Make sure your ferret is able to behave normally
Things you should do
- Make sure your ferret has constant access to safe hiding places where he/she can escape to if feeling afraid. For example, tunnels, closed hammocks, etc.
- Provide your ferret with suitable things to investigate, safe toys and regular opportunities to play. For example, provide him/her with squeaky toys, balls, an area to dig in and opportunities to play hide and seek etc. Vary play and toys frequently.
- If your ferret enjoys playing in water, provide them with water to splash around in, in a safe and supervised manner. The water bath should be shallow enough to ensure that your ferret can always get out. Never force your ferret to swim.
- Make sure your ferret has opportunities to exercise every day, to stay fit and healthy. Ideally, give him/her daily access to a safe play area, for exercise and exploration.
- If your ferrets are kept in a group, observe the group daily for any signs of excessive aggression such as biting, with or without shaking or dragging of the other animal, resulting into injury and wounds (see Company).
- Keep prey species well away from ferrets.
- Add interest to your ferret’s feeding times by making him/her actively search for food. For example, hide food or use a commercially available food toy.
- Make sure your ferret can access all the things that he/she needs at all times (for example, space, food, water, safe hiding places, companion ferret(s) and toys).
- Be observant. If your ferret’s behaviour changes or he/she shows regular signs of stress or fear, seek advice from a vet or clinical animal behaviourist.
- Never shout at or punish your ferret, he/she is very unlikely to understand and can become more nervous or scared. If your ferret’s behaviour becomes an ongoing problem, seek expert advice from your vet or a clinical animal behaviourist.
- Kits should stay with their mother until they are at least 8 weeks old.
- Some ferrets need to interact with other friendly ferrets, however, some ferrets prefer to be kept on their own. Many ferrets can enjoy interacting with people (see Company).
- Play and exploratory behaviours are essential behaviours for ferrets. Ferrets are curious and like to dig and rummage and will use their mouths to explore items in their environment.
- Ferrets are predators. Predation comes naturally to ferrets and will become more efficient when exercised (“practice makes perfect”).
- Ferrets sleep and rest up to 20 hours per day and are most active at dusk.
- Ferrets must be able to avoid things that scare them and need safe places to hide.
- Kits need to learn from their mother and littermates how to behave in a group. For example, how to communicate.
- Ferrets use scent as an important means of communication. For example, ferrets use secretions, urine and faeces to mark their territory.
- Ferrets also communicate with each other by using sounds and body language.
- Some ferrets enjoy playing in water, but this depends on the individual ferret.
- During the breeding season, intact males especially can exhibit aggression.
- The way a ferret behaves depends on his/her age, personality and past experiences.
- Ferrets that are frightened or stressed may change their behaviour or develop unwanted habits. For example, fleeing, hiding, screaming, hissing, biting, etc.
- If your ferret changes his/her behaviour, he/she could be distressed, bored, ill or injured.
- Signs of discomfort or pain in a ferret include reluctance to move, weight loss, anorexia, trembling, collapse, crying, whimpering, and teeth grinding.