home : 2. ferret care : where do I keep them?

where do I keep them?


where do I keep them?
lost ferrets

Where do I keep them?

PRINCIPLE: The bigger the living area the better! (in square metres, not split over several levels).

GREAT: Free-roam in all or a large part of the house and/or garden all the time.

GOOD: Free-roam in a decent-sized room all the time, with as much time as possible in a larger area.

NOT SUITABLE: Any area which does not allow the ferret to exercise at will (eg run across the room), even with "play time" in a larger area.

Ferrets should not be considered cage animals. They are as active and intelligent as a dog or cat (or more so!), so they need about the same space. A decent-sized room as a minimum, and the more room the better.

If you are looking for an animal that does not need much room, small fish and hermit crabs are great choices.

Ferrets love to explore every corner in your house, but they are masters at escaping and will wander off at the first opportunity, or first open door.

Their slender flexible bodies, insatiable curiosity and love of crawling into small spaces makes "ferret proofing" any area they will be occupying imperative.

The more living area (not just "play time" area) you can give your ferret, the happier and healthier he/she will be. Ferret-proofing your house and/or garden, or as much of it as possible, so that your ferrets live free-roam with you is an ideal situation for you and your ferrets.

This can be a large task but well worth the effort, as your ferret will be able to exercise and entertain him/herself whenever they desire. Ferrets may be smaller than cats, but are generally more active, so keep this in mind when deciding how much room to provide (the ferret's natural territory averages about 100 hectares!)

Ferrets are very intelligent and when awake, very active, so a cage is not appropriate for exercise and boredom reasons. The larger the living area, the less time and effort you will have to go to to provide mental and physical stimulation.

While ferrets may sleep many hours a day, keeping them in an area which is too small for them to exercise whenever they choose to, is not good for their mental and physical health. Think about how much room a ferret needs to run, play and jump, and provide a living area where they can do this whenever they choose.

Ferrets are often mistakenly kept in small cages because they sleep a lot. They then sleep even more because they cannot exercise at will. If a ferret is caged "only" at night, this can end up being half their life in an area too small for exercise.

Many humans spend a lot of their day sleeping or sitting down, however keeping a person in an area too small for them to exercise at will for the majority of the day is similar to conditions in a prison.

If most/all of your home absolutely cannot be ferret-proofed, many people provide one or two decent-sized rooms (such as a bedroom or laundry) for the ferret to live in, and provide as much time as possible in a larger area (the rest of the house and/or garden).

A door barrier made from plywood or perspex can be used on the door frame, so that humans can get in or out of the room, but the ferrets cannot. Barriers can be used to keep ferrets in or out of certain rooms.

(click photos to view large)

Outdoor fun: Ferret proofing part or all of your garden is an excellent way to provide the best bits of nature, such as digging, sunshine, rain, plants, water and fresh air.

Ensure any fencing material used is smooth, so the ferrets cannot climb it. Some ideas include galvanised sheet metal, colourbond fencing sheets, stiff plastic sheets, plywood, recycled glass windows/doors, or fibro-cement fencing sheets. If you have wooden fences, which the ferrets cannot get between the gaps, you will only need to ferret-proof below ground. Dig a narrow trench below the fenceline and use any of the above sheet ideas, treated wooden sleepers, concrete paving slabs, or simply fill with cement. Some ferrets have been known to climb brick walls, so a length of sheet metal about 30cm high, secured along the length of the wall at about 1m up may (or may not) be necessary to stop them ascending any brickwork.

Ensure the fencing material goes down about 2-3 feet, and about 4 feet up from ground level.

If the whole yard isn't possible, use an area adjacent to the house (along the side of most houses is great), so the ferrets can come and go as they please through an open door, window or catflap.

Ferret-proof a human outdoor area, instead of creating a separate ferret outdoor area, as the humans and ferrets will enjoy the space a lot more if they can interact within it!

Shrubs and ground covers are great, but keep vines, shrubs and trees away from the edges. If you already have trees in the garden, clear plastic (available from most hardware stores) can be wrapped around the trunk and screwed in to act as a barrier against climbing.

You could even include a pond for the warmer months! Keep the edges low, so if your ferret decides to go for a swim, he/she can climb out easily. Plastic baby pools are another alternative. Place several bricks in the water to use as a step out.

A place to sleep: Ferrets love dark, enclosed spaces to sleep in, so a dark box with some bedding inside is a perfect setup. Cardboard boxes or plastic crates can be adapted by cutting an entry hole in the side. Never use sawdust or kitty litter for bedding as ferrets may develop respiratory problems.

Climate: Ferrets don't deal with temperature above the mid-20's very well, so keep this in mind when deciding where your ferrets will have access to. During summer air-conditioning, a cool floor (such as the laundry) or a very cool spot in the garden are essential (check the actual temperature as wind does not cool ferrets like it does for humans). Always provide an area away from direct sunlight. Very cold temperatures during winter can also be detrimental, so ensure they have somewhere warm to sleep if needed.


Lost Ferrets

Ferrets don't appear to deliberately run away and can be trained at an early age to come when called, but they are impulsive wanderers that get lost easily.

When your ferret is in an area which hasn't been ferret-proofed (a friend's house, the park, etc) a ferret harness and lead is a must.

Micro-chipping is an excellent idea.

See our Ferret Rescue page for tips if you have lost a ferret.

Written by Shona Whaite

Ferret Society of Canberra

 For more information or to make comments please email mail@ferretclub.org.au