Thursday, 22 March 2012

Indoor cages, travel cages and show cages.

Most ferret owners will have at least two or three different types of cage for use in various situations. Here are the most common types that I have found.

  • The home. The most obvious type of cage is the one that the ferrets will spend the most time in, their cage at home.  There are many different types of cage on the market, and you will need to select the most appropriate to suit your ferrets needs. If you have a single or a pair of ferrets then they will obviously not need as much space as a group of ferrets, but I would still try to buy as large a cage as your budget will allow. This will enable your ferrets to exercise in the cage, have plenty of space to themselves if they want some alone time and it will also give you more freedom when planning the layout of the cage. In a larger, multi-level cage you will be able to move toys and bedding around to keep the environment fun and stimulating for your little friends. It is also better for your ferrets as you can keep toilet, food and sleeping areas completely separate.  For the positioning of cages/hutches please see my post on general ferret care If you have elderly ferrets, or ferrets that find getting around difficult or painful, then a multi-level cage may not be for you, as your poor fuzzy will have to constantly drag itself up and down the stairs to use the bathroom/eat/drink etc. You may have more creative freedom if you decide to keep your ferrets outdoors, as you can design and build large runs and 'sheds' for them. You will however need to ensure that they are well maintained and escape proof, as well as protected from the elements and damp, which can be a major problem for ferrets. This may also be a risky business if you live in an area where animals such as foxes roam, as they have been known to attack ferrets left in cages overnight. Please try to avoid cages with barred floors as they cause foot problems, and are quite frankly uncomfortable for your ferret to walk on. You can of course cover barred flooring with carpet or linoleum for example. Another point to consider when choosing a cage would be the ease of use for yourself. Does it have areas that would be hard to clean? Try to picture yourself using it before you buy.
  • The travel cage/carrier. Travel cages and carriers are normally small handheld cages that will hold either one or two average sized ferrets. They can be made of plastic, fabric or have wire mesh. These cages are usually for short term use such as a trip to the vets or to separate individual ferrets as a 'time out'. I see them as a very short term option as most do not allow water bottles to be attached and do not have the space for food bowls. There is also the problem that if your ferret needs to use the toilet it will have very little chance of avoiding standing in its own mess in the confined space. I avoid having my ferrets in a cage like this for longer than an hour, they can fall asleep after a while, but don't forget that they will need to use the toilet within 15 minutes of waking! Try to find a cage that you find easy to use, ours at the moment have a ridiculous lid that is almost impossible to close when you have a ferret pushing it from the inside! But please be aware that ferrets are problem solvers, and it's not uncommon for ferrets to find a way out of the most secure looking carriers! 
  • The show cage. I have called these show cages as they are most commonly used by people taking their ferrets to shows or gatherings. They are often sold as rabbit cages and most have a plastic tray with a wire mesh top half. These cages will allow space for bedding, toys, food and water and will allow your ferret to relieve itself. The cage that I use for this purpose (and for long car rides) at the moment is an extra large version and it is a struggle to fit it in the car! You should look for one that will comfortably fit the desired amount of ferrets inside and that you will be able to easily move and handle. You may need to practice putting it in and removing it from your vehicle to find the easiest way as it can be a delicate job. Also be aware as to where the cage doors are, as you will need to be able to easily remove your ferrets in the event of an emergency. Always load the cage before putting your ferrets inside, it may seem obvious but you never know... Lastly remember to make sure the cage is secure and will not move during transport, that there are no draughts blowing directly at the cage, that music blaring from the radio can cause stress for your ferrets and to never leave your ferrets in a hot car. 
  • The playpen. This is much like a child's playpen or those designed for dogs. Please do not try and use ones that are designed for rodents as they are neither strong enough or tall enough! (If my hamster could escape from one then a ferret definitely will!) These are used when introducing new ferrets, or simply as a safe place for your ferrets to exercise out of the cage. They are usually made from metal, but the bar design is easy for ferrets to climb, and I have seen people line them with wood or perspex to prevent this. Don't forget to provide your pet with a comfy bed to sleep on if he gets too tired as well as food, water, toys and a litter tray if used. Remember to supervise you ferrets while they are inside the playpen. 
I hope this has been helpful, if you have heard of another type of carrier/cage for ferrets that I haven't covered please do leave a comment and I will look into it for you. Obviously I cannot cover every single type of cage on the market, but hopefully this has given you an idea what you may need as a ferret owner. If you are a member of a ferret group, either online or otherwise, you will be able to ask experienced owners on the best (and worst) cages available.

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