Why do ferrets love to tunnel? Because they can! Thanks to their short, strong limbs and slender, elongated body, they can squeeze through places you never thought possible.
Ferrets consider a hole of any size as something that just has to be investigated. What’s more, a ferret with exploring on their mind can be an escape artist to be reckoned with – as the story of Caesar the disappearing ferret reveals...
When Nina Hutton and her family moved from Bristol to a new home in the Somerset countryside, it meant that Caesar, an indoor albino ferret, had a whole new property to explore – which proved to be just a little too enticing for this curious mustelid.
After enjoying lots of snoozing time in a luxurious two-storey indoor ferret apartment with hammocks, toys and lots of cosy bedding, Caesar loves to spend a chunk of his day exploring every nook and cranny of his new house, which has caused some frantic searches and a couple of rescue missions.
Nina says: “One minute he was exploring the lounge and then he just disappeared. We searched everywhere but he was missing for hours. We eventually found him clinging on to the roof outside, trying to fight off some crows. We have no idea how he got up there – he must have found a hole somewhere and wriggled his way up into the attic and onto the roof.”
The mystery of the disappearing ferret
After successfully rescuing Caesar from his scary crow encounter, things quietened down for a while – until Caesar, the disappearing ferret, vanished again. The family looked high and low and enquired at nearby properties to see if anyone had spotted a small white animal scampering around their garden. After several sightings, Caesar was eventually successfully captured by a ferret-knowledgeable neighbour and safely returned, thankfully no worse for wear for his adventures.
Caesar’s story demonstrates that, for a ferret, any hole is something that just has to be investigated, and, with their curious nature and unfeasibly flexible bodies, they have all the attributes required to be extremely successful escape artists.
And, while it’s essential that ferrets are provided with plenty of space, places to explore and tunnels to investigate, keeping them safe from harm is a number one priority.
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.
What’s required is a clever combo of spacious areas for zooming around in, safe platforms of different heights to climb onto, rope bridges to tackle, tunnels and pipes to disappear down, a digging box to get stuck in to and a selection of sturdy toys to play with – along with a choice of cosy napping spots.
Your ferrets’ home needs to include:
- Spacious areas for zooming around in
- Safe platforms of different heights to climb onto
- Rope bridges to tackle
- Tunnels and burrow pipes to disappear down
- A digging box to get stuck in to (try a large storage box full of dry rice or sterilised soil)
- A selection of ferret-safe toys to play with
- A sturdy door that firmly secures any pipes that connect different parts of your ferrets’ accommodation together – or a junction box that allows you to connect up to four burrow pipes so your ferret chums have a choice of directions to explore
You can train ferrets to use a litter tray. 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.
Designing a des res for your outdoor ferrets
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.
- Using a Runaround Connection Kit is the perfect way to safely link ferret housing to their runs and other spaces. This will encourage your ferret’s natural exploratory behaviour and will provide enrichment in their housing environment.
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 ferret nuggets around their accommodation for them to seek out.
Perfect habitats for indoor ferrets
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. Small hobby ferret breeders, Fairoak Ferrets, have lots of great ferret housing ideas and advice for both indoor and outdoor ferrets – plus you can check out the Runaround ferret collection here >>
Ferrets are carnivores so their staple diet needs to contain high levels of meat protein alongside a constant supply of clean, fresh water. Ferrets also need calcium in their diet to help support healthy teeth and bones. A great solution is to feed them a complete nugget diet that contains all of the protein (at least 40%), vitamins and minerals they need in just the right balance. An added bonus is that dry nuggets are a much easier, and cleaner, way to feed your ferrets compared with fresh meat.
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