This page last updated: 15 November 2019.
See also the FerretCam.
This page starts with a general introduction and continues
with our ferretty activities,
most recent first.
Why ferrets? That's what most people ask or, if they
don't ask it, they probably think it.Well, after Ramone passed away back in
2016 we were looking for another pet and Rob's hairdresser,
Jackie, mentioned that a ferret was the best house pet she had
ever had. We questioned her, thought about it, checked the
animals out on-line, bought a book, bought a cage and, finally,
went to visit Wendy at Essex
Ferret Welfare. where we selected Padmé and
Luke, our first ferrets.
Wendy had 80 ferrets in her ferret shed. Quite
We had told Wendy on the phone that we wanted to adopt a
single ferret and we were lucky enough that she had a single
rescued ferret that had not been socialised with the group.
Lesson number one: ferrets are communal creatures, it is
not natural for them to live alone and, as we had gathered
from research on the web, a lone ferret is likely to make
higher demands on interaction with its owner.
Given this, and given Wendy's clear desire to be two rather
than one ferret down from her stock of 80, we decided to go for
two. And that led to...
Lesson number two, how to count ferrets: one ferret, many
ferrets. To put it another way, one ferret is a wee
manageable beastie, two ferrets or more are like an
auto-chasing mad block of unstoppable furry
inquisitiveness. It is noticeable that the videos you
see on the web are of a nice lady training her one
ferret. Never two. You can't train two ferrets, it
just doesn't work like that. At best you can contain
their excesses. Which means that house training is not
on. UPDATE: actually, Luke has sort of been
house-trained. If he needs to go while indoors, which is
rare, he chooses the newspaper in the corner, probably
remembering receiving a tiny ferret biscuit and not
receiving a rap on the nose. Padmé doesn't do indoor
loos, not sanitary I expect.
Lesson number three: ferrets can teleport. Look at
one ferret, then glance over at the other ferret. Big
mistake. The first ferret has now teleported, it will be
somewhere behind you, somewhere it could not possibly have
travelled within the constraints of human space and time.
We went for a sort of mother
and son pair. Padmé is not Luke's
biological mother; she is roughly 6 months older than him
and suckled him when he was young. So they knew each
other. She had been "done" and he was done shortly
after we acquired him. We housed them in a large
wire cage indoors, where we learned...
Lesson number four: ferrets are clever.
Within a few days they'd discovered how to escape from
their cage. By rattling the base back and forth
they'd dislodged the catch holding it in place and
roamed the house very happily, discovered later that
day sleeping on some cushions. And they don't
stop being clever; they don't know that a door is a
door until you open it for them, but once they've seen
it opened they know it can be opened and take
a much greater interest in it.
Lesson number five: ferrets are utterly in your
hands. You can pick them up, play with them,
harness them, all without complaint. They have
been bred to be handled by humans and you should make
a point of handling them.
Lesson number six: ferrets sleep a LOT. They
are crepuscular (look it up) and will happily sleep
during both day and night.
Lesson number seven: ferrets are planar
creatures. They know the ground, they aren't
easily aware of much above the ground and so a ~40 cm
high table/stool is enough to raise the pots of your
delicate house plants out of their reach.
Lesson number eight: ferrets don't have much of a
stomach. Put something in one end and pretty
shortly something will have to come out of the other
end. Don't feed them when you want to avoid that
We'd been told, of course, the obvious points:
Don't let a ferret out of the house, you will never
see it again.
Ferrets smell: a strong aroma exuded from several
Ferrets should not be around young children as the
ferrets can nip and scratch.
Given lesson number two, house
training was not going to be possible and their escape
attempt plus general noisiness in a wire cage meant that
in-house ferret keeping wasn't going to work. So we
bought cage number two, a large rabbit hutch, placed it
outside the back door, made a 10 cm hole through the wall
of the house (like a dry cleaner exit hole) and
constructed a closable flap so that the ferrets could be
allowed in and out.
We were starting to get our head around ferrets, and
them around us. Padmé is sweet and
cuddly, with soft fur and a very attractive white
bib. Luke is about twice her size, with white,
rather more wiry, fur and a tendency to bite. When
they play he is the bruiser, she runs away. However,
when they do something they should not (e.g. scratch at
some carpet, try to get in a bin or underneath the
cooker), he can be trained with a rap on the nose
accompanied by a disapproving growling noise; she tends
not to listen. But then again, she's less likely to
do such things in the first place, so it balances out.
But, they do need mucking out each day and
it is not so pleasant to have their muck outside the back
door. Plus, they'd learned to scratch on the flap
over the entrance into their house, which was
annoying. And the large rabbit hutch wasn't really
large enough for them. Which led to cage number
three: one of those designed to sit on the lawn, open to
the grass, to house chickens or rabbits. We picked a
size just right to sit on top of an Ikea outdoor
table. It was not attached to the house this time,
instead having a liftable roof section to one side so that
the ferrets can easily be taken out without having a
chance to escape. An aluminium, cleanable, tray was
made to put inside it and toys were purchased. This
is now their permanent home and it works pretty
well. They are brought in every other evening to
play in a specific area of the house which has little
carpet. While they are playing their cage is cleaned
and food is replenished. More things we have
Ferrets don't nibble power cables. It just
doesn't seem to occur to them.
Ferrets won't do naughty things if you occupy them
with new toys; saved cardboard boxes with holes cut in
them, packaging, rags, something novel for them to
Ferrets love tubes/tunnels/holes; flexible aluminum
ducting available from DIY shops is ideal. You
may think some holes are too small for a ferret, that
they might get stuck; don't worry, ferrets can take
care of themselves.
Ferrets can be taken on walks with appropriate
harnesses and a lead. Think of the walk more as
a smell-o-tour, though, because the ferret will be
solely driven by the scents it picks up.
They can be trained
but it takes time and patience. Lots of patience. You need
to be firm: in the worst case scruff them (meaning hold
them up by the skin at the scruff of their neck, just
behind their head; their head will drop to a submissive
position), otherwise tap them on the nose with your finger
and accompany this action with your disapproving noise.
Soon you will only need your disapproving noise and, when
finely tuned, the threat of your disapproving noise.
UPDATE: we found that scruffing has absolutely no effect
on Padmé but load noises scare her; chose
your weapon to match your ferret.
They do still nip, or at least Luke does, but you learn to
hold him so that he can't do that and, above all, you keep
him interested in stuff. As planar creatures they learn
quite quickly that you carrying them around gives them
access to sniffs of the Other Dimension and so will be
very happy not to nip you provided you carry them to those
oh so sweet smellable places. Food-wise:
Ferrets will eat/drink sweet stuff but don't give
them more than a lick or two, it is not what they're
meant to eat; meat is what they're meant to eat.
Ferrets will not eat cooked food. Meat must
Ferrets love whole portions of offally
creature. Roadkill or game is ideal, a bird
quartered with all the feathers etc. on. But if
you can't get that then chicken gizzards, chicken
hearts or chicken livers from the butcher will
do. Try to arrange to visit the butcher at 16:00
on a Saturday for a bargain.
Ferrets can live quite happily on James
Wellbeloved's Ferret Complete, a form of small dry
biscuit food that you can buy in convenient sacks.
It is good ferret bonding to feed them multivitamin
ferret paste, squeezed into a 5 cm strip, off the
palms of your hands on a regular basis (in our case
every two days when they come into the house).
Oh, and while they can, in theory, be housed by catteries
or managed by pet-taking-care-of-people, in practice
that's for your singleton ferret. We return Padmé
and Luke into the safe hands of Wendy when we need to go
So, what do we think of ferrets now? Well, it is a
different experience to what we had originally intended but that's
through us chosing many ferrets over one. In the "many" form
they are not house pets. They are not like cats and dogs
but, though you might assume that means they are wild, they are
also very happy to be handled and played with. It is true
that we could do without the mucking out, that bit is not so
pleasant, but creatures that are of such intense playfulness, and
are also both inquisitive and clever, make for immense fun.
We are never going to be ferret freaks like Wendy and Alan but we
fully enjoyed our time with Padmé and Luke and then kinda just
Below find our ferretty activities, most recent first.
A Practical Lesson In Being A Ferret 15 November 2019
Two days ago, Samson was taken to the vet to be "done". On
his return late in the afternoon Delilah wanted to kill him.
She chased and bit him until he squealed and tried to hide.
This happened three times over the following 24 hours: she just
wanted to kill him and, in the end, I had to find a way for them
to be separate in their house as I feared for his life.
This evening I was able to manage their meeting more
carefully. I held her close to him but not such that she
could bite him. She smelled/licked/nibbled his ears, smelled
his armpits and realised that yes, this was Samson. Suddenly
she was all happy and playful again, though he remains wary of
Plainly losing one of his most recognisably smelly bits made him
appear to be an intruder who she was chasing away. A
practical lesson in how another animal perceives the world.
I'm very glad that's over.
Incidentally, Samson is now a huge (1.5 kg) furry, gentle, bundle
of fun. Delilah is more edgy but after an "incident", where
we had a bit of an argument and I lost physically but gained
morally, a slight tendency to nip at fingers that she was
developing has been curbed. They are brought in daily, given
goat's milk mixed with an egg every morning and three chicks every
evening. They've been out for walks on their leads/harnesses and
seem to have found it rather exciting [bog-brush tails triggered].
They do now choose to sleep in the same bed. All is on track in
the Meades/Ferret world.
Samson And Delilah 28 September 2019
Having refurbished the ferret home and constructed the SFC we went to
and selected two new occupants: Samson and Delilah.
Samson, an albino like Luke, is just 14 weeks old and
already much larger than lovely little polecat-features Delilah
who is a one year old mother (though obviously not Samson's
mother). They have been handled regularly by Wendy and
hence are not bitey at all, much less so than Padmé and
Luke. Really friendly interesting creatures. Now to the
long haul of house training them both.
Unlike Padmé and Luke, Samson and Delilah don't seem inclined to
sleep in the same bed; Samson particularly likes sleeping in the
They have been fed on meat and aren't too interested in ferret
biscuits so we're going to try feeding them dead chicks (four a
day) since Samson is very much a growing lad.
No Ferrets But SFC August 2019
No ferrets. Luke passed away mid last year: he was a little
lethargic one evening, dead the following day. Padmé
was killed by the extreme 38.7 C heat, the record temperature
recorded in Cambridge a few Thursdays ago. We had frozen
bottles of water in the fridge but didn't have a fresh one for
that day. We are, effectively, these animal's jailers (same
with marine fish and lizards); we need to do better. Wendy
has a heavy-duty fan and a portable air conditioning unit in her
shed. She also provides her creatures with water baths to
dive into if they wish.
We decided to have another go, with baby ferrets this time, but to
give them some fun and some cool space we built an underground run
to attach to their usual outdoor accommodation:
It is made of:
a 300 mm length of 150 mm-diameter ducting (the
chunky white bit),
3 metres of 100 mm-diameter aluminium ducting
plus male ends (shaped to form a half circle above),
two 100 - 150 mm-diameter ducting converters (in order
to fit the chunky white bit to the other bits),
two 150 mm pipe connectors (required as the
150 mm end of the ducting converter is exactly the same
diameter as the 150 mm ducting),
100 mm-diameter ducting T-piece,
a 60 mm-long section cut from 300 mm of
100 mm-diameter ducting (since the T-piece and the
100 mm end of the 100 to 150 mm converter are both
male and so need to fit into something),
Osma 110 mm screw-top access hatch (the grey thing),
5 metres of flexible transparent UV-safe
100 mm-diameter ducting (this was very expensive;
100 mm-diameter aluminium ducting would do),
A hole was cut for the Osma access hatch in the
150 mm-diameter ducting, the hatch base cut so as not to
protrude too far into the ducting, and then securely Araldited
into place. The bits on the right-half of the picture were then
fitted together, glued and taped to make sure that no water
would get in, and buried in a shaded flower bed near the ferret
home. A FerretCam was built into the lid of the Osma access
hatch, details of the construction of which can be found on Github;
this is FerretCam.
The lot was finally buried around a tree in a flower
bed. It was christened (by some work colleagues of mine)
the SFC: Small Ferret Collider.
Christmas And Ferrets
10 December 2017
We decided to try the ferrets with snow.
We gave them a nice dry towel and some milk & egg afterwards
as compensation for the hassle.
A Tangerine And Ferrets 8 January 2017
A good plaything for a ferret at Christmas time, if you don't
mind cleaning the floor afterwards.
11 September 2016
While at the Fenland Fair, we saw that the ferret people
there had an outdoor ferret pen, a Marshall
Small Animal Play Pen. It looked perfect, and can
be purchased with a base and cover and (at the time) a carry
case. We bought the lot and tried it out on the lawn
It is sufficiently heavy that they'll never be able to lift it
to get out. The cover isn't really necessary as it is
too high for them to climb out, however it does ensure that
they get shade. We're happy to leave them in it
relatively unsupervised and so get time to clear out their
cage properly.Fenland Fair
29 August 2016
It is the Fenland Fair this weekend so we decided that we
should give the ferrets an outing. To enable this, we've
knocked up a quick ferret carrier.
It consists of:
A standard soft fabric cool-bag, modified to have a
wire mesh window on the front, bolted to some thin MDF for
A thin MDF floor.
On both ends, a pair of standard plastic ventilation
panels bolted to each other through the material (the bag
material cut away within) to improve air flow.
Some random bits of plastic scrap attached to the ends
of the bolts to stop the ferrets impaling themselves.
A hole drilled at an angle through the material and MDF
on the front to support a removable water bottle.
Some shreddings inside for the ferrets to snuggle in
and to soak up any emissions.
Here it is in action and being checked by Padmé and Luke:
We took the ferrets to the fair in it and all went very well.
They didn't seem concerned at being carried in it and were
happy to be got out or put back as necessary. There was
some biting/scratching damage: