Ferret Friendly Facts and Advice by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.

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Ferret Bowls

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A Bowl is a Thing of Many Uses for a Ferret

© Erika Matulich, Ph.D.

“Super bowl” means something else to ferrets than a day of football! After last year's games, I went into the living room to clean up and found my giant ferret, the one-eyed Captain Morgan, curled up sound asleep in the empty potato chip bowl! That's when it occurred to me that ferrets have a variety of uses for bowls.

Food bowls: Of course, the most common use for a bowl is to contain food. The key here is “contain”—because ferrets love to tip over bowls or dig food out of them. To prevent this, try anchoring the bowl to the side of the cage with clips (special stick-on ones made for litter boxes work well, but so do plain old binder clips), or use a special bowl designed to lock onto the side of the cage.

A heavy ceramic bowl that's difficult to tip will also work well. Some specially designed bowls have an extra lip on the inside edge to minimize spillage by an enthusiastic ferret.

Always make sure that bowls are dishwasher-safe. Ferret foods have a high fat content, which leaves residue inside bowls. This residue quickly becomes rancid, so bowls should be washed often. Also, be sure that pretty decorator ceramic bowls have a lead-free glaze for safe dining!

Water bowls: Ferrets prefer to drink water out of bowls. Studies have shown that ferrets drink more water (which is healthier) out of bowls than out of water bottles, presumably because it's easier. However, water bowls are much messier than water bottles and can be less sanitary.

Ferrets love to play in water bowls, and may dig, splash—and even snorkel. Misty is my snorkeling ferret—she sticks her entire head in the water and waves it around while blowing bubbles. Sasha has to dig at the water while drinking, and splashes it everywhere. Little Bear thinks that water tastes better out of the bowl, and will try to tip it over to lap up water from the spill. Thor dribbles food crumbs into the water, which means I have to change water bowls several times per day.

Heavy crock-type bowls are helpful in reducing tipping. Don't get a bowl that's too large, because that can present a potential drowning hazard. Again, dishwasher-safe is best, because water bowls should be washed weekly.

Drip-catcher bowls: Because bowls could get spilled and leave ferrets without water, I also provide water bottles. However, no matter how many products claim to be “no-drip,” I find that water bottles invariably make things wet. Mushy food and soggy bedding are no fun for you or your ferret. To keep things drier, I place a bowl beneath each water bottle and anchor it with a small bungee cord. (The bowl must have vertical sides; stretch the cord around the bowl, under the lip, and hook the ends to the cage.) This helps keep everything dry and clean.

Play bowls: Bowls can be a constant source of fun for ferrets! Some ferrets like to go bobbing for raisins or ice cubes in bowls of water. Others like to push around upside-down bowls on smooth floors. I put Ping-Pong balls in big bowls and let the ferrets roll the balls around in the bowl.

Sleeping bowls: If a bowl is very large and made out of plastic, you can turn it over and cut a “door” in the side. This makes a dandy sleeping den for your ferret. Many ferrets like to sleep in right-side-up bowls, as well. The shape seems to be just right for ferrets who like to sleep doughnut-style. A larger bowl lined with a piece of fleece or terry cloth can make a comfortable, secure snoozing area for your pet.

You can even suspend these bowls from the top of the cage for extra sleeping room. To do this, drill or punch three or four evenly spaced holes around the rim of a plastic bowl; tie a heavy string or attach a bungee cord to each hole; and gather the strings or cords together at the top.

Litter bowls? No: If a bowl is too large, your ferret may use the bowl as a litter box. In general, though, ferrets prefer to relieve themselves in corners, and find the round edges of bowls confusing. Get your ferret a square litter pan and teach him that bowls are for other super things!