Ferret-proofing your home is a little like child-proofing, only on a smaller scale. Making your home safe will go a long way to keeping your little bundle of fur happy, healthy and mischief free.
If you take a worst case scenario perspective and imagine anything that could be knocked over, chewed, eaten, fallen off, sneaked through or hidden in, your ferret will find, you will go some way towards keeping your ferret safe.
The best approach is to secure one room in your home and make this a place safe for your ferret to run around. If you are not 100% sure that your ferret is safe to be free-roaming, supervise playtime and make sure your main cage or run is big enough for your ferret to get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
If your ferret is caged, it is important to let your ferret out for at least 2 hours of playtime a day. Visit our Ferret Care Guide for Beginners for some general information about ferret ownership.
WHAT FERRETS LOVE TO DO
Examine the room from ferret level, get down on your hands and knees and look for all those tempting little hidey holes and burrows. Look for things that can be chewed, particularly rubber or wood. Look for any holes or gaps that are more than 1-2cm big, depending on the size of your ferret.
Be wary of heavy things that can be knocked over such as speakers and plants and remove any fragile ornaments. Look for cupboards that can be hidden in, curtains, shelves, fireplaces or furniture that can be climbed and ensure that exits are secured.
Stairs should be sealed off and if there is an open side, secure it with plexiglass or wood up to 1 metre high. Watch out for pedestal fans that can fall and desktop fans that ferret arms can reach.
Once you have done this, let your ferret out and watch where they go, they will find many MANY more adventures you would not have dreamt of!
Ferrets love to chew things, particularly stuffing from soft furnishings, wood or rubber. Ferrets will unfortunately chew and swallow anything given half a chance. Watch out for small rubber or plastic items that are easily removed such as buttons from remote controls and eyes from toys.
You should also avoid hard foods like carrot chunks, nuts and seeds or olive pits. Other known hazards are rubber doorstops, kid’s toys and anything with stuffing. This includes cushions, couches and beds that ferrets will often tunnel up inside.
Ferrets also love to chew power cords. You can place protective cord cables over to protect them or use this specially designed Crittercord. You will also need to watch out for pot plants and flowers, many are toxic when chewed and they can also easily be knocked and squash your little friend.
Be aware that ferrets will chew a hole in the back or underside of your couch or mattress so they can burrow in and stash food and possessions. This can be a huge problem if you have a sofa bed or recliner, the internal mechanisms can easily squash an unsuspecting ferret.
Stapling some more resistant fabric such as linoleum on the back or underside of furniture can prevent access. The same goes for cupboards and dressers that often have a gap along the back for the skirting board, allowing access to the back of the cupboard and drawers. Ferrets also find their way into the back of speaker sound systems, close this off with heavy duty chicken wire.
Satisfy your ferret’s urge to hide by providing safe places to play such as tunnels, boxes with holes cut in them, hammocks and ferret-safe toys.
Ferrets are masters of escape and will find any tiny hole and investigate. Ferrets usually do not deliberately escape, but often end up where they shouldn’t be and are unable to find their way back. Many a ferret owner has found their ferret inside the oven, the roof space or the walls and wondered how they got there.
Ensure that holes around air-conditioning ducts and vents, around pipes for toilets, sinks, dishwashers and drains or exhausts for dryers and ovens are secure or you restrict access to the laundry, bathroom and kitchen where most of the dangers occur. For the bathroom and laundry make sure the grills for drains are not easily unscrewable.
If you need to restrict ferret access to just the living area, it may be preferable to erect a barrier that humans can step over, but ferrets can’t get through. It is then less of a problem if someone forgets to shut a door or if your ferret makes a mad dash for freedom.
Your standard child-proof gate will have gaps too large for a ferret, so it will have to be modified with a sheet of plastic or similar to work. Try to bear in mind that any gap more than 1-2cm is too big for a ferret, depending on their size. It’s also worth ensuring that the height of any gates is over 1 metre to avoid climbing and jumping and should be completely smooth, without foot-holds.
Ideally your ferret playroom should not have a door open to the outside world. If someone enters and ferrets are out playing, they will make a mad dash for any opening and be out before anyone realises.
When confronted with a door, a ferret will ‘dig’ under the door, and scratch the floor or damage the carpet. Adding an extra carpet off-cut layer to the area will protect the floor, or use a door mat or hard plastic floor protector such as is used for office chairs. Many door gaps are too big anyway and a ferret will easily sneak under, so erecting a draft-protector can be useful.
Ensure windows are shut or screens are tough enough to withstand ferret enquiry Many screens are flimsy when pushed on and will simply pop out, allowing a ferret to escape.
Its also important to note that many ferrets can and will climb up a fly screen then because they totally can fly, will jump from the top and plummet to the ground. So if your not in the room don’t have fly screen windows or doors accessible.
Kitchens can be full of hidden dangers, cupboards are easily opened, there are many dangerous foods, sharp or heavy things and toxic chemicals. Doors and drawers can easily slam on ferrets if spring-loaded, so install some magnetic locks to keep curious ferrets out. Ferrets will find their way into the back of appliances, under the dishwasher or microwave, behind the fridge and amongst the elements.
Ideally you should shut off access entirely to the kitchen or carefully seal off appliances and cupboards. The dishwasher is the most dangerous part of the kitchen, make sure you routinely check inside before starting a cycle.
Dryers and washing machines are great places to get underneath or curl up inside. Ferrets can fall asleep in a nice cosy pile of clothes and next thing they know, they have ended up being thrown in the washing machine or dryer.
Get used to closely inspecting your clothes before you put on a wash cycle. Also check seals around the dryer exhaust and plumbing pipes and lock any cupboards that contain chemicals.
Bathrooms often have gaps around pipes that may be big enough if a seal is pushed aside to escape into the wall space. Also make sure that the covers for drains are not easily unscrewable, ferrets will figure this out and go down the drain. There are also toxic chemicals, vents and windows that need to be secured. Ferrets that end up landing in sink or bath can end up getting trapped there unable to get out.
Toilets are full of adventure. Many a ferret has ended up taking an unwelcome swim in the toilet or has gotten stuck half way through a toilet roll and of course who can forget the fun of playing with a roll of toilet paper.
If you have a private back yard or courtyard you can easily ferret-proof, so long as you pay careful attention to fence-lines. To avoid escape, ensure your ferret can’t dig under the fence, either by digging a trench and filling it with concrete or using pavers around the edge.
Fences or brickwork if rough or with easy foot-holds can easily be climbed, so if you have a wooden fence, consider a sheet of plexiglass or metal around the lower part of the fence, at least 1m up. The same can be done with trees, to avoid scratching, chewing and climbing.
Many plants can be toxic to ferrets, so supervise your ferret closely if you can’t restrict access to unknown plants. There is a list of known toxic plants, but err on the side of caution and don’t let your ferret eat any shrubs, flowers or trees. A safer option may be walking your ferret on a harness.
CHECK BEFORE YOU SIT
One final word on ferret safety in the home. Always make sure that couch, cushion, bed or other furnishing is free from sleeping ferrets before you sit down. They love to tunnel into cosy dark spaces and can easily be squashed.
When you get home, take off those heavy boots and watch those little bumps in the floor rugs. In time you will know the ferret owner boogie, which occurs as you put your foot down, realise a ferret (either asleep under a rug or has dashed under your foot as a game) is there and sort of semi hop, fall over and jump to avoid them. This boogie is perfected when you have ferrets who think jumping on your feet is the greatest game ever. Please don’t whip this boogie out in public though…
With these precautions and perhaps a little paranoia on your part, your ferret will be safe and secure. In time it will be second nature to shuffle around your home looking for darting ferrets, but to start with, you will need to look closely for small holes that can be tunnelled into and for the many things that ferrets will climb into or knock over.
If you live in a multi-person house it may be useful to print out the following check list for the fridge so that all members of the household know what to do before letting your ferrets out to play. Also bear in mind ferrets should never be left unsupervised with other pets.
Checklist for ferret playtime:
- Are other pets secure
- Are all windows, fireplaces and doors secured
- Is the floor freshly swept of small chewable items
- Are heavy things that can be knocked over secure
- Have I taken off my heavy boots and removed any carpets or rugs
- Are there any buckets or containers of water that need to be emptied
- Are cupboards locked
- Are precious ornaments safely put away