How to Stop a Ferret Who Likes to Bite? Like playing and running, biting is just as much a part of most mammal’s behavioral aspects as anything else. In ferrets, especially, biting, also known as nipping, is a very common behavior that is entirely natural. Fortunately, remedying this behavioral pattern is usually quite easy and just requires a bit of consistency and practice. Let’s make a plan!
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How to Get a Ferret to Stop Biting?
The reason your ferret is biting is key in figuring out how to stop the behavior. Biting is caused by a variety of sources and can be something as simple as you not touching your pet in a way they like or them feeling frightened. Younger ferrets may not even recognize that biting hurts and just do it for no reason at all.
With kits who do not realize that biting hurts, there is a simple method that has proven quite effective. Simply pick up your pet and gently scruff him, then hold him there in a position that is not painful or otherwise harmful. Make sure he cannot bite you from the position he is in. Keep holding him until he stops squirming. Release your pet and tell him how good he was for not biting. Offer treats and lots of their favorite things. Do this regularly, several times a day, until your pet gets the message and allows you to do it freely.
In adult ferrets, biting is usually a result of them not being properly handled and socialized when they were younger. This is much more common in pet store ferrets. To help stop this behavior, you must take it head on and work with them dedicatedly to help rework their trust in humans. This may take a few months but it will happen with consistency.
No ferret bites because they are “mean” or “bad”. They do not hate you and do not have a grudge against you. They are simply animals with animal behaviors; if they are frightened they cannot exactly tell you so, so biting is a defense measure to say, “hey! Stop it!”.
Do not ever hit or yell at your ferret. Harming your pet or scaring it more will only prove to make training against biting all the more difficult. Yes, nipping can hurt and be rather frustrating but this will not remedy the situation. You must be calm and patient; show willingness to work with your pet and foster a deeper bond full of trust.
That being said, there are safe ways you can discipline your pet without hurting it or otherwise scaring it.
The most commonly used method is similar to one frequently utilized with children: time out. When your ferret bites, tell him firmly but gently to stop and place him in a kennel or controlled area for a brief period of time. This takes him out of the fun he was having and forces him to gradually link the two events and see biting as a consequence causing action.
Perhaps the most effective way to help deter biting behaviors is scruffing. Firmly but gently grab your pet on the scruff of his neck and lift him from the ground. Say in a clear, firm voice, “No! Do not bite!” or something to the same effect, refraining from yelling. Your ferret will probably squirm but they are not hurt in any way by this action; they simply do not like it. It goes without saying but never shake or flop a ferret about and always release them gently to prevent drop related injuries.
Lastly, you can try distracting. Distract your ferret with a toy and give no other reaction. Do not express pain or discomfort in any way. This is effective especially with ferrets who seem to bite to get attention or a reaction. They realize it is not working and instead find other ways to catch your attention. Be sure to praise them as they play and do good things to teach them there are better ways to get snuggles.
Some people also opt for bitter sprays that can be used on the skin. This will stop the pet from biting you and may help prevent the behavior overall but can send mixed signals if they bite someone else and notice no flavoring. Basically, they cannot bite you but can bite someone else who doesn’t taste unpleasant. Be sure to use this as a sort of last resort and preferably on ferrets who are not frequently handled by other people during the training process.
Positive reinforcement is key in helping your ferret learn new, better behavior. When they do something good that is not biting, praise them and offer treats. Do this especially frequently when they are in a situation that usually causes a biting reaction but refrain from it.
As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than salt. Use kindness and love as a foundation and your pet will progress much more quickly. Plus, this creates an even deeper bond and more trust between the two of you that can prove beneficial and enriching in other parts of your day to day lives, as well. Kindness is key!
What does it mean when a ferret licks you? While there are many rumors that say a ferret licking you is a predecessor to them developing a biting habit, this is entirely false. Ferrets lick their owners for a variety of reasons! Ferrets are curious critters and will lick you if they notice something different to see if you taste any different, too. If your pet loves you and wants to show a bit of affection, they may lick as well.
They groom themselves and other ferrets via mouth and are doing the same to you to show they care! Take it as a compliment; it is a sweet, adorable little curiosity quirk or your furry friend’s way of saying, “I love you”. Alternatively, you may just have something tasty on your hands and they want to get the last bits…but that is neither here nor there.
What kind of toys do ferrets like? When bite training, having lots of toys is great if you plan on distracting your pet or using playtime as a reward. Ferrets adore noisy toys, like balls with bells or crinkle sacks. Sturdy plastic cat toys are super fun since they can chase them about. Ferret tubes are fun if your pet likes slinking through tight spaces, especially if you hide treats in them.
Other toys like baby teething toys and rattles, cardboard boxes, tissue paper, hanging bird toys that do not pose a choking hazard, soft plushies, tents, and playhouses are all great options that tickle your ferret’s curiosity and help keep their lives rich and full of fun! There are tons of great commercial products and DIY options out there so play around and find what they prefer!
Ferrets who bite are not doing it to be mean or cause you pain. They simply cannot communicate their discomfort in a different way and have to express it somehow. Your ferret can unlearn this behavior through gentle encouragement and positive reinforcement. Be patient and they will soon come around!