When is using a water dish not a good idea?

At the shelter every cage has both a clip on water dish and a water bottle.  This is something I have done for a long time.  Family and close friends will tell you I can worry about that 1% that may never happen.  That’s mostly true, but, once in a awhile I am proven right.

When my dear friend Helen was killed instantly at 10:30 at night in a car accident; her cousin contacted my mid morning the next day when they went to Helen’s house and saw the large poster in her ferret room that I had made for her and insisted she hang up.  I went so far as to “bully” her standing there with push pins and tape. I wasn’t leaving until she hung it up. Then we could have our tea. Because of this poster, her cousin knew who to call to take care of Helen’s ferrets!  Helen was not close to her family as they  did not like any of her pets so know one would have known whom to call if not for that poster.

When Jeanne and I arrived to collect the ferrets that morning; several of the cages had no water.  Like most of us, I am sure Helen told herself that 1/3 of a bottle would do till she got home after work and then she would top up all the bottles (she had 13 ferrets housed in 5 cages).  She was probably running late to get to work. We will never know the circumstances for the empty bottles but the fact was she was literally 5 minutes from home when she was killed. From 10:30 pm  till 10:30 the next morning is a long time before I arrived at her house.

None of the ferrets were in distress because of course it was only 12 hours  or so hours.  But, it reaffirmed my being anal about having both the water dish and the water bottle in each cage.  We expect to return home.  We expect to fill dishes or top water bottles but we just have to run one quick errand. Even in larger families, during an emergency/tragedy everyone is focused elsewhere and the animals can be overlooked.

Having said all of the above, sometimes, a ferret will defy your perfect logic.  Meet Buddy.  Buddy is an un-socialized ferret living in the playpen in my living room  giving me access to him till bedtime.  He is coming along. He no longer hides under the blanket. He used to only come out under the cover of darkness to eat and drink. Now he will eat and drink even as I walk by, he will play with the stuffies. He will run through the tube in his cage. He will even sleep/rest on top of his blankie and watch me as I walk back and forth from the kitchen into my living room.

I have a water bottle hanging from the playpen.  I also have a small dish clipped at the bottom.  I keep topping up the dish.  I have seen him drinking from the bottle.  I have seen him at the water dish.  He must be a very thirsty ferret! The water dish seems to be empty every time I go by.  This morning I was working on my laptop minutes after giving Buddy fresh water in his dish.

I hear the sounds of splish splash and look up in time to see Buddy happily paddling in his water dish. The floor mat is soaked and so is the Christmas sleep sack. Heh, stop that Buddy.  He slunk off and crawled under his towel in the nest box. Hmmm, not a thirsty ferret at all.  Just a water baby!  When he is a little easier to handle he is going to have fun playing in the bathtub!

So for Buddy, it now means I will hang two water bottles for that “just in case something happens and I can’t get home in time”.  I’m leaving the water dish and yes I will top it up! Can’t deprive Buddy of the joy of splish splashing in his water dish!


New Toy – Not!

I am the first to admit that I spoil my ferrets.  I am constantly fussing over the cage set up to make sure it is safe.  I have Adrienne’s beautiful soft split hammocks and lots of towels or blankies to snuggle in.

I am a fixture at the Dollarama, on the look out for new toys for the fuzzies to enjoy. Gosh, I even re-did the rec room floor; tearing out the old stinky carpet and putting in vinyl plank flooring.

I have toy boxes upstairs and downstairs filled with stuffies and jingle balls. What more could a ferret ask for?

I had Zippa and Zorrow out playing in my bedroom. Yes, it is a designated play area during the day.  I have tubes under the bed and dog beds for them to curl up in.  The ensuite bathroom is not a play area and I keep that door closed.

I went to put these two furries to bed and discovered bits of toilet paper at the end of my bed? What the heck? I see the bathroom door ajar. Crap (pun intended) I must not of closed the door properly and they pushed it open.

Just then Zorrow came bouncing out of the bathroom with the unwrapped roll of paper towel firmly clenched in his teeth.  He scooted under the bed before I could blink.

My only word was – oh, oh………………..

ferret toy - NOT!

ferret toy – NOT!

You guessed it, they had pried open the cabinet sink doors. All my supplies were strewn about. Zippa was trying real hard to get a grip on the roll of toilet paper that she had “dug” out of the package. When she saw me she bolted for the bed.  She knew this was NOT a designated ferret toy.

So, I now have a custom roll of toilet paper that I have to figure out how to still use!

Custom detailed roll of toilet paper a la ferret!

Custom detailed roll of toilet paper a la ferret!

I have one other comment.  I am very relieved that Zippa and Zorrow did not decide to stick their heads inside the toilet paper tube.  Years ago a ferret actually suffocated after getting stuck in one.  All my USED toilet paper tubes are automatically torn in half before being placed in the recycle bin.  Thank goodness Zippa hadn’t tried to go through the toilet tube tunnel!

Off to Wal Mart. Time to buy those baby locks for cabinets! I swear, ferret proofing is never over!


Ferret Proofing

One of the most important things you can do to safeguard your ferret is to ensure there is absolutely no way for them to escape to the outer world or into openings in your home.

Unlike cats and dogs, ferrets are unable to survive on their own and generally die within a few days without human intervention.

If your ferret should happen to escape, you should be prepared to bring their favorite squeaky toy, treats and possibly another ferret in your search for him. The odds are not with you, but it is possible, see a recent news report of two lost ferrets recovered in the forest after four day search.

In addition, you should always have a recent photo of your ferret(s) which you could use to produce fliers to help identify him as a house pet, many people do not realize ferrets are domesticated!

Domesticated ferrets can be very social and all around awesome

Hanging out

Don’t underestimate the abilities of a ferret, they are more than capable of getting into or under the smallest of openings and able to move heavy things outs of their way. Ferret proofing is not a one time job, it is a constant endeavour that our monsters prove time and again.

Equally important is to ensure there is nothing dangerous or poisonous (especially house plants, ashtrays and potpourri) within their reach as ferrets are more than capable of jumping and climbing to get to items that catch their attention. As a side note ferrets love to dig through the dirt of your favourite houseplant, so for the sake of keeping your place clean and the plant safe, these are better left out of reach.

Common household items that are usually over looked in protecting your carpet shark are; the buttons on your remote control which they can swallow, parts of a toy they can chew off and swallow and the infamous styrofoam packing peanuts. All of these items can cause serious life threatening health problems (blockage requiring surgery) to a ferret which can easily be avoided.

Due to the size and endless curiosity of the ferret, they will always find new ways and new territories to explore. Prior to bringing home your baby it is vital to their safety and well-being that there be no openings they can get into or under.

The best way to accomplish this is to lay on the floor in every room and search out spaces, openings, etc. they can get into and close them up. This applies to cabinets which they can open, you certainly don’t want your ferret to come into contact with any dangerous chemicals, so child proofing is strongly recommended.

As previously mentioned, ferret proofing is not a one shot deal, you will always need to keep an eye on your ferret as they show you new territory they can get in to. The following list is a good starting point for ferret proofing, but is not totally comprehensive. You will need to watch your ferret carefully in your own home to truly identify all the ways you need to ferret-proof your home!

1. Appliances

Restrict access to laundry and kitchen if possible. If not, block off around appliances (fridge, stove, dishwasher, washer, dryer, freezers) so that ferrets can’t get under them or into the workings (e.g. where the motor or wires are located). My girl Bandit used to somehow get into the drawer under my stove and stash toys there. Also double check for hiding ferrets before turning appliances on or shutting their doors.


Laundry baskets

Double check the laundry before putting in washer or dryer.

3. Dryer vents

Secure the dryer duct, watch for chewing into the duct or your ferret may use it to get outdoors or into the dryer.

Bandit loves tunnels so I hung a few around their playroom


4. Air ducts

Ensure your ferrets cannot get into the heating/air ducts or they might get stuck, injured, or end up outdoors.

Boxspring mattresses

Securely cover bottom with heavy fabric or wood to prevent ferrets from climbing into the boxspring.


Recliners & Rocking chairs

Always make sure your ferrets are no where near the mechanisms when using recliners or rocking chairs, best bet is not to use them when your ferrets are out.

7. Couches & Chairs

Secure the bottoms to prevent ferrets from getting under and up into the furniture. Also check under the cushions before sitting, to make sure a ferret isn’t napping under them. Bandit essentially created her own city inside my first couch, as I lived alone it was easier to monitor where she was before sitting down, but always be aware.

Using slipcovers will prevent ferrets from burrowing into the cushions. Periodically check couch cushions, furniture, and pillows for signs of chewing.

8. Small spaces

Make sure there are no small spaces through which your ferret could get out of the house or into the walls. Remember, if they can get their heads into a crack, their bodies can usually follow. Especially check around cupboards, plumbing, ducts, doors, etc.

Turnip made a home in a hole under the cupboard

Stash hole

9. Under doors

Watch for large spaces that ferrets can get through. To prevent ferrets from trying to dig out through the carpet under doors, you can place a plastic chairmat (can be trimmed to fit), thin plexiglass, or linoleum under the door.



Make sure any accessible windows are closed when ferrets are out. Ferrets can easily bite through window screens.

11. Toilets

Drowning danger!! Keeping ferrets out of the bathroom is safest overall, but again you never really know, it is best to keep toilet seats down at all times.

Standing water

Similar to toilets, a sink, tub, or even bucket of water poses a drowning risk.

Boys exploring the sink

Boys exploring the sink

13. Cleaning supplies

Most cleaning chemicals are toxic or dangerous to curious ferrets. Keep strictly out of reach.

Ferrets actually enjoy the smell and sometimes taste of soap! Make sure to keep soap and soapy water out of reach of your monsters.

14. Cupboards

Most ferrets will easily get into your cupboards, you can invest in the magnetic type of child proofing locks for cupboards (most of the plastic locks allow the cupboards to open a bit, which is enough for most ferrets to get in).

15. Electrical cords

Just be aware of all cords in your home, some ferrets enjoy chewing. None of my ferrets have given me a problem with this but there are some out there, so always monitor accessible cords and remove any damaged cables.

16. Houseplants

As mentioned above house plants can be annoying to continue cleaning up after, as well as dangerous for your ferret if they try to eat. Do not keep poisonous plants (ferrets will dig in the soil and might chew the plants) and always research when getting a new plant  if they are poisonous to ferrets.

17. Knick-knacks

Make sure breakable or delicate items are out of reach, and there are no heavy items that might fall or be pulled over onto your ferret. Ferrets are basically children, they like mess, noise and getting into what they shouldn’t.

Things like foam, soft rubber or plastic, styrofoam, sponges, rubber bands, pen caps, cotton swabs, fabrics, and so on should be kept out of reach or in separate areas than ferrets play. Remote control buttons are also a favorite target.

18. Bookcases & High Tables

Ferrets like to climb up anything and everything, but often can’t climb down due to their poor eyesight. However often ferrets then try to jump down, even from heights, make sure there is no high furniture to get stuck on.

19. Open railings

Around stairs, balconies, etc. Their poor eyesight might lead them to believe they’re not that high up.

20. Garbage

Securely cover or keep out of reach, this is one of their favourite things to ‘dig’ in.

21. Fans, Space Heaters, Candles, Fireplaces

Keep ferrets away from these to the best of your abilities.

22. Toys

Check periodically to make sure they are not being dismantled and eaten.

Toy time!

Toy time!

Ferret-proofing is an ongoing task, rather than a one-time chore. No matter how thoroughly you ferret-proof, you should still carefully supervise your monsters as you never know what they might try to get into next!

Keep an eye on what your ferrets want to get into, and make adjustments as necessary.

Are you really prepared?

First off I am by no means trying to discourage anyone from ferret ownership, but to help those considering ferret ownership make an educated decision. There are far too many ferrets in shelters across Canada & the United States and beyond.

If you do feel you are ready to be owned by a ferret you should always consider adopting a ferret from a shelter rather than purchasing one from a pet store.

For those considering a Ferret;

1. Are ferrets legal in your city, province/state, or country? (see Do your laws allow ferrets?)

Some states may not have specific laws against ferret ownership, however the counties within the state may. Please refer to the section “Do your Laws allow them”.

2. Will you be able to afford to pay for high quality food, supplies and with $1000.00 or more for medical bills?

Ferrets are very expensive to own, this is one common reason ferrets are surrendered to our shelter, owners cannot afford the medical bills.

Ferrets can suffer from a variety of health conditions (cancer, ECE, adrenal disease, respiratory infections, injuries, gastrointestinal blockages, etc)

Bandit passed away recently due to an infection that caused her to become septic - vet bills amounted to just under 1K

Bandit on her last day with us

3. Are you a patient person?

If you are someone with a short fuse and little patience, ferret ownership is probably not for you, owning a ferret can be like having a two year old child. Ferrets are very intelligent, persistent, & curious animals who will try to get into everything, especially things they are not supposed to.

I was changing bags and Radish somehow got it (I have no idea how) and could not get out!

Radish trapped in the garbage

4. Do you have at least 3 hours per day free for supervised out of the cage ‘ferret play time’ and additional time for going on walks, grooming, and cage cleaning?

If a ferret is left alone for long periods of time, or is never let out of the cage it will become depressed, stressed or ill. If you are someone who is out of the home a lot or one who travels for work often a ferret may not be the right pet for you. Ferrets are very social animals and need at least three hours of “out of cage” play time each day.

My middle LOVES teddies

Turnip taking his toy for a walk

5. Will you be able to provide constant supervision for your ferret as well as if you have young children ? Will you be able to help with the care of the ferret ?

Children, especially very young ones, have difficulty understanding how to properly treat animals. Small children have a tendency to pull, grab, squeeze and drop small animals without realizing they can hurt them. This can lead to injuries to the ferret, or the ferret may possibly nip the child out of fear.

6. Will it bother you or would you want want to get rid of the ferret if he/she gets into everything, damages a carpet by scratching, or goes to the bathroom on your carpet or on the floor ? (if the answer is YES, DO NOT get a ferret)

Ferrets like to hide things. If you leave items around such as the tv remote, shoes, socks, keys, kitchen items, etc where ferrets can reach them, the items will usually end up in their favourite hiding place. Be prepared for litter box accidents, drinks getting knocked over, potted plants being dug into, toys and other objects showing up under the couch or bed.

If a ferret with intact anal scent glands is very frightened, it can release a foul odor. However, unlike a skunk, the odor does not linger as long and it does not smell as bad.

7. Are you willing to make changes to your home to protect your ferret and your belongings ?

Ferret proofing your home is a must as there are many dangers that can be found within the home. Later we will post steps to ferret proofing your home.

8. Do you have other pets at home that your ferret may not get along with or that may be dangerous to them?

Ferrets can get along with some other domesticated pets, mainly cats and some breeds of dogs. It usually works best when they have been raised together. Please use extreme caution and constant supervision when introducing a ferret to another pet.

NEVER leave your ferret alone with birds, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, rats, rabbits, chinchillas or reptiles. Ferrets will usually consider them food.

The decision to adopt or purchase a ferret (or any other pet for that matter) should be a careful one. Ferrets do bond with their owners and become stressed when separated from them.

Sometimes the smells and noise of the outside becomes too much and ferrets need a quick cool down between walks

Radish taking a break

Always consider adopting a ferret from a ferret shelter.

Older ferrets are a good choice for first time ferret owners, as they are less hyperactive and may already be trained. Baby ferrets (kits) require a lot of training, patience and time from their owners. It’s best to think of it as a 6 to 10 year commitment. Don’t act impulsively.