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Ferret’s Toe Nips Prove Dangerous

Why would a ferret continue to bite its owner’s toes and feet?

By Ailigh Vanderbush
Posted: December 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EST

Q: I have had five ferrets, two males and three females. I have two females left, Engelchen (16 months) and Schätzchen (14 months) Schatzi is smaller, but she beats up Engel. Engel takes on really big dogs with no fear. I do not cage my ferrets. They sleep where they want, usually in my underwear drawers under my bed. Schatzi wakes me with a kiss, licking my lips. Engelchen bites my toes or often my heel. I've tried but can't seem to break her of this habit. I will not hurt or imprison her, but I am a diabetic and bites can be/have been dangerous. She never bites my face or hands, and I hug and hold them whenever they seem to want to be held. I've been hospitalized twice with leg infections, and my family is making complaints. Any idea why she bites my toes and hard spots on my feet?

A: I imagine (just my own idea by the way) that our feet are probably the best smell outside of shoes and socks on the body. Anyplace you walked, all the daily smells, and, of course, sweat end up on your feet. All of which make excellent and interesting odors for a ferret. They also move unpredictably, especially under the covers.

Because you won't cage your ferrets at night and you have a health risk, I suggest that you wear slippers. There are some great slipper-socks out there that may help (not with stopping the biting, but with preventing or minimizing the injury).

Your ferrets are also fairly young and may outgrow the behavior as they age, or at least learn to bite less hard.

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Reader Comments
I agree with something bitter tasting. It worked for me by accident. Someone told me to use Vicks Vapor Rub on my feet before going to bed when I was coming down with bad cold. I tried it and sleep very soundly that night. When I awoke, I realized I'd slept so soundly because not a single ferret had attacked my toes during the night! LOL! I used the Vick's for a few nights longer (even after getting over the cold) and the "attack of the toes" habit was broken.
Terry, Charleston, SC
Posted: 1/31/2012 2:58:39 PM
My Ferrets started out doing the same thing when they were young, they just don't realize that we have thinner skin than they do when they play... I cured all of my ferrets of biting, really easy! Just make an Ow! keening sound like they really are hurting you, and then act really sad and whimper like.

Don't act angry or yelp or get too loud, this makes it more like a game, just act pitiful...and maybe sulk a little bit like a ferret would...

After realizing that the game was "stopped" because of mortal injury a ferret will come up to where they bit you and lick your skin as if they're saying "sorry, your skin sure is thin isn't it?"

Do this a couple of times and, unless it's an older ferret that bites because it's been abused and is scared, problem should be solved.

I read about this on-line quite a long time ago, and it sure worked! It is very rare that any of mine
Wendianne, Mission, BC
Posted: 1/19/2012 2:40:11 PM
I discourage my toe biter by putting a nasty tasting substance on my toes. Liniment is good -- so is rubbing alcohol, and there's also Bitter Apple. Anything that non-toxic and NON POISONESS. They get the idea and find other things to chew.
Jules, Arlington Heights, IL
Posted: 12/7/2010 6:50:29 PM
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