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How to Pet a Ferret

Updated on March 2, 2017
Ferrets love gentle contact, but on their terms.
Ferrets love gentle contact, but on their terms.

Ferrets are independent, energetic little creatures with a formidable set of teeth. Whenever I tried to pet a ferret, usually all I got was the teeth. This put me off ferrets, until I got to know their body language and behavior better. Petting a ferret is not the same as petting a dog, cat or guinea pig. You can't just pick up a ferret and start petting away (which is what I tried to do). Ferrets are affectionate, but only when they are in the mood for petting.

Gotta Dance!

Ferrets were meant to be active all day, finding food, tunneling and socializing with other ferrets. This means they normally need to run around, climb and play like little kids need to play. This is especially true of baby ferrets (called kits), who seem to want nothing else out of life but to play.

When a ferret wants to play, let them play. This is NOT the time to pet them. They need to let off steam, often by doing a bouncing war dance.

Make sure your hands are clean of any food smells, unless you want to be tasted. If you are worried about biting, you can spray bitter apple on your hands (it tastes really foul). If a ferret does bite or put their teeth on you, then pick up the ferret by the scruff of the neck and stare into the eyes, frowning, then put the ferret back down and try again.

Light Touch

Although ferrets look like they're made of indestructible rubber bands, they are actually quite fragile. The average ferret is only the same weight of a large guinea pig (about two or three pounds). Ferrets appreciate a light touch from humans, even though they knock other ferrets around like punching bags.

Use as light a touch as you can. The ferret will let you know if they like it. If they really like it, you get licked! So, if a ferret turns his or her around to your petting fingers, don't assume that you are going to get bitten. If a ferret leans into your touch, then you can use a little more pressure. When you stroke over their hips and they like it, they will raise the hips much like a cat will.

Most ferrets hate being patted on the head like a dog or slapped playfully like you would for a horse or large dog. Those motions will frighten them. Let the ferret know you are there before you touch or pick them up. Their main predators were birds of prey, so they can be protective about any large body that is seemingly swooping down on them from above with talons extended.

Ferrets also like a light "scritching" (which I think was a word invented by Charles Shultz in a Peanuts strip and has since entered common use). This is a cross between a petting and a light scratch, where your fingers move back and forth as if closing in to pick up a pin and then letting go. This motion is instinctive for most people and even I'm having a hard time describing it!

All Ferrets Are Individuals

Not all ferrets have the same amount of tolerance for human contact. They all are individuals. Some will cuddle for a few minutes before dancing off again, while others will cuddle in your lap all night. Generally, the older the ferret, the more responsive they are to your affection.

Try to appreciate the individuality of the ferret and let the ferret come to you for affection in his or her good time. It is good to handle your ferret everyday, just so they learn good manners and can be more easily looked over at the vet's. This also means that the ferret gets used to your touch.

The pleasure in living with ferrets is that they are ferrets and not any other pet. They have such vibrant characters and such senses of humor, that it is a privilege when one decides you are "ferret" enough for contact.

How To Get Your Ferret To Stop Biting (Film by


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  • Whitney05 profile image

    Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

    Ferrets are neat, but I can't stand their smell.. Ha... They make pretty good pets though.

  • RenaSherwood profile image

    RenaSherwood 9 years ago

    Smell? What smell :-) Yes, they do have an odor that takes getting used to!

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    stevie 9 years ago

    Haha...this is pretty accurate... I love my little Slinkers...the only time you can pet her is when shes asleep... because when shes awake you can barely catch her... shes the fastest ferret alive

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    Katie H.  9 years ago

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    tiki diamond 9 years ago

    i just got my ferret two days ago and im in love with her but im not sure why she starts having this turrettes kind of thing all the time. is this the dance you were talking about

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    jack thompson 9 years ago

    hello we have just had 11 baby ferrets and we are selling them for £5 but eney far away can have them for free if interested then add my msn on thnaks.

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    jack thompson  9 years ago

    ferrets have that ordor smell to atracect the female ferret so they can mate

  • Bueller's Way profile image

    Bueller's Way 9 years ago from Massachussetts

    I have two of them and they are theives!!! They ate my tv remote, my sneakers and explode fur everywhere

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    Stasia 8 years ago

    Hahaha. My ferrets steal anything with rubber or plastic. Sometimes even pleather. They've stolen my wallet, their nail clippers, my underwear, and more (:

    The only time I can pet one is when they're just about to go to sleep.

  • ChrisSnil profile image

    ChrisSnil 8 years ago from United Kingdom

    Very informative indeed, makes me want to get one myself :)

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    lilly 8 years ago

    hi i really want a ferret but i don't know what they smell like (ok or bad) i hear there are de-scented ferrets but im not so sure what it means.


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    Jessie 8 years ago

    It is pretty common for ferrets to be de-scented. Mine had his scent glands removed when he was neutered. He doesn't smell bad, but I do have to spray a conditioner on him every day to keep his skin moisturized and to keep his natural odor from getting too strong.

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    Vince 8 years ago

    Cool, thanks for your great tips.

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    Kylaaaa :D 8 years ago

    lol i have two ferrets and i love them x3 they are like my best friends! they are both playful and love to jump around, which makes me smile :D this petting tecnique does work on my ferrets :)

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    aferret 8 years ago

    i really want a ferret but i don't know where 2 get 1

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    pet ferret 7 years ago

    this is a great insight into establishing a tighter bond with your ferret by letting them know your not just there for fun and play but to provide affection too

  • profile image

    pet ferret 7 years ago

    this is a great insight into establishing a tighter bond with your ferret by letting them know your not just there for fun and play but to provide affection too

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    pet ferret 7 years ago

    Great information. A lot of people overlook the basics of handling a ferret, wondering what's wrong with IT and why IT keeps biting or screeching. Hopefully there will be a lot more people having a better bond with their ferret from now on.

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    Cari 7 years ago

    My ferret likes to take our flip flops and slippers and hide them under the bed! So funny! I am going to try this petting technique. Hope it works.

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    dallis 7 years ago

    my ferret rascal is smart first time i twirled my finger he rolled

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    AIDIL 7 years ago

    great now I know how to pet a ferret thanks soooo much

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    jules 6 years ago

    every ferret has its own personality....4 out of the 6 of mine are very cuddly, liking to be pet and looking for affection most of the time (except when they are first let out of their cages for play time- they need to pee! and explore!) 2 of the 6 are just not...i mean, they occasionally show affection but not nearly like the others. one of them is older (5years?), i adopted her from an unknown source and she also has adrenal's disease (which can cause/exacerbate aggression). when she's feeling good she can be quite affectionate. the other is a deaf albino female about to be a year old. i can understand why the older ferret isn't as affectionate- she's sickly, sleeps A lot and only known me for a year- but i spoil all my ferrets and dote on them everyday. i cant understand why the albino (aptly named Demon) responds differently. she tends to play on her own more than the others, too. no one can hold her bc she will scratch and bite them and only tolerates me, to an extent. does being albino have anything to do with her temperament? incestuous breeding perhaps? like Dalmatians? she's the only albino i have and her personality is not like the others at all. i have been working on a bond with her and its just not there... :(

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    FerretzRule 6 years ago

    I have had rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, iguanas, fish, dogs cats and horses, and FERRETS have been the best pet i have ever owned. Although all of them are unique in their own way, the personality that comes out of your ferret is a cross between a cat and a dog. They are amazing, come when they are called, they are litter trained, learn tricks, play tricks on you, steal your things, play with you and just make your heart swell.

    There is never a time I don't smile when my ferrets are playing ( I have two)

    You must be careful with them, they can catch the cold and the flu from you!! Very sensitive digestion tracts, but like with any other pet, please learn a little about them before you decide to get them! They need to be let out to play , as someone said before like a little child!

    Ferrets come highly recommended as a companion. With a little dedication and time, they will be all you ever wanted and more.


    Mother of 2

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    Sara 6 years ago

    I love my ferret, he's mischievious and totally lovable, I let him roam around my room and when he thinks I'm not watching he trys to sneak up on me and scare me! I've never had an aggression problems with him at all, he gets on well with my cats too they all run around together, my only problem is he absolutely loves to bite feet! Any chance he gets he will go after a toe, never bites hard though. sometimes when he sleeps I notice he makes little sounds like low murmur, other than that he never makes a sound.

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    Eick 5 years ago

    I just one my 2 days go a month old his just crazy and funny and fun to have

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