Ferret Cages Then…And Now

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Ferrets have unique needs for cages – learn how to recommend the best ferret cages to result in the most satisfied customers.
by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.
Pet Product News
Volume 55, Number 6
June 2001
These articles and images are copyrighted and may not be reprinted, re-used, reposted, copied, or otherwise distributed without permission from the author and publisher.

You should not rely on the veterinary advice or information provided on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any specific situation. Always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the medical condition or treatment of your own pet or animal.


Look for:

  • Wire mesh cages of galvanized (good) or coated (better) wire
  • Heavy-duty latches to prevent escapes
  • Doors large enough to remove litterpans, ramps, and shelves
  • A solid tray cage floor that is easy to clean
  • Solid shelves that are easy to clean

 Nice to have extras:

  • wheels or casters
  • ability to easily collapse cage for transportation or storage
  • ability to connect to other cages or an expandability option
  • athletic challenges such as ramps, ladders, shelves, etc.


  • Wood – most woods absorb bacteria and pose health and odor problems
  • Sharp edges or burrs on any wire
  • Wire floor surfaces and wire shelving that can trap ferret parts and cause injury (or you can encourage the sale of cage floor mats, shelf covers, etc.)
  • Uncoated/nongalvanized wire that quickly rusts
  • Mesh size larger than 1x2 inches – larger sizes will either trap ferrets or allow them to escape
  • Flexible-wire door panels with a center latch – ferrets push at the corners and can escape


Ferret Cages Then…And Now

When ferrets first hit the popular pet market in the 1980s, nobody knew that much about their unique needs, especially when it came to housing. We put them in aquariums (not enough ventilation), rodent cages (too small), dog crates and parrot cages (wire spacing permitted escapes). Fortunately, today there is a wide variety of ferret-specific cages manufactured with the ferret’s lifestyle (and the convenience of the owner) in mind. These cages are usually multi-story and equipped with ramps, platforms, multiple doors and other features designed for fun, safety and convenience. Jason Casto, the Marketing Manager for Pets International, Ltd. in Illinois, pointed out that “Retailers should always recommend a species-specific cage. Ferret cage manufacturers study the needs and behaviors of the ferret so they can design a safe and fun cage specifically for the ferret.” Mr. Casto also noted that cages made for other animals “do not mentally challenge the ferret and could have safety problems.”

Discourage Free Ferrets

Madeleine Martin, owner of the Pets Choice Retail Outlet in Merrimack, New Hampshire, says, “The most important thing to impress upon a potential ferret owner is that ferrets do indeed need cages!” Some people envision their new companion being a free-range house pet like a dog or cat. However, ferrets are highly intelligent and curious creatures that can get into a lot of trouble if left to their own devices. A cage provides a safe and secure environment for the ferret when the owner cannot be there to supervise play. A cage can also be helpful for a ferret to rest and overcome illness. A small cage can also be used for transportation (although a carrier would be better).

Going Up, Up, Up!

The second most important point is size. Bigger is better, and the trend is to go UP with multi-story cages. Ferrets require lots of room in a cage, for both exercise and all their furnishings. The longer period a ferret needs to stay in a cage, the larger it needs to be. The absolute minimum size for a single ferret that is caged only for a few hours at a stretch, or only overnight, is about 2 cubic feet (12”x24” bottom, 12” high). This size is often better used as an isolation, travel, or hospital cage.

Your client may want to save money by beginning with a smaller, “starter” cage for their first ferret. Donna Wood, Retail Specialist for Prevue Pet Products in Chicago says for retailers to “Remind your customer that ferrets are fun, social creatures, and most owners don’t stop at one ferret!” Plan ahead, or else the customer will end up with several cages before reaching ideal capacity, and will have spent more money than originally planned. Alicia Drakiotes is the founding director of Ferret Wise Shelter in New Hampshire. She loves to receive donations of the “outgrown” cages for the shelter, but says, “If you can convince your customer to buy a larger cage in the first place, you will have a more satisfied ferret owner!” Another option is to recommend cages that are expandable. Some cages have removable wire panels so another story can be attached to the top. One of the easiest expansion options is with the Super Pet line of ferret cages, which come with Ferretrail or Bubble Wave Fun-nel tubing systems. These plastic tunnels can be used to attach to an additional cage, thus allowing for easy expansion as the ferret family grows.

Caging Considerations

Skip Martin of Martin’s Cages in Columbia, Pennsylvania stresses that “wire ferret cages should be nontoxic, have no burs or sharp edges, provide good ventilation, and be very secure because ferrets are great escape artists!” He also tells ferret owners to “look for cages that can collapse for storage, have a carrying handle, and a good-sized bottom pan.” All ferret cages should contain some sort of bottom tray that is easy to clean. Deeper pans mean less mess for the owner to clean out. Be careful! Some ferrets learn how to push out a slide-out drawer and escape. Ideally, the floor of the cage should not be wire mesh, because this can cause foot injuries and deformities for ferrets. If there is a wire bottom (or wire platforms higher in the cage), let your client know that wire footing areas must be covered. Fleece kennel mats designed for dog crates work wonderfully as flooring, or the ferret owner could use linoleum, tile, or washable bath mats. Several manufacturers offer washable platform covers. Make sure any shelves or platforms are wide enough to allow room for a sleepsack or litterbox. Often, the wire ramps that come with cages are very steep and ferrets have accidents by catching body parts on the wire as they tumble down. Make ramps less steep, or platform covers can be used to cover the ramp wires. Whether a cage has ramps or not, cages should be equipped with enough hammocks to break a fall. Finally, Mark Fetter of Marshall Pet Products of NY says “Every cage should have plenty of big access doors so you can reach every level and easily take a litterpan (or ferret) in and out.”

What Wire?

There are many different types of cage wire: galvanized, enameled, powder-coated (a baked-on finish), stainless steel, and polycoated vinyl (PVC) wire. PVC is the easiest to clean, but if the ferrets gnaw on the wire, lower-quality PVC could come off and be swallowed accidentally. Galvanized wire is the least expensive, but is more difficult to keep clean and rust free. Tell your clients that galvanized wire cages must be completely scrubbed and dried before housing a ferret to remove the potentially toxic zinc particles. Stainless steel is often the most expensive, but the least subject to wear and tear. Enameled or powder-coated wire is somewhere in the middle on cost and maintenance issues. For any type of wire, make sure there are no sharp edges or exposed ends that could cut you or your ferret (access door areas need special attention).

Interior Decorating

“Big homes mean big sales!” according to James Wingate, President of Midwest Homes for Pets. Each ferret will need a litterbox, litter, waterbottle, drip catcher for the water bottle, food dishes or feeders, hammocks, and sleep sacks. Ferrets don’t need litter, so don’t forget the flooring pad! Encourage the sale of many hammocks – a rule of thumb is 1.5 hammocks per ferret, rounded up to the next highest number. Strategically placed hammocks add to ferret safety -- if a ferret falls, he won’t go far and will just land on a soft hammock. Put sleep sacks on the bottom floor or on platforms. Extra litterpans can go on the platforms as well. For multiple ferrets, multiple water bottles and food dishes are handy. Bundled cage kits or starter kits are easy to sell to your clients, and give them a head start on all these accessories. Ferrets also have fun with tubes and tunnels (either fabric or plastic) that can be hung in the cage. In general, recommend cage accessories that are safe, durable, and easy to clean. Jim Nannen, owner of Animal House Pet Centers in St. Petersburg, Florida, points out that “A fully-equipped display cage is a wonderful selling tool!”

Final Cage Comments

Ferrets are active, intelligent escape artists that need to be caged when unsupervised for their own safety. While caged, they need plenty of room for exercise, fun activity and household furnishings. From their viewpoint, size does matter, and larger sizes will lead to better sales for your store. Jason Casto of Pets International, maker of Super Pet ferret cages sums it up the best: “If a ferret owner is pleased with their experience with the cage, they are more likely to expand ownership by buying more ferrets, more accessories, and more supplies. If an owner has an unhappy ferret or a bad experience with the wrong cage that breaks or allows a ferret to get hurt or escape, you will lose their business. By recommending the right cage, the retailer will stay in business longer by having satisfied customers.”

Marshall Pet Products: (811) 292-3424; fax: (315) 594-1956; email: [email protected]; website: www.marshallpet.com
Martin’s Cages: (888) 451-2234; fax (717) 684-2234; website: www.martinscages.com
Midwest Homes for Pets: (800) 428-8560; fax (765) 289-6524; email: [email protected], website: www.midewesthomes4pets.com
Penn-Plax: (800) 645-6055; fax: (954) 584-9944, 720 Stewart Ave. Garden City NY 11530
Prevue Pet Products: (800) 243-3624; fax (312) 243-4224, email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Quality Cage Company: (888) 762-2336; fax (503) 762-2296, website: www.qualitycage.com
Safeguard Products: (800) 433-1819; email: [email protected], website: www.safeguardproducts.com
Scott Pet Products: (800) 989-4178; fax: (765) 569-4636, website: www.scottpet.com
Super Pet, Pets International Ltd.: (847) 956-1130; fax: (847) 956-8513; email: [email protected]; website: www.superpetusa.com (fall 2001)