Litter training of a ferret is not very difficult. Ferrets are natural latrine animals. They instinctively use a particular area as a toilet. Even young ferrets at the age of 3 weeks already demonstrate this instinct. Ferrets prefer to keep food, sleeping and play areas separate from the bathroom area. This makes the employment of litter relatively easy for ferrets. You can use regular cat litter and even recycled paper litter. Litters with lots of masking perfumes and scents are not recommended. Ferrets are suspected of being a little averse to such smells and it may in fact discourage them from using the litter box.
You should never use clumping clay litter with ferrets. First off, young ferrets may tend to play with the clumps. Secondly, and more importantly, when clumping litter is accidentally ingested by a ferret after cleaning himself, it expands in the intestines of the ferret and may cause obstructions that could lead to your ferret’s death. Also stay away from cheap litter that has a lot of dust, powder and small granules in it. It may cause irritation to your ferret’s sensitive areas and lungs. You can use the new clumping litters that are made from wheat or corn because they are digestible and they clump nicely for easy clean up. The only drawback appears to be that at certain times of the year, the edible clumping litters can attract ants. If that occurs, just switch back to clay litter for a few months.
Most young ferrets at the store will already demonstrate the litter box technique. However, many stores just fill a ferret cage with wood shavings. The ferrets end up using a corner or two and it looks bad. Never fear. Once you get a ferret home and put a litter box in his cage, he will use it. You may have to encourage him to use it in the initial stages. Here a few tips.
1) Ferrets have two iron rules they always follow and if you follow them you will easily litter train your ferret. One, they never eliminate near their food or water. Two, they never eliminate in their bedding. For a new ferret, it is a good idea to have the litter box on one end of the cage. Put the bedding right next to the litter box. On the other side of the bedding place the food and water bottle. Do not leave your ferret any play area because it may end up an unintentional litter box. To the left is a good example of a trainer cage. This may seem restrictive, but it works. It even works for older ferrets that need to be retrained. Once you are sure your ferret uses his litter box routinely, you can expand his area or move him to a bigger cage. A restrictive cage like this is not acceptable long-term housing for a ferret.
2) Ferrets demonstrate a backing-up-into-a-corner motion with their tail up over their hips when the need to go. If your ferret is not in the litter box, pick him up quickly and place him in the box. Don’t let him out until he goes. A young ferret may have difficulty identifying what is a litter box and what is a play area. It is useful to leave a little excrement in the box so that he can smell it and know that this is a good place to go. This is not necessary for established ferrets.
3) Ferrets use their sense of smell for many things, including going to the bathroom. A ferret will often smell an area to see if it is used for a bathroom. If it smells like a potty stop, a ferret will likely reuse that spot. So if your ferrets makes an accident outside of a litter box, clean it up and remove the odor. Ferrets have a powerful sense of smell, so odors must be diligently removed. White vinegar works well with a little club soda on most surfaces including carpeting. Bleach can also be used if it is a problem spot on a hard surface or cage. You should try to remove the bleach after a few minutes with a damp paper towel or cloth. There are other cleaning agents on the market including enzyme type cleaners. Always keep in mind that any cleaning solution other than white vinegar can be harmful to your ferret if he comes in direct contact with it. Try to remove the cleaning agents before your ferret walks on it with his soft paws. Carpet spots can be very effectively cleaned with a portable steam cleaner.
4) Ferrets do not like dirty litter boxes. They will turn their noses up at it and may not use it until you clean it out. Or perhaps they will even throw some of their toys or blankets into the litter box as a protest. For one ferret, you should scoop excrement every day or two and change the litter entirely when needed.
Here are some tips for potty training a ferret:
- Provide a litter box: Ferrets are clean animals and naturally prefer to use a designated area for elimination. Providing a litter box can help encourage your ferret to use it.
- Place the litter box in a consistent location: Once you’ve chosen a location for the litter box, keep it there. Ferrets are creatures of habit, so a consistent location will help them understand where to go when they need to use the bathroom.
- Use an appropriate litter: Ferrets are prone to respiratory issues, so it’s important to use a dust-free litter. Paper-based litters, such as recycled newspaper litter, are a good option.
- Encourage use: When you first introduce the litter box, place your ferret in it after eating and playing. You can also place a small amount of ferret feces in the litter box to encourage your ferret to use it.
- Reward good behavior: Whenever you see your ferret using the litter box, reward them with praise or treats to reinforce the behavior.
- Clean the litter box regularly: Ferrets have a strong sense of smell and will avoid using a dirty litter box. Clean the litter box regularly and replace the litter as needed.
- Watch for accidents: If you see your ferret starting to eliminate outside of the litter box, interrupt the behavior and place them in the litter box. Over time, your ferret will learn to use the litter box consistently.