Ferrets are lots of fun and love to play, and retailers can benefit by displaying a wide variety of toys for these pets.
One of the main reasons people love ferrets is because they have such a playful nature. Ferret owners often say their pets have only two speeds: full tilt and dead asleep. Because ferrets are such high-energy pets they need a lot of toys to keep them occupied.
Wild ferrets live in burrows, so tubes and tunnels are natural toys for domestic ferrets. There are a variety of tube products available, including those made of plastic, cloth, wood, grass and cardboard. Not only can these products be put in the ferret cage–hanging or on the floor–they can also be placed in a play area. Ferret owners can use a variety of different tubes and arrange them in different ways. Ferrets love running in and out of the tubes, and changing the configuration will give the ferret a new experience each time.
Ferrets also like to dig, and sometimes express this behavior on the living room rug. Owners can redirect their pets’ energy by providing a digging box. Potting soil can be used to fill a digging box, but many commercial soils contain fertilizers and chemicals. A good alternative is rabbit food, or a paper litter formed into tiny balls. Not only are these products non-toxic, they are also a little less messy than dirt.
Ferrets are predatory animals and have a strong instinct to chase moving objects. Ferrets love motorized toys and toys that bounce or spring back when pushed or jumped on. Ferrets also like to chase small balls thrown by their owners, and balls that contain bells and other noisemakers are favored. Ferrets will also chase feathers on a string.
Other good ferret toys include plastic balls that can be loaded with food. These items dispense one piece of food at a time as the ferret rolls the ball. Ferrets are also quite attracted to odors of different kinds, especially those of worn shoes and socks. A plastic mesh ball that comes apart so owners can put smelly socks inside can be a favorite toy.
Because ferrets have a high energy level, they tend to be hard on toys. That means ferret toys need to be well constructed. Because ferrets chew on rubbery items, toys must be either digestible or indestructible. If a toy can be pierced with a staple remover, the ferret will eventually be able to bite off and swallow pieces, a common problem that is often fatal. Toys made of latex and foam are forbidden for ferrets.
Ferrets like to sleep in hidden places, so it’s important that tubes and plastic houses or balls have sufficient air holes to prevent suffocation if a ferret gets stuck or falls asleep with the main air hole covered. Most products made of cloth are safe for ferrets, because they don’t have much of a tendency to chew on them. Products made of loose-weave fabrics that can catch toenails should be avoided.
It’s imperative that retailers put toys in the ferret display habitats. When customers see the toys in use, they will be more likely to buy one for their pets. Another way to encourage customers to buy toys for their ferrets is to set up a bulletin board where customers can post pictures of their pets playing with toys. If the pet shop has a website, the pictures can also be posted online. When ferret owners see other ferrets playing with toys, they will be more likely to buy toys for their own pets.
Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of the book Rats!, the booklet Rat Health Care and, her most recent book, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness.