Bathing – I am often asked “What can I do to keep the odor under control? We bathe him every week.”
Even altered ferrets will have a slight musky odor. Frequent bathing, however, is not recommended and will actually stimulate the production of a strong musky scent. We rarely bathe ours – unless they have gotten into something (again) and a bath is the only way to get them clean. We once were surprised to find ourselves the proud owners of a Red-Eyed Black ferret – our albino had gotten into the fireplace ashes. Our first “Black-Eyed White” was a former silver mitt who had gotten in the powdered sugar. Sometimes young kits will require more frequent bathing then older ferrets, until their body learns to regulate itself. Changing the bedding on a regular basis (at least once a week) will do more to cut down on ferret “body odor” than just about anything else.
I’d recommend a good ferret shampoo for normal bathing. We’ve occasionally used a “notears” baby shampoo for really wriggly ferrets so as to keep the shampoo from hurting their eyes. If you have to use a flea shampoo, use only kitten-safe shampoo. A normal dog or cat flea shampoo may poison your ferret. Never use a flea collar or flea powder or flea dip.
The bath and rinse water should be warm; neither hot nor cold. A ferret’s body temperature is about four degrees higher than a human’s, so that what is lukewarm to you, is cold to the ferret.
A double basin sink works well. Fill one side with a few inches of warm water, and use the other side for the wash operation. If you don’t have a double basin, a plastic dish pan will work almost as well. Fill the basins before you put the ferret into it. The running water may frighten the ferret.
Wet the ferret and apply the shampoo. Work into a lather – don’t forget the head (careful of the eyes) and tail, and under the legs. Gently dip the ferret in the rinse water and rinse thoroughly. A sink sprayer sometimes works, but frightens some ferrets. Repeat the wash and rinse. A few drops of a moisturizer such as Avon’s Skin-So-Soft oil added to the final rinse water will help prevent dry skin. Or, if you prefer, a Skin-So-Soft oil and water mixture can be sprayed on from a pump-bottle and rubbed in thoroughly after the final rinse.
If you are using a kitten-safe flea shampoo, start at the neck to prevent the fleas from migrating from the body upward. Be very careful around the eyes. A non-no-tears shampoo in the eyes may make future bathing very difficult, so do be careful. Ferrets are fast learners and may learn from one experience that bath time means hurting time.
Have plenty of towels handy. Rub the fur reasonably dry then put your ferret on the floor. Give him a dry towel, and he will finish the job. It might be a good idea to remove the litter boxes for a while, because the wet ferret will use not only the towel but almost everything else to dry itself and litter makes a messy drying tool.
Some ferrets absolutely love a bath; most will tolerate it; a few will go bonkers at the mere thought of a bath. One of ours lets out an ear piercing scream if it even suspects a bath is in its immediate future. If you happen to have one of the rare latter ones, dry powder shampoos are available, but they don’t really do well in cleaning syrup or peanut butter out of the fur. Amazingly enough, these same ferrets who go bonkers in the sink may want to jump in the tub or shower with you. If that’s the case and you’re up to it, carry in the ferret shampoo along with your own.
Topics: the ferret manual