Ferrets are highly active and playful animals that consequently require considerable space when confined to a cage.
All the same, unless you are able to provide a room-sized cage for your pet, it is recommended that your ferret(s) are allowed to come out for regular exercise. This exercise time should ideally be provided daily, in a room which has been carefully “ferret-proofed”. Ferrets must be supervised at all times when not within their cage, in order to make sure that they come to no harm.
Basic Ferret Cage Guidelines
Ferrets can be thought of as a domesticated version of the wild polecat. These highly effective predators are quick and nimble, easily snaking through narrow tunnels or scaling walls in the pursuit of prey (or just for fun!). Their housing should try to replicate the variety of nature, offering environmental enrichment and an opportunity for your pet to use their brain continually.
The basic ferret cage is made from metal bars or mesh. These should be positioned suitably close to one another to prevent your ferret slipping out. It has been suggested that bars should be no more than one inch (2.5cm) apart.
Ferrets are natural born escape artists, and as well as slipping between bars they may also successfully open cage latches. A tight-fitting door, or a lock, is therefore advisable to ensure your ferret can’t get out without your permission.
Other materials for cages are generally not suitable, as they either don’t offer the right level of ventilation, can overheat quickly, or are not escape-proof. Glass aquariums are particularly unsuitable for all the previous reasons.
The metal cage walls and roof should be supplemented with a solid base made of plastic or metal. Ferrets do not do well on mesh floors, and may damage their toes or develop swellings while playing. Consequently, a solid floor lined with a suitable substrate tends to work best.
A range of substrates may be used. Of great importance should be minimizing “gut impaction” – an unpleasant medical condition caused when substrate is swallowed by an animal, which then blocks the digestive tract. The better options include pieces of carpet or wood flakes. Do not be tempted to use cedar flakes under any circumstances as the oils they give off are toxic to small mammals.
As playful (and potentially destructive) creatures, thought should be given to how best to provide food and water. Generally speaking a solid water bottle, positioned outside the cage but with the spout pointing in, works well. The water can then be changed daily with ease. Food is generally best provided in a heavy earthenware bowl such as those sold for dogs. Ferret keepers that provide kibble in lightweight plastic or metal bowls normally find this is quickly upended in excitement.
Ferrets are well-known for their playful antics, and a ferret kept in a plain, sterile cage may soon get bored. Providing entertainment within the cage will therefore keep your ferret happier, as well as reducing the time he or she has available to try and escape!
A range of toys are suitable for ferrets. For example, shelves and rope toys may be added, allowing your pet to bound up and down their cage. Many ferrets appreciate a dark place to sleep – an activity that can take 20 hours a day! Nesting areas off the ground seem to be particularly popular, so consider investing in an arboreal nestbox, or a hanging cloth tunnel or hammock.
Lastly, note that ferrets are surprisingly clean animals and will soon get used to visiting the toilet in just one corner of their cage. Placing a litter tray here, lined with paper-based kitty litter, will make keeping your pets cage as easy as possible.
How Big Should a Ferret Cage Be?
As active animals a ferrets cage should be as large as you can manage. Experts recommend dimensions of no less than three feet long, two feet deep and two feet tall for a ferret.
Siting Your Ferret Cage
Ferrets can be surprisingly sensitive to disturbance when sleeping, and to unsuitable environmental conditions. It is critical therefore to consider where to place their cage.
Broadly speaking ferrets tend not to cope well with extremes – either in terms of temperature or humidity. While ferrets can be housed outdoors with suitable housing, most keepers opt to look after them indoors. Here the RSPCA recommends an average daily temperature of between 15 and 21’C.
Your ferret cage should be located away from potential draughts (such as windows or external doors) and from direct sunlight. Ferrets have no sweat glands so can quickly overheat if they are left in the summer sun.
Lastly, consider a quieter part of the house for your ferret cage. In this way they can sleep without interruption, even when your family are going about their daily routines.
Ferret Cage Cleaning Advice
Ferrets, particularly un-neutered males, can have quite a strong odour. Even the females have a certain something about them. Additionally, remember that like cats your ferret will be mainly eating a meat-based diet. This can further cause problems with smells.
It should therefore come as no surprise that regular cleaning of your ferret cage is to be recommended. The litter tray can be changed daily, at the same time as topping up the food and water.
The base substrate and all toys should be removed weekly, and all items cleaned thoroughly with pet-safe detergent. Only when the cage and accessories have dried, and the substrate has been replaced, should your ferret be placed back into their cage. Doing so should help to keep your pet smelling as sweetly as possible in the home.