Choosing Litter for Your Ferret
Author: Lindsey Breed Tootle
Litter needs to be chosen with 2 things in mind:
Safety for the ferret. When choosing a litter for your ferret, it is recommended to use litter made specifically for ferrets. While there are litters designed for cats, these are not always the best options for a ferret. The dust from the litter can cause respiratory illness. [EDITOR’S NOTE: there are now many new cat litters that can be safely used in ferrets. Check out our Litter Chart!]
- Clay litter, when wet, gets thick and cement-like, and will stick to your ferret’s paws, nose and eyes when they are trying to find the best place to “go”. Ferrets “drag/scoot” to clean their bottoms after pooping. Clay can become stuck in a scooting ferret’s rectum and expand, potentially blocking it up They can also potentially cause a fatal blockage if some of it should be ingested, and it’s also dusty and hard on a ferret’s sensitive respiratory system.
- Wood shavings (pine or cedar) are not a safe choice because they contain “essential oils” (aromatic hydrocarbons, phenol). Cedar, pine and other wood shavings have not been processed in a way to remove the oil that occurs naturally in all wood. These oils release vapors, which then can cause respiratory damage and dramatic changes in liver enzymes.
- Silica-based (pearl, beads, flakes or gel) litters, can also cause serious damage if ingested and damage to mucous membranes. Do not use any of these products.
Odor Control: Recycled paper compressed into pellets and wood pellets are the most absorbent, which means they have the best odor control. Most experienced ferret owners and breeders have found that pelleted litters are the best choice. The pellets are heavy enough to remain in the litter pan when the ferret steps out. They contain much less dust than other litter types, and they are highly absorbent and easily scooped. You will find that this is probably the cheapest litter to buy.
EDITOR’S ADDITION – SAFE SCOOPABLE LITTERS:
There are now many safe scoopable litters for ferrets. These litters reduce the waste of pellet litter, which required tossing a significant amount of good litter with the bad, which saves money in the long run, and the scoopable litters are dramatically better at odor control than pellet litter. As a bonus, many of these are flushable, which saves smelly litter waste in the garbage bin! Wheat or Corn based scoopable litters can be safely used in ferrets. The Multi-Cat versions tend to do best at odor control, and clump better for easier cleaning. Be aware of Natural Litters that are scented, as the added fragrances are not safe for ferrets.
Ferrets do not cover their stool like cats, so only a thin layer (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) of litter is needed. If more is put in, many ferrets will dig it out. If your ferret habitually digs litter out of the box, try putting less in. You can also lay a folded section of newspaper over the thin layer of pellets. The pellets will soak up the urine that the newspaper does not catch/soak up and the newspaper catches the poop. You simply change the newspaper daily, and then change out the pellets every 5 to 7 days, and rinse out the litter box.
Common sense dictates that the more frequently the litter box is cleaned, the less noticeable the odor will be. Consideration must be given to the number of ferrets using the litter pan to decide how often to clean it. If not done frequently enough, many ferrets will simply stop using the litter box as a form of protest.