Posted: December 1, 2009, 5 a.m. EST
© Isabelle Francais/BowTie Inc.
Observe your ferret to find out which type of toys it likes best.
The holidays are coming and all good little ferrets are dreaming of toys and treats under the tree. As a ferret parent, how do you choose the right toys for your pet? Are the toys safe? Does your ferret like them? How can you tell?
Ferret Safety Comes First
To determine if a toy is safe for your ferret, examine it carefully before you buy it. Don’t buy toys that have small pieces that can be chewed off and swallowed. Rubber toys are especially dangerous for ferrets. Chunks that seem likely to pass through the intestine often don’t because the rubber reacts with the strong acids in the ferret’s stomach and swell up to almost twice their original size, making surgery the only option to get them out. A determined ferret can destroy even hard English rubber.
If it is a plush toy, watch out for plastic eyes or noses that are sewn or glued on. Ferrets can easily chew these off. If these parts are swallowed, they can cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines and your ferret may need surgery to remove the pieces. Make sure that all of the seams are well-sewn and that the toy is made from a durable fabric.
If your ferret is prone to chewing on fabric, then hard plastic toys are your best bet. In addition to toys made specifically for ferrets, try giving your ferret hard plastic jingle balls, whiffle golf balls, baby rattles and even Ping-Pong balls. These can be a lot of fun for your pet and not break the bank. A word of caution though, some toys labeled for ferrets are might not be as safe for your pet as they should be. Use the same criteria in picking a toy labeled for ferrets as you would any other pet toy.
Picking Out Ferret Toys
If your ferret has had toys before, then you probably already know some of its likes and dislikes. If this is your first holiday together, then buy a variety of toys so that your ferret has a choice. Some ferrets like toys that they can carry around. Small, sturdy stuffed animals or plush dog toys are great for this type of ferret.
Other ferrets like toys that they can chase, such as balls or self-propelled toys. If you choose a self-propelled toy, make sure it isn’t too powerful so it the toy doesn’t injure your ferret.
Some ferrets like toys that make noise. Toys with jingle bells inside them or toys that talk or make sounds can be the perfect gift for this type of ferret.
Presenting The Gift To Your Ferret
Set the toy on the floor and see if your ferret shows any interest. Make sure that you do this after other family members are done opening their presents or your ferret may be too distracted to check out its new toy. If it doesn’t come over on its own to check the toy out, gently toss the toy in front of your ferret, but not right to it. This way it will not perceive the toy as a threat.
Eventually, your ferret’s curiosity should kick in and it will inspect its new toy. Roll or toss the toy a few more times to show your ferret what the new toy can do. If your ferret still doesn’t show any interest, don’t despair. Your ferret just might not be in the mood to play at this time. If your ferret still doesn’t show interest within a couple of days, put the toy aside and try again at a later date.
Rotating Toys Versus Buying New Toys
Just like children, ferrets get bored with their toys. If you see that your ferret has stopped playing with some of its toys, take them away and store them in a box or bag. Get your ferret some new toys and let your ferret play with those until it gets tired of them, then switch back to the old toys.
You can also do things to the old toys to make your ferret think that they are new. Try putting a scented candle in the box with the old toys. The toys will pick up some of the scent of the candles and pique your ferret’s interest. Floral or sweet scents are best. Don’t use anything spicy. Never spray your ferret's toys with air freshener or liquid fragrances. Many air fresheners and scented oils can be toxic if your ferret licks the toys and ingests the product. A safe alternative is to rub your ferret’s toys with some powdered bouillon or toss a couple of dog treats in the bag or box where you store your ferret’s toys.
Time To Toss A Toy
Most toys wear out after a while and must be tossed out. Any toys that have been excessively chewed, have parts falling off, have exposed stuffing or are cracked can be hazardous to your pet. Even if it is your ferret’s favorite toy, toss it. You can usually find a similar toy to replace it. If your ferret shows intense interest in a toy when you first buy it, go buy an extra one so you have a replacement toy ready for when the time comes to toss the first one.
Buying duplicate toys can also be helpful if two or more of your ferrets like the same toy. They will still try to steal the toys from each other, but at least there are better odds of appeasing everybody.
I have never seen ferrets actually fight over a regular toy, but I have seen them sneak toys back and forth from each other. The only toys that I have seen ferrets fight over are edible toys, such as Cheweasels and Foamy Fries. Don’t expect your ferrets to share these. Either cut the treat into pieces and give a piece to each ferret or give each ferret a whole one to chew on; otherwise you will not have any peace in your home.
Some ferrets like hard chew toys like Nylabones. The Petite Nylabones and the chew rings are safe for ferrets and never seem to wear out.
Here’s wishing you a very Happy Holiday and a New Year full of fun, family and ferrets!
Mary Van Dahm has worked with exotic animals for more than 40 years, and she has specialized in ferrets for 22 of those years. She currently shares her home with three ferrets, three sugar gliders and her husband, Kurt.