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Do Ferrets Like Water? Can They Swim? Facts & Safety Tips

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

ferret about to take an indoor bath

Originally bred for hunting rabbits, today, ferrets are popular pets. They’re sweet, playful, and love to spend time with humans. Curious by nature, these tiny buds like to investigate every single nook and cranny in the area, chasing after rodents and such. Do they like water, though? The answer is yes, most ferrets like it; they’re also pretty good at swimming.

But ultimately, it depends on the pet: some buds are head over heels for rivers and bathtubs, while others prefer to stick to land. So, can you give a ferret a bath? Will that damage its skin or coat? And how do you train, safeguard, and properly care for these little creatures?

Read on to find out!


Do Ferrets Like Being In or Around Water?

In contrast to most cats that hate getting their feet wet, ferrets don’t mind hopping into a river or pool to freshen up (although they rarely go underwater). That doesn’t mean every single ferret out there is ecstatic about water, though. While most boys and girls do, indeed, like it, quite a few ferrets prefer to spend their waking hours walking, running, and climbing.

You could say that swimming is a “bonus feature” for them. So, don’t be surprised if the pet doesn’t seem to be too excited about the pool in your backyard. Instead, encourage it to give it a try. For that, use the ferret’s favorite toys, snacks, and your own voice. If you’re lucky, the little thief will make the first move all on its own.

Are They Naturally Good at Swimming?

Yes, swimming is something these creatures can do instinctively. Now, they aren’t nearly as good at it as Labradors or Spaniels, but ferrets don’t take much time to learn their way around water. If you gently put one in a tub, pool, or sink, it will instantly start paddling to stay afloat. By the way, the swimming technique used by ferrets is called pectoral paddling and involves alternate strokes of the forelimbs.

That said, some ferrets get confused, panic, and even end up drowning. To avoid that, you need to always be there to lend a helping hand.

ferret enjoying an indoor bath
Image Credit: R1cky1uk, Shutterstock

Can These Pets Be Bathed? What You Should Know

Ferrets don’t mind a shower or a bath if it comes from a person they know and trust. And, honestly, they could use one, as these cute little buds tend to smell. It has to do with the natural oils produced by their skin. However, the “aroma” will actually get stronger once you wash the oils away, as the pet’s body will work double time to make more of it.

We recommend using odor-free shampoos specifically made with ferrets in mind. Rinse the pet thoroughly once you’re done and let it dry. Be gentle, don’t use too much shampoo or soap, and stick to a one-bath-per-month schedule. Washing a ferret more often might result in irritated skin. Also, salt (like from an ocean) makes their fur dry. This is true for both hobs and jills (males and females).

Where Should the Ferret Swim?

If your ferret is new to swimming (maybe you adopted it at a young age and never took it swimming), start slow. Tubs, sinks, and relatively small pools are the way to go here. In the wilderness, ferrets are often caught crossing ponds, water streams, and shallow rivers. Even so, these miniature pals are NOT strong enough to cross long distances over water.

It’s also important to mention that compared to rivers, the water in lakes is calmer, which is exactly what you want for a ferret. Rivers can work, too, but only when the water is nice and calm. Look for a spot where the water is shallow (but not muddy) and the ferret won’t have a hard time getting out of the river. As for seas and oceans, they are a bad choice, as the pet can literally be swept away.

Can You Train a Ferret to Be a Better Swimmer?

Yes, with the right approach, you can turn a pet ferret into a more capable, confident paddler. After all, ferrets are incredibly curious and won’t mind learning something new:

  • First, find a suitable body of water. It can be a sink, bathtub, bucket, or pot that the swimmer can easily get out of.
  • Once you set your eyes on a proper “vessel”, fill it up to about 50–70% so that the pet can touch the bottom.
  • Make sure the temperature is comfortable (60–80°F); otherwise, the rabbit hunter won’t step foot in it.
  • Now get the bud to enter the water. Toys and snacks will help with that. Or try calling it from the other side.
  • No luck yet? Then gently pick up the ferret and gently put one of its legs into the water and see how it reacts.
  • Turn this into a fun game, don’t get the pet stressed. Also, stay positive and use positive reinforcement.
  • Once the little beast gets used to the pot/bucket and starts swimming, consider moving it to a bigger container.
  • Don’t let the ferret go too deep into the water (in a river or lake) to avoid dangerous underwater animals.
  • Start the training early. In the wilderness, ferrets learn from their parents. In captivity, it’s up to you to teach them!

How Do You Keep This Pet Safe? A Quick Guide

Ferrets are vigorous, yet tiny creatures and rely heavily on their owners to keep them from harm’s way.

Here’s how you can do that:
  • Never let it out of your sight. No matter how good of a swimmer the ferret is, never leave it alone in a body of water. Chances are that the pet will get anxious or stressed when you abandon it. Remember: even the most experienced ferret can end up hurting itself or drowning at the bottom of a tub, pool, or river!
  • Don’t forget to pack a leash. Always use a leash when taking the pet outside for a swim. We’re talking about a lake or a river. This is a safety measure: With the other end of the leash in your hands, the pet will always be within reach. Without it, the ferret might swim a bit too far, making it harder to save it, if need be.
  • Pick a sturdy, yet comfy harness. Never look for a cheap harness; instead, buy one that gives you plenty of control over the ferret yet doesn’t put any stress/pressure on its body. Also, see that it’s strong enough and won’t wear or tear (or let the pet escape) but at the same time isn’t very heavy to turn into a burden.
  • Set a comfortable temperature. If you want the ferret to swim in a tub or a pool, make sure the water isn’t too hot or too warm. As mentioned, the ideal water temperature for these little troublemakers is around 70 degrees F. You can, of course, go a little lower or higher than that, but do try to keep the temp constant.
  • Make sure the water is safe. We’re talking about chemicals like chlorine and fluoride. Ferrets are sensitive to synthesized compounds that are commonly used in pool cleaning products. The allergic reaction will either make the skin overly dry or make the pet ill. Also, see that the pool doesn’t have a skimmer, as it might get stuck in it.
  • Create easy-to-access exit points. Most pet parents prefer to remove domestic ferrets from a tub with their own two hands, and that’s totally fine. But it would be best to create exit points instead and let the pet use them at its own will. This might take a bit of training and trial and error, though.
  • Keep the tiny pet hydrated. Swimming is not a walk in the park: it tends to be rather tiresome. So, keep a bottle (or, rather, bowl) of water close and have the ferret drink from it right before and after each swimming session. Dehydration can be an issue for these creatures.
  • Don’t push the little guy! Last, but not least, instead of pushing it, give the ferret carte blanche on swimming. This is especially true for the very first session when the pet is a bit confused and maybe even scared. Swimming should be a fun activity, not a test or a challenge.



Ferrets are charming, inquisitive creatures. They like to stay busy, explore their surroundings, and maybe steal a thing or two. More importantly, domestic ferrets like hanging out in small bathtubs and pools to unwind and relax. Swimming also allows them to burn off excess energy. Bathing is another routine that most ferrets enjoy, but only if you do it right.

As the owners, we are responsible for training our pet ferrets and keeping them safe while they’re enjoying their “splashy time”. That includes using a lash, controlling the water temps, creating exit points, and using the right kind of shampoo. So, follow our safety tips, be patient, and take care of that zippy little friend of yours!

Featured Image Credit: Irina Vasilevskaia, Shutterstock

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