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Why Is My Ferret Shaking? Should I Do Something?

ferret outdoors_GuilleNeT, Pixabay

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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Ferrets are unique pets. Raising and caring for a ferret is a whole different ball game compared to keeping a pet dog or cat. That’s not to say they can’t make great pets—they absolutely can! But you have to be aware of some major differences between raising ferrets and other pets.

When you’re caring for a dog or cat, the behaviors you can expect are pretty normal. Ferrets, on the other hand, have some decidedly strange behaviors. If you’re new to ferret care, some of these behaviors might be surprising, off-putting, or even worrisome to you.

One common behavior that people notice in their ferrets is shaking. When you see your ferret shaking and trembling, it can immediately cause worry and fear. Is there something wrong with your ferret? Is it having a seizure? Most likely, neither of these is the case. In most circumstances, shaking is perfectly normal behavior for your ferret to exhibit. In fact, there are many different reasons why your ferret might shake that are innocuous and no reason for concern.

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Times & Reasons Why Your Ferret Might Shake

Your ferret could be shaking for many different reasons, most of which are harmless. You’ll probably see your ferret shaking in each of the following scenarios. These are all healthy and normal times for a ferret to shake or tremble, so if your ferret is doing so around these times, you have no reason to worry.

Your Ferret is Excited

Ferrets can harbor an awful lot of excitement in their little bodies! When that happens, it’s all your ferret can do to contain it, and the extra energy comes out in the form of excited shaking!

After Eating

It’s very common to see ferrets shaking during and after eating. This is because a ferret’s metabolic rate increases during eating. A short while after finishing the meal, your ferret’s shaking should cease.

During and After Sleep

Ferrets actually burn more energy during sleep than when they’re awake! As such, their metabolisms are ramped up during sleep, which can cause them to shake. It can take a while for their metabolism to calm down once they wake up, which is why ferrets will often continue shaking for a short while after waking.

ferret eating_Xseon_shutterstock
Image Credit: Xseon, Shutterstock

Do Ferrets Shake from Cold?

Ferrets are furry and well-equipped for cold temperatures. Truthfully, they’re unhappy once the temperature rises above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, people often misinterpret their ferret’s shaking as shivering. Ferrets are rarely ever cold, so the chances of your ferret shivering from the cold are very slim unless it’s absolutely freezing in your home.

Should You Do Something About Your Ferret’s Shaking?

Most of the reasons why your ferret could be shaking are no cause for concern. If your ferret is shaking under the normal conditions we’ve just covered, then you don’t need to do anything about it. This behavior is completely normal and doesn’t signify any sort of health concern.

That said, ferrets will also shake sometimes when they’re stressed or nervous. Different from shaking with excitement, nervous and stressed ferrets can be calmed down with a little attention and care. While there are no immediate health risks associated with your ferret shaking from nervousness, it’s always best to keep your ferret’s life as stress-free as possible.

Ways To Calm Your Ferret

ferret_Daniel Steinke_Pixabay
Image Credit: Daniel Steinke, Pixabay

If you think your ferret is shaking because of stress or nervousness, then you might want to try the following three methods to calm it down.

Play Music

Humans aren’t the only creatures that enjoy music—your ferret does too! If you play a soothing song, it can help to calm your ferret down when it’s feeling anxious. On the other hand, if you think your ferret needs a pick-me-up, try playing something that’s more upbeat with a positive feeling.

Desensitization

Try to identify any changes in the environment causing your ferret to feel nervous or stressed. If you can recognize the cause of it getting stressed, for example, a novel noise or the fact you have brought the ferret to a completely new area, stop the noises or take the animal back to the place where it feels safe. Make any necessary changes you can identify to help your ferret to calm down and stop shaking from stress.

Once the ferret has calmed down for some time, you can actually start some training to get them used to a new area or the noise. You do this by exposing the ferret to those scary new places or noises during very short periods of time and rewarding your ferret with a species-appropriate treat only if it is calm.It is very important to give treats to your ferret only when it is calm. Giving treats to your ferret when it is anxious or nervous will only increase the likelihood of it becoming more anxious. You can gradually increase the time of exposure to a scary noise or the distance between its safe area and a new space. Over time your ferret will learn that there is nothing to stress about, but this is a gradual process.

A few drops of salmon oil or pieces of an egg are yummy treats that your ferret will appreciate. Remember, ferrets are obligate carnivores, so avoid giving your ferret treats or diets high in carbohydrates, as this could have the opposite effect and make your ferret restless.

Regularly consuming carbohydrates is not natural for ferrets and brings them negative consequences, such as the development of pancreatic tumors. An adequate diet is the best way to keep your ferret healthy and calm.

Be Affectionate

Ferrets are some of the most affectionate pets you can keep. They love attention, and a bit of care and love from you might be all your ferret needs to calm down and get rid of that anxious energy. Try petting your ferret while it lays with you. Ferrets also seem to enjoy a relaxing, slow rock from side to side. Don’t be afraid to pick your ferret up and give it some love when you think it’s shaking from stress or nervousness.

When Should Your Ferret’s Shaking Worry You?

 ferret_Couperfield, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Couperfield, Shutterstock

There are very few times when your ferret’s shaking should be a worry. But if your ferret’s shaking is accompanied by other worrisome behaviors, such as obvious sickness, vomiting, lethargy, or other major symptoms, please bring your ferret to the vet. While ferrets are generally healthy, some diseases, such as insulinoma, can result in seizures that might appear like shaking. So, if your ferret is also displaying weakness and nausea along with its shaking, call your veterinarian.

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Other Strange Ferret Behaviors

ferret lying down_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

Shaking is far from the only strange behavior that ferrets display. Ferrets are unique pets, and keeping them comes with some interesting experiences. Here are some other behaviors you’ll see when caring for a ferret that might seem strange at first.

Sleeping in Piles

If you have multiple ferrets, you probably have a bed for each. Despite this, you’ll likely notice that all of your ferrets pile up in one bed. This is for comfort and warmth. Even though you may worry about the bottom ferret, they won’t suffocate! This is just how ferrets prefer to sleep.

Play Dead

You’ve heard of playing possum, but how about playing ferret? Well, ferrets don’t play dead the same way a possum does, but when they sleep, ferrets sleep so soundly that you might think they’re dead! Even if you shake them and pinch them, your ferret probably won’t wake up! So, don’t panic if your ferret appears to be dead—it’s probably just sleeping.

Running into Things

Ever notice that your ferrets seem to burst out of the cage with an insane amount of energy and zero care when you open the door? They’re not even trying to avoid running into the walls and furniture. Don’t worry, your ferret isn’t blind. They do have pretty bad eyesight, but it’s no cause for concern. Ferrets have giant bursts of energy, and when they run into a bunch of things after coming out of their cage, it’s actually a sign of good health. Plus, ferrets have an incredibly high pain tolerance and likely don’t even notice that they’re running into everything!

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Is Shaking Normal for Ferrets? Should I do Something About it?

When you first start caring for ferrets, you might be surprised or even worried to see them shaking. While a human baby shaking is usually a sign that something needs attention, the same is not the case for a ferret. Ferrets shake for perfectly normal reasons, such as excitement, nervousness, during and after eating, during and after sleep, and other times as well. Unless your ferret’s shaking is accompanied by major signs of sickness like weakness, lethargy, and nausea, there’s no reason for you to be concerned.


Featured Image Credit: GuilleNeT, Pixabay

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