Water Dishes

Every animal needs the basic necessities of life – warm shelter, food, and of course – water. Deciding what type of dish to use for your ferret’s water supply is very important.

Water Bottles – NOT SAFE: 

Ferrets are obligate carnivores and as such get most of their hydration from their food – they are designed to eat meat, which is primarily water. As a result of this ferrets do not have a strong thirst drive. They are also very impatient animals. This means that it is extra important that when they are thirsty, they have access to an easy and plentiful source of water. Water bottles are NOT recommended for ferrets for 2 very important reasons:

1.) Water bottles are designed to only release a few drops of water at a time. This does NOT allow adequate water intake, and an impatient ferret will NOT sit at a water bottle long enough to drink sufficient water to stay properly hydrated. The combination of low thirst-drive, impatience, and slow water output means that water bottles are a highly inadequate source of hydration for your ferret. Chronic dehydration leads to a long list of health issues culminating in eventual kidney damage.

2.) In their impatience to get water from a bottle, many ferrets will chew on the metal spout. This causes significant and permanent damage to their teeth. Dental damage can cause long-term health consequences including dental decay and disease which may lead to gingivitis, oral infections, and/or eventual loss of the teeth making eating difficult.

Below are some pictures of just how damaging to teeth a water bottle can be. This ferret Ollie used a water bottle for the first 10 months of his life before he was brought home, and this is the level of damage he sustained in that short time.

Ollie suffered permanent dental damage from using a water bottle.
Photo Credit: Natasha Blanco
Ollie suffered permanent dental damage from using a water bottle.
Photo Credit: Natasha Blanco

Water bottles should ONLY be used as a backup water supply, and for traveling purposes. It can be helpful to train your ferrets to drink from a water bottle (as they will not instinctively know how) in case you do ever need to travel with them. But a water bottle should NEVER be a ferret’s primary source of water.

But my ferrets always tip over their water bowl and then have nothing to drink – what should I do? 

There are several ways to provide water to your ferrets in a way that they cannot tip over and will have a constant and plentiful supply of fresh water. Below are a few of these methods…

Locking Dishes

Locking Dishes are the most popular water dish used for ferrets. Locking Dishes are inexpensive and come in many forms, but they all work in the same way. These dishes bolt on to the side of the cage, which prevents them from being tipped over. Placing the dish low enough to reach, but high enough that troublemaker ferrets cannot easily dig in or poop in the dish.

Here are a few different Lock Crocks you could try:

These work in a similar way as traditional Lock Crocks, but with a different design and a stainless steel bowl instead of plastic:

These pictures show some different locking dishes that you could use….

Metal Snappy Dish:

(note that the disk is set high enough to prevent ferrets from easily digging all of the water out)

This metal Snappy Dish is set high enough to prevent ferrets from easily digging all of the water out.
Photo Credit: Heather Downie
Plastic Lock Crock:

(note that the disk is set high enough to prevent ferrets from easily digging all of the water out)

Hinged Plastic Lock Crock:

This style of lock crock is NOT as useful. Note how the hinge allows the dish to be lifted even when it is locked on. Ferrets can lay underneath and kick the dish to splash all of the water out – and to make plenty of noise at 2am when you are trying to sleep.

Elevated Water Dishes

Another option that people use for Free-Roam ferrets or around the ferret room is an Elevated Dish. These come in many styles, sizes, and heights. It is important to be sure that the dishes are low enough that ferrets can easily reach the bowls, and that the bowl-holder is stable and will not fold or collapse on ferrets who may try to climb it.

There are many types of Elevated Dishes, and they can be homemade as well. Below are just a couple examples of Elevated Dishes you can buy online:

Water Catch Systems

Another popular method for in and out of a cage is to have a backup dish or tray to catch any water that the ferrets dig out of their dish. This can be done in many different ways including a water bowl placed inside of a larger tub, or an anchored tub/tray placed under a lock crock in the cage. Use your imagination and get creative with it!

Below is an example of an easy to make Water Catch System:

Water Catcher or Ferret Catcher? Silly Athena, that’s not for sleeping in!
Photo Credit: Jason Raynor

Heavy Ceramic Dishes

A heavy ceramic dish with a wide base can make it more difficult for a ferret to tip over. This does not make it impossible, nor does it deter digging in the water to “free” the water that is “trapped” in the dish. However, for more mellow ferrets this can be a great and easy solution.

Heavy ceramic dishes are difficult to tip.

Things to Avoid

1.) Water Bottles as a Primary water source (see above)

2.) Rubber Bases: When shopping for a water dish take care! DO NOT use dishes that have a rubber rim. These are meant to make the dishes non-slip, but are VERY dangerous for ferrets. Ferrets can chew on these rubber rims and end up with a life-threatening blockage. Even if you think your ferret won’t chew, please NEVER use anything with rubber in their cage or play area.

Here are 3 examples of dishes that are NOT appropriate for ferrets:

Gator pouts because he knows his water bowl is not safe.
[The rubber rim was removed after these photos were taken.]
Photo Credit: Aftershock