Posted: June 1, 2012, 3:30 p.m. EDT
Ferret Rascal/Courtesy Anthony Gutierrez & Joni Jones
Provide plenty of sleep spots for your ferret so it has a choice of where to sleep.
There is a difference between just existing and actually enjoying life. This goes for ferrets as well as people. Most people know what makes them happy and are free to pursue their dreams. Ferrets are limited in their ability to pursue happiness and rely on us, their owners, to help them achieve an enjoyable existence. What can we do to help keep our ferrets happy and content? Try the following suggestions.
Start with the basics. To enjoy the finer things in life, you must take care of necessities first. These “must-have” items benefit your ferret to make and keep it happy:
1. Food and drink. Good, nourishing food and fresh, clean water are important to keep your ferret happy and healthy. Give a few ferret-safe treats now and then to really brighten your pet’s day.
2. Clean cage and bedding. Nobody likes to live in a dirty environment. Even though your ferret may like to mess up its cage, which is often a sign of boredom, your pet still prefers a clean cage and soft, clean bedding.
3. Clean litter boxes. You aren’t the only one who doesn’t like the smell of a dirty litter box — and you have the option of getting away from it by leaving the room. You ferret isn’t able to do that, so it relies on you to keep the box clean. Dirty litter boxes can harbor bacteria that can make your pet sick, and that’s definitely something that would make your pet unhappy!
4. Comfortable temperatures. Ferrets like cool, but not cold, temperatures. Don’t place your ferret’s cage where it is going to be in the hot sun or in cold drafts. If your ferret’s cage has to be by a window, place a towel on top of the cage to block the sun. If it must be in a drafty area, place a small blanket on top and over two sides of the cage to block the drafts.
5. Veterinary care. Your ferret may not always enjoy going to the veterinarian, but a healthy ferret is a happy ferret. Regular exams and vaccinations are a must so your ferret can enjoy a healthy life as long as possible.
6. Healthy environment. Your ferret requires a clean, healthy environment outside of the cage as well as inside. Ferrets have very sensitive respiratory systems, so don’t use strong chemicals around your pet’s cage. Your ferret will be much happier if it doesn’t have to inhale toxic fumes. This might be a good time to kick the smoking habit, too!
7. Toys in and out of cage. Ferrets need mental and physical stimulation. A variety of toys to play with, both inside and outside of the cage, help fill this need. A bored ferret is an unhappy ferret. If you do not provide toys and items for your ferret to play with, it may start choosing things that you don’t want it to play with, such as your keys, shoes, socks and anything else that isn’t nailed down!
8. An area to play, run and explore. This is another excellent way to provide mental and physical stimulation for your pet. Ferrets love to run around and investigate everything. Just make sure the area is ferret-proofed against hidden dangers for your pet.
9. Companions. Most ferrets enjoy having another animal in their life. This gives them company when you can’t be there to play with them. Another ferret or even a cat can become your ferret’s best buddy. But not all ferrets feel the need for an animal pal. Some prefer to be alone and are happier that way. Carefully supervise the introduction of another animal to your ferret. Let the animals sniff at each other through the bars of a cage before letting them meet face to face. Doing this can help prevent a tragic accident if the other animal doesn’t like you ferret, or vice versa.
10. Human interaction. One of the best ways to make your ferret happy is to play with it. Humans are the best toys that ferrets could have. Play can be free-form (just for the sake of play) or it can be structured (training your ferret to do tricks, for example). As long as you do it together, your ferret will be happy.
Now that the basics are covered, consider a few extra ways to keep your ferret happy.
1. Your ferret prefers clean bedding, but to make your pet really happy, add hanging sleep cubes, sleep sacks and tunnels to its cage to give your ferret a variety of spots to sleep and play in. These items also allow your ferret to have some privacy if it so wishes.
2. Toys outside of the cage should not be limited to just jingle balls to play with. Commercially sold ferret tunnels, clean corrugated drainage tunnels or even cardboard carpeting tubes that have at least a 4-inch center core are great playthings for your ferret to explore.
3. Bean box. Fill a large plastic storage box with about 8 inches of dried pinto beans (or any other large dried beans). Cut a hole in the top of the box so your ferret can climb in and out. Ferrets are natural burrowers and will love playing in their box of beans!
4. The following games are ferret favorites:
A. Tie a toy to the end of a long string and pull or dangle it for your ferret’s enjoyment. (Toys that jingle or rattle will especially add excitement to the game!)
B. Drag a long towel or a small blanket on the floor, and watch your ferret try to climb on! When it gets on the towel, it will often roll off again and get even more excited.
C. “Bowl” your ferret. This has to be done on a very smooth floor. Lay your ferret on its back and gently push it across the floor. It will slide, get up and come back for more!
D. Play ferret fetch. Unfortunately most ferrets don’t really fetch, but they do love to chase. Get a bucketful of ping pong balls and bounce them one by one for your ferret to chase. Try bouncing two, and see what your ferret does!
We’ve started the ferret happiness list for you. What other things can you think of to make your ferret happy?
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