The best part of owning ferrets is playing with them or watching them play with each other. Indeed, a large part of a ferret’s brain is dedicated to play and mischief. But, due to the fact that they are so clever, sometimes they need some outside stimulation to get going and keep them from being bored (they get bored quick). Therefore, this is a list of some of the ferret games we have discovered.
It doesn’t take much to amuse a ferret. Sometimes, the simplest things can send a ferret into fits of joy. One of these is the lowly plastic shopping bags that litter the landscape. It seems like they were made for each other, and plastic bags are, of all the other games and toys they have, the one thing that they never seem to tire of. The fresher and more crisp the bag, the more they love them.
Note: Although it has never happened to any of my ferrets, they can get twisted in a handle loop, so it is suggested that you cut the handle loops to prevent this. Likewise, a bag with holes in it can also pose a threat, so throw them away when they get holes.
A box full of plastic bags can be a total hoot for ferrets. They also like to sleep in them.
Repeatedly fling several bags into the air and, as they float down, the ferrets will jump up and grab them.
Put one or more ferrets into a plastic bag and alternately pull up and down on the handles. They will quickly “go nuts” and dance away chasing each other. Or, tickle the bottom of the bag. This also drives them wild.
Note: DON’T spin the bag; ferrets get dizzy (and sick) very easily. Even a small left-right oscillation can trigger nausea in a ferret.
A large bag full of smaller bags, tied up, can keep ferrets occupied for quite a while as they “disembowel” it.
Ferrets enjoy paper bags just as much as plastic. The more crinkly, the better. They will go in and start to dig till they have made several holes in it.
A simple cardboard box can be a world of fun for a ferret. Take one medium sized box, add two or three ferrets, gently rock back and forth so the ferrets slide from side to side. The more they slide into each other, the more excited they get. Once they are in a total frenzy, tip the box on its side and watch them explode out of it, dancing and chasing each other around the room at a frantic pace.
A short box (about 6″), with no top, entices them to play “turtle” underneath it. It’s hilarious watching a box navigate around the room.
A jumble of various size boxes is a playground for ferrets. If they get tired of this, throw a blanket over the pile and it becomes a whole new “toy” to them.
Speaking of blankets, by simply throwing a blanket over something they are familiar and bored with, it becomes a whole new world for ferrets. Throw it over a coffee table, chair or off the side of a couch even and watch as they explore this new feature. Ferrets love tubes and tunnels and such, and this is a quick and easy way to create lots of new tunnels and passage ways.
Note: If you have your ferrets out, and someone comes to the door, (if they are together) you can simply drop a blanket on top of the ferrets; this will occupy and distract them long enough to tend to the door without them trying to get out.
If You Build It, They Will Come… (won’t they?)…
I once came across several empty cardboard carpet cores (tubes). I decided it would be fun to make a “playscape” of them for the ferrets. After about six hours of work, and twenty or so sticks of hot-melt glue, I had constructed an elaborate “thing” for them to play in. It had slides, ladders, platforms and just about anything I could think of to amuse ferrets. It occupied at least three feet of floor space (which I really needed).
“They’re gonna love it!” I thought, as I introduced them to their new toy. Boy, was I WRONG! They couldn’t care less about the bleepin’ thing! I tried and tried to get them interested in it, but they just didn’t seem to care about this (labor intensive) monstrosity. It sat there for weeks, taking up space and being a total embarrassment to me personally.
Alas, I ultimately decided to reclaim the space and disassembled it. Once it was on the floor in pieces, before I cleaned it all up, I let the ferrets out to play. They LOVED IT! It seems that 18″ of simple tube, with nothing attached, is far more appealing to a ferret than something elaborate.
Since then (that was way back when I first got ferrets), I have learned that ferrets may like the package a toy comes in more than the toy itself. Recently (6 years later), I found another such cardboard tube. But, this time, I did nothing to it. As usual, they love it. Go figure…
Speaking of tubes, one thing that ferrets really like is a dryer vent-tube. Three or four feet of (clear) flexible dryer tube will give ferrets countless hours of fun. It’s always changing in size and shape, so it’s always a new experience for them.
Note: To prevent injury, bend the wire ends into a loop and always keep them sealed to the tube with duct-tape.
Try this: When a ferret is inside, bring the ends together and hold them that way. The ferret will go around several times before realizing that “something’s wrong – this tunnel didn’t used to be this long!” He will then kick it into reverse and go around backwards several times. At this point, he’ll stop and try to figure out “What the hell happened?!” I usually let them out at that point… ’till next time… It’s hilarious! They come out charged with static electricity and their hair is totally poofed out.
You can also lay the tube out straight and, when they are inside, roll it a few times. Or, just keep rolling them on their backs every time they turn over. One ferret of mine liked the back-scratching effect, and I would hold the ends and slide him back and forth in it like he was in a “slinky”.
Some ferrets get a kick out of being blown (or sucked) by a shop-type vacuum. I have about four lengths of hose hooked together, so I can leave the vacuum on the other side of their play barrier (a little quieter).
Note: Some ferrets are terrified of noisy machines and must be excluded from such play. Towards the end of playtime, put such ferret in its cage and cover it. This will help keep it calm as you play with the vacuum with the others.
Also: If you blow in a ferret’s face with your mouth, you are liable to get nipped.
When blown, they will roll away over and over, thus making it look like someone is blowing a bunch of trash with a leaf blower. They don’t roll from the force of the air, as it’s not strong enough to do that – that’s just what they do when blown with air. They then usually get super-silly and take off chasing each other.
When the novelty of that wears off, switch the hose to suction. They will repeatedly stick their snouts into the end of the hose. At first, I was concerned that this might “suck the breath out of ’em”, but it doesn’t seem to bother them, as they keep coming back for more. The funniest thing I have found to do is to just stick the hose to their side and watch them try to get off of it. It doesn’t hurt them and they can get off it rather easily, but it sometimes takes them a few seconds to get detached from it. They get quite a kick from this and usually dance away in wild abandon.
Most ferrets like snow; it’s perfect for burrowing into. So, when it snows, get a sheet of plastic about six feet square, find a suitable area and spread it out on the floor. Then, get some kind of plastic tub, fill it with snow and set it in the center of the plastic (Do all this before letting the ferrets out to play though). It won’t be long before they are digging and burrowing in it.
Some love to be hit with little snowballs. One would always stick his head in and come out wearing a pointed little “snow hat”, only to shake it off and go in for another.
Note: Some ferrets don’t seem to like snow because it’s too cold or something. If they are warm-natured like that, don’t force them; you don’t want to rob them of their core temperature.
NEVER let ferrets outside in the snow without a leash, especially a white ferret! They can easily vanish from sight, never to be seen (alive) again. It’s better to bring the snow inside to them.
On The Other Hand…
They might not be that interested in snow, but they will love the plastic sheet under it. This happened with my current batch of ferrets. The first time I introduced them to snow play, they weren’t very impressed and quickly lost interest in it. I was rather disappointed having gone to all that effort to get the stuff in here in the first place. But, they took to playing with that sheet of plastic real quick. So, now, I just skip the snow and put the piece of plastic down instead. Much easier.
There are ferret toys available (including my “Buzz-Balls”), not to mention toys you might make, or that they might find and decide that it’s a toy for them, too. My smallest ferret adopted a (larger than him) pet brush and would proudly drag it around the room from location to location. I hated to have to take it away from him, but the handle was made of rubber, and I noticed him starting to chew on it (rubber – NOT good for ferrets).
Some ferrets like little balls, while others couldn’t care less about them. I have a number of small plastic balls with smaller plastic bells inside. They are made such that a ferret can pick them up with its teeth and run around with it. One ferret loves these balls, and has collected them all together on one book case bottom shelf. He visits them every playtime, sometimes taking one for a trip around the room. He then carefully places it back with the others.
Wind-up toys can be amusing, but the action doesn’t really last long enough before it must be wound again.
Interestingly, none of my ferrets have ever shown any interest in the “Floppy Copters” cat toys I make. They don’t seem to be interested in small, flying things.
One ferret loves pillow cases, and will navigate around the room, inside a pillow case, trying to bite anything he touches outside (through the case). But, twice now, he has managed to navigate his snout right into a small plastic tub of water that I have out for them! I don’t know if he could have drowned that way, but I now watch for that.
Putting ferrets into a pillow case can be almost as much fun as putting them in a cardboard box. But, you can tickle the bottom of the pillow case and that really gets them excited.
One ferret used to love the gloves I carry for work in my small day-pack (while another wanted everything else in it). That’s all she wanted – my two gloves. In her mind, one belonged behind the couch, while the other belonged behind my desk. That’s the way it was… they were her gloves and that’s where she wanted them. I still sometimes forget to gather my belongings before I go to work, only to get there and find something I need is missing.
If you are at a loss for something new to interest your ferrets, just dump a load of dirty laundry on the floor. They will love it. It seems that pants and shirts were made for ferrets to play with (and the stinkier, the better). It’s outrageously funny to watch a ferret snorkel into a sock, then try to get out!
Even a simple pair of insulated coveralls, with all the pockets and zippers and such, are good for some laughs.
When all else fails, there’s always tickling. There are two spots on a ferret that are very ticklish: The muscle on the front of the back leg -and- the muscle on the back of the back leg. While the one in front is ticklish, the one on the back really sets them off. Gently pinch that muscle and they go nuts. That usually sets them to dancing and chasing each other as they romp around the room a lap or two. I always say, “Just wind ’em up and let ’em go”!
Note: Some more vocal ferrets may squeak a bit when tickled; this doesn’t necessarily mean you are hurting them – that’s just the way they are. If you are truly hurting them, or you make them mad, they will usually hiss at you.
These are some of the ferret games that keep us amused and keep life interesting. I’m sure you can come up with more. Remember: You get out what you put into your ferrets.
The author, Gary Schooley, is always happy to hear from other ferret owners and get their feedback. His email address is schooleyATmail2world.com (of course replace the AT with @)