We love our ferrets, and they make great pets! You look forward to spending time with your special furry friend every day, but you’ve started noticing something strange – your ferret is shaking.
There are many normal reasons that ferrets shake. Shaking is commonly observed when a ferret is excited, eating, or sleeping. Your ferret may also shake from stress, so it is crucial to identify why they are shaking and when to take action.
It’s unusual and may be worrying to witness, but it rarely indicates anything serious. Most of the time, it’s simply a quirky behavior that ferrets exhibit.
5 reasons for a shaking ferret
Ferrets might be shaking for various reasons. Pay close attention to what they’re doing before and during the shakes to identify why they’re shaking.
Most of the time, it will be no cause for concern. However, there will be situations when you need to pay close attention. Read on to find out more.
1- They are excited.
Is your ferret shaking when you enter the room to let them out of the cage? Do they vibrate when you play games with them? It might be because they are too excited!
Ferrets are energetic and enthusiastic, and it can be hard to contain all that excitement in such a small body.
When they are happy and excited about what’s happening, they may begin shaking to indicate their happiness. The shaking may also be indicated by hopping back and forth.
Of course, there’s no action needed if they are shaking from excitement. You can try gauging your enthusiasm level, so you don’t overly rile them up, but it’s not typically a danger to let them enjoy the excitement.
For this reason, no action is needed on your part. Let them be happy!
2- They are eating.
You’ve handed them a bowl of their favorite food or treats, and they soon begin shaking. After the meal, the shaking continues for up to twenty minutes.
Again, this behavior is perfectly normal. Ferrets will shake from excitement (discussed above), and eating makes them very happy. You may notice them shiver or shake while they scarf down the food and continue to shake for a short duration after they’re done.
In addition, ferrets have a very high metabolism. Because their bodies and digestive systems are so small, it does not take long to convert the consumed food to energy and process the byproduct into waste. Plus, intaking calories signals to their body that it’s time to kick things into overdrive.
Your ferret’s body may shake during this normal and essential metabolic function. The shaking should stop on its own after a short period, usually a few minutes and rarely more than an hour. Usually, there is no action needed on your part, as there is no cause for concern.
3- They are sleeping.
Your ferret is sleeping so soundly, and they’re so cute, but you notice their body is shaking like a vibrating cell phone. This has to do with their high metabolism, which increases during sleep.
Ferrets are already only accustomed to short bouts of sleep, approximately 4 hours at a time, before they wake to relieve themselves and expend extra energy before settling down again.
It’s normal to observe shaking while they’re in restful states right before, right after, and while they are sleeping. There’s nothing needed on your end, and the shaking will cause them no harm.
4- They are cold.
Ferrets are rarely cold due to their coats, but a chilly environment may also contribute to shaking, especially when their fur is wet.
If they are shivering from the cold, look at your room’s temperature and increase it if possible. An average room temperature of 68 to 72 degrees is usually an optimal range for them.
Sometimes, they might also shiver if you have just bathed your ferret and they are still damp. Dry them quickly and wrap them in a warm blanket to keep their body temperature up.
It’s not often that they shiver from the cold. If this is the case, ensure they are dry and warmed up quickly so they can be comfortable again.
5- They are stressed.
Ferrets may also shake when they are anxious, nervous, or frightened.
Sometimes it’s easy to identify what is causing your ferret stress. They may have heard a loud noise that scared them, or they may not be sold on a new person, animal, or object you brought to them.
Pay close attention to their body language if you’re not sure. A fearful ferret may hide, cower, or glare at the thing they are unhappy about. Sometimes hissing is accompanied and is also a great indicator of their unhappiness.
How to calm a stressed ferret
If your ferret is shaking from anxiety, stress, or nervousness, you can take steps to reduce the impact and calm them back down.
Address the stressor.
First, you’ll want to identify the stressor.
What has caused the stress? Did you drop something heavy and make a loud noise? Is there a thunderstorm outside? Have they been overwhelmed by party guests or loud music? Or did a new toy scare them somehow?
Sometimes it’s easy to determine what’s off about the situation and why they’re reacting negatively, but other times it’s a mystery. Pay close attention to their body language and try to determine what is causing their fear.
Once you’ve figured it out, remove the stressor or remove them from the area where they’re experiencing stress.
Soft voices and soothing music.
In environments where something has scared them, or they are simply overstimulated, calm energy may help soothe them back down.
Speak softly to your ferret to soothe them back into a normal state. Try quiet, soothing music to set the tone. Convert your ferret’s room into a spa sanctuary set up specifically for their relaxation.
If they are used to pets and cuddling, invite them for some affection to help them along as well.
Try light exposure therapy.
Exposure therapy is not useful while they are stressed, but it could help them in future instances of stress if practiced regularly.
The idea behind exposure therapy is to desensitize your ferret to scary and stressful stimuli by exposing them lightly to stress in small doses.
Are they frightened of large groups of people? Start by bringing in one stranger at a distance and letting them adjust to their presence. Interact with your guest normally and encourage your ferret to interact at their own pace.
Over time, you can bring in different strangers or more than one at a time, so they gradually become accustomed to larger groups of unfamiliar faces.
Exposure therapy is not 100% effective for all ferrets, so be careful not to overdo things. If you don’t watch their cues and ease off when things become too overwhelming, you risk making your ferret even more fearful. Be cautious.
Play and cuddle to strengthen your bond.
No, I’m not saying to play while they’re afraid, as your ferret will probably not be interested. I recommend strengthening your bond with your ferret through regular bonding, playtime, and cuddling.
A strong bond gives your ferret confidence and comfort when facing stressful stimuli. If they are frightened or uncomfortable, your presence alone might provide enough to help them overcome the fear and return to normal.
When should you start to worry?
Although ferrets normally shake when excited, eating, or resting, and they may shake from cold or stress, there may be underlying medical conditions that result in shaking.
You may be unable to determine the reason, which may be accompanied by other symptoms. Visit your vet if shaking is accompanied by:
- Loss of appetite
- Unusual aggressiveness
Shaking is often benign, but violent trembling and seizures are very serious and could indicate insulinoma.
Insulinoma is a cancerous condition when tumors affect the function of the pancreas, and it can be grave in most circumstances. Ask your vet to check and ensure your ferret’s health is not the cause of the shaking.
If you are not sure that the shaking is for normal reasons and prefer to have peace of mind, it’s prudent to let your vet perform a full check-up to rule out underlying medical conditions.
Better safe than sorry when it comes to your ferret’s health.
Ferrets are known to shake for many reasons, and there’s often no cause for concern. There may be some instances, however, where it indicates the ferret needs your attention to correct an issue for them.
Learning to discern the difference between normal ferret shaking behaviors and abnormal shaking, including seizures, will help you provide the best care for your ferret and ensure a happy, healthy life.