Friday, December 4, 2009

How Much Do They Sleep?

So here we are once again folks, on the most exciting day of the week – Ferrety Friday!

"Woo hoo! So what’s on the agenda for today, ferret-loving lady?"

My, my, my...this sure is a change in attitude. Last time, I believe you yawned when I said I was going to be writing something about ferrets every Friday.

"Oh, that wasn’t me. That was the other voice in your head"

[blink] Oh...there's more than one...

Anyway, today I’m going to write about ferrets and how much they sleep, which is heaps, by the way. And the reason I’ve decided to focus on that today is that I discovered (through my web tracker) that a few of the keyword searches on search engines that have landed people on my blog have involved ferrets and sleep. For example, on my blog’s list of searches, I found things like:
“Can a ferret be lazy?”
“Ferret is lazy and sleeps”
“How to wake up a ferret”

So, it seems to me that there are people out there desperate, yes desperate, for information about ferrets and their sleeping patterns. Perhaps their little fuzzy face is not up and about as much as they’d expected and they’re a) worried that it might be sick or b) surprised that what they expected to be a highly-energetic and super active pet has turned out to be a couch potato. Well, as much as I hate to burst the bubble for the people in category (b), if they were looking for a pet that is up and at ‘em for the majority of the day, they shouldn’t have taken a ferret home.

Photo from SXC

Ferrets love their beauty sleep. A healthy adult can sleep anywhere from 14 to 18 hours a day, with older ferrets sleeping more than younger ones. They typically sleep in two to six hour periods and sometimes get into DS (dead sleep) or DFS (dead ferret sleep) or FDS (ferret dead sleep). Call it what you want, one thing’s for sure: when ferrets sleep the dead sleep, they sleep very soundly.

“How soundly do they sleep in dead sleep?”

I’m so glad you asked. They sleep so soundly in ‘dead sleep’ that an inexperienced owner may think their ferret has died when they find them in that state for the very first time. The animal in question will be limp, seemingly not breathing and almost impossible to wake up, no matter what its owner does. But relax; sooner or later your fuzzy will regain consciousness, figuratively speaking.

“I’ve heard that ferrets will sometimes sleep more than 18 hours”

They can, but they shouldn’t. Their polecat relatives sleep only between 15 to 18 hours a day and so should your ferret.

Photo from SXC

“So why do some domestic ferrets sleep more than they should?”

Because they’re bored, depressed and quite often physically unfit. I mean, think about it for a minute. A caged ferret has little room to maneuver; they don’t have enough room to exercise their body and to satisfy their abundant curiosity. With nothing else to do, they curl up and snooze. Eventually they become ‘couch potatoes’, and even when you do let them out, because they’re so out of shape or because their play area lacks stimulation, they’ll just plunk down somewhere and slowly drift off to sleep.

“How do you keep a ferret from becoming a couch potato?”

Ferrets need to get out of their cages a few hours a day to exercise and interact with their owners. Ideally, your pet should be out and about 4 hours a day, and definitely no less than two. If you can’t provide a ferret with the necessary amount of exercise that it needs, don’t take one home as a pet. Because although they will sleep quite a few hours a day, when they are awake, ferrets are highly-energetic, inquisitive and in need of contact (in the form of affection and playfulness) with you. Now, this does not mean that you have to hover over them the entire time that they are out of their cage; ferrets can play well on their own. It just means, don’t ignore them completely.

So, just to wrap up a post that is getting much too long, let’s just recap:

- Ferrets sleep 14 – 18 hours a day.
- They need a minimum of 2 hours (preferably 4) out of their cages to play and explore.
- Interacting with you is important to their happiness.

“What about free-roam ferrets, the ones whose owners don’t keep them locked in a cage?”

That’s a good question. But one that we’ll save for another day when I will write about “To cage or not to cage”

Now before I end this post, let’s peak in on Bailey.

Hey Bailey! What do you think about all the things I wrote today?

That’s what I thought.


  1. I love that picture of Bailey---she looks so blissfully asleep! :-)

    Such interesting ferret facts, Martha. I'll probably never get a ferret, but it's fascinating to read about them. From the looks of Bailey's cage, I'll bet she's pretty happy even when she's in there---it looks like a ferret amusement park, a ferret Disneyland. :-)

    I'm enjoying your Ferrety Fridays.

  2. By the way, I wanted to send my regards to those voices in your head---they're pretty funny. :-)

  3. Ferrety Friday, a great idea, I can see Bailey was born to be a star.

  4. Awww his cute pudgy belly is so... irresistible!

    So do ferrets NEED a cage in the first place? Or can they live more like cats? I'm just wondering cause I've never really learned much about ferrets.

  5. Hi Beth, I would never have gotten a ferret if it wasn't for my daughter. I mean, sure they're cute and all, but so are hamsters and those tiny little mice and an assortment of other pets, all of which I like but would not take home with me. But Bailey's here now, and she is a part of our home, so there are responsibilities that go with her. And although she is technically my daughter’s pet, I take care of her when my daughter is at school or occupied with some activity or an outing. We made that agreement, and I’m committed; basically honouring my commitment. The reason I decided to write about ferrets is because people really don’t know anything about them. They look cute in the pet shop, they get picked up because of that cuteness and then when people take them home and realize all that’s involved, they neglect them. I guess I’m hoping that by my adding some info on my site, I may help people learn a little about them, which will help them to decide if this is the right pet for them or not.

    And oh yeah, Bailey is definitely a happy camper. She doesn’t have the top of the line cage (there are so many others that are bigger and more expensive), but it’s large enough and we were able to fit it into our budget. Judging from the picture above, I’d say she’s pretty happy with her setup, no? :)

    Hi Yan, our sweet Bailey was definitely destined for the limelight. Can't you tell from her picture above? And how eager she is to make a good impression? Or not... In any case, she's a star in our lives, so I guess that counts too.

    Tatiana, Bailey is very cuddly. You want to squeeze this little critter until she explodes; of course, I'd never do that :)

    Ferrets don't NEED a cage; it's more of a personal choice. There are pros and cons to caging and pros and cons to letting a ferret roam free. With ferrets the house needs to be ferret-proofed to protect them and your things. A home that is not ferret-proof can prove fatal to these super inquisitive creatures. And they'll end up destroying everything they can chew, pull off tables, etc. Basically, a cage is a place to keep them (and your home) safe. If you do ferret-proof your place, you can let them roam free. But then you have to make sure they're properly litter-trained or else you'll end up with poop in corners of rooms. I'll write more about all these things in later ferrety fridays.