Pet specialty retailers that offer as large a selection of ferret toys as possible will give ferret owners lots of reasons to make a purchase for their pets.
One of the largest categories in the small animal segment of pet specialty is ferret toys. Ferrets are very playful animals, and there is a wide variety of toys marketed for them. Many ferret owners like to buy their pets a new toy every time they visit a pet shop, so it can pay for retailers to carry an extensive selection. However, because there are so many different toys available, most retailers will have room to stock them all, but there is a logical approach to deciding which products to offer to make sure that a broad range of representative toys are included.
There are four main types of toys for small pets: chew, food, exercise, and interactive toys. It is best for pet specialty retailers to offer several products from each of the categories. A chew toy, of course, is meant to be chewed by the pet. A food toy is a device designed to dispense small pieces of food to the pet a little at a time. An exercise toy is one that encourages physical activity in the pet with actions such as running and jumping. An interactive toy is meant to be enjoyed by both owner and pet at the same time. There can often be crossover within these different types, such as food and exercise toys that are also meant to be interactive.
Ferrets are such active animals that they need lots of room to play. About the only type of toy they can play with inside their cages are chew toys. Only chew toys specifically marketed for ferrets should be sold for them. This is because many chew toys meant for dogs or other small pets can be dangerous for ferrets. Ferrets will try to eat any chew toy given to them, so it is very important that all ferret chew toys be edible and digestible. If a non-food item is swallowed by a ferret, the result is usually a severe intestinal blockage.
Because of their high energy level, ferrets should get about four hours of playtime outside their cages every day. Exercise is necessary to maintain their health and prevent them from becoming fat. Ideally, ferrets will be able to spend time playing with another ferret, as they love to chase each other and wrestle. But they also enjoy playing with their owners and with toys. Ferrets like noisemakers of all types, and are attracted by balls that enclose bells and tunnels and other shapes that make a crackling sound when they run through them. Again, it is vital that all toys sold for ferrets are only those marketed and designed for these animals.
Because ferrets are predatory animals, they will chase after a moving object such as a ball or a feather on a string. They may also enjoy playing with a dangling toy. Motorized toys that move or roll around on their own can be very exciting for ferrets, as well.
On the other hand, owners can provide the power to move a non-motorized toy when playing with their ferrets. These slinky pets enjoy playing tug-a-war, and will pull on toys that provide resistance with a spring. They also like toys that will bounce back when they attack or leap on them.
Wild ferrets live in burrows, so digging is an instinctive behavior that can help keep ferrets occupied. A bin of small colorful balls will give them an opportunity to dig in a non-destructive way, rather than trying to dig up the carpet. This activity can be made interactive when owners hide treats or small toys inside the ball bin and then encourage their ferrets to find them. Ferrets also love running through tunnels and tubes, and there are lots of different types of tubes available, including those made of plush fabric, flexible colorful plastic and flexible see-through plastic. There is even a product designed for racing, with two long parallel tubes for ferrets to run through.
One of the newest and most exciting types of ferret toys are ones that require pets to figure out how to get a hidden treat. Traditional food toys are designed to operate at random, allowing small pieces of food to fall out of a small hole when the pet pushes the toy. This new generation of playthings presents a puzzle that pets need to solve. There are versions where a morsel is hidden under a cup that the pet must pick up or tip over to get at the treat. In other versions, the food is under a flat piece of plastic that must be nosed aside. These toys work best interactively, as the owner guides the pet into finding the treats, at least for the first time.
One way to encourage the sale of such toys is to offer a free package of treats with the purchase of one. Retailers can also offer deals such as “buy three toys, get one free.” Because there is such a variety of ferret toys, displays, such as an endcap, can feature a different toy each month to attract the attention of shoppers.
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.