When ferrets are allowed out of their cage to roam free, they seem to feel that nothing is off limits, and as a result, they can get into a world of trouble.
It is a common lament among ferret owners. It is difficult, if not impossible to keep an eye on them every second. These little creatures are intelligent, curious, and determined. Even if you block off an area, if they are determined to explore the other side, they will find a way.
For this reason, many owners have invested in a ferret cage to keep them fully occupied but also safe from harm, and this is one item every new ferret owner should factor in when looking at the overall upfront costs of owning a ferret.
This is good because it gives you peace of mind and is the perfect solution for both you and the ferret. However, maintaining a safe environment inside a cage is not always the best solution for ferrets. They are very different from other normally caged animals. Birds, hamsters, turtles, guinea pigs, etc. can spend days on end inside a cage with little to no problem. Owners let them out when convenient and put them back with no real negative effects.
With ferrets it’s a different story. Ferrets are extremely active animals as we can all attest to as we watch them scurry about. But their scurrying is not just for our entertainment. It is a part of their inbred nature.
Placing them inside a cage for days on end will not deter them from doing this. In order for them to be happy, they need to have the freedom to run, climb, dig, and explore freely. A ferret whose movements are inhibited for too long will become bored, agitated, depressed, and maybe even fall ill.
So, while you have a nice cage set up with all your ferret’s favorite toys and games, you also need to give them plenty of free time to roam and play outside in the real world. It is never okay to leave a ferret inside his cage for an entire day.
Now, before we continue, keep in mind that ferrets still need a cage, and if you are not sure why, you can read our article on why ferrets need a cage.
How Much Time do Ferrets Need Out of Their Cage
There is a lot of debate among experts about how much time a ferret needs to break free from his confinements. If you leave it up to them, no time limit will be sufficient. If they were in the wild, there would be no restrictions on their movements, so we can’t expect them to call it quits on their own.
However, some experts feel that they should have a minimum of three to four hours of free time to roam around every day.
For some owners, this may seem like a lot of time. When ferrets are out of their cages, they can be quite a handful. Whenever they are free, it means that you have to keep a watchful eye on them and their movements at all times.
You have to be ever vigilant to keep them out of harm’s way. It is not uncommon to see them do harm to themselves and your property.
On the other hand, some owners believe that a ferret on the loose is a good thing and they go about their business letting the little animals roam wherever they may. The problem with this is that it is not always effective.
Too often, we hear reports of injuries and even death because the ferret was somewhere he should not have been.
So, the idea of four hours outside of the cage can be a bit too much for many owners. Most of us don’t have that kind of free time to dedicate to watching these little critters go about doing what comes natural to them. But there is a way to let your ferrets out of their cages and still keep them safe.
The Ferret Playpen
You can have better control of your ferrets by controlling their environment. You can let them out of their cage but still give them a controlled environment to move around in. Many set up a playpen that allows the ferret freedom of movement within a limited amount of space.
If you’re only planning to let them out for a short period of time while you clean their cages, this is a great option. Many playpens can expand to larger sizes that you can fill up with some of their favorite toys.
As long as the pen is escape proof, the ferrets can be free of their confinements and still have a safe place to roam around. While you won’t want them to spend the entire four hours in the playpen, it does allow them a nice change of environment where they can dig and explore to their heart’s content and allows them space to get their needed exercise in.
Just make sure you choose the right type of playpen so that your ferret doesn’t find it too easy to climb or jump over. For more information on this topic, you can read our article on the best playpen for ferrets.
The Ferret Proof Room
Another way to get them out of their cages but keep them safe is to have a single room in your house that has already been ferret proofed. This means a place where they cannot escape or get injured in some way.
This may take some doing, but as long as you have secured the doors, and closed off any small spaces where they might be able to squeeze their body through, their time outside of the cage can be worry free for you.
Even in a ferret proof room, you will still need to keep a close eye on them. Ferrets are very adept at squeezing into the most unusual of spaces, which means any opening larger than a half an inch is too large.
But, if you’ve done your work and sealed everything off, they should be free to explore for at least an hour or two, which could be enough to get their kicks and still feel as if they are in nature.
Time With You
While these are excellent options for allowing your ferret to have free time outside of his cage, they are not the final solution. Ferrets are very socially interactive and the best way to make use of their quality time is to spend time with you.
Yes, it is important for them to have time outside of their cages, but it is equally important for ferrets to have good interactions with you and others in your household. It helps them to acclimate better to their home and to recognize your role in the household.
Your Ferret’s Time in the Cage
When you consider that the majority of their time will be spent inside the cage, it becomes apparent that their cage life should be entertaining; just keeping a ferret in a cage with nothing to do will make it difficult for them to adjust.
They will be able to spend more time inside their cages if they are properly equipped to keep them occupied while you are at work or busy with other things.
Ferrets will demand a great deal of your time if you let them, but reality dictates that you will have other things to do. If you notice your ferret is getting a little agitated, shaking the bars or trying to escape, you should take it as a sign that they are getting a bit of cabin fever.
You can’t always go by the numbers when it comes to giving them time outside of the cage. While it is recommended that they get four hours of free play outside, this may vary depending on their life in the cage.
By giving ferrets lots of things to engage in, they are less likely to become bored and depressed by their confinement. Many owners make sure that their cages are large enough for them to have some freedom of movement.
Their cages have different levels, each one designated for a different activity. You might have one level set up with hammocks for sleeping and relaxing, and another level filled with their favorite play things. A good cage will have ramps and secure openings so they can easily move about looking for things to keep them engaged. And most importantly, have latches that cannot be easily manipulated by the little critters.
By offering good quality life inside the cage, your ferret may be okay with staying in there longer than usual. However, a well-equipped cage is no real substitute for their free time outside. If you’re planning on owning a ferret, or if you already have one, you cannot afford to consider it an option to let them out and about.
It is for your ferret’s best interest that you help them to keep in touch with their natural tendencies, but at the same time, having good interaction with you and your family. This will provide a healthy balance that will keep them from getting bored and depressed. By doing so, you will have a very happy ferret that you can enjoy for many years.