Why Won't My Ferret Use The Litter Box Reliably?

There are many reasons why a ferret doesn't use the litter box reliably, but don't presume his "accidents" have anything to do with malicious behavior. Reasons for inconsistently using a litter box have to do with the natural tendencies of ferrets, the litter box training that your ferret has received, and to how well you have reinforced that training. Ferrets can also be finicky about the cleanliness and even the size of their litter boxes. The most common reasons your ferret may not using his litter box reliably are:

  • The litter box is not the right size for your ferret. Your ferret my reject an improperly sized litter box, preferring to relieve himself elsewhere. Measure the size of your ferret, then check the dimensions of the litter box; it could be the cause of his unreliable usage.
  • The litter box isn't the right shape for your ferret. If your box doesn't have a low side for easy backing in (a normal ferret behavior), then your pet may not want to use the litter box. If all the sides are too low, then your ferret may accidentally relieve himself over the side, next to the box.
  • The litter is not to your ferret's liking. Certain kinds of litter, like the clumping type (which gets stuck on your ferret's rear end), and dust-producing litter (which can get in your ferret's nose and eyes), may make him avoid the litter box. Use the type of litter specifically available for ferrets; it's made of wood pellets that don't clump or raise dust.
  • The litter box is too far away. Ferrets have short digestive tracts and they can't "hold" their waste for very long. When they have to relieve themselves, they need to do so almost instantly. If your ferret is out of his cage when he has to go, and the nearest litter box is at the other end of the house, he may just use the nearest corner instead. Your ferret will not use the litter box if it's not conveniently available, so it's best to put a litter box in each of the rooms that your ferret is allowed to explore.
  • The litter box is dirty. If the litter box hasn't been cleaned for some time, your ferret may not want to use it anymore. Depending on how many ferrets are using the boxes, clean the litter boxes as often as necessary to encourage your ferrets to use them.
  • He doesn't like a communal box. Another reason your ferret will not want to use his litter box anymore is if another pet has used it. For your ferret's benefit and yours, ensure that your ferret has exclusive use of his litter box.
  • Your ferret has learned to use other places to relieve himself. A ferret that has had the run of your home for a while may get in the habit of using certain areas, like under a bed or in a closet, rather than the litter box to relieve himself. Stop your ferret from using other areas as soon as possible. Thoroughly clean the area with a biological cleaner containing enzymes; once an area has started to smell of waste, your ferret will continue to use that area. When the area is thoroughly clean, place pieces of your ferret's bedding there. Your ferret will be discouraged from using a place as a litter box if it smells like his bed.
Anytime that your ferret has an accident, reinforce litter box training by restricting his movement to a smaller area immediately around his litter box, and reward him for using the box appropriately. Gradually, over the course of a week or two, expand his range outward once he is using the box again reliably.