I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “Real men play with their weasels.” A bit risque, but funny, and funny is how I’d describe owning a ferret.
Ferrets are highly intelligent animals, with a higher brain-to-body ratio than dogs and cats. This would imply that they’re smarter than dogs and cats. I’m not sure if they’re smarter, but they are definitely more mischievous and funny!
One of the best features of a ferret is also its worst trait: curiosity. That means that every bag and box entering the house will be examined and emptied, if possible. I’ve been told a bored ferret is a bad ferret. That means they will make their own fun. If that happens to be digging out all your plants, tipping over the pots and spreading dirt throughout your living room, so be it. So it behooves you to put a little thought into entertaining your ferret.
Of course, the best toy a ferret could ever have is you. They enjoy your attention, like to play chase games, and will often invite you to play by running across the room, leaping at you, and wrapping their front legs around your ankle. Sometimes this includes a playful nip or two. If you’d rather avoid the nips, pay attention when your ferret asks to play!
Good ferret toys include the usual bell balls, indestructible rubber balls with bells (must be tough enough that the ferret can’t rip a chunk out of it), polar fleece toys with bells, small stuffed animals, clear dryer tubes, cat fishing pole toy, grocery bags (paper and plastic, as long as they don’t try to eat it), and cardboard boxes. Another favorite with ferrets everywhere are plastic Easter eggs in which something jingly has been inserted and covered with a crocheted yarn cover. If you get one of these with some rice inside, don’t be alarmed if you hear the sound of a 10′ rattlesnake–it’s just your ferret “killing” the crocheted egg toy!
The dryer tube is fun for them to run through, and multiple ferrets will try to occupy the same space at the same time. The clear dryer tube is perfect because you get to see how they get past each other, double over on top of themselves, see whose mouth is bigger, and my favorite, running upside down. Once they’re bored with the tube just lying on the floor, you can tie it in a knot and voila! — a brand new toy. You can also wrap the tube around chairs, through cardboard boxes, around cat “tree” toys–the possibilities are limited only by your creativity.
The “towel drag” game is fun for most ferrets, too. You merely place a towel on the floor, wait for a passenger, then drag them around the room (not too fast, now). You stop, they’ll jump off and do a little dance, then jump back on again. That’s your signal to get moving. They also like it when you dangle the towel and play like that. Only problem with that is sometimes they don’t want to stop playing. My ferrets steal my dish towels from the drying rack!
Making little “playhouses” out of cardboard boxes can be a lot of fun for both you and your ferret. They love running through the little rooms, peaking out “windows” and hiding in the least accessible spot in there. (Hint: make yourself some access doors.)
A favorite around here is when I tie a string to one of the bell balls and drag and dangle it. Ferrets will play for a long time with this toy as long as you’re on the other end. As soon as a human stops “powering” it, the game loses a lot of the fun. Some ferrets do get some mileage out of the toys on elastic cords, but they’re just not as much fun without a human behind it.
Let your ferret show you how he likes to play. I’m sure he can come up with a few more games you haven’t thought of. One warning, though: don’t let them climb up your pant leg! You’ll probably regret it.