Although most ferrets live in cages, their personalities, sociability, and trainability mean they have much more in common with cats and dogs than with other typically caged animals. This leads many people to wonder if the cage is really necessary – or even right. Should you keep your ferret in a cage? Or should you just let him roam loose, like the cats and dogs that he has more in common with?
Having done both, I believe that caging ferrets is better for everyone – including the ferrets.
Now, to be clear, my ferrets are NOT always in their cage. In fact, on average, they probably spend more time not locked into the cage than they spend locked in. Whether caging or not caging, it is important to understand this: Ferrets cannot be confined to the cage for days on end. They should be locked up for NO MORE than a few hours at a time.
With that being said, here are five reasons to have a cage and to lock your ferret in a cage at night or when you are away from home.
1. It’s Safer for Your Pet
Ferrets excel at getting themselves into trouble. They are clever little rascals who live to explore and will keep exploring until… well, there’s no until. They’ll just keep exploring. They’ll explore through power cords, appliances, and those holes under your kitchen that you didn’t even know were there. They’ll explore straight through walls, given enough time.
They’ll also put pretty much anything in their mouths, including power outlets, pieces of plastic just big enough to choke them, and that tab of aspirin you didn’t realize you dropped behind the dresser.
When you’re at home, their playful antics are a lot of fun. But when you’re not watching them, things have the potential to end in tragedy. Not that they always will. Ferrets are tougher than they look. But why take the risk?
Caging them when you’re not around allows you to control their environment and keep them safe.
2. It’s Safer for Your Home
Remember that trouble ferrets excel at? Well, it can do a number on your possessions, too.
Ferrets have a habit of breaking things and tearing things apart. They can climb quite well and knock things off your shelves. They are notorious for ripping up the edges of carpets. They chew on everything. Oh, and they like to steal random objects and hide them. Not to mention they might, at any time, choose a random corner in your living room as their new litter box.
It is important for all ferret owners to “ferret proof” their homes, to prevent injuries to their pets and damage to their property. You have to do this whether you keep your ferrets in a cage or not. But keeping them in a cage when you can’t watch over them is also a big help.
3. Training Is Easier
Specifically potty training. If a caged ferret only has one corner to use as a bathroom, as opposed to a loose ferret who has every corner in your house – Well, I’m sure you can do that math. The real benefit is that ferrets are creatures of habit, so once they get used to going in one spot, they’re likely to keep returning to that spot.
4. They Actually Get Less Bored
When I first started caging my ferrets, I had some rather predictable fears about it. First and foremost that they would get sad and depressed because they didn’t have enough space to play in (especially since they were already used to being loose all the time).
I have found that quite the opposite is true. Ferrets naturally sleep for most of the day, so locked in their cage, they just contentedly went to sleep. When I let them out, they became more active and more excited exactly because they weren’t always free. Places they’d already explored became new again. Old hiding places became new adventures. They made more of their free time because they didn’t always have it. And, again, they didn’t mind being locked in the cage.
Which brings us to the last reason to keep your ferret in a cage…
5. They Actually Love It
Again, I had misgivings about caging my ferrets for a long time. It didn’t seem fair. I was even afraid they’d resent me for it.
The first time I locked them in their cage and left for work, I felt awful about it. I rushed home after my shift to let them out, ready to reassure them that I still loved them…
Looking back, it’s so goofy.
Because, when I got home, they crawled straight out of their cozy sleeping spots. They greeted me with eager little noses, like always. They climbed down, had a bite or two of food, played with my feet for a minute (all normal for ferrets who have just been woken up). And than…
… They crawled straight back up into their cage!
It’s normal for ferrets to wake up, play for a minute or two, and than go straight back to sleep. What amazed me was that, having been locked inside their cage for eight hours, they climbed straight back inside. No hesitation. No fear of being locked in again. And this trend has continued. They love their new home, and even when I lock them up, they don’t act like I’m trapping them. Sure, they’ll look at me with little ‘let us out’ faces everyone once in a while. But even than, a second later, they just curl up in the warm spaces, as content as anything.
And they don’t just sleep in their cage, either. They play, have mini fights with each other, and even do some exploring. If I kept them locked up for days at a time, I’m sure they would resent me. But I don’t. And so they love their cage.
To Cage or Not to Cage…
Over my tenure as a ferret owner, I have tried both caging and not caging my ferrets. Having tried both, I believe caging is better for everyone. It’s safer for both my ferrets and my apartment and makes cleaning up after them easier. But the deciding factor has to be how much they actually love their cage, whether locked in it, or free to leave.
That being said, I have to stress this point: Ferrets should not be locked up for more than a few hours at a time.
Yes. I believe it’s best to have a cage, and to keep your ferrets locked in the cage when you’re away from home. But by this, I mean, keep them locked up during your eight hour work day, and than release them as soon as you come home.
Basically, think of your ferret’s cage like a dog’s kennel. Many owners keep their dogs in kennels during the night and when they’re away from home, but not while they’re home. That’s what a ferret cage should be, a kennel to keep them out of trouble while you can’t see them, not a permanent residence.
It’s also important to get the right kind of cage for a ferret. More on that to come!
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