Last week, my friend adopted a ferret, and since then, he is so worried about why the Ferret scratches so much. He mailed me yesterday to help him understand the reason behind it. So I started my journey to search all about it through the web, and here are my conclusions.
Why do ferrets scratch so much? There could be several reasons for his behavior, ranging from normal ferret behavior, molding seasons, some mild allergic reaction, dry skin, etc. All of them are not of significant concern and could be solved at home using advice from blogs like ours. However, there are times when it could be a sign of predatory bugs and even adrenal tumors.
Ferrets are usually quite hyper and itchy. Compared to other animals like dogs and cats, ferrets are generally quite common to scratching. This is a frequent headache for new pet owners. Understanding more is the key to understand why or if your Ferret needs help. Do read this article completely to find out.
What is scratching in ferrets?
Image courtesy: reddit user TaylorxChan
According to petmd, “sensation to itch is known as pruritus in ferrets.”
It is an indication that the skin is inflamed due to enzymes released by bacteria and fungi. The symptoms could be scratching, licking, chewing, biting, and others. The causes can vary from fleas, lice, infections, allergies, et cetera. There could be problems in adrenal glands, which is a major cause of concern in more than 30% of these cases. 
Your vet likely is going to examine your Ferret through physical exams and then perform various other tests. You can surely see an ultrasound performed in the initial stages to grasp the problems in the glands. The vet can also perform microscopic examinations as to understand the issues with the skin.
Once these tests are complete, the treatment will depend on the underlying cause. If it is related to fleas, mites, or something like that, the physician will likely prescribe you some type of medicine. If it related to adrenal glands, you would probably see your Ferret operated on using surgical procedures. Therefore, for a new ferret owner, it is essential to understand normal behavior.
Are ferrets scratchy all the time?
Yes, they are, but it shouldn’t be a problem unless they start bleeding from those scratches or do it all the time. Then, you should immediately consult a vet.
Excited and older ferrets usually scratch more. So keep that in mind. Ferrets also scratch a lot when they wake up.
Let’s understand the various reasons responsible for continuous scratching by ferrets.
Reasons for scratching! Why do ferrets scratch?
There could be several reasons as to why ferret scratch. Let’s understand each one of them:
- One of the most common reasons are mites, fleas, and ticks. If you find one of them responsible, quickly visit your local exotic vet and treat them out. Also, check if they have itchy ears, these are signs of mites. They can make their home in animal ears. Having a lot of odor and brownish dirt is also a sign of mites. For flees, the first area where you should check is between the shoulder blades, and there would be red patches in those areas and maybe bites.
- Another reason for scratching could be tumors. These are rarely detected in the early stages, but sometimes you can see them as tiny bumps on the skin. They usually occur in other animals and not common in ferrets, but they could be the problem irritating your Ferret. It would entail a minor surgery to clear them out.
- Ferrets shred their hairs seasonally, and that could be the impetus for the scratching, but keep an eye on the area that the Ferret is scratching.
- It could be because of the irritation from shampoos. Shampoos, especially the hard ones, take all the moisture from the ferret skin, and therefore they could develop dry skin.
- One other often ignored reason is allergies. Ferrets are usually less allergy-prone than cats and dogs, but some substances can lead to highly problematic situations. Some cat foods with ingratiates like soybean and dyes can cause allergies in both ferrets (and cats). Ferrets can also get sensitive to some rugs, and the allergy signs would be visible on their feet. Some medications, such as mite/flea treatment meds, can cause allergies as well, and their symptoms would be visible in the area which they are treating. The obvious way to remove such problems would be to remove the cause of these allergies.
- Another reason is nutritional deficiency. This occurs when ferrets are provided with a poor diet with a low amount of fats/nutrients and moisture-less food. Such diets can lead to itchy and dry skin. The obvious way is to improve the diet, and you can also provide a linoleic acid supplement in the meantime to fasten the process further.
- Parasitic Infections like the sarcoptic mange can also be a reason for the skin condition. Animals like mange dogs can infect your Ferret.
- One important factor could be adrenal gland tumors. Although it is not common in all ferrets, older ferrets (usually four years or older) can get adrenal gland tumors. This would create a situation where, without any skin irritation, the Ferret would be itching and scratching all the time. The Ferret would also be less playful and look more lethargic. Females could suffer from a swollen vulva, and males could get problems urinating. All of these signs point to adrenal gland tumors. These go away once the tumor is removed.
As we have outlined the most common reasons, it is time we understand the solutions.
How to make a ferret stop scratching?
- Bath them with oat soaked water. The recommended way is to grind some oats (normal ones with no flavors, etc.) found in the market and put them in a shallow sock/cloth and then put that cloth in the water for 5 to 10 mins. Make sure to close the lid using a band if you are using a normal cloth. Then bath your Ferret in that water. That can help their skin become nice and soft, so they don’t need to scratch that much.
- You should also feed them raw eggs. Sometimes they don’t like to eat raw eggs. So what you can do is to make an egg soup. The soup would help them out, giving them omega fatty acids and everything else. These elements are beneficial for the Ferret’s skin.
- You should try to find pure salmon oil and give them one to two teaspoons per week. Make sure it has preservatives so it could last for long.
- You can use coconut oil to help your skin get a smooth and shiny texture. Make sure it is not fed to them and only applied from outside as they are carnivorous and do not like these plant-based foods. Just rub the coconut on their palms, feet, and tail. That should help a lot.
- You can also give them tiny amounts of duck fat. If they do not like it raw, make ice cream out of it to make it much more pleasurable. Make sure not to give more than a teaspoon per week, or they could have some liver issues.
- Another helpful way is to provide raw foods to them, and there is there are several options available in the market. What you could do is to choose a cat food option, and that usually works well. There are several large quantity options like these ones that could lower your expenses for a long time.
- Provide them with essential oils available in the market. There are some essential dog oils available in the market, but they should also work for ferrets. Do not provide more than half a teaspoon 3 times a week. Providing more than that can lead them to stink a lot more.
- Some also suggest feeding epigen 90 and some extra virgin olive oil in case you are not comfortable with the solutions mentioned above.
- Do not use the normal shampoo on the Ferret because that will clear out the moisture on their skin and make them much smellier and itchier. Sometimes stores could recommend some ferret-specific shampoos, but those are also a big NO-NO. If this is the main reason for irritation, what you could do is to provide a re-Bath with a milder shampoo. Make sure to thoroughly rinse off the shampoo from the Ferret’s body and make the skin squeaky clean.
- Giving them oil massages not only will help them in reducing the hair scratching but also will make the hair shiny and beautiful to look at. Use the oil also after a light bath because the oil will cut out the Stinkiness.
- Avoid close interactions with other animals that can cause ferret allergies.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What to do if Ferret bothers in the middle of the night? Ferret doesn’t let you sleep?
Ferrets have a sleep time of 18 to 20 hours. Usually, in a short time, they realize that they are living with you, and you have a set schedule. After that, they will start waking up with you and will not bother you so much. Ferrets are crepuscular, so they are most active during the dawn and the dust time. Thus, you can surely have problems in the early morning as it is the time when they are quite active. So how to deal with ferrets bothering you in the morning?
Video courtesy: Reddit user user/Cowgrls775/
- Give him more playtime activities during the day so they can get tired and have a full-time sleep at night.
- Place the cage in a separate room where the sound is not audible to you and disturbs you so much.
- Your new Ferret might be a toddler and therefore wants attention. Avoid giving the attention, and soon they will realize that these temper tantrums aren’t working. Give at least 10 to 15 minutes for them to scratch; they would likely stop the scratching at the time and go back to sleep.
- Use a towel or cloth to cover the cage. This can lead to the Ferret getting calmed down, and you can sleep like a baby again.
- Another way is to provide them an outlet to dig and tire themselves out. Ferrets are natural diggers, and if you can give them a sand box or box filled with dirt, they can easily dig a lot and make your job of tiring them easier. You can also use a rice bowl as a substitute for dirt/sand.
- Sometimes it may happen that they are missing some of their toy or something like that that they love to sleep or have anxieties about. If they do not find the toy or the item, they may get irritated early in the morning and disturb your sleep.
- Give them a good chase so that they are worn out before going to sleep. It should be around 30 to 40 minutes.
How to stop ferret from ruining the rug/carpet?
Sometimes the Ferret can scratch or eat your favorite carpet or rug. We have the solution to such problems:
- Use plastic mats over the top of carpets and use them to protect the rug so that the Ferret cannot scratch them directly.
- You can also use linoleum pieces instead of the usual carpet. They usually get over it after not getting any success.
- One more trick is to use tape. Ferrets have antipathy towards tapes, and therefore, you can use duct tape to cover the concerned areas.
- Make them understand that what they are doing is not right. Hence, you need to firmly press their nose against yours and say something like ‘NO.’
- Sit beside the door, and stop the Ferret by your hands whenever it tries to move in and chew the carpet or do something that you don’t like. Once you keep doing that, the Ferret will lose its Internet in that area.
- You can also place a heavy object in the vicinity so that the Ferret cannot move it easily and, therefore, cannot go into the damaged area.
- You should pick them up by their neck whenever they try to do something that you don’t like. Their mothers in the wild do just that when they do something naughty. As you keep doing it again and again whenever the unusual behavior takes place, it will teach them a good lesson.
What to do when Ferret is digging the water bowl? Is it normal?
Yes, ferrets are usually like that, and they are quite weird around water. They sometimes push the water bowl and drink from the floor. They can also like to stir/splash the water before drinking. (Yeah they like it shaken and stir, I know HAHA)
Some ferrets also do not like the water bowl and try to push it around. The best way for you would be to buy a water bowl that sticks to the cage or the surrounding so that the Ferret cannot move it completely or to take it to the point that it falls, and you have to clean after it.
Ferrets do like scratching. It is fun for them. It is their natural behavior. But, sometimes, it is not as usual as it looks. Scratching is likely a sign of dry skin, which can be caused due to various conditions, including seasonal molding, fleas, mites, and even tumors. In case you see constant or all day scratching, do consult your vet immediately.
If you have any questions regarding ferret scratching or any comments you’d like to share, do comment below.