Potential owners often ask us if ferrets bite as they have heard all sorts of stories. Ferrets are not naturally aggressive; in fact quite the opposite. They are happy and playful, not easily scared and very trusting of humans. They do however have extremely sharp teeth and very limited vocal communication. Therefore, unless seriously threatened or provoked a well socialised brought up ferret have no more reason or want to bite a human than a well brought up and socialised dog.
Ferrets have exceptionally thick skin which allows them to play with each other, grabbing by the scruff and shaking and dragging each other without damage. They naturally therefore try to do the same with their new human companions. We on the other hand are thin skinned and weak in comparison and so innocent play and curiosity can be interpreted as vicious attacks and can lead to a ferret being incorrectly labelled a ‘biter’.
Kits: Like a puppy or a kitten a young ferret (kit) will want to explore the world using its mouth. They are also always ravenously hungry and so feel the need to test whether anything they come across might be edible. With a puppy or a kitten this can be cute if slightly annoying but with a ferret it can be very painful. Positive reinforcement and training can teach a young ferret very quickly that humans do not taste very good and do not want to be played with that rough. This is why we recommend adult ferrets for first time owners over young kits; whilst kits look cute they are a lot of work.
Positive reinforcement: We use positive reinforcement and training to deal with nipping and biting. There is always a story as to why they nip or bite. Hunger, pain, nervousness and sheer fright are common reasons. All ferrets must be given time to settle in without over handling initially. They soon learn that people will enter their space with food and on cleaning out will not harm them. A hungry ferret may nip in their haste to get food. Their poor eyesight means that they will react quickly to movement. Soft gentle talking and hand feeding soon win a ferret over. We never use scuffing, nose flickering, forcing fingers down their throat and other such negative training techniques.
Gloves: The wearing of gloves can hinder nip training as the ferret will not learn to associate bare skin with you. However in the worse cases any handling is better than none. If you need to resort to using gloves then we recommend kevlar lined security gloves. The leather will protect their teeth and the kevlar will protect you.