The Most Important Thing to Know About Ferrets
Ferrets love to play. They really do. They love to dig into things, to throw books off the bookshelves, stick their face in your coffee/tea/water, dig up your plants, see what noises the computer keyboard makes, see what’s inside your pillow case, see why the plastic/metal bits on a notebook are so much fun, and steal your erasers and hide them in their various hidey spots.
Ferrets LOVE ferreting around, darting from sniffing your toes one minute to wresting with bits of paper towel under the dress to dragging away usb cables triumphantly across the floor. My ferret Rory (the little grey/sabley fuzzbut pictured above) LOVES to try and open my closet door. Oro, my white one, loves finding comfy spots to sleep in. Half the time I can’t find her, it’s because she’s hiding in a bunch of plastic bags behind the fridge or she fell asleep under my covers!
Ferrets have personalities too that affect their playtime. Rory is adventurous and daring - she’ll hop around my feet and try to nibble at my toes - if there is a hole in the wall, she will find it. She’s quite adept at getting into backpacks and other things she’s not allowed in!
Oro is much…more… calm (but not really). She’s more likely to come lick you out of the blue, but she’s also a bit shy, and doesn’t really know how to deal with too much affection/attention. She goes limp quite easily in my hands (whereas Rory will fight you every second of the way!) They’re partners in crime!
They love playing together, and actually do stress out quite a bit if they realise they’ve been separated. Keeping one in the cage while the other is out is okay for very short bits, but in general separating them is more stress then they really know what to deal with.
They have very sharp teeth and sharp claws, and will use them to play with each other, to dismantle anything fun in their way, to climb onto my desk, etc. They are little minions of chaos in the sense that all they really want to do is figure out what’s next, what’s there, what’s up there, what’s out there. It’s important to give them new things to mess with, and little squeaker toys and old carboard boxes are the best. I tend to keep old craft dinner and postage boxes for them to mess with before I chuck it in the recycling.
They also do love people, even if they aren’t affectionate like cats or dogs can be. They love to sniff toes they’ve never sniffed before, and will lick my hand when I’m not paying attention. Oro even licked my face once! They seem much more comfortable at giving attention than receiving it from humans, and like small movements and intricate noises. The only interaction I force them to have with me is when I take them out of their cage/sleepingbox in the morning, and give them a brief cuddle of hello. I do that to make sure they remember who I am, but also to remind them that it’s okay to be picked up and taken out of the cage by gigantic grabby human hands, because it means play time is coming! It’s gotten to the point where they tend to enjoy the attention of my hands, because it means something new is about to happen!
Ferrets are very cute, but they will become little destructive terrors if they don’t get a bare minimum of 1 hour of play time a day. And seriously, you can probably do better.
If your ferret spends only one hour outside of his cage, that means that the critter is spending 23 hours in a little cage!
Can you imagine a hyper as can be, curious, intelligent, affectionate, playful, crazy little creature spending 23 hours a day in a cage?!?!?!?! I would lose my mind, and so do my ferrets when they don’t get enough play time.
Now, the average ferret does need between 18-20 hours of sleep a day. But that sleep isn’t continuous - it’s often punctuated by grooming, stretching, cuddling, playing, exploring some more, eating, drinking, pooping, and stretching, and yawning, and you get the picture. For that reason, ferrets seem to make sense to be in a big cage, because they sleep so much. But ferrets are natural explorers, and can’t be kept in cages all day. That’s just cruel - they aren’t hamsters, or even rabbits (though I’ve had some rabbits who loved their cages, and others who hated them) - they’re more like dogs or cats. They need outside time, too. Yes, outside the house! Take them to a park! Or to the beach! Or to the balcony! It doesn’t have to be every week, but do it often enough that they can learn leashing behaviours and have fun using their nails digging into the ground. Ferrets love to dig. It makes them quite happy to do so.
Okay, I’m going to leave you with some brief notions.
Ferrets need play time.
Ferrets love play time.
Play time is not a treat, it’s a right.
Owning a ferret means that you commit to paying enough attention to them so that they can frolic about for a minimum of an hour (or until they pass out, which is usually what I do.)
Of course, I work and do a lot of things other than taking care of my ferrets. Not all days are perfect. Sometimes my ferrets look at me sadly from their hammock as I rush in to change my school bag for my work bag, and then take off again. Sometimes I can’t manage more than half an hour of play time late at night before I pass out myself. My ferrets are my little dragon kit friends, and it’s my responsibility to treat them with some dignity, and not as pets or play things.
Some things for a safe play time:
- Water available
- Food available
- Lots of soft places for sleeping
- Lots of objects for sniffing, disturbing and stealing (rubber, elastic, cat squeaky toys, all of these are favourites. Be careful with little object to supervise. I once discovered Oro had accidentally half-swallowed a tiny little decorative eraser. I make sure to keep these firmly out of the ferrets reach now.)
- Tunnels! Blankets to crawl under, little corners and nooks! Ferrets love “going underground” and getting into hard to reach places. Rory can squish herself down to half an inch and get through to the craziest places!
- - Designated places for them to poop (cat litter boxes can be picked up at any depanneur or convenience store in Montréal, I use this kind of cat litter because not only is it really nice smelling, I also trust that my ferrets can roll around it in and not get exposed to some really nasty chemicals. My ferrets don’t play in spoiled litter, but their favourite thing when I’m cleaning out the room is to stuff their face into fresh cat litter!
Ferrets gotta play!
-Rory, Oro, and me :)