Ferrets in residence
When it comes to designing the perfect animal pad, where do you start? The first thing to think about is how to create a home that will enable the residents to act naturally and just do what they like to do. With ferrets, you’ll need to cover off a whole mixture of activities and behaviours:
- When they’re awake, ferrets are bundles of energy who love to run, climb, dig, burrow, forage, groom, hide and play
- They’re clever and inquisitive and need lots of things to explore to keep their minds stimulated
- They’ll chew pretty much anything they can get their paws on
- They like making a mess with their food
- They need to live in a constant temperature – not too hot, not too cold
- They like to sleep. A lot
So, once you’ve established the basics, it’s time to get to work on a ferrety des res.
Outdoor enclosures that combine a well-ventilated and well-insulated indoor section with attached run offers your ferrets constant access to lots of space and activities. This arrangement should also maintain a natural ferret-friendly temperature of 15-21°C all year-round (although you may want to add extra insulation during the coldest days of winter).
Animal charity Wood Green has a great solution for creating the perfect ferret home:
- The ideal ferret enclosure is a converted garden shed with an aviary attached. The area will need to be sturdily built with welded mesh (don’t use chicken wire as it’s too weak and easy for your ferrets to damage and escape from) and a solid floor of either concrete or wood (or your ferrets will dig their way out). This should be lined with a carpet or vinyl covering to prevent ‘pododermatitis’ – swollen feet and sores on the bottom of their paws – a condition caused by too much time on mesh flooring.
- The minimum outdoor enclosure size for a pair of ferrets is 2.4 metres long x 2 metres wide x 2 metres high (8 ft long x 6 ft wide x 6 ft high).
- Ensure your set-up has a double-door system, stable door or a two-feet high barrier in front of the entrance to prevent quicksilver escapees rushing out when you open the door. Sheds and runs will need secure bolts placed on the doors, not swivel latches. Predators and young children can easily open swivel latches or flimsy bolts.
DID YOU KNOW?
Ferrets are crepuscular, which means they’re naturally active at dawn and dusk.
Room for some little ones?
Ferrets can also be housed happily indoors. Choose an extra-large 'explorer' cage ideally placed in a separate room of your house. This area will need to be thoroughly ferret-proofed to ensure that it’s free from electric cables and plug sockets, poisonous plants and gaps out of windows or into walls. Once safe, your mischievous mustelids can enjoy a daily burst of supervised free-range time with you.
- For lots of great ferret housing ideas and advice, visit Fairoak Ferrets
The inside of your ferrets’ home needs to combine:
- Spacious areas for zooming around in
- Safe platforms of different heights to climb onto
- Rope bridges to tackle
- Tunnels and drainpipes to disappear down
- A digging box to get stuck in to (try a large storage box full of dry rice or soil)
- A selection of sturdy toys to play with
Ferrets are messy with food and water so creating a splash-proof corner with some acrylic bathroom splashbacks will make cleaning up easier, along with newspaper under their bowls to soak up spillages. You can also encourage your ferret friends to explore and forage by scattering some of their daily portion of nuggets around their accommodation for them to seek out.
These clever little carnivores are generally very clean and you can train them to use a litter tray – so you don’t need to line their enclosure with any sawdust or bedding. Ferrets like to go to the toilet in one area, called a ‘latrine’. Once you’ve established the spot they’ve selected, put a litter tray there as this will encourage them to use it. Ferret litter trays are normally triangular, so they fit snugly into a corner. They have two high sides to keep everything inside. Fill the tray with a wood pellet litter – never use clumping cat litter. A daily spot clean, a weekly wash of bedding and hammocks and a monthly deep clean with a pet safe cleaner will keep everything fresh and hygienic.
Clear out any uneaten food so it doesn’t go mouldy. Ferrets often hide leftovers away in corners or inside tunnels, so check everywhere for any sneaky stashes.
And so, to sleep...
After a mad burst of activity, some cosy nooks to snooze in will be required – ferrets rest and sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Provide a selection of napping spots such as soft hammocks, a nesting box filled with dust-free bedding (don’t use shredded paper or straw) and some fleecy blankets – ferrets love to make nests in them. Giving a range of options enables your ferrets to enjoy a solo siesta or a cuddle with a friend. Sweet dreams!
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