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Monday, January 21, 2008

How much play-time does a ferret need?

Chloe luxuriates on a comforter

I've seen more than one book recommend several hours of daily "out of the cage" time for a pet ferret. But this may be difficult for many owners due to the fact that when a ferret is out and running about, an owner should remain attentive to what is going on, which can be demanding.

Obviously, you don't want things destroyed, household items knocked over, or off a shelf and broken. And you certainly don't want your ferret becoming hurt or injured simply because you weren't paying attention. Having a ferret "out" is similar in a sense to babysitting.

So, how much playtime your fuzzy friend gets will probably be mediated by how willing or able you are to devote supervisory attention to the task. And, of course, if you are very tired or have to concentrate on something tedious and anxiety-provoking like doing your taxes, you may not "especially want" your ferret out and causing bedlam.

However, your ferret does NEED to be out of its cage EVERY day without fail. Repeat: your ferret needs this!

And if you can't provide daily opportunities for your ferret to be out in the house, running around, investigating, exploring, and playing (and occasionally causing havoc), you DON'T NEED to own a ferret. Because you will have a very sad ferret and you will, in fact, be a terrible ferret owner.

Ferrets are highly intelligent animals and crave and require free time out of their cages, no matter no how nice the cage may be.

How long your ferret should be out will be dictated by two parties, you and your ferret. You, as the first party, will let your ferret out and responsibly watch him/her. Your ferret, as the second party, will dutifully engage in ferret activities (causing chaos and generally having fun). Your ferret will also at some point begin to wind down (sometimes after eating) at which point, you, as the first party, should notice and then take your pet back to its cage where it can crawl into its hammock or into its sleep sack (contrary to the advertising images in stores, Chloe refuses to use a hammock).

In my case, Chloe gets out in the morning, and then again at night. In each case, I try to make sure that no one is visiting (you don't want doors opening and shutting--too tempting to a ferret--and you don't want excess "people feet" moving around since a ferret can be injured by a careless person who is not paying attention).

I also try to make sure that I interact with her when she's out. In other words, don't just let your ferret out. She's not a cat. Ferrets like to interact. Yes, sometimes they are cat-like in that they will sometimes ignore you and do their own thing. But, sometimes, a ferret will want nothing more than to play with you. And you should be available for this. Ferrets have short lives. And they live fast and furious. And if you are going to own a ferret, you should be willing to accomodate them and allow them to be happy. Because if you provide the opportunity for this, they will be.

Once again, don't be a ferret owner unless you TRULY can be.

Oh, forgot to mention: when Chloe starts eating, I know that is my signal to put her back in the cage, because otherwise she will slink off and find a place to hide and fall asleep in (a hardware drawer, the bottom of an armoire, or my sock bin).

Chloe the ferret - a Mini Blog about Ferrets

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