Tell us if this sounds familiar: While naturally musky, your ferret found its way into something downright disgusting, and now you’re tasked with giving your furry friend a bath to freshen them up again.
You give them a gentle scrub and take them out of the tub, only to find them frantically flailing and flinging themselves to and fro in your home.
What gives? Why are they so wild after a simple scrub-a-dub dub?
Ferrets are often frantic after a bath because they don’t like the feeling of being wet. They will run, jump, dance and roll around desperately to get dry.
Although this seems unusual or even alarming, it is no cause for concern. Your ferret should settle down as its fur dries completely.
Why do ferrets freak out after a bath? (3 reasons)
There are many reasons why ferrets do this unusual dance of displeasure.
Let’s think about things from their perspective.
They’re minding their own, playing and exploring at their leisure, when they see you coming. Usually, this means great things like treats, playtime, fun games. But this time, things are different!
This time you throw a wrench in the gears and pick them up, take them away from their things, and shove them in a water-filled tub.
That’s not what they were hoping for, and they’ll let you know. Some ferrets resist bath time and may flail or thrash to escape your clutches, scrubbers, sponges, or shampoos.
It may become a literal battle to get them clean, and they won’t be happy about it!
They’re trying to get dry.
So you persevered, and now you and the ferret are officially done with bath time. What now? You pat them gently to dry them off, but with all that fur, it’s not even to get them totally dry.
And ferrets hate the feeling of wetness clinging to their fur!
Before long, your ferret throws their body down on the ground, trying desperately to dry that fur.
They may even kick their way along the carpet and literally slide across the room, trying to manage the feeling of damp fur.
They’re fired up!
Have you been there? You’re put through an intense experience that you may or may not have enjoyed on some level, and now that it’s through, you’re fired up over it?
Your ferret is just the same. After the out-of-the-ordinary experience of going into the bath, they’re revved up and ready to unleash all this extra energy.
It may manifest in regular playtime activities, solicitation for your attention, or just regular “zoomies” of them dancing, prancing, and nearly sprinting back and forth to get the energy out.
Is it bad for them to freak out?
While this is normal behavior, it could cause some problems.
They make a mess of your home.
While they’re having their patented ferret freak out, anything and everything in their path are at risk.
Most of the time, they fly back and forth without an incident, but they may topple belongings and accidentally break your personal items or valuables.
While flying freely with wet fur, they might drag that mess all over until you stop them and dry them further.
This might lead to wet carpets, bedding, upholstery on couches and chairs, or wet curtains or drapes.
Presumably, your ferret will be clean, so the furnishings shouldn’t stain or stink after they dry. If you weren’t thorough during the bath, you might have the scent of ferrets everywhere they rubbed their damp body.
They make a mess of their cage.
If you don’t allow them to do their freak-out outside the cage, they may go inside and start overturning food and water bowls, digging up substrate and bedding, destroying toys and other cage fixtures, and more.
If they’re especially wild, they may re-soil themselves and need another bath all over again, defeating the point of the bath, to begin with.
They become injured from erratic behavior.
In the worst-case scenario, your ferret’s wild antics cause them to fall off an elevated surface, contort themselves inappropriately, or otherwise find a way to become injured.
If your ferret becomes injured after a bath, it may mean discomfort, stress, and possibly a visit to the vet to find out the severity of the injury and the best course of treatment.
How do I prevent my ferret from freaking out during baths?
It is likely no cause for concern if your ferret acts out after bath time, but there are some things to look out for and do your best to prevent.
There are also several things you can do to reduce the stress associated with bath time and help them segue back into neutral gear immediately following.
Make bath time as stress-free as possible.
Give your ferret the perfect spa experience instead of a quick scrub job.
Get the water temperature just right. For us, this may seem hot, but ferrets tolerate higher temperatures, and something that is comfortable for us might be too cold for them.
Aim to have it between 99- and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition, you can add a number of their favorite toys to the bath to ensure they have something fun to distract them from the otherwise stressful sudsy experience.
Most importantly, remember to be patient with them. Instead of muscling them into the bath and forcing them through it, take your time and let them lead the activity.
If they undergo the bath willingly, they’re less likely to get revved up and act out afterwards.
Dry them thoroughly.
Did we mention ferrets hate the feeling of being soaked?
Do your best to pat them dry immediately after the bath. Have plenty of plush towels and other items to absorb the excess moisture and get them feeling fresh, clean, and dry before long.
If you can get them totally dry before they leave the bath area, they’re less likely to wiggle their bodies all over your floors and furniture.
Be ready for playtime and bonding immediately after.
If your ferret is ready for a full-blown freak-out following bath time, don’t simply shove them in the cage and walk away.
Instead, engage them and let them have an outlet to focus this excess energy in a positive way.
Entice them to play games, explore, solve puzzles, or work on a tasty treat that takes time and effort to truly savor.
All these things give them both physical and mental stimulation and take attention away from the fact that they were just bathed moments ago.
Other things to expect after my ferret’s bath time
There are two other things to look out for following your ferret’s bath time.
Ferret is shaking from the cold.
Ferrets shake for many reasons, most of which are benign, but a ferret shaking after a cold bath indicates that their body temperature has dropped too low.
Warm them up with plush towels, blankets, space heats (at a safe distance, of course), and more to ensure they return to a good temperature immediately.
If they cannot stop shaking after some time, it may be prudent to contact your vet to rule out other more serious, underlying reasons for the shivering.
Again, it’s often a normal behavior, but it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to our pets.
Ferrets smelling muskier.
So you rinsed off your ferret and lathered them up nicely to get that trademark stink off of them, but now they’re stinkier than ever! What gives?
Ferrets are naturally musky animals, and the odor comes from their glands. After a good washing, their glands will compensate and go into overdrive to restore the essential oils of their skin.
While this is happening, they will smell very strong.
This doesn’t mean you did a bad job on the bath. Give it two days, and the intense musky aroma should dissipate as the natural oils are restored and the ferret returns to normal.
Do I even need to bathe my ferret?
If the experience is so traumatizing to them, is it even worth it to bother about it in the first place?
Ferrets generally don’t require frequent bathing, but it’s prudent to do it occasionally. It is recommended to bathe them once every two or three months or as needed if they’re super dirty.
When it comes to bathing your ferret, less is more. Overbathing, or bathing too often, will produce negative effects like drying out the skin or coat and lead to irritation and discomfort for your ferret.
We want to do our best for our ferrets as their pet parent(s), but bath time can really be a chore. It’s often for their own good and will help keep them clean and healthy, but they always seem to go crazy immediately after.
Is it worth the drama? Is it causing them more problems than it’s doing them good?
A full-on ferret freak-out following bath time is a sight but often no cause for alarm. Once they settle down, they’ll naturally ease right back into normal gear without issue.
Plus, they’ll be nice and clean for a change too!