By Cheryl Lock
For those new to ferret ownership, you might not imagine there are many ways to play with your new furry friend, but that isn’t the case. In fact, the right toys and treats can help ensure that the time you spend with your ferret is quality time you’ll remember, and that the toys you leave him alone with are safe.
Here’s what you need to know to get the best goodies for your ferret.
What kind of toys are the best when it comes to interactive and supervised play?
When it comes to picking out interactive toys for your ferret, it helps to remember that ferrets are known to chew on things, so its best to avoid any toys they can chew and swallow. Toys that can be torn into small pieces, like soft, rubbery, latex, and even some cloth toys, are a no-no, says Serena Fiorella, LVT and CEO of Treat Worthy Pet Creations, LLC. On the other hand, she says, “any kind of hard balls, like ping-pong balls or hard cat toy balls with bells, are usually a hit. Ferrets love to chase things and are hunters by nature, so cat teaser toys on a stick are also a lot of fun for ferrets.”
As for toys that can be chewed up and swallowed, anything in the home should be examined for the possibility of obstruction.
Joanne Dreeben is a rescuer with over 20 ferrets of her own, and while she hasn’t personally had to deal with this issue, she knows someone who did. “A close friend had a ferret that ingested a piece of rubbery button off a remote control and had to have surgery to remove the blockage from its intestines,” she said. In other words, it’s best to avoid the potential for swallowing altogether by keeping anything that has small parts out of reach — that includes eyes and noses on plush toys, toys with wheels, and buttons on electronics.
Other fun ideas for ferret toys include things they can carry off and hide, or even hide in, like tunnels, baskets, and soft fleece balls, says veteran ferret rescuer Maggie Ciarcia-Belloni.
Are there toys that are safe to leave my ferret alone with?
The same rules for playing together apply to leaving your ferret alone with a toy — you want to make sure that anything you leave in the cage can’t be chewed and swallowed.
“Toys that are okay to leave in the cage can be hard balls with bells [as long as the bells can’t come off and be ingested], tennis balls, or an indestructible toy that you can hang from the cage,” Fiorella said, adding, “some ferrets chew cloth, so you wouldn’t want to leave stuffed animals or soft stuffed toys in their cage, either.”
Are there any homemade treats that I can give my ferret?
If you’d like to treat your ferret to a homemade edible concoction, it’s best to stick to the basics. “Ferrets get a tumor called insulinoma, which causes an over production of insulin from the pancreas, which lowers blood sugar; ferrets should not eat a lot of carbs and should never eat sugar,” says Fiorella.
That means treats with ingredients that include fruit or chocolate, and any sweet human treats, should be avoided. Dairy products — milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese — can also cause diarrhea, so steer clear of that ingredient as well.
With these stipulations in mind, Fiorella suggests offering your ferret something like cooked eggs, or chicken or beef (with no seasoning) as a way to show him you really care. “These make great treats, and they help keep ferret blood sugar at a [healthy] level,” she added.
Believe it or not, baby food can be another treat option for your ferret, too. “I make my ferrets ‘ferret gruel’ every day,” said Ciarcia-Belloni. “It is ferret chow ground up and hot water added to it, along with beef baby food and a very small piece of ripe banana. I serve it warm, and they love it!”