Dancer, A. M. M., Díez-León, M., Bizley, J. K. et al. 2022. Housing and environmental enrichment of the domestic ferret: A multi-sector survey. Animals 12(9), 1065.
Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) are kept and used in multiple sectors of society, but little is known about how they are housed and what environmental enrichment (EE) they may benefit from. We aimed to help guide caretakers about what housing and EE can be provided for ferrets. Through an online questionnaire of ferret caretakers, including pet, laboratory, zoological collection, rescue and working animal sectors internationally, we described ferret housing, opportunities for exploration, EE provision and caretaker opinions on ferrets’ preferred EE types, and problematic EE. In total, 754 valid responses from 17 countries were analysed, with most (82.4%) coming from pet owners. Most ferrets were housed socially, with housing varying across sectors from single-level cages to free-range housing in a room or outdoor enclosure; pet owners mostly used multi-level cages. The most commonly reported EE included hammocks, tunnels and tactile interaction with caretakers. Respondents reported that ferrets particularly enjoyed digging substrates, tunnels, human interaction and exploration. The most frequently reported problems were that ingestion of unsuitable chew toys and rubber items could cause internal blockages, narrow tunnels could trap ferrets, and certain fabrics that could catch claws. This suggests a need for increased awareness of the risks of these EE types and for more commercially available safety-tested ferret EE. Scent trails were relatively rarely provided but were reported to be enjoyed and harmless, so we recommend that these should be provided more commonly. Our results suggest that there is scope to improve ferret housing and EE provision to benefit ferret welfare across all sectors.