In this article, it’s really necessary to tackle the litter topic for litter box trained ferrets, as there are so many varieties available as well as name brands; all claiming to be the “best” with most label claims that are misleading and/or just are not true. I am constantly being asked to provide advice on which litter works best and which one I recommend or use, and in 23 years of keeping ferrets, trust that I’ve seen and tried them all, and I am very aware that each ferret owner has his/her preference and budget.
It goes without saying that there are a few things to consider when considering a litter for your ferret(s), such as cost, their composition (i.e., clay vs. corn cob), scoopable versus non-scoopable, absorbancy, ease of cleaning up, odor control (despite label claims), and most importantly, the ferret’s health (i.e., respiratory).
First let’s categorize the litters into individual groups:
Wood Stove Pellets
Non-Scoop Dried Clay
Scoopable (Clay and Otherwise)
Corncob or other Plant and Wood Materials
(*** NEVER use cedar products around ferrets ***)
It’s fairly safe to say that most caregivers prefer a litter that is scoopable and no matter which of these general products you decide is best for you, being virtually dust-free and perfume free is mandatory for ferret health. Though all litter will have anywhere from a large amounts of dust to very minimal. However, the absorbency is where odor control comes into the equation, not perfumes or scents.
One of the first things you may very quickly learn is that ferrets prefer to use the bathroom in corners. They have an instinctual desire to face away from their place of relief. This is genetically instilled and most mustelids (polecat family members) do this. Why? Larger prey animals, of course, especially large birds of prey that could swoop down, using their large talons, scoop up the fairly small carnivore and carry it away for its next meal. So to avoid this, the mustelid won’t get caught with his pants down (no pun intended).
Though a ferret is litter box trained, he/she will always face outward and almost always use the corner of the litter box, but be that at as it may be, ferrets will never do their business any other way.
So, we as caregivers, who have to keep the litter box cleaned out, deserve to have convenience too, right? Convenience to the caregiver is important, but never at the expense of the ferret. Ferrets are very sensitive to smells and hence are very susceptible to dust caused by a litter, and especially those that are scented. So, human caregiver convenience is only a small part. The respiratory system of the ferret is of the utmost concern when choosing a litter.
To share a few experiences I’ve had over the years, keeping into consideration that every owner has a budget and a preference. Once I totally blew money on the clumpable, also known as scoopable, clay litter. Big mistake for a few reasons. The first, despite its claim to be 99% dust-free, it wasn’t. Secondly, it did nothing for odor control, particularly regarding the strong ammonia smell from the urine deposits, and third, it got into nostrils, mouth, stuck to eyes, fur, hind parts, and paw pads, resulting in a litter trail after it was used. Also, there was a significant increase in sneezing and coughing (respiratory) – just because you can’t see the airborne dust particles, does not mean they aren’t there. Ask yourself, what happens when dried clay gets wet? It turns into a sort of low-grade cement.
Additionally, I once tried to “go green” and spent quite a bit of money on a natural product called, “Swheat”.
Not only was it, unabsorbant, but it’s scent was equally as bad as that of the ferret’s waste. Worst of all, it did not clump, making removal close to impossible. Don’t ever rely on a whim or trial and error, or take the pet store’s advice, rather explain the list of things you seek in a convenient and healthy litter to your veterinarian and see what he/she suggests. Like the dry commercial pet food industry, the litter market is a multi-billion dollar industry that has miles to go in meeting consumer needs as well as label claims.
So, finally to answer that repeatedly asked question. Which litter do I use for my four ferrets. In no way is this an endorsement, but it is called Pro Sense “Fresh Results”. It is carried at Pet Smart and many other pet stores, as well as online at Amazon at (http://smile.amazon.com/Pro-Sense-Results-Crystal-Silica-8-Pound/dp/B00MR4HCG2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1421234106&sr=8-4&keywords=fresh+results+cat+litter).
It is a silica crystal litter that boasts a scent-free product that is also 99.9% dust-free, it is non-toxic and is great controlling odors. The odor control is handled simply by dehydration, aided by dehydrating silica crystals in the litter. Upon the first time using this product, which was by recommendation from my veterinarian, I noticed that I could scoop litter boxes once per day vice up to three and four times a day as I was doing previously. This litter does not stick to the pads of the ferret’s paws, so when he/she climbs out of the litter box, there is no excess litter on the floor of the cage or on your carpet. Also, I immediately noticed that when scooping the litter box, the only matter being scooped was defecation. No more ammonia smell!
With Kind Regards,
Brian K. Carr