Ferrets are known for their musky smell and many people consider them to be very dirty pets. However, that’s very far from the truth. Ferrets are actually very clean animals, which is why you will catch them grooming themselves very often. They won’t even do their business in the same litter box if it’s full. They love clean bedding and clean cages.
When it comes to scratching, they don’t do it excessively but it’s perfectly normal. But it’s important to understand their scratching habits in order to immediately realize when something is wrong. In this article, we’ll talk about ferret scratching habits to help you understand your furry pets a bit better.
Why do ferrets scratch?
Just like any other animal, ferrets can scratch because of various reasons. They can have a slight tingly sensation and they want to get rid of it, they have dry skin, maybe they have mites, fleas, and ticks, they can also scratch their ears when they have ear parasites, etc. It can be something unimportant or very serious depends on how often they scratch.
Ferrets are also naturally a bit more hyper and itchy than other animals, which is why frequent scratching is perfectly normal for them. Just make sure they’re not doing it excessively as this can lead to blood and wounds. Look between the shoulder blades of the animal for flees and in the ears for mites.
Normal Ferret Behavior
Ferrets are typically scratch most of the time, which is why you should only get alarmed when they start doing it all the time. A simple visit to an exotic vet should put all of your worries to rest. Ferrets are not like dogs and cats that only scratch when they have fleas or other parasites. A ferret can scratch because it simply has a more sensitive skin and even its own fur tickles its skin from time to time.
Another perfectly normal reason to scratch is simply because the ferret is too excited. When they are happy their body feels like it’s shooting electrical shocks all over their bodies and their skin becomes a bit itchy. A ferret that doesn’t scratch at all is a lot more unusual than a ferret scratching every day. Older ferrets are actually known to scratch a lot more than young ferrets.
You should keep in mind that many ferrets tend to scratch the moment they wake up as well. In fact, they can spend a few good minutes scratching after waking up from a very long nap.
The shedding season can cause the ferret to scratch a lot to help all the fur fall off. Their skin is also very itchy during the shedding season, which means that it’s perfectly normal to see your ferret scratching a bit more than usual. It only becomes a cause of concern when there’s blood coming out of the areas it keeps scratching.
Ferrets shed twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. And one of the most important things you need to keep in mind about ferret shedding is that they are very photosensitive. This is why their shedding behavior is affected by exposure to light. If you keep two ferrets in different parts of the house and they get different exposure to light, they will not shed at the same time.
If your ferret started scratching a lot more all of a sudden, it might have an allergic reaction to something you changed in the house recently or the treatment it’s on. Soybean and dyes can cause some serious allergies in ferrets so make sure there’s nothing like that in their food. If you use cat food as a replacement from time to time, make sure the cat food you used the last few times didn’t contain any dyes or soybeans.
Your ferret can have an allergic reaction to a new rug you just brought into the house. But it doesn’t necessarily has to be a new rug. If you took your rug to a professional washer, some of the chemicals used to clean it might still persist in there. This is why you should check the ferret’s feet for any signs of an allergy.
The treatment you’re getting for flees and mites can also cause an unpleasant reaction. You can check for signs on the areas they are being treated, like around their ears and between their shoulder blades. Take the ferret to the vet just to be sure.
Ferrets have very sensitive skin and their body has special glands that continuously produce a special oil for their skin and fur. This is also where most of the musky smell comes from and it’s not something you should try to get rid of as it can get the ferret seriously sick.
Some new ferret owners bathe the pet way too often to get rid of the smell, but they also get rid of the important oils at the same time. This can cause very dry skin and a lot of itchiness. Irritations from shampoos can also cause a lot of damage.
How do you make a ferret stop scratching?
Avoid using shampoos, washing detergents, and any chemicals that could cause irritation. Then you need to change their diet to include foods that can help their skin and give them an oil massage from time to time. They won’t understand why you won’t let them scratch so simply telling them “No” won’t do any good.
Grind some normal oats (no flavors) and put them in a shallow sock or cloth then put it in the water for 10 minutes. Bathing the ferret in this water can help their skin and make it nice and soft. After the bath, use a teaspoon of coconut oil and massage their palms, feet, and tail with it. This will help a lot as well but don’t feed this oil to the ferret as it’s plant-based.
You should also change their diet so it includes raw eggs, pure salmon oil, duck fat, raw food, and give them an oil massage as often as you can. Remember to feed these new foods in extremely small quantities, especially the pure salmon oil and the duck fat.
Where do ferrets like to be scratched?
Ferrets absolutely love a good session of belly rubs and soft scratches. They love being pampered but only on their own terms. They’re not like dogs or cats so you won’t be able to just get the ferret up and start scratching it. Don’t push it if it really wants to be left alone.
Another way to show affection to your ferret is to pick it up and press it to your chest area. They love this position and you can carry it around the house. But when it starts backing away and pushing against you with its head, it’s time to let it down.
Ferrets and scratching posts
Despite being compared all the time, ferrets and cats are very different and they won’t try to file down their nails as your little feline does. This means that getting a scratching post is completely useless as the ferret might bite it a few times to see what it is and move on.
The only way to keep their nails under control is to trim them from time to time or ask your vet to do it for you.