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Why did my ferret lick me?

Everyone knows about puppy dog kisses, but what about ferret kisses?

When your furry ferret friend licks your hands or face, are they trying to convey affection or simply sizing you up as a tasty snack?

Your ferret might lick you for several reasons, including showing affection, expressing excitement, grooming you, trying to get your attention, or warning you. Ferret licking is often deliberate, but sometimes your ferret likes the way your skin tastes.

Why your ferret is licking depends on what they are up to before, during, and after the behavior. Let’s explore the common reasons why ferrets lick!


Six reasons your ferret licks you

1. Your ferret loves you.

We love our ferrets. That’s why we take the time to bond with them, play with them, and take great care of them daily.

Even though they can’t say “thank you” with words, they do a lot to show it, and actions speak louder than words. A ferret will show their affection and appreciation by cozying up to you, cuddling with you, and, you guessed it, giving sweet ferret kisses to your hand or face.

Ferret kisses are divine and show they love us. They’re great during calm and tender moments, but be careful when accepting kisses from a riled-up or excited ferret. They might give you an unexpected but playful nip instead!

2. Your ferret is excited.

When we’ve been out of the house all day and come home to see our special furry pal, we’re overcome with joy and often take them right out of the cage for some cuddles, hugs, and kisses.

As it would turn out, our ferrets feel the same way!

When they see their favorite person stroll through the door, most ferrets display noticeable excitement, including hopping, dancing, and “dooking.” Once out of the cage, many are inclined to give ferret kisses to show how much they missed you!

3. Your ferret is grooming you.

We love to have our ferrets looking their best. That’s why we take the time to give them the occasional bath to keep them looking and smelling fresh.

Little did we realize our ferrets feel the same way. They appreciate having us around, so they want to ensure we look our absolute best. That’s why it’s not uncommon for a ferret to start licking your face, hands, hair, or anything else it can to ensure it does its part in cleaning us up.

4. Your ferret wants attention.

Ferrets share many similarities between humans and other animals. For example, they will perform a variety of attention-seeking behaviors when they’re feeling under-stimulated or left out.

Bored ferrets might approach, hop, dance, nip, and lick at us to get our attention. If your ferret is displaying these behaviors while we are ignoring them, chances are it means they want to be included.

Reward their initiative with a bit of one-on-one playtime. Grab their favorite toys, a handful of treats, or any of their other favorite things to let them know you’re there for them.

5. Your ferret is warning you.

Although a ferret lick is often a sign of something positive, it’s a generalization to say, “all ferret licks are good.” This is simply not the case.

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A ferret in need of space or who is feeling threatened might use a lick as a method of creating space. In these situations, the ferret is trying to push you away from them because they don’t want to be crowded. Often, this behavior will precede a bite, and it’s your cue to get your face away from those tiny jaws.

Pay attention to other body language cues from your ferret, including cowering, stiffening, or hissing.

6. Your ferret likes the way your skin tastes.

Ferrets convey plenty of information about their feelings through licking, but that doesn’t mean they’re above just enjoying the taste of your skin.


Did you just make a sandwich and forget to wash your hands after touching some delicious cold cuts? Are you trying out a new hand lotion or moisturizer? Were you working out recently, and the salt of your sweat still sits on your skin?

Ferrets love finding out what we’ve been handling, especially if it is something tasty! While most of the time, they are licking for a social or emotional reason, sometimes they’re just doing it to have a taste.


How to encourage my ferret to lick me

Some ferrets are super kissy out of the gate, but others are more reserved and discerning regarding when and who to kiss. If your ferret is withholding those sweet kisses, try some of the following tactics to encourage them to lick.

Be patient.

Bonding, or trying to bond, with a fidgety, finicky ferret is frustrating. It’s essential to be patient and let your ferret dictate what they’re comfortable with and when.

Exude calm and warm energy with them. Be open to them approaching to sniff, play, or interact with you, but don’t use it as your invitation to snatch them up and squeeze them. Everything that happens regarding cuddles, hugs, and kisses should be 100% on your ferrets’ terms.

Rushing through building familiarity and comfort with your ferret will more often produce the opposite result, and you’ll wind up with a stressed, scared ferret who still does not want to be affectionate with you.

Be affectionate, but read their cues.

Ferrets cannot speak, so everything we can discern regarding their feelings is conveyed through their actions and body language.

You want to be open to receiving affection from your ferret but do not want to initiate affectionate behaviors when they’re not receptive. Cowering, hiding, stiff body positioning, and hissing are all signs your ferret is scared or stressed, and it’s never a great time to try physical affection during these moments.

Instead, give your ferret some space; try enticing them into playing with their toys, digging in their dig box, or chewing on a chew stick. Once their body language is more positive and relaxed, you may continue being gentle, kind, and physically affectionate to your ferret.

Engage in activities that strengthen your bond.

Have you been taking time extending an olive branch to your ferret only to still come away with a ferret who is uninterested in giving you kisses?

It’s time to face the truth—your ferret is just not that into you!

Don’t be discouraged! You can change that by engaging them in bond-strengthening activities like playtime, plenty of out-of-cage time, and other activities they enjoy. Over time, they will become more endeared to you and more receptive to affectionate behaviors.

Be patient, watch out for nonverbal cues, and work to strengthen your bond with your ferret, and before long, you should get those sweet ferret kisses you’ve been craving!

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Can licking lead to biting?

Saying “ferret kisses are always good” is like saying “a dog’s wagging tail means they’re happy.” It is sometimes true, but it is not always correct, and misreading the situation could result in injury.

Here are some tips for reading the signs to save you from an unexpected ferret bite.

Consider what is happening while they lick.

What happens immediately before ferret licking gives us our best clues as to why they’re licking. Ferrets who approach confidently and engage in licking often do so out of affection or excitement. It might indicate grooming or attention-seeking behaviors as well.

Ferrets who approach to lick out of curiosity may follow up a few licks with a gentle nip, but nips rarely break the skin and are seldom serious.

Overstimulated or wildly excited ferrets might bite, especially if the ferret is younger and has not learned appropriate etiquette yet. Be mindful of this when your riled-up ferret is near your face.

Look for other signs they are not in a good mood.

Ferrets showing signs they are uncomfortable, stressed, or scared, such as hiding, cowering, lowering their head, maintaining a rigid posture, or hissing, should not be invited or allowed to lick.

Give ferrets who display these cues a wide berth until they’re feeling better, and do not attempt to engage them affectionately if they’re not in the mood to receive it.

Understand you won’t always get a warning.

Often, we will be given some warning to indicate they will bite if not left alone. However, a ferret may bite unprovoked.

Always be mindful of this possibility when handling your ferret. If you have a strong bond, chances are you will know how to read their cues well in advance of an injury, but always be cognizant that your ferret could bite out of confusion, discomfort, stress, startle, fear, or aggression.


What to do if I don’t like to be licked?

Some folks love to be loved by their ferrets but aren’t keen on the kisses. If that describes you, there are some things you could do to discourage licking.

The first and most effective is redirection. When your ferret approaches to give kisses, provide them with a chew stick to redirect their attention and keep those mouths occupied. Initiating play with a ball or rope is another effective method of redirecting.

Another tactic is to simply remove the part of you that you prefer they not lick. Maybe you just used hand sanitizer and don’t want them to taste the harmful chemicals. Remove your hands from their immediate area or put on gloves to prevent them from getting to you. Keep your face and appendages away if you’re trying to keep them from giving kisses.


Conclusion

Ferrets lick their owners for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Affection
  • Excitement
  • Grooming
  • Seeking attention
  • Warning
  • Tasting

Keeping a close eye on what they’re up to before, during, and after the licking will help explain the reason for the ferret kisses. For most of us, it doesn’t matter why they want to give kisses because we love them just the same!

Look out for the cues and behaviors described above to decipher what your ferret is feeling and when licking is and isn’t a good thing!