What we are talking here is the use of a non-cloth type material used to cover the floor of the cage. This could be a paper based bedding, a wood pellet type betting, straw, or yikes… cedar shavings, which should never be used. When ferrets are seen in pet stores they are nearly always kept on some type of bedding material, yet experienced ferret owners rarely do so. Why is this? Does this mean ferret owners are cheap? No, not really (especially when you consider what we pay for all those vet bills!). The real reason is that using a bedding material on the cage floor is easier for the retailer than having to do ferret laundry. Most pet stores are not going to have a washing machine so washing ferret bedding is just not practical. You certainly would not want to be the new employee at the pet store. I can just see getting stuck with the nightly take home assignments from the ferret dept. This is not something many pet store employees would relish.
When new ferret owners see bedding being used at the pet store it is easy to see why they would believe that they should also use it at home. In fact, if you ask the salesperson at the store they may also recommend bedding material since, in their experience ferrets are displayed in cages using bedding material. Experienced ferret owners, know differently. Ferrets are latrinal animals. This means they pick a spot (or spots!), and use them over and over for their bathroom. This is good for us ferret owners because it means they can be taught to use a litter box.
While most ferrets are not 100% perfect in regards to the use of their litter box when outside their cage, most are pretty good at using the cage litter box as long as it is kept clean. Placing a litter box in the cage is far easier and cheaper than covering the entire cage with bedding material. What’s not to like! With the extra floorspace in the cage, place cloth ferret bedding, sleep sacks, snooze-tubes and the like. These items are comfortable for the ferret to walk on. This is especially true if the cage has a wire floor. While it is generally accepted among experienced ferret owners that wire floors are not comfortable, covering the floor with cloth bedding will rectify the problem. Cloth bedding also provides a comfortable place to sleep and gives the ferrets a feeling of security for when they are sleeping. A hidden benefit of cloth betting is that it can actually help control the natural ferret scent by absorbing the oils from the ferrets skin. These are the oils which give ferrets their famous ferret smell. By frequently washing the bedding, and not the ferret, you can substantially tone down the scent to a point where it is hardly noticeable.
There are many commercially available bedding items for ferret owners. Just make sure the bedding is well constructed and contains no foam, or cedar shavings… as some dog bedding does. For those with a creative bent, and some sewing skills, one can create their own ferret bedding. Doing so will allows one to perfectly tailor the bedding to the cage, and the size of the ferrets. Some owners go as far as color coordinating the bedding. It’s very important ferrets give the right impression. It’s what separates ferrets from mere weasels! There is one instance when it is advisable to use a paper based bedding and that needs to be noted. This is when a ferret is a cloth chewer. For ferrets with this unfortunate habit a paper based bedding may be required due to the destructive nature of chewing cloth. Over time, strangely enough, chewing cloth will severely wear down the teeth. It could also cause an internal blockage, requiring emergency surgery to save the ferret. Luckily this is not very common but is something a ferret owner needs to be aware of.