.
Your children must stop prodding, poking, tugging and hitting your ferret, never leave them alone with the ferret unsupervised, it could even hurt them if it bites them to defend itself.
Also show your children how to pick up and interact with your ferret, how to wear it, what to do with it and what not to do…etc
In this case, your ferret has only lost trust in humans and especially in you now and you need to be kind and more attentive to your ferret.
Plan to spend more time with your ferret, use rewards such as salmon oil to boost his confidence, make sure to reward him every time you pick him up and he doesn’t bite you…etc.
6- New stressful environment or object may be causing your ferret biting
If your ferret suddenly started to become aggressive and bite you or chase you to do so, it may be because of a change in his habitat, his cage, the location of his cage, have you not moved recently!
This change may have caused stress in your brother and he went into defense mode and will bite anything that comes near him.
Some ferrets also bite because of a new unfamiliar sound, like the vacuum cleaner, a new ringing phone, Squeaky sounds
What should you do with your ferret in this case?
When you suspect that your ferret is biting you because of a major change in his life, such as when you just bought him, or you brought him a cage mate, you got a new cat or dog, moved for example, you may have exposed your ferret to a new sound that scares him … etc.
In this case eliminate the reason that makes your ferret nervous if possible, do not vacuum in his presence for example if that is the reason why he bites you …
Otherwise, you will have to get your ferret used to this major change by confronting him little by little to this change but above all you must provide him with a safe place where he can withdraw and feel completely secure like a good bed in his cage where no one will disturb him when he withdraws into it, not even you!
7- Ferret can bite to defend its territory
Ferrets are very social pets but even though they sleep together, play together and eat and drink from the same bowl, ferrets still have their own kind of privacy perimeter, a little space of their own that they see as their territory and that they can defend even against you by biting you.
Haven’t you recently confronted your ferret with another ferret at someone else’s house or in the park, haven’t you brought a new pet into the house, even if it’s gone now your ferret could still be on guard and bite you even because it felt it was going to lose its territory, its home either in the presence of a stranger or its pet.
The same is true if you have purchased another ferret or pet, in which case your ferret will not want you or the other pet near his crate and his play and sleeping area until a hierarchy is established and he gets to know and trust the other pet.
Biting in this case will be accompanied by a demonstration of dominance behavior, and wrestling.
What to do in this case of ferret biting to defend its territory?
All you can do is make sure that your ferrets or your ferret and your new pet are always under control when they are following each other and “fighting” in a way by biting each other’s neck.
Just make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand and that neither animal seriously injures the other and only intervene if you suspect that both ferrets or your ferret and cat are really at risk of serious injury, in which case be quick and scruff your ferrets at the same time so that they stop fighting.
Over time, your ferrets will establish a hierarchy and become friends, so give your ferret time to get used to its new companion and if it bites you when you want to stop a fight or when you put your hand in its cage, know that it will quickly get used to the new companion.
It is good to know how to introduce a couple of new ferrets or a ferret to a cat or dog for example before bringing your new companion back and avoid getting bitten by your ferrets while trying to separate them…
8- Unneutered male ferrets may bite during mating season
During this mating season, your intact ferret’s hormones are raging and he will do everything to show his dominance even towards you and he may become a little aggressive and bite you to let you know that he is the one who will mate if a female comes along.
Don’t be surprised because your brother will see you as a competitor during this period and he will try to dominate you and bite you at the slightest opportunity.
If your ferret does not have black spots in his ear or on a leg, know that he is not from Marshall’s and he is not fixed!
What to do when your ferret bites to show his dominance ?
If you do not intend to breed your ferret, neutering him is the solution I propose, talk to your vet, this will calm your ferret and will no longer bite you to establish his dominance.
He will also smell less strong and you will notice that the musky smell will become less strong in your house too especially during mating season.
9- Ferrets biting may be because they’re in pain
If a ferret is usually calm and suddenly starts biting, it may be because they are in pain and sick.
Your ferret may become aggressive and bite your hand when you approach him when he is sick and in pain, such as with an intestinal obstruction, an internal injury caused by a fall without your knowledge, etc.
Try to see if there are any other signs that your ferret is sick and suffering, such as reluctance to move, weight loss, trembling, collapse, crying, whimpering, and teeth grinding…
What to do to prevent and correct your ferret biting behavior in this case?
It’s simple, when you suspect that your ferret is sick, has a fracture or an infection such as ear mites … etc.; you will have to take him to see a veterinarian and as soon as your ferret has no more male and nothing itchy, he will stop biting you if it was the cause in the first place.
Will my ferret stop biting by itself ?
There are only two cases in which your ferret will stop biting you on its own and without you needing to train it not to do so, these two situations are when your ferret is teething and the second case is when it is an unneutered ferret during the rutting season, it will stop biting you as soon as this mating season is over. Otherwise, you have to correct your ferret biting behavior.
Why is my ferret biting the cage ?
There are several reasons why your ferret will bite the cage to escape and your hand when you approach it:
- Your ferret’s cage is too small
- Your ferret is sick and may be in pain
- You don’t take your ferret out of the cage often enough for its 4-6 hours of playtime daily
- Your ferret does not feel safe in his cage because of noise, another pet, his cage is dull…
How to get a ferret to stop biting the cage ?
Boredom can cause your ferret to bite the bars of his cage and the best way to stop cage rage is to just ignore them, if you are sure your new ferret or young ferret has eaten well, is not sick, has had his playtime, ignore him and he will calm down on his own.
Make sure to cover the cage so that your ferret feels safe inside and isolate it from any source of cold, heat, humidity and noise, smell or light.
In this case, the only thing not to do is to never let them out of their cage or give them something like a treat … just ignore your ferret and he will understand by himself that his cage is made for sleeping, try to increase the duration of his playtime and try to interact with him a little more and not let him play alone.
Can ferret bites be dangerous?
For an adult, ferret bites, especially if he is vaccinated against rabies, can only become infected if you do nothing and have sensitive skin and a reduced immunity.
Often have the reflex to wash your hands with bleach after you play with your ferret and let a little blood flow and then disinfect the place where your ferret bit you.
However, children can break a finger from a ferret bite and should never be left alone with your ferret.
How to stop ferret kits biting?
The best way to stop ferret kits from biting each other or from biting you is to use the method of their mere by scruffing them every time you feel your ferret has gone a little too far and hurt you by biting you.
If he continues to bite you even after you scruffed her/him, punish him by putting him back in his cage or taking away his toy.
And when he understands that he should not bite you with force, reward this good behavior with a little oil or its favorite treat.
Does Ferret no bite spray work?
Bitter apple scent spray, alcohol and white vinegar are repellents for a ferret and they often work as long as you use them at the right time so that your ferret knows why you sprayed him with the repellent.
I much prefer the other less radical methods, scruffing and removing his play or stop the play and petting as a punishment … and put your ferret back in his cage … are penalties that will help you get better and long term results with your ferret and during your ferret education and do not forget the positive reinforcement with treats like ‘ Salmon oil ).
Ferret no bite spray is especially useful if you want to ban your ferret from a room or go upstairs…
Final Thoughts and Tips
It’s normal that younger ferrets (kits) bite you when they are less than 9 months old, it’s teething and it’s also normal when your adult ferret bites you just a little when you play with him, it’s just mouthing and it’s also normal that your ferret bites to defend himself, it’s his only weapon to repel an aggression and finally it’s normal that your unneutered male ferret bites you to assert his dominance when it’s mating season.
If your ferret bites you for another reason, avoid yelling at him, avoid dropping him right away and then correct this behavior with a little patience and treat, ferrets are usually quiet and very intelligent animals and they will quickly learn to behave well when you learn to train them.