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How to Hold a Ferret Correctly (with Pictures & Video)

Nicole Cosgrove

Ferrets are unique creatures, and caring for a ferret is unlike caring for other common household pets. Even holding a ferret is different from holding other animals, such as dogs or cats, due to the ferret’s interesting body structure. These creatures are long and thin, and you must provide support for their bodies or risk causing damage to the ferret.

If you’re new to ferrets, then learning to handle one can actually be a bit daunting. You’re a bit nervous, and you certainly don’t want to hurt it by accident. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place, because this article is going to walk you through the process of properly holding your ferret, step by step. By the end, you’ll feel confident picking up and holding your ferret with no qualms or hesitation.

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Ferrets Are Predators, Not Prey

ferret outdoors_GuilleNeT, Pixabay
Image Credit: GuilleNeT, Pixabay

Ferrets, unlike many small and furry pets such as rabbits or gerbils, are predators. They’re carnivorous animals that survive by hunting, killing, and eating other animals. While your ferret certainly doesn’t view you as food, you still need to be aware of its proclivity to attack things it perceives as potential food. For this reason, it’s vital that you wash your hands thoroughly every time before you handle your ferret. Scents on your hands could trigger your ferret’s instincts to attack, and the last thing you want is a ferret bite complicating your relationship with your pet.

Don’t Stretch Your Ferret Back

The key when holding your ferret is to avoid stretching its back. Ferrets are rather long creatures for their overall size. Their backs are elongated, and if the back stretches out while you’re holding your ferret, it will be uncomfortable for your pet at the least, and potentially harmful at the worst. As a general rule, make sure that whenever you’re holding your ferret, you keep it supported in such a way that its back won’t stretch out.

ferret_amayaeguizabal, Pixabay
Image Credit: amayaeguizabal, Pixabay

Keep The Chest Supported

Avoiding your ferret’s back becoming stretched is one major component of holding your ferret properly; the other is supporting the chest. Whenever holding your ferret, you want to keep its chest supported. You can do this by placing a hand under the chest or around the back of the neck with your fingers wrapping to provide support under the chest.

Two Hands At All Times

If you want your ferret to be comfortable and safe when you’re holding it, then always use two hands. When holding your ferret with just one hand, you won’t be able to provide sufficient support and prevent its back from stretching out, which can result in discomfort or pain for your furry ferret friend.

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The Proper Way To Hold a Ferret

Now that you understand the basic principles and rules of properly holding a ferret, let’s walk through the steps of picking up and holding your ferret in a safe and comfortable manner. There are other ways to hold a ferret, but this is the safest, easiest, and most comfortable method for both you and your pet.

1. Make Sure Your Hands Are Clean

hand washing_Pezibear_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay

Before you pick up your ferret, go wash your hands! You need to remove any odors that might be lingering on your skin, even if you can’t smell them. Remember, your ferret’s sense of smell is much more refined than yours is, so it might be able to pick up scents that are too faint for your olfactory system. You don’t want to accidentally trigger your ferret’s prey drive and be on the receiving end of a nasty bite.


2. Grasp Your Ferret Under The Chest

holding ferret_Nadezhda Manakhova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nadezhda Manakhova, Shutterstock

Scoop the fingers of one hand underneath your ferret’s chest. Your fingers can go around the animal’s legs, allowing you to support its upper and lower chest with one hand. Wrap your fingers around with a firm but gentle hold so that your fingertips are close to meeting on your ferret’s back.


3. Scoop Up The Ferret’s Backside

holding ferret II_Mitskevich Uladzimir_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Mitskevich Uladzimir, Shutterstock

Your other hand will be used to support your ferret’s back end. Scoop up your ferret’s butt, letting its back curl underneath its chest with your hand underneath it, as if your ferret were sitting in an S-shape on your hand. You should now have one hand supporting your ferret’s chest with the other hand beneath supporting its butt.


4. Maintain Support

holding ferret III_Peryn22_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Peryn22, Shutterstock

Ensure that you maintain adequate support of your ferret’s chest and rear-end the entire time you’re holding it. Don’t start getting lazy and allow the back end to stretch out. You want to make sure your ferret remains comfortable while you hold it, which will make it easier for you to keep holding your ferret in the future. One bad experience can make things very difficult for both of you moving forward.


5. Remain Calm, Firm, and Gentle

While holding your ferret, you must keep a firm grasp on it. You certainly don’t want your ferret to slip from your grasp or wriggle itself free. At the same time, you don’t want such a tight grip that you’re making your ferret uncomfortable. This can cause it to wriggle even more, making it even harder for you to hold it, so you squeeze still tighter, creating a negative feedback loop that keeps building until something bad happens. Instead, make sure your grip is gentle, but snug.

ferret_Alexandra Koval_Shutterstock
Image credit: Alexandra Koval, Shutterstock

You must also be aware of your own feelings while holding your ferret. If you become excited or emotional in any way, your ferret will likely pick up on the changes in your demeanor, which will probably cause a change in your ferret’s behavior as well. You might not realize that your pulse has quickened and your grip has tightened, but your ferret definitely noticed. Try your best to remain calm and controlled any time you’re handling your ferret. It will make your ferret more comfortable, reducing the chance of possible accidents or miscommunications between you and your ferret.

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Conclusion

Because of the interesting way a ferret’s body is shaped, you can’t just pick it up like you would a cat, dog, or even a rabbit. You must take care to provide support for your ferret’s back and chest. Don’t allow its back to stretch out, as this could be uncomfortable or even painful for your ferret. Also, make sure to keep a firm grip so your ferret doesn’t fall, but remain gentle so you don’t hurt or excite your pet. It sounds like a lot, but after you get used to holding your ferret, all of this will become second nature and you’ll no longer have to think about it so hard. It will just come naturally!


Featured Image Credit: Daniel Steinke, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.