It’s pretty commonly known that ferrets tend to be nippy animals. We’ve all heard the occasional horror story of a ferret bite gone wrong and someone needing stitches or is now missing a small chunk of their hand. So how true are these stories? Can ferret bites be seriously dangerous? And are pet ferrets safe, especially around children?
Why Ferrets Bite
“If you are really scared of a ferret you are not going to like ferrets,” according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC). “Ferrets may growl and bite if they feel threatened or if they are unhappy. Ferrets are highly social animals who rely on a close relationship with their owners, so being left alone can cause a lot of anxiety. But ferrets are generally well mannered with people they know well. Leaving them at home on their own will mean they spend a lot of time alone or in very small rooms, which can make them agitated and stressed.” Ferret bites can be caused by mishandling and improper handling of the animal in some cases.
Can Ferret Bites Be Dangerous?
Ferret bites tend not to be dangerous to adults as long as they clean the wound afterwards. To children with particularly soft skin though, ferret bites can be particularly vicious. Below we have outlined a few of the most horrific attacks:
- A four month old girl from Colorado suffered a series of ferret bites to the face that required 39 sutures.
- A three month old had 40% of both of her ears chewed off by a ferret, requiring plastic surgery.
- A six week old boy in North Carolina was attacked by his family’s ferret while sleeping in his crib. Most of his left ear was eaten.
These terrifying attacks are typically isolated to particularly young children who have recently drank milk. For the most part, adults will need at most a few stitches.
Are Pet Ferrets Safe?
The short answer is yes, but with conditions. There have been a few cases of ferrets biting adults seriously, but the real danger is when there are young children in the home. Just like other pets, ferrets should never be allowed outside of its cage in the same room as a small child. If you’re bitten by a ferret you need to get the wound checked out by a doctor or vet for any unusual signs of an infection or bites that could be dangerous to you.
For the most part, ferrets can be trained to not bite their owners hard and will instead be “nippy”, just like a cat may bite you playfully but they won’t break the skin. If a ferret is raised in a loving home where they don’t have to worry about their next meal and they aren’t stressed, they likely will not cause any damaging bites to their humans. However, ferrets simply cannot be trusted around other animals and children.
What Happens if a Child is Bitten by a Ferret?
There are a number of reasons why ferrets are more dangerous to children. For one, small children are about the size of typical ferret prey, so they may view them as food instead of friends, resulting in a much harsher bite than they would give you. Another reason is children tend to be loud and touch ferrets with much more pressure than they are used to, which can result in them attacking out of defense or stress. Children also have softer skin and will have a worse reaction to a typical ferret bite than an adult might. For these reasons, if a child is bitten by a ferret it is very important to take them to the doctor to have the puncture wound thoroughly cleaned.
What to Do if a Pet is Bitten by a Ferret
Depending on the size of your pet, a single ferret bite can range from lethal to dangerous. If they are not playing, a ferret will attack another animal because it sees them as prey or if the ferret feels threatened. Similar to if your child was bitten by a ferret, it is important to take your pet to the vet to have their wound cleaned as ferret bites can be very dirty and cause deadly infections.
How to Care For a Ferret Bite
It is extremely important to thoroughly clean a ferret bite any time it breaks the skin. There is one case where a woman was bitten by her ferret on the hand, hard enough to break the skin but not enough to need stitches, so she didn’t go to the clinic. Her bite developed an infection so bad they needed to amputate. After cleaning, cover the bite with a band aid or wrap it with gauze so no more debris can get into the wound.
Ferret bites are more likely to occur when the ferret is anxious or hungry. A ferret that has been properly trained and is in a loving home will rarely seriously hurt an adult. As always, it’s always a good idea to use common sense and be extra careful around your ferrets. If you have small children or other pets, exercise extreme caution. Never allow your ferret outside of their cage while there is another small creature in the room.