Litter Box Training
Ferrets can be very good about using the litter box or newspaper. Some can be very bad about it. It’s the luck of the draw when you get them. Even with the good ones, expect accidents at least 10% or more of the time. Even if a ferret is litter trained here at the rescue, it will be a starting over process in a new home where there are new smells and things to distract the ferret.
First, please know that not all ferrets will use a litter box. Some prefer to use newspaper or pads.
If the ferret wants out of the cage, it will often act out and not use the litter box to show you it is unhappy. If this is happening, the ferret really needs to be out of the cage more. Frustration from being left in the cage too much can cause an ulcer or the ferret can break a tooth or pull out a toenail by chewing or clawing on the cage.
Ferrets can be picky about the type of litter box they use. Try different sizes or types. Having several, and not just one or two, is important. Do not expect the ferret to go back to its cage to use the litter box or newspaper. It is rare for this to happen. If the ferret won’t use the litter box, try putting pee pads or newspapers down.
Cleanliness is extremely important. Ferrets generally won’t use a litter box, pad or newspaper if there is a smell from where it hasn’t been cleaned. Keeping the areas clean will make the ferret use it more. The litter box must be scooped at least once a day, preferably twice, and newspaper changed once a day.
Ferrets do everything by smell. Try to use an unscented litter or a litter with a smell that doesn’t bother the ferret. Also, use an excellent deodorizer to remove any smell from the floor or carpet after accidents.
Ferrets have a tendency toward lung problems, so it’s important to use a litter with very little dust. When you pour litter into the pan, make sure the ferret isn’t around. It is better not to use a clumping cat litter. My preference is recycled paper litter. If you have numerous ferrets, this may not work, as the litter can have a strong smell to it if its peed on a lot. The rescue uses horse pine pellets because of this.
Ferrets nearly always back into a corner to do their business. You should have every possible corner either set up with a litter box, pad or newspaper or blocked so the ferret can’t or doesn’t want to use the corner. I have newspaper or pads in nearly every corner of my home where the ferrets have access. The areas that don’t have newspaper or pads have something blocking the areas, like a blanket thrown in the corner.
Any time you see the ferret actually doing its business away from the litter box, pad or newspaper, pick up the ferret and put it in the litter box or on the pad or newspaper.
If you don’t see the ferret having an accident outside the litter box, just clean it up. Don’t bother scolding, because the ferret will not understand what it is being scolded for and this may make it more likely to misbehave.
When you see the ferret use the litter box, pad or newspaper, praise and pet it. Do this every time you see the ferret use the litter box. It will eventually come to realize using the litter box is a good thing and results in good attention.
As you’re home and the ferret is up, occasionally take the ferret over to the litter box, pads or newspaper to constantly reinforce this is the place to go.
Since ferrets usually need to go soon after awakening, if you see the ferret awaken, take it to the litter box as more reinforcement of where to go. You can actually stay with the ferret and keep putting it in the litter box until it goes, which really reinforces this is the place to go. Occasionally the ferret doesn’t need to go right after awakening. So, if the ferret hasn’t gone within a short time, just keep an eye on it and don’t keep trying to put it in a litter box or on newspaper.
If the litter pan is on slick flooring, consider putting a towel, newspaper, pee pad, or something in front of the pan. Sometimes slick flooring makes a ferret feel like it’s going to slip and it may avoid a litter box where it feels unsafe. Also, the ferret nearly always has a couple of drops of urine that will get on the floor, and having something there keeps things cleaner.
Again, you must have newspaper and/or litter boxes in many corners in the areas where the ferret is running loose. It will seldom go back to the cage or another room to do its business.
Ferrets using trays/shelves as a potty?
If a ferret is aggravated at being in the cage too much, it will sometimes do its business on the shelves of the cage to show its displeasure. Be sure the ferret gets several hours out of the cage at least twice a day. Even better is to let the ferret have free roam in a room, like a bedroom, and leave the cage open and available.
Next, be sure it is easy for the ferret to get up and down to the bottom of the cage to use the litter box. If the ramps are too steep or the openings are too wide and the ferret is fearful of falling, it will use the tray. Consider covering wire ramps with a towel to make it easier.
There should be some light in the room at night so the ferret can see easily enough to get to the bottom of the cage. Otherwise, it may not going to risk going up and down ramps.
Consider setting up one tray of the cage with a litter box and newspaper, so the ferret isn’t forced to go all the way to the bottom. Sometimes they just have to go faster than they can get to the bottom and once the smell is there, they keep going there.