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In the wild, the ferret, or mustela putorius furo, lives in the burrows of other animals, but when they are kept as pets they are usually housed in cages. Man-made ferret habitats are typically designed to keep ferrets comfortable and busy while giving owners easy access for cleaning. Some ferret owners add ferret-friendly structures to their homes so their pets can roam free indoors.
As pets, ferrets are generally kept in cages. Commercially produced ferret habitats are typically large, multi-story containers made of galvanized, stainless steel or enamel-coated wire. The bars on these cages are usually no more than one inch apart. If larger spaces are allowed, ferrets may be able to squeeze through and escape. These animals have anal scent glands and exude a musky odor. Wooden, cloth, and cardboard cages can soak up this odor, as well as urine and feces, which is another reason that wire cages are generally recommended. Ferrets can also chew and dig through wood and paper, especially when it is damp.
Some ferret habitats have ramps between their levels, or plastic tunnels to connect multiple cages. Many pet owners provide sleeping sacks and hammocks for ferrets to sleep on, or as safety features. Ferrets sometimes fall while climbing inside their cages, hammocks can break their falls, protecting them from injuries.
Ferret habitats are usually fitted with one or more litter boxes. Unlike the cages for pet rats or mice, ferret habitats should not include shavings spread on cage floors. Deep, removable litter boxes filled with newspaper or wood pellets are usually the best choice for ferret cages. Toys to challenge ferrets' natural curiosity and high energy are typically switched out from week to week to keep ferrets busy and entertained.
Some pet owners turn their homes into giant ferret habitats. They can build shelves near the ceilings in some rooms, so pet ferrets can roam freely. When an owner decides to open up his or her house to ferrets, however, it is important to eliminate common hiding places where pets might want to hide. The legs on couches and beds can be removed to prevent ferrets from hiding themselves and household objects underneath.
In the wild, American ferrets actually live in burrows dug by prairie dogs. These burrows not only provide ferrets with homes, but they also make up 90% of their diet. European ferrets are more likely to be kept as pets: they live in almost every climate and region in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, from tundra to desert. European ferrets eat vermin such as rats and mice in the wild, but they also prey on farm-raised rabbits and chickens. Once ferrets have been made into pets and housed in specialized ferret habitats, their chances of living in the wild are usually greatly diminished.