Scruff N Stuff vs Scruff N Sample
A common approach to hand feeding is called the “scruff and stuff.” This title is an unfortunate and misleading misnomer as you are not literally “stuffing” food into their mouths. Hand feeding should NEVER be a battle as this can cause your ferret to develop a negative association with their food; in fact, the key is to get your ferrets to RELAX as much as possible. The idea is not to force feed the ferret, but to get them to taste the food. Thus we have transitioned from the old adage of “Scruff N Stuff” to a far more accurate/descriptive term – “Scruff N Sample.“
Hold the ferret in your lap, gently grab their scruff with one hand. Keep the majority of the ferret’s weight supported in your lap. Wait for the ferret to yawn and slip the piece of food into their mouth (this works particularly well for introducing raw meat slivers). If they spit it out do not force them to eat it. If they do not yawn, you can gently dab/rub a little of the food on their mouth (lips, teeth/gums) – this works particularly well for purees, or gently slip it in between their teeth if they will let you. Remember the idea is not to stress them out, but to get them to simply taste the food. As soon as you have put the food in their mouth, release them. Remember to provide them with a lot of verbal praise and massagies/pets/scritches throughout the process so they start to realize that this process is a good one and not an unusual form of punishment.
With soupies this works well because you can put a little soup on your finger and rub it on the ferret’s tongue.
When first introducing a new food (e.g. switching to raw) your ferret may act like you poisoned them. They may gag/retch, claw at their mouths, rub their faces on the floor, and shake their heads. Don’t worry, keep it up and they will figure out that the food is not poison. Once they accept the new food, they will start to eat the soup/chunk of food once it is in their mouths. Over time as they get more and more used to the new taste and texture, they will progress towards eating from your hand without the Scruff N Sample technique, then from a spoon and eventually their own bowl.
Hold the ferret in your lap and gently scruff them with one hand. Keep their weight entirely in your lap, the scruff should not lift the front paws. Hold food in front of the ferret (you might want to try Scruff N Sample Method 1 first to get them to taste it). DO NOT shove the ferret’s face into the food or vice versa! This method can help convince stubborn ferrets to eat, and/or to eat ALL of their food instead of a few licks.
The keys with both methods are GENTLE, NO STRESS, and NO FORCING. These can be used to help convince stubborn ferrets to taste new things, but they do not work with all ferrets. If you feel that this stresses your ferret out, stop doing it and try another method. You do not want to break your ferret’s trust in you.
Method 3 – Scruff N’ Sample with a Particularly Reluctant Ferret
Author: Sherry Stone
Turn your ferret over so he is lying along your lower arm. Gently grab his scruff. His hind quarters are tucked between your elbow and your body. Now, when scruffing this way, you MUST make sure the ferret’s upper body is held at an upward angle to prevent aspiration. Even though you are only rubbing a tiny amount on the gums and tongue, it is still enough to cause aspiration if done incorrectly. After giving the ferret a few tastes, turn them around and offer it on your finger. If they still refuse, let them go and try the entire process over again later.
This method is ONLY used if your ferret is like Boris, and twists and turns consistently trying to prevent it from happening.
Before attempting this, use the ABOVE methods first.