Asked in Ferrets Weasels and Badgers
Why is your ferret biting you and how do you get one to stop?
Sometimes ferrets associate certain actions with nipping, pay attention to what your doing and change your actions. Also something in hand lotions may cause them to bite.
There is a product that called "bitter apple" spray which is a taste deterrent that can be used if necessary.
Why do ferrets bite?
Ferrets must be handled frequently and socialized properly from day one, just like any other pet. You handled them and train a ferret properly, it will not bite. Ferrets that have not been raised properly and/or abused, will bite and are known as a "fear biter". They bite for protection and out of fear.
Ferrets bite. Yes, ferrets do bite, but it isn't to be mean. They are less prone to biting children than are dogs and cats. You will simply need to teach your ferret that biting is not an acceptable behavior. Ferrets that have been handled when they are young are usually docile and gentle when handled. They rarely bite.
Baby ferrets, in particular, are quite nippy and squirmy during play and don't know their own jaw strength. This is perfectly normal with young ferrets--just as it is with puppies and kittens. Ferrets must be taught to be gentle beginning from the very first day.
Occasionally you will come across a ferret that is a severe biter. These ferrets are different from nippers in that the ferret might latch on to protect itself and often draws blood. Severe biters were not properly cared for from their previous home. The number one reason a ferret bites is their lack of trust or did not receive human contact early in life. A ferret that's not handled is going to be nervous. Biting is defensive.
Depending on your Ferret: how tame they are, what actions you are doing to it, and so on. Most Ferrets never truly bite (draw blood) most often it is a nip, almost to test the consistency or flavor of an object. When they do bite it is very painful, the main teeth (incisors) can go right through finger or thumb flesh in a heartbeat BUT this usually is due to mishandling: the Ferret is starving (and uses the bite to get your attention) is receiving pain or is terrified of something. If you get a well bred Ferret and treat it well don't expect a lot of bites.
Ferrets as baby kits will nip and bite when playing, it is important to handle them frequently and properly train them to ensure socialization. Older ferrets that have not been properly socialized or abused may be "fear biters', but with patience and time can be trained not to bite.
Ferret bites can hurt, especially when they are kits (baby ferret) or a fear biter (abused ferret). They have sharp teeth, and a very strong bite.
It is important to socialize your ferret from the start, that means to spend as much time when you ferret is young. Otherwise if it's not used to being around humans or is forced to spend a lot of time in the cage, he will become aggressive and will be a "fear Biter". Any animal will bite as a defense to protect themselves.
Baby ferrets normal behavoir for playing is biting. They play bite quite hard with other ferrets, which does not hurt each other because they have tough skin.
Advice from other contributors:
- The method I have used on both my ferrets is positive reinforcement. When my ferrets do as expected they are showered with treats, hugs, and praise. When they misbehave I generally only tell them "No!" in a very firm voice. Spankings, time out, and other forms of negative reinforcement generally never work with ferrets and often make the unwanted behavior worse. I recommend FerretVite made by 8-in-1 as a treat. It is very sugary though so only allow your ferrets a few licks a day. Another great treat is Wellness Pure Delights cat treats, it is all natural and contains no grain or sugar.
- Ferrets are volatile creatures, some of which, do not like to be held. Training a ferret can be tricky, but a squirt bottle of water is a humane form of punishment that annoys the ferret without hurting it. Just aim at the face, and in time it will hopefully stop what it's been doing. Also, green apples/cayenne pepper are very bitter to ferrets and coating your hands might help with the biting. Just be careful of your eyes when using the pepper.
- If you do a Google search for "stop ferret biting" you'll get thousands of results - some of them seemingly sensible, others a bit peculiar. One common method is to put something that tastes horrible on your hands, such as bitter apple. However, ferrets are clever little devils and will simply bite you somewhere else. Another is to wear leather gloves, so that in time the ferret decides that biting you is pointless as it can't hurt you - once again, ferrets are usually far too clever to fall for this trick and will unlearn it in minutes once you leave the gloves off. One especially silly idea is to bite the ferret in return. However, the ferret will see this as aggression and bite you back - and do you really want an angry animal with razor-sharp fangs that close to your face? Many people will tell you that squirting them with water does the trick, as it does with cats. It may work with some ferrets, but all those I've trained have either found this so irritating that they become even bitier or found it to be the most hilarious game they've ever played, so they then bite you in order to get you to play the squirty game even more. This is known as negative reinforcement, an act that encourages an animal to engage in the activity which you are trying to train it not to do.
- Positive reinforcement is the key - you need to show your ferret that your hands bring pleasure, and if there's one thing that equals pleasure in a ferret's mind, it's food. Ferrets do love their food.
- If you can find it, get some Ferretone. This is very good for ferrets and unimaginably tasty to them. If you can't get it, try hummus - being the obligate carnivores that they are (meaning they eat only meat), most ferrets absolutely adore hummus for some reason. They also like sultanas and raisins. When the ferret is awake in the cage, approach it quietly but not so quietly that it doesn't know you're coming. Place your fingers close to the bars so that it can smell the food on your fingers, then slowly move your fingers right up to the bars so the ferret can lick them but not get at your delicate, yielding flesh. Before long, the ferret will make the connection: human hand = nice things., and you will be able to stroke and handle the animal without getting savaged. My wife, who is the most gifted trainer of ferrets I have ever known, managed to turn our newest ferret from psychopathic monster to soppy teddy bear in just 24 hours using this method, and other than a few mistakes in the days immediately afterward he has bitten neither of us ever since.
- Four things to remember - 1, all ferrets bite while playing. However, once the ferret thinks of you as a friend, it will no longer want to hurt you and will soon learn that it cannot bite you as hard as it bites its toys (however, even the friendliest ferrets sometimes forget their manners, so accept that if you're going to own ferrets you will bleed once in a while). 2, ferrets have very tough skin and can bite one another so hard that it'd be instant death for prey. Ferrets, as you'll already be aware, love to play - and if your ferret has a ferrety friend to play rough and tumble with, you'll get bitten far less often. 3, every now and then you will come across a ferret who just doesn't like you. There's no reason for this, it's just that ferret's personality - and in fact some ferrets simply dislike all humans. If your ferret bites you but doesn't bite anyone else, it might be best to consider finding another ferret owner who he or she does like and swapping for one of their animals that tales more of a shine to you. In the latter case, a ferret that doesn't like humans (and there are some really nasty ferrets out there, though these are usually those that have been treated cruelly or are retired working ferrets that have been used to kill vermin) the only thing to do is pass the ferret on to an experienced ferret keeper who will allow the animal to live out his days with minimum human contact. 4, in my experience, male ferrets (hobs) are almost always much friendlier and less inclined to bite than females (jills) (they're also less intelligent - as is the case with humans, my wife says - and therefore easier to train, just as dogs, being less intelligent, are easier to train that cats). I would always recommend a hob as a first ferret.
- It can take time, especially if you're not experienced with ferrets, but to persevere. One of our ferrets, the second one we got, was an absolute terror when we first got her and bit us almost constantly. It took six months, but she's now one of the sweetest ferrets you could ever wish to meet.
- If your ferret is biting you then you definitely should train it. Okay when your ferret bites you you say "NO" but make sure it is paying attention, then put it in a separate cage or a carrier for a short time like 3 to 4 minutes and definitely do not put it in its regular cage it will start to think it is being punished every time you put it in there.