Ferrets are quirky little creatures with equally interesting and unique personalities. One of the things that we, as ferret owners need to keep in mind is that, while they are domesticated, our homes do not provide everything that their natural habitat can. Therefore, we must be willing to provide our ferrets with viable alternatives to nature.
One of the things that a ferret loves to do in the wild is to dig. These animals will typically dig when they are looking for something or if they need to escape from a situation.
In some cases, ferrets that are not given the correct mental and physical stimulation in captivity will attempt to dig out of boredom. This behavior may be displayed in actions such as scratching at the floor of their enclosure.
If you want to give your ferret the best quality of life, mimicking their natural habitat as closely as possible is by far the best way to do this.
Of course, it is unlikely that you are going to have the capacity to provide them with unlimited digging space but a dig box is a viable alternative that will bring your ferret many hours of pleasure.
In this guide, we will be discussing the best material for your ferret’s dig box as well as how to make one.
What Is A Dig Box?
A dog box is a safe place for your ferret to exhibit his natural desire to dig and can include many different things. A lot of owners like to hide little treats and toys in amongst the main material to give your ferret a purpose to his digging.
Now, it is important to keep in mind that there are the traditional types of ferret dig boxes that are relatively shallow and often come with a lid.
While these are OK, they make it much easier for the ferret to make a mess by scattering the contents around the room. Yes, there is the option of using a lid but some ferrets may not like this and you will still need to ensure that there are sufficient air holes so your furry friend can breathe!
A good ferret dig box will be sturdy enough that it doesn’t collapse as your pet plays in it and is large enough to allow him relative freedom while digging.
A dig box must contain something that your ferret can dig around in; that’s the entire purpose of the box. But there are a lot of different materials you can use.
What Is The Best Material For A Ferret Dig Box?
When it comes to choosing the right material for your ferret dig box, there are quite a few things to consider. Primarily, you’re going to want to make sure that whatever you choose isn’t going to create too much of a mess. For example, something like shredded newspaper is going to be far easier to clean up than dirt from your backyard.
And speaking of backyard dirt, a lot of people are under the impression that this is the best material to use. We will admit that it is the most abundant and easy to get your hands on but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for your pet.
Dirt from outside could contain a number of different things that may be harmful to your pet such as pesticides from plants that are grown and treated in the area, parasites, and other undesirable things.
While wild ferrets would be used to being exposed to certain risks, domesticated ferrets are far more prone to diseases and health problems. And let’s face it, wild or not, no animal would be able to survive the risks of serious pesticide ingestion.
If you want to use soil, which is great for the ferret as it will feel much more natural, we would suggest purchasing potting soil from your local home and garden center as this will have been safely packaged.
That said, do keep in mind that any scattering or spillages will be more challenging to clean up.
If you want something a little cleaner than play sand that can be purchased for children’s sandpits is a viable alternative.
Fallen leaves are a favorite for many ferret owners and while these still carry some risks in that they come from outdoors, these risks are far less than simply taking dirt from outside.
If you’ve recently cleared your patio and raked up a ton of dry leaves, your ferret might enjoy digging and diving through them in his dig box.
Alternatively, you might decide to use something like shredded newspaper. If you have a paper shredder that you use regularly, you can also use the waste from this; it’s a great way of recycling the paper.
This material is entirely safe too; however, you must only use it if you do not already use it in your ferret’s litter tray. Doing this will create an association between the litter box and the dig box and your ferret will likely just use his dog box as a toilet!
Other great materials that you can recycle for your ferret dig box include things like packing pellets; you know the ones that come in great amounts in packages – your ferret will love digging through these!
You might also use wood pellets but since these are also often used for small animal litter, only use them if they aren’t used in the litter box!
One of the most creative ideas we have seen is to use small plastic Easter eggs. This gives your ferret a totally new texture to explore and can boost the aesthetic appearance of the dig box for your own amusement.
In other cases, ferret owners will use things like sand or rice and simply bury a few plastic Easter eggs for the ferret to dig up. It’s entirely up to you and of course, you’ll need to take your ferret’s preference into consideration.
You could also try using jigsaw puzzle pieces; whether you have a lot of unused puzzles or purchase some cheaply at a thrift store, this is an interesting alternative.
However, one of the most commonly used alternative materials for ferret dig boxes is rice.
The biggest problem with this method is that, if the ferret swallows the rice, it could cause a blockage in his digestive system. But this is an inexpensive material that can be used for several play sessions before it needs replacing. It’s important to keep an eye on your ferret and if he does start to eat the rice, you may need to find a different material.
How To Make A Ferret Dig Box
Once you have chosen your dig box material, it is time to get creative and turn a regular box into a fun play space for your pet.
Depending on the size of the box, you will need to adjust the number of contents accordingly.
For an average-sized plastic storage box, a 10lb bag of rice or sand will typically be enough. Make sure that your box is solid and strong and won’t collapse. While it can be tempting to use an old cardboard box, these are the most durable option and there is a risk that the entire structure will weaken quickly..
It is now simply a case of putting your chosen material into the box and adding in some toys or treats for your pet to dig up. Some people like to get a little more creative and link boxes using plastic tubing.
You’ll need to cut holes in the sides of the box to connect them using your tubing and also ensure that the tubes are large enough for your ferret to comfortably pass through. Otherwise, the only limit is your imagination!
Keeping Your Ferret Safe
We all love our pets and want to keep them as safe as possible and this is why you must always ensure that your ferret is well supervised when using his or her dig box.
One of the most important things you will need to look out for is whether your ferret tries to eat the contents. If you notice that he does then you’ll need to switch to another option. This is especially important when using things like rice and packing pellets that could block the intestines if swallowed.
In addition, you will need to make sure that the dig box is kept clean. After each use, check that your ferret hasn’t mistaken it for a litter box and remove any soiled parts.
While there is no hard and fast rule on how often you should change the dig box contents, you should use your initiative and change it when it begins to look a little worse for wear. Of course, the type of material you use will determine how often it needs to be changed; things like shredded paper may need more frequently than something like potting soil.
Ferrets are very inquisitive and intelligent animals that require a lot of physical and mental stimulation to keep them entertained and happy. While there are lots of ways you can achieve this, a dig box is an excellent choice since it allows your ferret to engage in natural behaviors in the safety and comfort of your home.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to what materials you will use in the dig box but regardless of what you choose, you should make absolutely sure that the ferret does not ingest any of it as this could cause intestinal blockages and health issues.