What is the best litter to use for ferrets?
Potty training any animal can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Even human toddlers take some practice and trial and error to get the potty routine mastered. Let’s take a look at one of the most important aspects of your ferret’s toilet training trials: the litter, and answer the highly debated question of, “can my ferret use cat litter”, once and for all!
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If you take a look at any given small animal potty training forum, you probably see a bit of a mixed bag of answers concerning the safety of cat litter and similar products. Some people swear it is in no way suitable for small pets while others swear by the stuff due to its absorbent and smell reducing nature.
To answer the question, let’s take a look at what usually makes up commercial cat litters.
The most common brands on the market today are typically based around clay. Clay can literally hold its weight in cat urine and can be easily fragranced to help hide odors, making it perfect for feline owners worldwide.
Clay cat litters can either be clumping or non-clumping. This is decided by the decision to add in bentonite clay or avoid the ingredient. Bentonite clay causes the litter to stick together when wet, allowing it to be scooped out easily without dumping the entire litter box. There is much debate around the safety of clumping cat litter and clay litters in general but since these are generally not safe for ferrets, we’ll spare you the intimate details and scientific jargon.
Clay litters should never be used in ferret cages or with any small animals. They are dusty and can cause serious respiratory issues that can even become fatal. Additionally, if eaten they can cause blockages, especially if they are of the clumping variety.
A top competitor for clay litters, silica products are not usually mentioned much in ferret owning community pages. Silica is a great option for cats since it is odor prohibitive but for ferrets, it can pose some of the same problems as clay, mainly with their respiratory system. Due to this, it is generally recommended to avoid the stuff and opt for other ferret friendly options.
There are some silica litters that are safe for ferrets but they are quite hard to find and can be rather expensive, making it more logical to opt for a different product all together.
If you want to use a litter that is also available for cats, you could opt for corncob or wood litters. These are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. Be sure to choose products that are free of fragrances or oils and that are as natural as possible. Any wood should be aspen since it is dust free and should be very finely shaven. Hard chunks of wood could injure your pet and are outright uncomfortable, especially since ferrets are very clean animals who choose to wipe their bottoms in their litter pans regularly. They probably would not appreciate an unexpected jab from a wooden corner!
One of your best options has to be paper. Paper litter does require some maintenance and regular changes to prevent odors but it is safe, eco-friendly, and gentle for your pet. Paper bedding is comprised of recycled paper or cardboard and absorbs quite well with no dust or debris that could irritate your pet’s delicate lungs.
Additionally, paper beddings do not contain fragrances and are typically cleaned thoroughly before being sold, making them free of dyes or inks that could harm your pets. If you go the paper route, it is best to buy the bedding instead of making it yourself.
A lot of regular paper we have access to has been bleached or dyed. Newspaper, especially, is commonly used despite not being safe due to its ink content. This ink can dye your animal’s fur and cause serious issues if ingested. Some inks even irritate the lungs if they are powder based!
The answer to this question varies greatly depending on which litter you use. Something like wood can be okay for a couple of days while paper will need changing every single day for the most part. Similarly, corn cob litter will need daily changing to prevent odors and mold.
At most, you should go no more than a week between deep cleanings of your cage. Ferrets are funky, stinky little animals that can create some serious smells that are uncomfortable for their human visitors. Additionally, their soft materials and bedding items can get rather dirty so freshening them up is well appreciated by your pet.
Wash everything with unscented soap. Hard surfaces are easy, just use unscented soap and rinse well. Soft surfaces should be washed in unscented laundry detergent, preferably one for sensitive skin or even a specialized product for pet bedding items.
Keep in mind that you will need to change the litter, clean the cage, and wash bedding items more frequently if you have more than one ferret. Multiple ferrets means a bigger mess each day, translating to more cleanup.
Some ferrets are also rougher than others and may shred up bedding and other items, meaning you have to replace them more often. They may also kick their litter about the cage and make things generally untidy, meaning you have to clean more thoroughly and more frequently.
How big should a ferret’s litter box be?
When you use the restroom, chances are you like to be comfortable. Pooping can be a bit of a stressful endeavor for some, especially if they feel cramped or out in the open. Ferrets are quite similar to humans in this aspect. Opt for a litter box that is large enough for your pet to comfortably walk around a bit and stretch out.
For multiple ferrets, choose the biggest your cage can comfortably handle. Try placing the box in a quieter area of the cage, away from doors and food dishes. Most ferrets actually prefer using the restroom in corners, so try putting it in a corner of the cage if possible. Remember, with ferrets, bigger is generally better. Secluded and large makes for a good ferret potty area.
Is my ferret’s habit of eating his litter dangerous?
Yes and no. Ferrets generally eat small amounts of litter over their lifetime and pass it with no problems. If your ferret is eating an excessive amount of litter or seems to be having gastrointestinal issues, there may be a problem, especially if the litter is corncob or wood based since they are more prone to causing blockages.
To help discourage this behavior, offer lots of food items for your pet and make sure their food bowl is not empty. Make sure your pet is not confusing their litter with food by moving the two to different areas of the cage with a lot of space between them; consider swapping the litter type entirely if the problem persists. Also, make sure your pet likes their food; some ferrets are picky and would literally rather eat smelly bedding than subpar food products.
Never ever hit or yell at your pet, as this can scare them or hurt them and does no good in helping correct the behavior. Instead, try switching things up and making sure they are comfortable and well fed!
While cat litters are generally not safe for ferrets, you can still find something pretty great without breaking the bank. Test out a few different ones and see what your pet prefers. They’ll be potty trained in no time!