By Brenda Bresloff
Much like a 2-3 year old child, a ferrets curiosity, energy and determination are endless. As parents child proof their home to protect their child from dangers, so must the ferret own, preferably before bringing home the new ferret. Keep in mind, a ferret is able to manipulate their body to fit into/under the tiniest of openings. If their head fits, you can count on the rest of their body following with no trouble. A general rule of thumb is getting down on the floor so you’re at their level and search every area of the house for possible dangers. Ferret proofing is an ongoing process, as soon as you think things are safe, chances are your new ferret will prove you wrong. You should always keep your eye on your ferret when they are out of their cage.
If you have any plants in the house, you should ensure they are well out of reach from your ferret. Keep in mind ferrets are very good jumpers and problem solvers, especially if something grabs their attention they want to get to. Many plants are poisonous to them which can pose a life threatening danger, as can potpourri. In addition, ferrets can not resist digging in the dirt which will end up all over the floors not to mention on themselves.
You should inspect the walls in every room to ensure there are no openings they can squeeze into. Frequent areas of concern consist of the washroom (dryer vent openings), bathrooms (around plumbing), torn window screens, under cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom, etc. Always inspect window screens for tears and weakness and repair as soon as possible. Ferrets should be carefully watched when in front of open windows, as within seconds they can tear through the screens and escape the house. Openings in walls should thoroughly be patched or secured to ensure no escape (many ferrets have gotten caught within the walls, as well as escaped the house in this manner). Many cabinets (especially kitchen) have a space between the back kick and the bottom of cabinets where ferrets can easily fit. One of the most effective ways to protect against this is to secure a piece of thin wood to cover the gap.
As mentioned above, washrooms should be off-limits to the ferrets. In addition to the risk of escaping through the dryer vent, ferrets are very capable of crawling underneath the machines, resulting in them getting caught in the machines inner parts. It is also very possible that without you noticing they jump into the machines. Always check before closing the lids and starting the machines.
Kitchens should also be considered an off-limits area to your ferret as they pose risks. Ferrets can easily crawl under or behind a refrigerator, getting caught in the parts and/or burned by the heat. They are also known to quickly jump into an open refrigerator often being closed in without the owner knowing (always check thoroughly before closing door). Ovens pose the same problems, if they are not low enough to the ground (if they can fit their head under it, the rest of the body will follow). Many ferrets are often eager to assist with the dishwasher. Unfortunately many have gotten their nails/toes caught in the side door latches. Always make sure there is no ferret in the machine before closing the door and/or starting it. Kitchen cabinets can be very dangerous to ferrets, as most people store household cleaners here. The best prevention is to utilize child proof locks to secure the cabinet doors. As some of the plastic latches give a little room which is often enough for a ferret to squeeze into, magnetic type locks could be a better option.
Certain furniture items can pose life threatening risks to your ferret and proper care should be taken. Recliners are the most widely known death traps to a ferret, as they easily and quickly crawl underneath and get caught in the chairs moving mechanics. Many unfortunate accidents/deaths have occurred as a result of a ferret getting stuck/caught. If you have a recliner, you should safe guard it from these types of accidents by disengaging/removing all the recliner mechanics and sealing off the bottom. Ferrets can easily crawl into the under parts of sofas (ingest/choke on the foam), beds (get caught in the coils), chairs, etc. The easiest and most efficient way to prevent this is to either secure thin wood to the bottom of these items or tack down a flat bed sheet pulled tight.
If you live in a split level home, open railings are dangerous as ferrets can easily fit through the openings and fall a considerable distance. Other than not allowing access to this area, the best way to protect against an accident is to utilize sheets of plexi glass that is taller then they are and intertwine them around the posts. Supervision will still be needed.
Ferrets that are wire biters pose additional problems as they risk electrocution, not to mention repair bill for the owner. You can try hiding the wires behind items they cannot get to, applying a bitter apple paste to the wires (which has an awful bitter taste that the majority of ferrets hate) and/or applying a heavy plastic wire guard around them.
Keep in mind once you tackle the above, ferret proofing doesn’t end. As each ferret is unique, they will find other items/areas that you missed, so always keep your eye on them when they are outside their cage to ensure a safe environment.