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,
Jacqui, 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
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 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 learned:
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 day 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 the
ferrets to the safe hands of Wendy when we need to
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.
8 January 2022
During autumn ferrets put on their winter coats. This is
particularly noticeable in Samson, who almost develops a mane,
such that he can't get his head stuck in a kitchen paper roll
tube any more; he becomes the cuddliest, floofiest, thing ever.
While that is difficult to show here, what we can show is the
development of his tail. His tail is a kind of poor timepiece:
in summer it is nearly bald, almost a rat's tail, but by
November it is all fluffy again, the bulk of the development
occurring in October. Find below a sequence of photographs
showing the transition from ratty in August to floofy in
27 February 2021
This is Samson and Delilah at play. It may look like
fighting but it is not: the noises they are making are play
noises. They do it every evening when they come in.
And it is mostly her attacking him.
30 November 2020
When I get Samson and Delilah in for the evening and I've had
to wear my coat to do so I lie it on the floor and let them play
around it. Over the last few weeks Samson has discovered that I
keep one of those mobile phone back-up batteries in the outside
pocket. What I hadn't realised is that he is now specifically
searching for it each evening; the video below shows just how
focussed, and how clever, he is.
Samson And The Kitchen Paper Roll Tube
24 October 2020
Samson can't resist sticking his head in a kitchen paper roll
tube; he's done it several times before so knows both the
consequences and the technique for removing it. Here he
demonstrates that he might have forgotten both.
Samson Gets A Potato
18 October 2020
Samson and Delilah both crave potatoes. Not that they eat them
or anything, it is probably just the earthy smell. Anyway,
having placed a bag or two of them inadequately far away, here's
a video to show how Samson goes about gaining his prize.
Stainless Steel It is
9 August 2020
Well, that didn't last long. A few weeks ago,
thankfully after the installation of some new patio doors and
hence the net curtains were not yet re-fitted, a white shape
was spotted outside darting across the decking just before
feeding time. It was Samson. Again, not running
away, more running towards the house, though he would have
beebled off given time. He was scooped up and an
examination of the tunnels revealed Delilah doing here best to
follow him through the hole in the ceiling of the tunnel,
between the metal spiral, that he had created. Digging
up the tunnel showed that the plastic had been breached in
several places. Time for better defences.
We went back to https://www.ductstore.co.uk/
and this time purchased a few hundred quid's worth of
stainless steel 100 mm diameter ducting sections, 45 degree
angles plus lots of male and female short connectors to join
Temperatures are approaching the mid 30's C again this week
so the ferrets need those tunnels. As soon as the
tunnels were opened Delilah began dragging out the old bedding
to make way for new; very organised.
A remaining worry is the length of flexible UV-safe plastic
tubing leading from the main ferret home to the tunnels.
That needs to be able to flex around various barriers and so
would be difficult to replace with stainless steel, which
would also need supports. As a transit tube, they have
so far not wanted to attack it. Famous last words of
course. We will wait and see.
Number Nine: Never Underestimate A Ferret 6 June 2020
A few weeks ago at ferret feeding time it was curiously quiet
in the ferret home. Shortly before there had been
the usual sounds of scratching but no more. Then there was
a scuffling amongst the pot plants: maybe a hedgehog or a
rat? No, of course, it was Delilah. And there was
Samson underneath the decking, to which thankfully there is only
one entry/exit. They weren't trying to run away, just
beebling about and exploring. They were retrieved and
moved into the house while an investigation was
undertaken. Their handiwork:
They had peeled away the edge of the aluminium ducting, which is
made of a closed spiral of aluminium strip, just where it joins
the plastic ducting, and then dug their way out of the ferret
tunnel. A ball of aluminium was found inside their
home. Buggers. The tunnel was closed off and a
temporary fix made but we were worried that their level of metal
working skill was now too great; plus Samson was still looking
dirty around the nose and claws.
Some re-work was in order. The tunnels were closed off
again and rather more expensive ducting, similar to the flexible
transparent ducting used for the entrance/exit to the tunnel but
not UV safe (since it will be buried) was purchased. It
has a spiral of steel wire running through it. The
aluminium ducting was dug up and removed, this new ducting laid
in its place. Some considerable care was taken at the
joins with the solid plastic ducting to ensure that the flexible
plastic edge was not visible to ferrets that might be tempted to
go to work on it.
Were we being paranoid? Examination of the aluminium
ducting as we were throwing it away revealed this roughly
2 cm wide hole they had been working on:
Never underestimate a ferret.
More Cheap Play 3 May 2020
As Samson has become older he has also become a lot more agile,
literally throwing himself at things, all four paws out, in the
hope of climbing from leap-height upwards. He can climb
chairs, onto tables, onto kitchen work surfaces, etc.; in fact
he can climb Leo and bite his ears (Leo's ears, that is).
One of the places we actually allow Samson to stay is inside the
dry recycling bin where he can do no harm. Leo took this
video of him in the bin.
Organised Ferrets 18 April 2020
The structure we use as a ferret house was originally
intended to house chickens. It has a roosting area that sticks
out of the side, split into two bays.
Into these bays we have fitted aluminium trays, to make them
easier to clean, and on top of the trays we place two cuddly
bedding thingies that fit snugly into the bays. It looks
neat to us. However, the ferrets have other ideas.
Every night they generally remove both snuggly things, lay one
of the bays with spare blankets and use the other as an "en
Fair enough, it is at least easy to clean.
But they also don't really like the aluminium surfaces that we
find so easy to clean, a bit hard/cold on their little feet we
expect. As the weather has warmed up, they have started
to sleep outside of their bedding area in the open section of
the structure in order to take advantage of a cool breeze in
some shade. This brings them into contact with the main
aluminium floor. Ever resourceful, they've decided that
the two sheets of newspaper we put down in the area they are
meant to (and generally do, in addition to the en suite) use
as a toilet are completely wasted there. The first thing
they do when they return to their home of an evening is to
move the two sheets of paper into their outside sleeping area
and rip the paper into shreds: hey presto, bedding.
Delilah has also been spotted gathering the shreddings in her
arms and dragging them down into the ferret tunnel.
Ferrets are very organised creatures, at least where sleeping
Normal Behaviour 30 January 2020
We've never really posted a video of perfectly normal ferret
behaviour. Here's one, annotated to describe their
outward signs of emotion.
Cute Samson Pictures 25 January 2020
Samson has posed for some cute pictures recently. Excuse the
fuzziness on the waste basket one, otherwise they seem to have
come out surprisingly well for ferret pictures.
Similar to this one of Luke from January 2016:
Christmas With Ferrets Again 9 January 2020
We tried Samson and Delilah with a Christmas tangerine but
Delilah showed no interest and Samson played football with it
but was uninterested in its flavour. Much more to their
taste was the dry recycling: given the gap in bin collection
over Christmas and the prevalence of packaging we had a pile
of this and they loved getting amongst it, particularly the
egg cartons and Pringles tubes. Just tip it out for them
to play in: what could be simpler?
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, we had to
find a way for them to be separate in their house as we feared
for his life.
This evening we managed their meeting more carefully. We
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. We're 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 and given goat's milk mixed with an egg plus
four day-old 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
Samson And Delilah 28 September 2019
Having refurbished the ferret home and constructed the SFC we
went to Wendy's
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 SFC.
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 young ferrets this time,
but to give them some fun and some cool space we built an
underground run to attach to their usual outdoor
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) but
see Lesson Number Nine
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
5 metres of flexible transparent UV-safe
100 mm-diameter ducting,
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
[since defunct as the old camera became stained with age
and I've been unable to find a new one].
The lot was finally buried around a tree in a flower
bed. It was christened (by some work colleagues of
Rob's) the SFC: Small Ferret Collider.
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 today.
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
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
Some random bits of plastic scrap attached to the
ends of the bolts to stop the ferrets impaling
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: