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Can Ferrets Swim?

Ferrets are a fun and entertaining choice of small pet for many families, with their goofy personalities and mischievous minds. With the heat of the Summer upon us, you may be wondering ‘can ferrets swim?‘ and ‘can they go for a swim with you and your family?‘.

Dr. Jess breaks down the answer and the health concerns to be aware of before your pet’s first swim below:

What is a Ferret?

Ferrets are a small animal that are commonly seen as a pet in some cultures.

They are small furry mammals that are usually black, brown, white, or a combination of those colors.

The common domesticated ferret can be up to 2 feet in length, and weigh up to 4 1/2 pounds. Males are typically larger in size than female ferrets. Ferrets do have a distinct odor at certain times in their life and can mimic their owner’s sleeping habits.

The domesticated pet ferret can live up to 8-10 years depending on genetics and management factors.

Do Ferrets Like Water?

Most ferrets are usually comfortable and have fun around water.

Water can be very entertaining to them and a great exercise for your pet ferret. Water has the potential to enrich little ferret lives and be great entertainment for them.

Do Ferrets Swim?

Most ferrets can swim!

Wild ferrets will sometimes find themselves needing to swim across rivers to find food or escape from predators.

You see, most ferrets are natural swimmers, they do not necessarily need to be taught or trained to swim – it’s an innate action.

You will see them tuck their front paws under their chin, poke their nose out of the water, and paddle with their hind feet, using their tail as a rudder, kind of like an otter swimming and gliding through the water.

Do Ferrets Like to Swim?

Pet ferrets usually love to swim! You just have to give them that freedom, safety, and opportunity to swim.

Place them in a tub of warm water all on their own and make sure that the water is enough for them to play in but shallow enough that their feet can touch the bottom. 

Put your ferret in water and they will likely start swimming all on their own.

Whether your ferret likes to swim or not, you’ll have to find out on your own.

Are Ferrets Good Swimmers?

Most ferrets are good swimmers, but there are always outliers. Some ferrets just aren’t good swimmers.

Some ferrets might hesitate because of an incident involving water in their past or that they do not like or understand the concept of water and swimming, and that’s okay.

Maybe your ferret just isn’t into swimming – no big deal.

Overall however, ferrets are good swimmers that like to swim.

What Kind of Water Can Ferrets Swim in?

There are many types of water that ferrets can swim and play in. Each water type has its own pros and cons.

I will discuss those below so that you can make an informed decision before allowing your ferret to go swimming. We want them safe!

Bathtub:

If your ferret loves swimming and splashing around in water, there are ways you can let them swim and play at home.

You can use a sink or bathtub to let your ferret splash around in water.

You can also purchase a small inflatable kiddie pool that can be inflated when the urge to swim arises.

Fill it up with water and let your ferrets swim little mini laps and splash away!

Swimming Pools:

If your ferret likes to swim, they will definitely enjoy swimming in a swimming pool.

Let your ferret explore the area around the pool if it’s their first visit, keeping them on a leash during exploration.

Your ferret will get in the pool themselves once they are comfortable with their surroundings. Never force them in a pool!

The swimming pool should be a private home pool and not a public pool as you would not know exactly what was in the pool before your ferret, and not all things that could be in a pool are healthy and safe for ferrets.

I will discuss some of the safety issues with swimming in pools a bit farther down – just know that ferrets CAN swim in swimming pools.

Beach/Ocean:

Some pet ferret owners will even take their pet to the ocean or beach.

Ferrets can really like the beach when it’s not terribly hot out. Make sure to take your ferret for a swim when it isn’t too hot.

The sand at the beach has small grains and is cool and moist and many ferrets enjoy digging tunnels in.

Some ferrets also like to chase small waves, but make sure that the waves are not too big.

However- don’t let them go too far or they might get washed away by the larger waves.

That’s why it is very important to keep a leash on your ferret while at the beach.

Once it’s too hot out at the beach, bring your ferret inside and give them a bath to remove the salt and sand from their coats.  

Can Swimming Be Dangerous For Ferrets?

If your ferret enjoys being around water, they may become careless around it at times, which, as you could imagine, could be quite dangerous.

Like mentioned above, ferrets are natural swimmers. However, they shouldn’t be left unsupervised by a body of water for safety reasons.

Ferrets swimming in water too long can get tired and then are prone to exhaustion and drowning.

Ferrets can become quickly exhausted and drown in water that is too high for them to stand in or too long a stretch to swim to safety.

Never let your ferret swim unsupervised or be allowed in an environment with open water features like fountains, aquariums, bird baths, etc.

Dangers in the Bathtub:

The water in the tub can cause harm to your ferret if the temperature is too hot, or can cause harm from bubbles, shampoo, or cleaners used in the bathtub or shower is toxic.

The water level can also be a problem- if it is too high, there may not be a way for your ferret to escape, causing a life-threatening scenario.

Dangers in the Pool:

Be careful of pool chemicals. For instance, do not let your ferret swim in a pool that has water mixed with chlorine, as chlorine may turn your ferret’s skin into an angry itchy mess.

If your ferret drinks the pool water with chemicals in it, instead of being offered a bowl of drinking water while exercising and swimming, they may become ill, not feel well, and this can become a health concern, as some of these chemicals are toxic to ferrets.

Make sure you are watching your pet closely, especially when they are around pools with skimmers. Your little friend has the potential of getting sucked into the skimmer of the pool.

Some pet owners use safety grates that can cover filters and skimmers, making swimming in the pool safer – but continue to monitor your pet while swimming even if using safety grate coverings.

Check the temperature when letting your ferret swim in the pool. Many days that we would LOVE to be spending poolside are quite hot.

If it’s too hot, with the sunlight reflecting from water, the pool itself, as well as the surrounding ground, can burn ferret skin and feet.

Dangers in the Ocean:

There are dangers with your pet swimming in the ocean too. I highly recommend being right next to your leashed ferret the entire time. Large waves are out of the question. Waves too big, rough surf, and strong undertows are all a terrible drowning accident waiting to happen.

Just like the heat danger of swimming in a pool, the ocean can be just as hot if not hotter! Make sure to watch how warm your ferret is getting while swimming at the beach. Don’t forget – the sand can become scorching out too!

Don’t let them swim during the hottest parts of the day and let them have swim/play breaks.

Many times, beaches will have dogs and other animals at the beach and in the water. Make sure that these animals do not get close to your pet ferret.

Make sure that your ferret has access and the opportunity to drink fresh water to entice them not to drink the salt water from the ocean. Drinking salt water can be a major health issue!

Another potential danger is the sand. Many ferrets will love to play and dig in the sand. However, this sand can fling into eyes very easily, causing eye issues if not treated quickly.

Monitor your ferret’s eyes while playing on the beach. If you notice them squinting or scratching at their eyes, contact your local veterinarian for further advice.

Ferret Swimming Safety Measures:

Read these ferret swimming safety recommendations before allowing your ferret to go swimming:

  • Supervise supervise supervise! never let your ferret around water sources without them being monitored at all times!
  • Offer your ferret fresh water before and during their swim. This may deter them from drinking the water in the pool or ocean.
  • Let your pet explore the area around the tub, pool, or ocean. They will get into the water one their own time, when they are ready.
  • If your ferret does not like to swim, don’t force them to swim – it won’t go well.
  • Check the water and air temperature and avoid direct sunlight when swimming outdoors. Choose swim times wisely.  Dawn and dusk are usually the best times to take your ferret swimming.
  • Only allow your ferret to swim in non-chlorinated swimming pools and watch out for filters and skimmers in the pool. Never allow your pet to swim in public swimming pools.
  • Show your ferret the exit points – how to get out of the water safely and easily by themselves (but be ready to help with out f needed!). Make sure that the exit points aren’t in the deep end or a long swim distance away – two things that may lower their confidence to get to safety.
  • Bathe them at the end of a swim with ferret shampoo. Only bathe as-needed because too frequent bathing can cause itchy, dry skin. Try and towel-dry your ferret as much as possible so that they don’t feel the need to dry themselves after a big swim.

Can You Teach a Ferret To Swim?

Your ferret may need guidance and support from you in order to be brave enough to take their first swim. Encouragement may be needed for your ferret to be brave and try this swimming thing out.

Here are a few things you can try for the bashful ferret on their first attempt at swimming:

ferret swimming in kid pool tub

How To Train a Ferret To Swim

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Tips on how to train a ferret to swim!

Materials

  • tub or container or cat litter box

Instructions

    1. Find a shallow bathtub, sink, or tub where your ferret can easily sneak in and out. Some ferret owners will arrange a clean cat-sized litter box for their pet, as it is the perfect ‘first-time’ swimming container for your ferret. Whatever you decide to use, use a tub or bowl that your ferret can easily escape fout of, upping their confidence and their feeling of continued safety. Make sure that you only fill the container with enough water for them to still be able to put their feet down and can still touch the bottom.
    2. Try pointing at the tub while calling to them in a manner that they tend to love. If you have a silly voice or a cute little nickname for your ferret, trying using those to get your ferret to walk up to the "swimming pool" on their own. While calling for your ferret, sit by the tub while holding it and pointing to it. Use a food treat if helpful for the hesitant ferret to get them to come closer and to see that there is nothing to be scared of.
    3. Take this process as slow as possible because you don't want to pressure your ferret and scare them even more. Do not place your ferret in the tub that is filled with water without letting them investigate on their own first.
    4. Once they have come close to the water's edge, let them enter on their own if they choose to. Some people will lower their ferret in the tub while continuing to hold on to them. Their hind legs will be submerged in the water, while keeping their upper half above the water with your hands. If they get nervous, remove them from the water right away. If they do not mind this new sensation, then slowly continue to place the rest of their body into the shallow water, eventually releasing them to explore their water source on their own to play.

Notes

Before allowing your ferret to swim, contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.

  1. Find a shallow bathtub, sink, or tub where your ferret can easily sneak in and out. Some ferret owners will arrange a clean cat-sized litter box for their pet, as it is the perfect ‘first-time’ swimming container for your ferret. Whatever you decide to use, use a tub or bowl that your ferret can easily escape fout of, upping their confidence and their feeling of continued safety. Make sure that you only fill the container with enough water for them to still be able to put their feet down and can still touch the bottom.
  2. Try pointing at the tub while calling to them in a manner that they tend to love. If you have a silly voice or a cute little nickname for your ferret, trying using those to get your ferret to walk up to the “swimming pool” on their own. While calling for your ferret, sit by the tub while holding it and pointing to it. Use a food treat if helpful for the hesitant ferret to get them to come closer and to see that there is nothing to be scared of.
  3. Take this process as slow as possible because you don’t want to pressure your ferret and scare them even more. Do not place your ferret in the tub that is filled with water without letting them investigate on their own first.
  4. Once they have come close to the water’s edge, let them enter on their own if they choose to. Some people will lower their ferret in the tub while continuing to hold on to them. Their hind legs will be submerged in the water, while keeping their upper half above the water with your hands. If they get nervous, remove them from the water right away. If they do not mind this new sensation, then slowly continue to place the rest of their body into the shallow water, eventually releasing them to explore their water source on their own to play.

Summary:

Ferrets can swim naturally. Few ferrets will not like to swim.

There are many choices of water sources for ferrets to swim in, all with pros and cons.

To make sure that your pet ferret is safe during swimming, make sure to consult your veterinarian before their first swim, and educate yourself on the dangers of each swimming option.

Most ferrets will have a blast swimming and splashing around!

veterinarian signature

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