Ferret bathing should become an Olympic sport. Both you and your fuzzy get quite a workout. Especially if you try to wash 2 ferrets at the same time and have curious dog who wants to know what’s going on…what was I thinking.
Now, just because your furball likes to play with water, doesn’t mean he’ll like a good scrub down. My 2 rascals love nothing better than tipping over buckets and messing around the dog’s water bowl. But when bath time comes they scramble to get away.
If you’re lucky, your fuzzy will take to being submerged in water and swimming around instantly. If not, it’ll take some patience and calmness to reassure your fuzzy that water is not the end of the world.
Unless your fuzzy jumped into a pile of horse manure, one bath a month is the absolute maximum. I recommend once every 3 months. If you wash him more often, the water and shampoo will strip all the natural oil from his skin, leaving you with a smelly, dry and flaky skinned, coarse furred fuzzy…I strongly doubt that’s your intention.
After a bath, your fuzzball will smell a little more. That’s because the oil glands go into overdrive to replace the natural oil you removed. Don’t worry, the smell only lasts about 2 days.
Here’s a list of things you’ll need before you embark on your first ferret bathing adventure:
The first thing you’ll want to do, is decide where the ferret bathing will take place. A bath is convenient for your fuzzies; they can run around in it without escaping. Less convenient for your knees and back though. Alternatively, you can use a sink or simply put a basin with water on a table. Put some non-slip material on the bottom so your fuzzy has good footing…just in case he decides he’s had enough and wants to jump into your neck… I’ve also heard of people showering with their ferrets. Seeing how my 2 bandits react to bare feet, I’m not up for that challenge.
Don’t use shampoo for humans or dogs. They contain too many chemicals that can be harmful for your little furball. Your best bet is buying real ferret shampoo. No ferret shampoo available where you live? Then shampoo for cats or kittens or tearless baby shampoo will do as well. When in doubt, ask your vet for advice.
Depending on your ferret, you’ll need to have some toys and treats handy. Just to calm him down, distract him and let him know bathing is fun.
For some reason, be it excitement or fear, ferrets tend to poop in the water when you’re giving them a bath. Just have a paper towel, toilet paper or a pooper scooper ready to get rid of it.
When you take your fuzzy out of the water he’ll go absolutely crazy. The weasel war dance is nothing compared to after-bath behavior. So make sure you’re in a clean, ferret-proof room where your little furball can dook, dance and bump wherever he wants without getting hurt or dirty. If you leave some clean towels on the floor he’ll crawl in them to rub himself dry.
Ok, so you’re fully prepared to do this?
Great! Your first ferret bath is something you won’t easily forget ;-)
If you don’t know how your fuzzy will react to being in the water, start with an empty bath (or sink, basin, whatever…). Play with him, give him some toys and a treat. Basically, put him at ease.
Then turn on the water (preferably not on top of him, though that can be hard to avoid with a wriggling ferret). Give him another treat.
The temperature of the water should be warm (like for a child, or maybe little warmer, ferrets have a higher body temp so the water will feel colder for them). Test the water before you run it over your fuzzy and make sure you keep it at the same temperature.
Now, when the water is the right temp, poor a little over your fuzzy. His back is a good place to start (avoid his head for now) and give another treat.
Once he’s (somewhat) comfortable with this, you can make him completely wet and reward him with a treat. Make sure his fur is wet to the skin.
Don’t have so much water in the tub that he can’t easily stand on the bottom. If his body is submerged it’s high enough. If he loves it, it’s deep enough to swim a little. If he hates it, it’s shallow enough to stand on the bottom before clawing his way up your arm.
Next up, ferret shampoo. Put some shampoo in your hands and rub them together. This will warm up the ferret shampoo a little so your fuzzy doesn’t get an ice cold wet splash on his back. Give your fuzzy a good scrub, starting on his back. Not too rough though, don’t want to scare him. Be careful when you wash the top of his head, avoid his eyes and ears. If he does get shampoo in his eyes, poor some clear water over his face with your hands to rinse them.
Warning: some fuzzballs love the taste of soap. It won’t kill them to ingest a little, but it will make them ill. So try to avoid any soapy water slurping.
Once he’s all soaped up, it’s time to rinse all the grime and soap away. Rinse thoroughly (don’t forget to rinse under his head and armpits); dried up soap is itchy. It will also dry out his skin, even cause flaking, and dry out his fur. Soapy fur and skin will also attract dirt, which means you have to start the whole ferret bathing procedure from the top.
Get rid of all the dirty water before rinsing, use fresh clean water and don’t forget to test the temp first.
You can rinse your fuzzball with your hands, cup or a faucet if the water pressure isn’t too hard. I recommend you use your hand to rinse his head though.
Well, so far for the ferret bathing. Now for the next part, the part where you’re rewarded for your water battle, the ferret drying.
Dry your furball as much as you can with a towel. Then put him on the ground and enjoy the show. Expect puffed fur/tail, dooking, jumping, bouncing and rubbing against anything and everything in an attempt to rub himself dry.
Something else you should expect is another housetraining mishap. You’re fuzzy is bound to poop after his bath (you still have some paper towels left right?). Clean it up asap or he’ll roll in it. Don’t put a litter box in the room though, he’ll just dive right in in an attempt get dry…
Keep him locked in a clean, warm and draft free room with lots of towels if he’s still a little damp after his after-bath romp. You can put him in his cage, just make sure to remove the litter box.
Some people use a hair dryer instead of towels. If you want to try this, use the warm setting, not the hot. Move the dryer all over his body constantly to avoid burning your fuzzy in one spot. And keep the dryer at least a foot away from your furballs sensitive skin.
Oh, and last but not least, this one goes without saying really; don’t leave fuzzy alone in the bath or sink. Even if you get distracted by the doorbell, take your ferret with you. Any uninvited guests will surely get scared away by a wet, cranky ferret ;-)