Grooming Your Ferret Part 1 - Bathing

Bath time can be fun for both you and your ferret. Who doesn't love watching the antics of a ferret (or a few ferrets) splashing around, dancing, and playing in water? Many ferrets absolutely love ...

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Bath time can be fun for both you and your ferret. Who doesn't love watching the antics of a ferret (or a few ferrets) splashing around, dancing, and playing in water? Many ferrets absolutely love baths. However, there are a number of ferrets that don't. There are some ferrets who are very sensitive and easily frightened by new things and new experiences. These are usually baby ferrets or ones that were never bathed or near running water. The best thing to do is introduce the idea of a bath slowly and gradually. My ferret, Midnight, was completely petrified the first time I gave her a bath. She got very still and stiffened up. Then when I started to rinse the soap off, she started to scream. She still gets somewhat scared when given a bath. However, she no longer screams (thank goodness!); she just hisses every few seconds while running around trying to dry herself off. While she doesn't like having her fur wet, it was the actual noise of the running water that frightened her. So I have to run the water at a lower pressure for her than the other ferrets.

Bathing is not as necessary as some people may think. It should be done no more than once a month, if at that. I have heard of people bathing their ferrets as often as once a week. This is just too much. If you bathe your ferrets too often, your ferret's skin and fur can become dry and itchy as well as having an increase in body odor. Yes, bathing your ferret too much can actually make them smell MORE. The reason for this is when you bathe your ferret, you are washing all the natural oils out of their fur. This, in turn, forces the oil/scent glands located on the ferret's skin to work harder to replenish those oils. When these oils are secreted, an odor is as well. I only bathe my ferrets once every 6 months or so. Frequent bedding changes in your ferret's cage will help keep any odors to a bare minimum.

Now for the actual bath itself, you'll need a tub or sink, a ferret safe (or kitten safe) shampoo, an absorbent towel for drying off and a draft free (preferably enclosed) room or area for them to dry off in. You can use warm running water directly from the faucet or plug the drain in the tub or sink and put in an inch or two of water and bathe them that way. If your ferret does not like baths, then using running water from the faucet is best. This makes the bath quicker, easier, and less stressful on your ferret. Not to mention making less of a mess.

Start off wetting your ferret's fur with warm water, being careful not to get any up your ferret's nose, in it's eyes or ears. Since ferrets body temperatures are much different than ours, what may feel warm to us, may feel cool to them; so keep that in mind when judging water temperature. If the water is too cool, you'll more than likely have a ferret trying to scramble up your arm to get away. Once you've done that squeeze a small amount of shampoo into your hand, or directly on the ferret. Lather the shampoo, making sure to concentrate on heavy odor areas such as the head, behind the ears, between the shoulder blades, the tail, and under the tail. You may notice, when applying pressure while shampooing the tail itself, the soap turning an orange-yellowish color. This is from a buildup of oils on the tail. The tail seems to pick up more dirt than any other part of the body probably from it being dragged on the floor all the time. Make sure you thoroughly clean the tail (until you no longer see the "orange" color in the soap). Excess oil buildup on the tail can cause clogged pores (seen as "blackheads"--little black spots on the skin) and hair loss on the tail itself. Try to shampoo as much of the head as possible without getting it in their eyes, ears, or nose. I usually don't clean the areas at the front of the face (nose, under the eyes, etc.) as it is very hard to rinse those areas without getting it in their eyes or nose. The only time I'll clean those areas is if they have an excessive amount of dirt there. But for those areas I'll use a wet facecloth, instead of putting them under the running water. Once you've done that, thoroughly rinse the shampoo out of your ferret's fur. Make sure you rinse it all out. If shampoo is left on the fur, when it dries, it will make your ferret itchy and uncomfortable.

Bathing not only cleans your ferret, but can be a bonding process, too. It also gives you an opportunity to check over your ferret's skin for any lumps, scabs, abrasions, etc. The skin is much easier to see and examine when the fur is wet.

If you are letting your ferret play around in the tub containing an inch or two of warm water during it's bath, I would still recommend doing a final rinse under running faucet water to make sure all the shampoo gets rinsed out of the fur. When you've finished rinsing, lay the towel down in a warm dry area and put your ferret down on it. Ferrets can pretty much dry themselves off, so all you have to do is sit back and watch them have fun doing it. They will drag their body across, under and around that towel trying to get dry. In the process, they usually get themselves all worked up and will start doing their little happy *weasel war dance*. Then they'll start playing with the towel and it becomes a big game! I would make sure the area you are letting them dry off in is clean, and preferably closed off or you're going to have one wet weasel running all over your house getting everything in sight wet and probably getting themselves dirty again in the process.