Ferrets - Housing

By Rick Axelson, DVM

What type of cage does my ferret require?

Due to their well-deserved reputation as escape artists, ferrets should be housed in a cage that can be securely closed and/or locked. The cage should be as large as you can afford; a suggested minimum size might be 24" x 24" x 18" high (60 x 60 x 45 cm). The cage should be well ventilated. Cage flooring can be solid or wire. Wooden flooring should be avoided as it will become contaminated with urine and feces, and is impossible to thoroughly clean and disinfect.

"Ferrets should not be continuously confined to their cage."

Ferrets should not be continuously confined to their cage. They should be let out at least 2-3 hours a day, but the more the better. They are intelligent, curious and socially interactive animals. They need a safe, "ferret proof", supervised play area or room that they can explore and investigate. This area should contain various objects to occupy them such as boxes, paper bags, blankets, plastic tubes or PCV piping; things to climb into, over, on top of and under.

What is meant by \"ferret proofing\"?

Due to their curious nature, ferrets are great escape artists. All holes, no matter how small, leading to inaccessible areas MUST be blocked off to prevent escape or injury. If the ferret can put his head into it, the body will fit too. They will burrow into the foam of couches, chairs, and mattresses, and climb into the back of stereo speakers, closets, and drawers.

"If the ferret can put his head into it, the body will fit too."

These areas should be blocked off or sealed off with thin plywood or hardware cloth. Ferrets love to chew, so ALL FOAM PLASTIC and RUBBER objects MUST be kept out of harm's way, including such as shoe inserts, ear plugs, kid toys, pet toys, erasers, rubber bands, balloons, speaker foam, headphone foam, swim goggle liners, etc. If a ferret swallows one of these objects, it can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction (blockage) and can lead to an expensive surgery or perhaps cause its death.

Does my ferret need bedding in his cage?

Towels, blankets or old T-shirts can be used for bedding. Woodchips can prove to be very messy and for this reason are not recommended.

ferrets-housing-1What else do I need in the cage?

Food and water bowls are often left in the ferret's cage. Since ferrets are naturally playful, they often will tip over or spill their food and water dishes. You might try a heavy ceramic crock (safe for eating and drinking) to prevent this, or use a holder for the food and water bowls that easily attaches and latches to the cage. Sipper bottles can also be useful.

Some owners construct a multi-level "apartment" for their pets; this can be done with wood or cardboard, as long as the ferrets don't chew and swallow the "flooring".

Ferrets play hard and sleep hard. They will sleep 12-18 hours a day. A dark, enclosed sleep area is critical. They will sleep in an old T-shirt, towel, blanket, cloth bag or a commercial product like a ferret hammock or a ferret tent. The occasional ferret will eat this cloth bedding and if you observe your ferret chewing on its bedding, it MUST be removed.

Toys that are safe for ferrets may include cloth pet toys or baby toys, hard plastic or metal toys, ping-pong balls, golf balls, cardboard boxes or paper bags. They love to crawl through things like large PCV pipe and cardboard mailing tubes.

"Ferrets can be trained to use a litter box with a pelleted litter."

Ferrets can be trained to use a litter box with a pelleted litter. Ferrets like to back into a corner to eliminate, so the litter box should be in a corner in the cage and have reasonably high walls. Ferrets defecate frequently, so a litter box should also be placed in its play room.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Ferrets are very sensitive to heat stroke. It is critical to keep their environmental temperature at or below 80 o F (27 o C) and make sure their "house" is well ventilated.

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