Ferret Proofing and Safety
Author: Katt Crouch
This is a BIG one!
Whether you have one ferret or an entire business, you are going to need a ferret proofed area for your ferret to play in outside of their cage. Even areas where the ferret plays under close supervision should be ferret proofed as much as possible. Ferret proofing is very much Trial and Error. Just when you think you have the most ferret proofed room in the world, your ferret will find a way to prove you wrong and show you just what you missed!
Only ferrets are worse because, without a playmate to wrestle with and chase and distract them from finding new things to get into, they manage to find every little thing you can imagine. They are professionals at finding new impossible ways to reach impossible places. Most ferret owners will tell you that ferrets can levitate, fly, climb walls and ceilings like spider-man, push things much bigger and heavier than they are across a room to climb up to reach things, knock things over to create bridges, you name it! Many ferrets, also have very accurate rubber detectors in their noses. If it is rubber, and it exists, it will be found eventually.
You should learn to become VERY alert and sensitive to the sound of chewing and smacking. It is usually an indication that the ferret has found something to eat that does not belong in its mouth (unless you have treats laying around, but it is still better to check and be safe) or is chewing a toy – potentially to pieces. My SO and I are at the point now where we can hear Koda chewing across the room with the stereo on. Even studying or watching movies, we have a subconscious ear out for chewing. Excessive? No! I can’t count the number of times that alertness/ability led to me keeping Koda from eating some random piece of rubber or plastic or foam…where he gets these things sometimes is beyond me. Oh the joys of ferrets…
Here are some things to watch out for…
– RECLINERS ARE ONE OF THE LEADING CAUSES OF FERRET DEATHS IN THE U.S.!!!!
– EARPLUGS ARE ANOTHER LEADING CAUSE OF FERRET DEATHS IN THE US – WATCH FOR EDIBLE ITEMS THAT CAN CAUSE BLOCKAGES!!!!
– Electrical Cords
– ANYTHING RUBBER!!!!
– Anything with rubber feet i.e. tables, stools, reptile cages, alarm clocks, computers (especially laptops)…check the bottoms of every item in the room for rubber feet – your ferrets sure will.
– Check all toys and boxes for superglue! Some toys use superglue to hold pieces on (such as these cheap cat toys that are caged in jingle-balls with feathers on each end, the feathers are super glued onto the plastic toy).
– Small plastic pieces such as the tag holders from new toys or clothes
– Stuffed toys with hard plastic eyes or noses
– PENCILS, pens, erasers, rubber hand-grips on writing utensils
– anything not ferret-safe that is sitting on that can be knocked/bumped (many ferrets will bump tables to make it wiggle so that things fall off, or you may walk by and knock it off without noticing)
– Box Spring Mattresses, Couches, RECLINERS!! etc – they can get inside and dig, which rips up the lining and foam on the inside, which can then be eaten
– If you have a mattress with decorative cords/handles on the sides, they are often a very thick elastic and make tempting chew toys. A sneaky ferret will get under the sheets and hide there while they chew on the cords.
– anything that is shorter than 3 feet tall can be jumped on or climbed (and some acrobatic ferrets can jump/climb more than that)
– anything (Point A) within a 3 foot distance of something else (Point B) can be used as a jumping board to reach Point B.
– anything that is not 100% sheer and vertical can be climbed
– most things that are tall, sheer, and vertical can still be climbed
– drawers can be used as ladders, even if they are almost flush with the dresser or cabinet they are on. Your ferret may also learn how to open the drawers! Note: drawers can also be used from behind (to get inside) as a fun network to get to other drawers, things in the drawers (drawstings, socks, etc) and things on top of the dresser/cabinet.
– drawstrings (and shoe strings), esp with knots or plastic shoestring ends they can eat the ends of the drawstrings, and the knotted or plastic tipped ones are especially tasty
– socks and gloves (Koda’s personal favorite) can be chewed and eaten. Koda had a fun stash of his favorite toys – my gloves – and I found them all with holes in them and fingers chewed off.
– zipper pulls – if they are not the metal ones that are very firmly attached (ie plastic, decorative, rubber pulls) they can be pulled off eventually and eaten
– lap top cases, back packs, briefcases, etc are also fun to play in and have many straps, strings, and other fun pieces that can be chewed on
– leather is fun to dig holes in until you can chew it and eat it ::)
– velcro is crunchy and feels good to massage ferret gums with. It tastes good and can be eaten. 😉 If you have anything attached by velcro beware – the sticky back is rubbery, and that plus the velcro itself makes for a sticky, rubbery, chewy, crunchy chewing sensation that can be eaten and cause a blockage (velcro is probably Koda’s favorite chew toy of all time – he will ignore anything else in the room if velcro is present)
– Zippers! If something is in a zippered case/bag it is NOT SAFE from the ferret! It does not take long for a persistent, bored ferret (this is where having a second ferret as a distraction is very nice) to figure out how to open a zipper from the inside and the outside
– anything that can be pushed across the room (even if it is way heavier than the ferret) will be used as a ladder to reach things
– thin/flimsy plastic objects can be cracked by teeth (think of what they do to bones!) and cut up the mouth, or be eaten (even tiny shards that break off when it cracks may be swallowed on accident) and cause a blockage and possible internal bleeding as it cuts all of the organs it passes through
– hair-ties and headbands (and anything elastic) – they have rubber on the inside
– tinfoil is crunchy and nice to chew on. Don’t ask why. Our best guess is that it’s a top secret method of psychic radio communication between ferrets around the world to achieve world domination.
– phone cases are chewy and often have rubber parts
– it is a good idea to put down tile, hardwood, or cheap linoleum flooring. You can also use cheap, large berber (indestructible!) rugs to cover your carpet to protect against digging and accidents/
– any spaces under doors, behind or under shelves/dressers, under the bed, etc should be checked – even if it seems too small – a 1″ gap is all that they need to get their head through, and when the head fits, so does the body usually. They will stash secret “chew toys” in these places, use them as escape routes (under the door!), or potentially get stuck (so block it off entirely, or make the hole/gap bigger)
– holes or cracks in the walls where plumbing goes in/out in bathrooms, windows, gaps under cabinets, anything like that can be an escape route or a get-stuck place
– litter boxes in every corner, toys and blankets in any corner not occupied by a litter box.
– use child-proof locks to keep cabinets closed
– sliding doors are great fun to push open. Use hook and eye latches on both doors to keep them closed (a pole will often not work as they can figure out how to remove the pole)
– if it is in the room long enough they will find it
– if you think they have it out of reach, they will reach it
– if they try enough times, they will succeed in jumping that extra 3 feet, or climb that slick, sheer, vertical object.