Posted: September 1, 2009, 5 a.m. EDT
6) Small Fan: A small clip-on fan (battery powered) can be quite helpful in reducing odor or circulating cooling air. I always clip one on when the room is warm, and occasionally I’ll mist some water through the air stream to cool the cage.
7) Chewing Objects: As with dogs, many ferrets love to chew, but allowing them to chew the cage, toys or fabrics can cause damage to the teeth. Supply your ferrets with appropriate chewing items, such as Super Fries, Ferret N-Bones, Cheweasels or other ferret-friendly chew toys.
8) Small Balls and Cubes: Ferrets love to manipulate small objects, and golf ball-sized balls are wonderful for this. Balls containing grit or other noisemakers are good, but be sure the ferret cannot chew them open. Large glass marbles work well, but get the 1-inch or larger variety to prevent choking. My ferrets love to play with hard plastic blocks designed for toddlers.
9) Crinkle Paper Tub: Fill a tub with crinkled paper, put some scent on a few of them, and you will have ferrets diving in for a better sniff. This is perhaps one of my ferret’s favorite enrichments.
10) Food Cube: A small box with some ferret paw-sized holes is a great enrichment. Just place some favorite treats inside the box, seal it up, toss it in the cage, and watch your ferrets work to get to the treat. Test the size of the holes to insure the ferret reach an arm in and still be able to pull out the treat.
It is not necessary to have all the items in the cage at the same time, although the cage blanket and the nest box should always be a part of the cage furniture. From the viewpoint of enrichment, switching out items each day and replacing them with new enrichments has a much better impact on a ferret than if it had the same enrichments all the time. For ferrets, new is good and old is boring, so move stuff in and out as often as possible.
Don’t limit your cage enrichments to those I have mentioned. You know your ferret(s) better than I. If you know your little fuzzies would not respond to the ceramic water dish, substitute something you know your ferrets would enjoy.
Finally, one of my favorite tricks is to buy seven plastic washtubs (about $3 at WalMart). Each tub holds a day’s worth of toys and enrichments. When I do my daily cage cleaning, I pull out the old enrichments and replace them with the stuff I took out a week ago. To the ferrets, the replaced items are “new.”
An enrichment program only works when it is being implemented, so do something each day. Your ferrets will thank you for it!
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Bob Church is a former photojournalist and current zooarcheologist with degrees in biology (zoology) and anthropology (archaeology). He resides in Missouri with 19 ferrets that keep his chicken blender overheated and his heart overfull.