Saturday, July 25, 2009

The scoop on ferret litter

Every ferret owner is aware that, when it comes to filling litter pans, there are a myriad of options... how do you know which ones are suitable, and which ones to steer clear from? Luckily we are here to help! Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, hopefully it will give you some indication of what might work for your ferret.

Silica litter - This stuff seems like a great idea - absorbs odors and liquid well, doesn’t track easily and even looks rather nice! It is great for adult cats, but when it comes to ferrets it should be AVOIDED! Why? Because ferrets enjoy playing in and occasionally tasting their litter, and silica is quite toxic. The last thing that you want is for your pet’s toilet to be the cause of his or her death.

Clay litter - Very commonly used for cats and used by many ferret owners. Clay litter is cheap and easy to find but known for its dust so should be avoided if your ferret has respiratory illnesses or open sores. Though there is some concern that clay litter can cause respiratory illnesses in ferrets, unless the litter is being used as the animal’s bedding (which I hope none of our readings would even consider doing), there is not much need to worry. Clay litter absorbs liquids and odors moderately well, is non toxic and does not remain solid is swallowed. It’s odor and liquid absorbing capabilities are moderate and many ferrets enjoy digging in it before using it as a toilet.

Recycled Newspaper pellets - These little pellets are loved by many ferret owners. They are easy to find, far less track able and dusty than clay litter, good at absorbing odors and pretty decent at absorbing liquids. The main drawback of newspaper pellets lies in the fact that they swell rather than disintegrate when wet. This swelling makes it easy to scoop used pellets out of the litter, but also makes them a potentially deadly litter for some ferrets that like to taste their litter; if the ferret tries eating this litter, it will likely result in intestinal blockage.

Corn Cob and Wheat Litters - they look nice, have excellent absorption capabilities, disintegrate if swallowed and some varieties can even be flushed! The downside: this litter is as dusty as clay litter, easily tracked and poor at absorbing odors. I, personally, love the flushable stuff because flushing the litter daily is so easy that the poor odor absorption doesn’t matter much. Unfortunately, my ferrets hate the stuff and, when trying to convince them to try the litter, our miss rate increased by more than 50%.

Wood pellets - such as those used in wood stoves and for pellet barbecues. These pellets are cheap, easy to find (they can be purchased either at pet stores or your local hardware store), good at absorbing liquids, excellent at absorbing odors, powder when swallowed and even look decent. Due to its availability, odor absorption and liquid absorption, this is my preferred type of litter. The downside is that, because these pellets fall apart when they become wet, the litter can be difficult to scoop.

Wood Shavings - no, no, no. These are terrible - dusty, track easily, poor odor and liquid absorption and often treated with chemicals that have reportedly been linked to lung cancer in ferrets. Also many ferrets would much rather play in this stuff than use it as a toilet, making two messes for you to clean up.

Puppy Pads - though some ferret owners have great success using nothing but puppy pads, I find that using them in conjunction with kitty litters increases the odds that the ferrets will use one or the other, and greatly reduces the amount of missing. Currently, of my four ferrets, two prefer the pads and two prefer the litters; having both makes everybody happy!

If you have any types of litter that is not covered here, or any feedback about which type of litter works (or doesn’t work) for you, please feel free to comment or e-mail us!