Posted: May 1, 2012, 7 a.m. PDT
Q: My husband and I recently bought a 5-month-old, male ferret from a local pet store. When we first brought him home, he slept through the night without a problem. However, as of four nights ago he has started to wake up around 2 or 3 a.m. wanting to get out of his cage and play. He scratches and bites at the cage and will scream every once in awhile. He is out of his cage 75 percent of the entire day (he is allowed to free-roam the bedroom and living room during the day), and I actively play with him for 4+ hours a day. When my husband comes home from work, they chase each other around the house for hours. By the time we all go to bed (depending on how tired he is, it could be anywhere from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.), we're all pooped and he goes into dead sleep. But it seems no matter how much we wear him out these days he just won't stay asleep. We have tried placing a dark sheet over the cage, but it seems to have no effect. I'm not quite sure what to do at this point. The first night we took him out to play around 2, but it wasn't until 4 that he went back to sleep (only to wake up at 7 and be up for the rest of the day with only a few small naps in between). The second night we tried waiting to see if he'd settle down and go back to sleep. After 45 minutes we gave in and let him out, only to repeat the night before. We've thought about purchasing a play pen, attaching it to the sides of the cage, and allowing the door to stay open so he can safely come out and play. Are there any other options we can try to soothe the beast within?
A: My initial thought is that your ferret has you guys well trained. When he gets up in the middle of the night and makes enough noise, you guys get up and play with him! First, make sure his cage is not close enough to your bedroom that his activity wakes you up, He needs to learn that noise doesn't get what he wants, and he will learn to amuse himself when you are not around. You can also find ways to make his cage more entertaining by placing toys throughout as well other forms of enrichment (check out SmallAnimalChannel or Ferrets magazine for ideas).
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