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Ferrets have a reputation for being stinky creatures, with a very distinctive musky odour that can be quite pronounced. Having your ferret neutered can go a long way towards keeping this smell under control, but there are occasions too when it is beneficial to bathe your ferret if they are particularly pongy, or have gotten themselves into a mess with something unexpected while playing outside of the cage!
Ideally, your ferret should get used to having the occasional bath while they are still young, so that they come to accept the process as something that they are familiar with, and not something that is unpleasant or frightening. Bathing a ferret needs to be managed carefully, both for the protection of your ferret and to keep your fingers safe from nipping teeth too!
In this article, we will cover the basics of how to bath your ferret.
Before you get going with your ferret’s bath, make sure that you have everything that you need to hand; you won’t be able to leave your ferret in the sink while you nip out to get supplies!
When it comes to picking a shampoo, only use a product that is marketed as good for use with ferrets, as shampoos for people or dogs can be drying and irritating to the ferret’s skin. You may also wish to buy a ferret conditioner, particularly if you need to bathe your ferret often, as bathing can be drying to the skin.
Having something ready to dry your ferret off with is of course important, such as clean, soft towels or a chamois cloth.
Bathing your ferret in the sink is the best course of action, as it will be the right height for you to use comfortably, and is just the right size for your ferret too. The average body temperature of the ferret is between 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly higher than that of people. This means that what to you feels lukewarm will feel colder to your ferret, so ensure that the water is warm enough to be comfortable for them, while of course not being too hot.
It is a good idea to pick a time when your ferret has been able to play and stretch their legs, and then calm down afterwards before bathing them, as a ferret that is full of beans and particularly wriggly will be a lot harder to handle!
Make sure that the water in the sink is shallow enough that your ferret can stand up without having to swim or lift their head to stay above the water, and support them carefully while lowering them gently into the sink. Handle your ferret calmly, gently and slowly, while talking to them reassuringly. If your ferret is scared or stressed, they will likely struggle, and may hurt themselves, or you.
Once your ferret is in the sink, gently cover them with water, keeping the face and ears dry. Once they are wet through to the skin, use a small amount of shampoo to lather up the coat, paying special attention to the tail, back end and underbelly, as these parts of the body are where the scent glands that generate the ferret’s musky odour tend to have the greatest effect. Shampoo your ferret up to the area behind their ears, but do what you can to keep the ears and the face themselves dry.
Once your ferret has been shampooed thoroughly, rinse them off with warm water several times, ensuring that the water runs clear and that no trace of soap is left on the skin, as this can lead to dryness and irritation.
When your ferret is bathed, drain the water from the sink before you remove your pet, and use this opportunity to pat them dry gently, absorbing surface water. When you get your ferret out of the tub, he is likely to behave much like dogs do after baths- shaking themselves furiously, zooming around, and rubbing themselves on the carpet and furniture! Ferrets are no keener on being wet than cats are, and your ferret’s priority will be to dry themselves off as soon as possible, by any means that they can!
Keeping your ferret enclosed while they dry off is a good idea, as is drying them off as much as you can with a towel. Ensure that they are placed somewhere warm to finish drying, and provide a litter tray too, as many ferrets will want to go to the toilet as soon as they are out of the bath.
Don’t use a source of direct heat such as a hairdryer on your ferret, as this will almost certainly be too noisy and hot for comfort, and will upset your ferret.
Offer a treat and lots of praise after you are done.
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