If you’re owned by ferrets, the safest thing you can do to make sure they’re okay is to be -- te dum -- drum roll -- paranoid.
I don’t like dwelling on negatives, but with ferrets as pets you have to assume they will get into the most trouble, into the smallest holes, so make 110% certain they CAN'T, and then you can relax
Please make sure that you block off gaps around all appliances so that your ferret can’t get to wires, rubbers, insulation, fan blades or any moving parts. Some ferrets love chewing on electrical cords so if you notice yours does, please spray the cords with bitter apple or a similar spray.
Another thing you should do when bringing a ferret into your house for the first time is to make sure there aren't any holes in the walls, which would allow your ferret to get into and get lost.
You might wonder how you'll find a hole if it's right down under cabinets or other built-in furniture.
I would suggest putting your ferret in a harness and just watching it carefully as it sniffs around the new room. If your ferret wanders around and doesn’t make any sudden movements, like tugging to go and investigate something out-of-the-way, then you should be fine.
If your ferret does suddenly disappear somewhere or seems like it's found something that takes its attention, then you’ll need to get down on your hands and knees and have a good look at the area. If you find a hole, no matter how small, make sure you block it up immediately
I had an email from an American ferret owner who told me about a ferret which was not supervised properly and got into the wall cavity through a small hole. They never found the ferret and the owner was devastated, as you can imagine.
I also got an email from another American ferret owner a while ago who alerted me to the dangers of ferrets and fire ants.
Those dangerous insects are in Texas but they've also invaded Australia and have been found around Brisbane and in Melbourne -- so if you let your ferret outside, you must read about
and how lethal their bites can be to ferrets.
Here is a list of some things around the house that can cause problems:
Rockers / Recliners / Fold-out beds
We got rid of our Jason recliner once we became ferret owners. The thought of accidentally breaking our pet’s back as it slept amongst the gears and levers was not an option.
We did have a couch which converted into a fold-out bed and although it was rarely used, the last time caused me a huge amount of anxiety.
One of our kids had a friend over and the fold-out bed was used and being good little children, the next morning they put the bed back into the couch position without having to be told.
During a head count sometime mid-morning, I found that CJ wasn’t in his usual haunts, so I started looking for him. After about half-an-hour of searching, I began to get a little panicky, thinking that perhaps he wandered out when the kids were inattentive going in or out of the house.
I was standing around in the sitting room feeling more and more desperate when I though I could hear a very faint tinkle of a bell. Straining hard, it definitely sounded like a bell and it was coming from the fold-out couch.
I ran calling Philip to help me open up the bed and we did it with absolute fear that we would chop CJ in half when trying to get him out. Thank God we managed to extract him without any damage but it was truly a miracle that he didn’t get killed during the initial process.
He had been trapped in the mechanism and ended up bent almost at 90 degrees. When we got him out, he was twisted and walked like a crab, sideways!
The poor guy was like that for a day and then he straightened out naturally. We had taken him to the vet for a check up and were told that he was fine and nothing had been damaged.
Needless to say, if the couch was turned into a bed after that time, we ALWAYS did a head count and locked the ferrets away BEFORE turning it back into a couch.
I was quite happy when we decided to get rid of it as I found it all quite stressful worrying about ferrets getting inside.
Actually ours made quite a mess of our two couches, they scratched a hole underneath both couches and got into the centers. We’d watch the movement under the material as they woke up and made their way out.
And not only that but Chucky also had a thing about stashing raw potatoes in the holes, so occasionally we would sit down and start sniffing, wondering where the ghastly fishy smell was coming from and after investigation, find 2 or 3 slimy, black potatoes tucked away. It was really quite yukky!
Polystyrene / Soft rubber / Foam / Olive pits & other stuff which can block a ferret up
Beware the white stuff! Ferrets love to scratch and dig at polystyrene and could easily ingest little bits which, in turn, would cause blockages.
Take care with soft rubber or foam toys for dogs or cats, in case your dog chews the toy and leaves bits of rubber or foam lying around.
If you have babies/children in the house, or visiting, make sure their pacifiers (aka dummies) or rubber toys aren't left lying around. If a ferret got hold of any of those, they could chew them and get an intestinal blockage.
Our silvermitt, Fidget, had a fetish for washing up gloves when she was a kit. She’d grab one and go racing down the corridor to stash it in my chest of drawers. If I found her with one in her mouth, we’d have a tough tug-of-war to claim ownership and when I finally was able to pry it out of her mouth, she’d go into a major sulk about her loss.
I have also heard about a ferret getting a blocked intestine from eating a peanut and another one from swallowing a piece of carrot. I’m not sure why a ferret would find a carrot appealing but this one obviously had different tastes!
Snoopy managed to find and eat a dry olive pit unbeknownst to us.
There I was musing about why a ferret would eat a carrot and here one of ours decided a dried up day-old olive pit was a tasty morsel. Weird!
It took a couple of days of wondering why she was so quiet, then a trip to the vet who (mis)diagnosed gastro problems after checking her greenish poop which I had taken along to show him. Of course our usual ferret-knowledgeable vet was not on duty at the time!
Finally after 48 hours of seeing that the antibiotic and other medicines were not working, we took Snoopy to an emergency vet (it was Sunday, naturally, and our regular vet was closed), I mentioned I was worried about a blockage and the vet said she could feel something.
Long story but they operated and found this wretched pit in Snoopy’s gut. We had a slight scare that afternoon when she seemed to be going downhill but, thank goodness, everything turned out okay.
I’ve come across articles itemizing other objects which vets have found in ferrets’ guts – it really makes you wonder….
I've also read about someone’s ferret which had swallowed an entire leg of their pantyhose, for crying out loud! What on earth would be appealing about chewing on a pantyhose, let alone swallowing it???
To see a few of the everyday stuff our gang have taken, please check out my page on Blockages.
Front loaders : Never leave the door open to front loaders. A ferret can jump in and fall asleep, and if you tend to shove your washing into the drum without checking, you’ll have a very clean but very dead ferret on your hands. Not a good thing.
The same goes if you forget an item. Shut the door before leaving the laundry to get it - otherwise your ferret might jump in to see what's happening. You won't realize it when you put the item in and might turn on the machine with the ferret trapped inside.
Top loaders : I’ve heard of someone’s ferret climbing up the back of a machine and getting into the drum that way. Thankfully she noticed him curled up – unable to get back out, naturally – before she put her washing in.
Keep the door shut always. When loading the dishwasher, make sure no ferrets are nearby and don't start it if unsure. We’ve stopped and checked so many times .. it’s that paranoia again!
For your own peace of mind, it’d be best to make sure your ferrets are all caged before doing chores like the washing or turning on the dishwasher. That way you’ll never have that awful “what if ……” sensation as you turn the machine on.
When we first got Mash, she used to like sleeping behind the fridge. In fact, she dragged Philip’s jeans behind the fridge so that she could get really comfy!
Fortunately that didn’t last for too long and she moved to the Hotel da Chest-of-Drawers.
However it's best to block off any access to the back of your fridge because your ferret could stash all kinds of junk behind it and it will get very dirty!
The only problem we’ve had with the fridge (touch wood) has been when one of our excitable ferrets, like Kaos, decides to jump into the fridge when the door’s open.
Keep that in mind when you’re peering into your fridge, and make sure you don’t shut the door with your ferret inside.
Kaos is the only ferret we've had (so far) who managed to get into our oven back in the days when we had a freestanding one.
She’d been with us for about a week and one morning I bent down to put some meat to defrost into the oven. As I opened the oven door I saw this face looking at me and, not expecting to find a ferret in the oven, I almost had a heart attack.
She got in a couple of other times – we saw her climbing in near where the gas burners are – so not only did that put paid to my defrosting food in there, I had to check the oven every time before turning it on just in case!
I came across an article in Ananova a couple of years ago about an English lady who killed her ferret by turning on the vacuum cleaner! The ferret had got into the bag through the pipe and had fallen asleep there, when the owner decided to clean her house.
Again, like before starting the washing or stacking the dishes into the dishwasher, it might be a good idea to make sure all your ferrets are safely locked away before you vacuum your house.
All of my present ferrets apart from Kahlua tend to keep themselves hidden away in the chest of drawers when I vacuum. She likes to grab the end and tries to drag it away with her, just like Fidget used to.
Mmm, both are silvermitts - I wonder if the color of their coat equals a connection to weird behavior
We had a pot-bellied stove and great care was taken before putting the wood in and starting the fire. We never had any problems with our ferrets getting too close to the heat but there is always a first time.
If you have a fireplace, please take care that the ferret can’t scamper up the chimney and make sure all your little ones are safely accounted for before you start your fire.
If you have stairs in your house, you must make sure that your ferret can't fall through the balustrades and hurt or kill itself.
Some ferret owners suggest putting plexiglass against the balustrades to keep the ferret safe, or even putting a childproof gate at the bottom or top so that the ferret can't get up or down the stairs.
Ferrets love to sleep in strange places. If you already have a ferret and it behaves very conservatively, please don’t assume the next ferret you get will behave similarly!
Our ferrets have never got into the wash baskets to sleep in dirty laundry but an acquaintance’s did. She just scooped the washing up and shoved it into the washing machine without realising the ferret was sleeping in the clothes. She had a terrible shock when the washing stopped, as you can imagine.
Always pick out each item of clothing and shake it out before putting it into the machine. That way you can be sure you didn’t add your ferret to the wash.
Make certain your ferret cannot climb into a vent and get into the dryer. Check your ferrets are safely away from the appliance before putting it on.
Air conditioners / Reverse cycle heaters
Check that all holes and gaps are blocked so that there is no way your ferret can crawl inside that appliance.
Please don’t roll your eyes and say, “Microwaves! No one would be THAT dumb to allow a ferret to get into a microwave!!” This actually happened in our house a few years ago.
We were reorganizing the kitchen and I had the microwave on a stool. A good friend of mine who also has ferrets, dropped in one afternoon with her daughter and we were sitting chatting in the sitting room.
Her 3-year-old granddaughter was milling around, playing with the animals quite happily. Then at some stage she walked in with CJ in her arms and, very seriously, asked me if I wanted CJ put into the microwave.
“No, no!” I cried as I jumped up. I scurried into the kitchen and pulled out the plug immediately, before lifting the microwave out of the way onto the kitchen table.
We had a laugh over the incident but it just goes to show what might happen when you least expect it.
It would have given a whole new meaning to the words, "Pop goes the Weasel"! Erk!
Baths / Spas / Pools
Ferrets can swim but if they get into the pool, what if they get stuck in the pool filter? Also if they get into the pool unattended, they probably wouldn’t be able to get out so would swim until exhausted then drown.
We had a Jacuzzi in our bathroom and we’d regularly hear “scratch, scratch, scratch” as our ferrets slid into the empty spa and were unable to jump out. I used to leave a towel over the edge so that they could use that to climb out of the spa.
When we used to fill the spa up, we’d make sure the bathroom door was shut. It would have been too easy for the ferrets to fall into a hot spa!
Alexia reminded me of when we first got Fidget and she was in the (empty) spa. She started digging at the plughole and had just about dislodged the grille over the drain. Had we not been around, she was small enough to have easily gone down the drain, and I certainly wouldn’t like to think of the consequences of that little adventure!
I was lying in bed one evening and heard a noise like a herd of elephants galloping up the corridor. I knew the sound came from Scully, our idiotic BEW, but after the thundering, there was silence, and then an almighty splash.
I jumped out of bed, ran to the kids’ bathroom (which was off the corridor) and fished Scully out of the bowl. After drying her off, she weasel wardanced her way up and down the corridor … what is it about weasels and water?
Fortunately there were no harmful cleaners in the water to do damage to eyes or ears!
That taught us to keep the seat cover down at all times and to avoid putting cleaning blocks into the cistern.
Empty toilet / paper towel rolls
Empty cardboard rolls seem innocuous enough but if the ferret manages to get its head stuck while you’re out for some length of time, it will cause it huge amounts of stress.
Kits seem to be the ones that get into trouble with cardboard rolls – obviously they are super curious and their heads are small.
If you're worried that your ferret might get into your rubbish bin and steal a roll, I suggest you just rip the cardboard rolls so that it’ll expand if your ferret decides to stick its head into it!
Milo and Muis love stashing the loo rolls and quite often I'll find a pile of them amongst my shoes in the wardrobe but since they are both adults, no worries about them getting their heads stuck, thank goodness!
Make sure drain covers can’t be removed easily. If in doubt, put bricks over the cover.
Ferrets love to go down holes and if one ventures into a drain and gets stuck ….. What a scary thought!
Care for your ferrets like you’d care for your toddler. Keep all medicines out of reach, even if in childproof containers.
Out of all our ferrets, only Kaos and CJ managed to get into the drawers of our bathroom vanity but I’ve put any tubes of ointment / medicines, etc out of the way just in case they lick something they shouldn’t.
Never, ever use human medicine to treat your pet unless okayed by your vet. Friends of ours had a ferret with a wart and their son applied (human) wart remover on the area. The ferret licked the solution and died a horrible death the next day!
Another thing to watch out for is if you need to give another pet medicine. Make sure they don't spit out the pills without you noticing as a ferret might lick or chew the pill and it could cause problems.
Keep all household cleaners safely out of the way otherwise who knows what might happen!
Could be the top doesn't get put on properly, the bottle falls and leaks on the ground, then the ferret walks through the puddle, licks its paws and poisons itself.
Always keep the bathroom door shut if you're using Draino in the shower or bath and don't let the ferret in until you're certain all of the crystals have been washed away.
Same with bleach. If you use bleach in the shower/bath/floor, please make sure everything has been washed off completely so that there's no chance your ferret can lick any residue and burn its throat.
Boots (Blunnies, Doc Marten, Army, etc)
All three of our kids went to Army Cadets during their teenage years and I wouldn’t allow them to wear their boots around the house. It’s way too easy not to realize that you’ve stepped on a ferret when you’re wearing heavy boots and they could do huge damage to the ferret’s organs, causing death.
I guess if you really need to walk around the house in boots then do like a geisha – shuffle along!
Having said that - do be careful that you don't end up hurting yourself if you don't pick up your feet when you walk!
I went into our bedroom a couple of months ago, didn't turn on the light and got tangled up with an extension cord which Philip had thrown onto the floor.
I managed to have a very impressive fall and ended up cracking my nose on the edge of the chest of drawers.
A heavy nose bleed and two black eyes later, I was fine!
Carpets / Runners / Mats / Clothes on floor
Why are ferrets called Carpet Sharks? Because they love tunneling under things and falling asleep -- and if you’re not aware, you could step on them and cause damage or death.
Kaos loves to go under our bathmat and I always need to check the bump there is just air. She thinks it’s hilarious to stalk me under that mat – I find it nerve-wracking!
Please always look down when going in and out of doors. Ferrets are like greased lightning and could be outside before you know it. Even if your ferret has a collar and a bell so you know where it is, don’t get complacent. The collar can fall off and, when you think your ferret’s asleep somewhere, it just might be by your foot ready to slip outside.
We don’t have mail slots in our doors here in Western Australia but I have read about a ferret who managed to somehow get through a slot in the front door so be aware of that if you have one!
Windows / Sliding doors
Ferrets are fearless climbers and they can scale Clinker bricks without any problems. It's so easy for them to get onto a chair and throw themselves onto another piece of furniture, or a windowsill, like lunatic trapeze artists. They can rip through flywire with the greatest of ease, so please don’t think your ferret is safely inside because you have that covering your open window or sliding doors.
If you want a window or sliding door left open, fix a board in it just in case. Oh, and make sure it's high enough so your ferret can't jump or climb up it!
Some [expletive deleted] idiot here in Perth decided he was going to mow his lawn and he let his ferret out to play in the grass while he was doing it. Naturally the ferret got tangled up with the lawn mower and was shredded.
The guy was terribly distressed but wouldn’t accept his actions caused his pet’s death.
The mind boggles at the actions of some people – he must have jello posing as a brain!
Electrical wires / Plug-ins
I personally haven’t had any bad experiences with my ferrets chewing wires but that’s not to say it won’t happen.
Most of us seasoned ferret owners would wonder why a ferret would bother chewing on an electrical cord then shake our heads and think, there's always a first time for everything with ferrets!
I had a link to Miami Ferret's article about Ben after he chewed through the power cord but unfortunately it's not accessible now. Will keep trying to find the article and if I can access it, will post it again!
I got an email from a guy called Bill from the States the other day who told me that ferrets loved the lavender-smelling plug-ins. So, take care if you use them and make sure they're put into sockets where your ferret can't reach them!
However, if you ARE having problems with your ferret chewing on your cables or cords, then perhaps this product will help. Crittercord is a protective tubing which is impregnated with a bitter taste to deter animals from chewing on the electric cables. Great idea and certainly a whole lot cheaper than taking your ferret to the vet to repair a great big hole in the roof of his mouth, like Ben's owner!
Ferrets adore digging so we had to get rid of all our indoor plants.
We tried to move them up higher at first, but our ferrets, especially CJ, knew instinctively where they were (the little dags) and managed to jump up to expose roots and leave a trail of disaster on the floor.
If you really want to keep plants and ferrets in your house, I guess you could place heavy rocks on the soil to stop them from making a mess.
This really isn't ferret proofing, per se, but is still something to think about!
If going on a trip, please ensure your ferrets are not “helping” you pack. They might just fall asleep in your suitcase and you’ll end up taking them on an unexpected vacation.
Be aware that ferrets can also unzip bags quite easily and squirm inside so, once packed, keep the bags out of the ferret’s reach.
I had a very sad email from an Aussie ferret owner alerting me to the dangers of quilted fabrics for bedding.
She had got her ferret, Tinkabell, a quilt to lie on for the winter and her ferret had scratched a small hole in the fabric. During the night she'd gone in between the fabric and the wadding and obviously couldn't get out again, because when her owner went to check the next morning, she found that her ferret had suffocated.
A terrible shock for her owner, as you can imagine.
Yet another ferret owner told me how her boy almost suffocated the same way in the quilt which she had put down for him to sleep on.
Please ditch the quilt if you have one and just have old T-shirts or sweatshirts for them to burrow into.
If you have any queries or advice about ferret proofing, or if you'd just like to talk about your ferret with like-minded ferret owners, please join us at the Forum.
There are a bunch of great people from around the world who love their ferrets there and they're always more than happy to share advice or give suggestions to other ferret lovers about ferret proofing houses or anything else you'd like to chat about