The holidays are coming and all good little ferrets are dreaming of toys and treats under the tree. As a ferret parent, how do you choose the right toys for your pet? Are the toys safe? Does your ferret like them? How can you tell?
Ferret Safety Comes First
To determine if a toy is safe for your ferret, examine it carefully before you buy it. Don’t buy toys that have small pieces that can be chewed off and swallowed. Rubber toys are especially dangerous for ferrets. Chunks that seem likely to pass through the intestine often don’t because the rubber reacts with the strong acids in the ferret’s stomach and swell up to almost twice their original size, making surgery the only option to get them out. A determined ferret can destroy even hard English rubber.
If it is a plush toy, watch out for plastic eyes or noses that are sewn or glued on. Ferrets can easily chew these off. If these parts are swallowed, they can cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines and your ferret may need surgery to remove the pieces. Make sure that all of the seams are well-sewn and that the toy is made from a durable fabric.
If your ferret is prone to chewing on fabric, then hard plastic toys are your best bet. In addition to toys made specifically for ferrets, try giving your ferret hard plastic jingle balls, whiffle golf balls, baby rattles and even Ping-Pong balls. These can be a lot of fun for your pet and not break the bank. A word of caution though, some toys labeled for ferrets are might not be as safe for your pet as they should be. Use the same criteria in picking a toy labeled for ferrets as you would any other pet toy.
Picking Out Ferret Toys
If your ferret has had toys before, then you probably already know some of its likes and dislikes. If this is your first holiday together, then buy a variety of toys so that your ferret has a choice. Some ferrets like toys that they can carry around. Small, sturdy stuffed animals or plush dog toys are great for this type of ferret.
Other ferrets like toys that they can chase, such as balls or self-propelled toys. If you choose a self-propelled toy, make sure it isn’t too powerful so it the toy doesn’t injure your ferret.
Some ferrets like toys that make noise. Toys with jingle bells inside them or toys that talk or make sounds can be the perfect gift for this type of ferret.
Presenting The Gift To Your Ferret
Set the toy on the floor and see if your ferret shows any interest. Make sure that you do this after other family members are done opening their presents or your ferret may be too distracted to check out its new toy. If it doesn’t come over on its own to check the toy out, gently toss the toy in front of your ferret, but not right to it. This way it will not perceive the toy as a threat.
Eventually, your ferret’s curiosity should kick in and it will inspect its new toy. Roll or toss the toy a few more times to show your ferret what the new toy can do. If your ferret still doesn’t show any interest, don’t despair. Your ferret just might not be in the mood to play at this time. If your ferret still doesn’t show interest within a couple of days, put the toy aside and try again at a later date.
Rotating Toys Versus Buying New Toys
Just like children, ferrets get bored with their toys. If you see that your ferret has stopped playing with some of its toys, take them away and store them in a box or bag. Get your ferret some new toys and let your ferret play with those until it gets tired of them, then switch back to the old toys.
You can also do things to the old toys to make your ferret think that they are new. Try putting a scented candle in the box with the old toys. The toys will pick up some of the scent of the candles and pique your ferret’s interest. Floral or sweet scents are best. Don’t use anything spicy. Never spray your ferret's toys with air freshener or liquid fragrances. Many air fresheners and scented oils can be toxic if your ferret licks the toys and ingests the product. A safe alternative is to rub your ferret’s toys with some powdered bouillon or toss a couple of dog treats in the bag or box where you store your ferret’s toys.
Time To Toss A Toy
Most toys wear out after a while and must be tossed out. Any toys that have been excessively chewed, have parts falling off, have exposed stuffing or are cracked can be hazardous to your pet. Even if it is your ferret’s favorite toy, toss it. You can usually find a similar toy to replace it. If your ferret shows intense interest in a toy when you first buy it, go buy an extra one so you have a replacement toy ready for when the time comes to toss the first one.
Buying duplicate toys can also be helpful if two or more of your ferrets like the same toy. They will still try to steal the toys from each other, but at least there are better odds of appeasing everybody.
I have never seen ferrets actually fight over a regular toy, but I have seen them sneak toys back and forth from each other. The only toys that I have seen ferrets fight over are edible toys, such as Cheweasels and Foamy Fries. Don’t expect your ferrets to share these. Either cut the treat into pieces and give a piece to each ferret or give each ferret a whole one to chew on; otherwise you will not have any peace in your home.
Some ferrets like hard chew toys like Nylabones. The Petite Nylabones and the chew rings are safe for ferrets and never seem to wear out.
Here’s wishing you a very Happy Holiday and a New Year full of fun, family and ferrets, and below there is more about ferret games and playtime for your ferrety friends.
No matter how many toys you get for your ferret, one of his favorite toys is always going to be you, his owner. There are a variety of fun activities and games that you and your ferret can engage in to make playtimes even more fun. The best games are those that stimulate his instincts and innate abilities and encourage his natural behaviors.
The games that ferrets love to play are somewhat similar to those that a toddler would like - chase, hide-and-seek, exploring new places and things, and other similar activities. If given the chance, ferrets love games and activities that allow them to make a mess, such as digging and rolling in dirt, sand, and other materials. They also enjoy mock combat and tug-of-war. Many of their games end with their playthings being stashed in their "secret" toy spot, whether the plaything is a jingle ball or your car keys!
But what do all of these games tell us about our ferrets?
- Chase and hide-and-seek games mimic their hunting, predatory behavior in the wild.
- Exploring new places and things caters to their need for variety and stimulates their curiosity.
- Digging and rolling around in the dirt is similar to their natural tunneling behaviors.
- Mock combat and tug-of-war games stimulate your ferret's natural hunting behaviors.
So what are some specific games you can play with your ferret? Here are a few examples that will give you a place to start gathering ideas for fun games of your own.
You can purchase a playground kit or glue a bunch of cardboard boxes together and cut holes between them. Once you have your maze, hide treats and toys throughout the maze, and then place your ferret in the maze.
Snorkeling for Toys
Fill your ferret's digging box with his favorite materials (long grain rice, shredded paper, dirt, etc) and hide toys in it. As he uncovers the toys, he'll get even more excited searching for more.
Fishing for Ferrets
Use a toy like the Da Bird Feather Toy that has a fun toy suspended from a plastic stick by a string, and drag it slowly across the floor, teasing your ferret. Watch his hunting instinct go into overdrive as he chases, attacks, and tries to carry off his "prey!"
Chase your ferret around the room and "tag" him, then turn and make him chase you. Once he catches you, turn around to chase him again. If you can, get down on your hands and knees so you can be at his level when you do this.
The Towel Game
This refers to two different kinds of games. The first way to play with towels is to use it for tug-of-war with your ferrets. Rope toys can also be used. They will have a blast trying to pull the towel away from you so they can stash it with the rest of their prizes and toys.
Another version of the towel game involves getting your ferret interested in the towel by waving it around his head and teasing him with it, then waiting until he jumps on it and drags it around the room. Ferrets love this game, and you can either give them rides around the room or pull them a short way and then flip them off the towel. We guarantee they'll come back war dancing!
This is a variation of the snorkeling for toys game, and it's a great way to pull in ferrets' need for new scents and experiences. If it snows in your area, bring some snow inside in a big plastic tub, and let them snorkel in it. You can also hide toys if you'd like. Another way to give them some seasonal fun is to bring in some fallen leaves during the autumn and allow them to dig, tunnel and throw them around. You can also place tubing, like the Super Thru Way, inside the box.
Place your ferrets on your bed, and use the blankets, sheets and pillows to toss your ferrets in the air, cover them up, flip them over, and in general roughhouse with them. This is an especially fun game when you have two humans and multiple ferrets, as you can really get a trampoline effect going on with the sheets!
Gently drop a small pillow on top of your ferret so he can kick it up in the air and throw it around. You can also slide your ferret into the pillowcase and play with him through it. Just be careful that you don't get any nips if he gets a little overexcited!
The Ferret Indy 500
If you have remote control cars, your ferrets will have a blast chasing them around the room, knocking them over, and attacking them. Just be sure to check them before playtimes for any loose parts or things that your ferrets could ingest so you can remove them.
Happy Human War Dance
Many of you probably know that your ferret does a little dance called the "happy weasel war dance" during which he jumps back and forth, dooking and trying to get you to play with him. But did you know that you can do this dance as well? You can, as long as you don't mind getting strange looks from your neighbors. Simply jump back and forth, making little dooking noises with your mouth and waving your arms around, and watch your ferret come after you!
These are just a few examples of games that you can play with your ferret; there are so many more that you can come up with as you spend more time with your ferret and see what he likes to play with the most. Just remember, no matter what the activity, make sure it involves his natural instincts and abilities, and you two will have a great time playing!