Whilst there is evidence that ferrets have been kept domestic settings for hundreds of years, these animals are still very wild at heart. Given an opportunity to escape or hide they will do so, which is why a good cage is so essential for your ferret.
However, there is some different of opinion on ferrets and cages, with some people saying you don’t even need a cage. Not true in my opinion!
Do ferrets need a cage? Pet ferrets do need a cage. Without one, they will escape and cause damage in your home. However, they will need a large cage in which to feel at home, but still comfortable enough to create their own safe space.
Do ferrets need a big cage?
I recommend a big cage for your new ferret. Ferrets are naturally inactive for three quarters of each day. If the cage is large enough, and you simulate their natural burrow environment, they will feel secure and happily curl up and sleep for hours at a time.
But I also firmly believe it’s inhumane to keep ferrets in a cage during their waking hours, as they will become bored and frustrated. They will then attempt to destroy the cage in a bid for freedom, and ultimately, will start to cause themselves harm.
Based on that, what exactly are the needs of a ferret cage? Here’s what I recommend you look for when shopping for one. If you don’t have one yet, I recommend this cage on Amazon.
Recommended features of a ferret cage
The best ferret cage should be made of sturdy steel bars and wire, with gaps that are not more than an inch apart. Ferrets have been known to bend flimsy bars to escape.
Where the bars join should likewise be ferret proof. These should be welded together and not held together with clips.
Like the bars of the cage, the locking mechanism needs to be ferret proof. These are wily creatures that can figure out if a lock is all that is holding them in.
You should have a mechanism that is too difficult for your pets to undo but easy enough for you to operate with one hand, while the other is occupied, holding a squirming ferret.
Your ferret cage should be at least 12 cubic feet for 1-2 ferrets. For example, it could be 2 foot wide, 2 foot deep and 3 feet high. The optimum space required increases with each ferret you acquire.
Ferrets are long, thin animals and need space to stretch out, and move about. If you can afford it, you should purchase a cage with larger dimensions than those recommended.
Alternatively, you can purchase modular units, and add to your ferrets’ housing as your budget allows.
There are cage systems that are designed to be joined together to form multiple interlinked units, allowing your ferrets access to several ‘rooms’. The modules can be added vertically and horizontally.
I believe that ferrets need a cage with this degree of flexibility to keep them entertained, like the one I recommended further up the page.
An individual module could be used as a carrier. This will be useful for transporting your ferrets to the vet, or on holiday with you or for an overnight stay away from home.
It could also be used to put your ferrets outside for a spell of fresh air, or for moving them to an outside enclosure.
Handy Hint: Speaking of fresh air, be prepared for your ferret stinking out your room and house. Here’s how to deal with that smelly odor.
Configuration inside the cage
Ferrets are as eager to climb and explore as cats are, but they are far more clumsy. They can easily hurt themselves if they fall too far.
Ferret cages are usually divided into levels, with ramps or ladders leading from one level to the next. The divisions are customisable to some extent. Make sure that no single drop is further than 3-4 foot.
Some manufacturers make these ramps and ladders out of plastic. If possible, avoid these and purchase a cage with steel innards.
Handy Hint: On the topic of cats, whilst it might sound odd, often cats and ferrets will get along ok in a household. The same applies to dogs too, providing the introductions are made safely.
The floors of each level
Some cages have wire flooring at each level, similar to the ‘walls’ of the cage. The gaps in the wire are difficult to navigate and can hurt your ferrets’ feet. They may even cause their claws to get caught in the wire. This discomfort will cause reluctance, on the part of the ferrets, to move about the cage.
Cover the wire with a piece of linoleum or similar material to solve these problems.
Food, water and litter trays
Ferrets will throw their food around and splash in their water just for the fun of it. Choose food and water containers that clip firmly onto the sides of the cage.
Also choose a cage that is large enough to accommodate a litter tray that allows space for the full length of the ferret.
You may want to line the walls of the cage immediately behind the litter tray as ferrets back up and ‘spray’ when they use the bathroom. Training pads are a viable alternative to actual litter.
Handy Hint: Ferrets will eat and drink far more often during the day than you might think, so keep things topped up. Here’s how long they can go if you ever forget.
You will need access to the cage in order to configure the cage’s levels and ramps, and to clean it and remove the litter tray. A small opening, or even an opening on one side only, will make these operations difficult.
Look for a cage that has doors that open on both sides, giving you access to the whole cage at once.
Easy to move
You ferret will need a cage that’s easy to move, so one on wheels is ideal as it allows you to move it around. You may want to move it to clean around it, or to relocate it to another room when the seasons change.
Or you may want to keep the cage in the room with you so that you can be alerted when they wake up. Wheels will make it easier to remove the cage from the room when friends or strangers, who are unaccustomed to your pets, come to visit.
Enriching the cage environment
Although not strictly a function of the cage, you want to ensure that your ferrets are housed in a cool place. In the wild, the ferret physique is adapted to colder climates. They start feeling heat stress around 80-90 degrees.
The ideal indoor temperature is around 70 degrees, Fahrenheit. You probably want to house the cage in the coldest room in your home. Outdoors in ferret enclosures, you need to make sure that the animals have access to shade and cool burrow-like tunnels.
Ferrets sleep in shifts and are most active at dawn and dusk. They need darkness to sleep soundly, including during daytime.
If the light levels are too high, their hormones behave as if it were spring and time to mate. This reaction occurs regardless of whether the animal has been neutered or not, and can cause unnecessary long term physical stress.
When your ferrets are in residence and sleeping, their cage should be kept in a dark room and shrouded with a cover that blocks out as much light as possible.
Food, water and litter
Food and water should be replenished on a daily basis. Likewise, the litter tray should be cleaned at least once a day. Ferrets do not bury their poops so these can easily be scooped up, as you would when walking your dog.
Ferrets like to snuggle underneath blankets or piles of clothes when they sleep. This simulates their natural habitat of burrows. One or more fleece blanket per ferret will be appreciated.
Handy Hint: It’s particularly important to keep outdoor ferrets warmer in winter with blankets.
There are specially designed ferret hammocks on the market. They have folds that form pouches which create the desired effect of darkness. Leave space, in your configuration of the levels in the cage, to hang the hammocks.
Handy Hint: You will need to regularly change the ferret’s cage bedding to reduce the amount of stink in your home.
Although, as a rule, you probably would not leave your ferrets in the cage during their awake time, there may be occasion for you to do so. Add some toys, treats and activities to their environment to prevent boredom and stress – here are some on Amazon.
Leave them some tubes to burrow in and plushies to stash in their bedding to keep them amused. They like toys that look like wriggly snakes I have found (here’s why you should not use a real snake).
An activity box full of paper pellets or similar substance, that is not desirable for chewing or swallowing, will give them an opportunity to exercise their favourite past time of digging.
Did You Know? The smell of ferret skin and fur was found by researchers in 2008 to create stress in rats!
Do ferrets need a cage mate?
Your ferret doesn’t have to have a cage mate, but in my experience ferrets are better in pairs.
By their nature, they are social animals. Providing spaying or neutering has been done, you should be able to keep two ferrets happily in a cage together.
As well as the escape attempts, ferrets also have a reputation for stealing and hoarding things that pique their interest.
This is just another reason why pet ferrets need a cage.
A cage is essential for your peace of mind, as the pet owner. It keeps your pet safe when it is not being supervised and prevents them from raiding your possessions.
You might also like…
- The annual costs of owning a ferret (or two)
- How humans can bond with a ferret
- How you can tell if your ferret it too skinny
Image in header via https://unsplash.com/photos/PzN5QTx59O0