Keeping your ferret properly caged and supplied with toys isn’t just for its (or your) amusement. Though that’s not a bad reason! The proper cage and accessories will help keep it safe, healthy and out of trouble.
Ferrets sleep about 18 hours per day, but the other six hours they can be (and usually are) extremely active. Many human companions of ferrets (they don’t like to think they have owners) will let them run around the house. That’s fine if the house is properly ‘prepared’. But there are many times when a cage is best for the ferret and essential for your sanity.
There is, not surprisingly, a whole set of criteria that go into making for a good cage.
Size is paramount. Ferrets need space to run around and explore. They need a place for food that’s far from a litter box. Most avoid eating where they eliminate and vice-versa. Two cubic feet (a 12 inch by 24 inch floor with 12 inch high walls) is the absolute minimum. But, really, a cage that size would be useful only for transporting or temporary ‘housing’ when a ferret is ill or recovering.
The larger the better, and the cage should have some complex features. Ramps, tubes, sleeping hammocks, soft bedding and more are all part of a good ferret cage. The more complex features will amuse you when you watch, but it also helps keep the ferret fit and mentally active. They’re very exploratory animals and the more things they have to explore the better.
Cages come in a variety of styles, some that can be expanded and hooked together as your ferret family grows. But whichever you prefer, make sure the mesh is small enough to keep the ferret from poking a head through and escaping or, worse, getting stuck. Males have slightly larger heads than females, but even those are about the same size as their shoulders. That makes escape easier, and partial escape dangerous.
Stainless steel is preferable, but many experts recommend coated wire with the caution that the coating should be high quality. Ferrets like to chew on everything and can get intestinal blockage or poisoned by plastic coatings on metal wire cages. Make sure it doesn’t become rusted. A solid floor is easier to walk on, and actually easier to clean.
Fish aquariums, hamster cages, bird cages and others should never be used.
Fish aquariums don’t have proper ventilation and the moisture buildup on the walls and floor encourages the growth of bacteria that can be harmful. They also don’t have the proper temperature control characteristics. Ferrets don’t tolerate high heat or extreme cold well, unlike some of their cousin species. Anything higher than approximately 80°F/26,5°C or lower than 45°F/7°C is bad. Hamster cages are too small, bird cages have mesh sizes that aren’t suitable for ferrets.
Ferrets are a unique species, just like others are, and have their own unique needs and behavior. A suitable cage will keep them safe and comfortable. That’s surely what any owner, er, companion would want.