Ferrets are inquisitive, mischievous, and an absolute joy. They are extremely social and intelligent, so they are prone to boredom and will even exhibit destructive behaviors (like chewing and biting) if they do not get enough socialization. Providing enrichment that helps encourage them to engage in natural activities is key to helping them living their happiest, healthiest life.
If you’re a new ferret pet parent, or maybe considering adding a ferret to your family, this article will outline some fun and important ways to support your ferret’s instincts playing, hiding, and exploring instincts each day.
Ferrets are high-energy and playful. Ideally, ferrets should spend at least 3-4 hours each day outside their habitat to explore, play, and express their natural behaviors in healthy ways. Ferrets are very social animals, so keeping two or more ferrets is beneficial, particularly if you are not home all day. The human-animal bond is an amazing thing, but not nearly as important as your ferrets having a companion who can keep them company and play with when the human family is not available.
The ferret’s name is derived from the Latin furittus, meaning “little thief,” and it certainly suits their mischievous nature. Provide plenty of small, ferret-appropriate toys that are easy for your feisty little friend to carry. Otherwise, you will likely find other household items disappearing. Ferrets love to carry their special treasures to their favorite “nest” where they store all their loot.
Ferrets exhibit lots of cute body language to try to initiate play with you and each other. One of the most common and adorable ways is the “Weasel War Dance,” a series of hyperactive random leaps and jumps backward and forward. If you see this, know that your ferret is ready to be silly. They will also hop forward and then skitter backward, similar to the canine play bow.
Ferrets sleep around 16 hours a day, so it is essential to offer them comfortable spots for snoozing, one more bed than there are ferrets (i.e., three beds for two ferrets) so they have plenty of options. Ferrets prefer to sleep in enclosed areas, following their ancestral preference for borrowing rabbit dens to make their homes. Covered beds, sleep sacks, or fleece blankets work well, but ferrets also enjoy the comfort of hammocks.
Ferrets love to get under things and it can be surprising what they can squeeze under (e.g., refrigerators). They love getting into every nook and cranny and often don’t realize something is dangerous until it is too late. For this reason, it is critical to ferret proof your house and make sure that every unsuitable hole is covered or filled in.
You can help distract your ferret from less desirable hiding places by providing safe alternatives to support this behavior. Hides, tunnels, covered pet beds, and boxes are all great options; just make sure they are made of high-quality and safe materials.
As previously mentioned, ferrets just love sticking their little noses into every nook and cranny. They will sneak into cabinets, under couches, and into places you couldn’t even imagine. Ferrets are also avid climbers but can be a bit clumsy. They tend to leap before thinking it through so they should be supervised as they play outside their cage.
Ferrets also like to have a set schedule. They wake, eat, play, and then settle down for a nap. It is quite important to keep a close watch on your friend because they will find a good nap spot and disappear. Then you may have to wait until they wake up again before you find them!
Support your ferret’s inquisitive and adventurous nature by offering challenging puzzles that allow you to hide treats for them to hunt for.
Cages with multiple levels offer opportunities to explore and adventure while you are away. Rotate items around and provide a variety of challenging toys to keep things fresh and interesting. Make sure your ferret has time outside the cage as well, so they can fully engage in this natural behavior.
Many of Oxbow’s ferret-friendly Enriched Life products help support multiple natural behaviors to make it easy for you to add excitement and stimulation to your ferret’s daily routine. For example, our Enriched Life Playplace offers support for Exploring, Hiding, and Playing. Our Enriched Life Wobble and Rolly Teasers support both Playing and Exploring. Check out all of our ferret-approved items and give your feisty little friend the Enriched Life they need to thrive!