Providing Adequate Housing
As previously mentioned, ferrets are NOT cage animals and do require a few hours out of their cage on a daily basis. Ferrets are hyper little fuzzies, that do need to burn off their energy either by romping and dooking with their cage mates, their human parents, other animals, or just their toys. If you cannot provide this out time for your ferret in a safe ferret proof environment, maybe you should reconsider owning one.
A ferrets cage needs to large enough to allow ample roaming space
in addition to including hammocks, shelves, food bowl, litter box, water bottle
etc. It is important to examine the cage thoroughly to ensure there are no
sharp, rough or jagged edges to it, as well as no opening large enough to squeeze
through. Ferrets are very intelligent little creatures, and are capable of
opening their cage door on their own and pick their own out time. I would suggest
purchasing metal/plastic clips to ensure the door is kept securely closed and
your fuzzies kept safe when you can't watch them. Minimum size for a single
ferret should be 3'w X 2'D X 2' H, (but the larger the better) and should be
made out of coated wire spaced smaller than 1" to prevent any ferrets
from escaping. The cage should be placed away from any drafts, damp areas or
directly in front of a window. As ferrets do not have sweat glands, they cannot
handle heat or humidity well, ensure room temperature never goes above 80 degrees,
the cooler the better (ideally 68-75).
There are a wide variety of cages you can purchase
for your ferret as well as different manufacturers. Doctors
Foster and Smith has
a wide selection that you can view and purchase on line. As a
ferrets feet are small, you should not utilize
wire shelves, ladders or floorings, as this is harsh on their
feet, and they can get their foot caught. You can utilize plastic
shelves and ladders
or secure carpet (type that will not allow their nails to get
caught) or linoleum onto the wire. On the floor you should use
linoleum, carpeting, etc. Remember there should be nothing harsh
or dangerous in their cage. When securing hammocks, sleep sacks,
etc., always ensure their is a shelf or another bedding item
not far below to catch your fuzzy if he should fall from above,
a fall from a tall cage straight down could cause serious harm
to your ferret, and can be prevented. Bedding should be washed
on a weekly basis, to help remove/reduce odor caused by their
body oils being absorbed into the material, and inspected for
wear. You should never keep a ferret in a small cage designed
for a hamster, guinea pig, rabbit, etc., and
under no circumstance should they ever be housed in a glass aquarium
or exposed to cedar shavings!
When placing toys in their cage, always ensure there are no parts that your fuzzy can chew off or swallow, and keep it to a minimum. Chances are while your ferret is in their cage, they will be spending much of their time sleeping. Food and water should always be available to your ferret, as they have a very short digestive tract (3-4 hours), they need food and water available throughout the day. It is also important to note, that when your ferrets first wake up from sleeping, it is quite normal for them to shake, and does not signify anything is wrong with them. Shaking is their way of bringing their body temperature back to normal.
Ferrets should not be fully free roam 24/7, for
their own safety. There is no way for anyone to ferret proof
an entire house 100%. Ferrets left alone, unsupervised for any
length of time are bound to find or come up with something that
could be potentially very dangerous or life threatening. Way too many unnecessary
deaths have occurred as a result of false security, please don't
let this happen to yours.
Litter Box Habits
By nature ferrets are very clean animals and will utilize a litter box most of the time. While in their cages, ferrets are usually quite good in using their litter box, however when out of their cage there are accidents. As previously mentioned, ferrets do have a very small digestive track and therefore cannot make it to the litterbox quick enough all the time. It is important to note that when your ferret first wakes up, they will be in need of a litterbox within 10-15 minutes. You can always tell
when a ferret is about to go to the bathroom as they will usually search for a corner to go in and exhibit a backing up motion with their tails raised high. If you see this behavior, you can quickly scoop up your ferret and bring him to the litterbox to go. Another strange behavior of the ferret is after they do go, they will always scoot their rear on the floor.
If your ferret is not using a litter box there are a few things you can try. If this occurs inside the cage, it is usually due to their litter box being placed too close to their food and can easily be corrected. Other reasons can be the type of litter used, whether the litter box has been cleaned out or not, feels they are being watched, etc. When your ferret is out to play, there should always be ample litterboxes placed throughout the house. You can try to deter your ferret from using corners of your house as a litterbox, by thoroughly cleaning those areas and placing some of their bedding items there, as well as relocating their litter boxes throughout the house.
The type of litter that is used is equally as important. You should NEVER use the clumping type of clay cat litter or pearl, as this will cause health problems notably respiratory as well as blockages if ingested or it gets into the nasal cavity. Clay litters should also be avoided as the dust they produce is equally as bad. It is important to remember, especially with fresh litter, ferrets believe this is a sand box and will snorkel through it. Recommended litters include
feline pine, yesterday's news, aspen wood, Sweat Scoop (natural wheat based clumping litter), World's Best Litter (natural corn based clumping litter), etc.