Pet ferrets have a fun, quizzical personality, full of comical play and a lot of naps. Often times ferrets are seen playing intensely, and a few minutes later, sound asleep. So, should ferrets sleep during the day or at night? Are ferrets nocturnal? What is normal and healthy?
Dr. Jess explains the ferrets sleeping habits below:
What is a Ferret?
Ferrets are a small animal that are commonly seen as a pet in some cultures.
They are small furry mammals that are usually black, brown, white, or a combination of those colors.
The common domesticated ferret can be up to 2 feet in length, and weigh up to 4 1/2 pounds. Males are typically larger in size than female ferrets.
The domesticated pet ferret can live up to 8-10 years depending on genetics and management factors.
What Does It Mean To Be ‘Nocturnal’?
A nocturnal animal is an animal that sleeps during the day and is active – eats, plays, roams, at night.
Nocturnality is the opposite of being diurnal, or active during the day and sleeping at night.
Most nocturnal animals have physical traits that help them to live their best lives at night, in the dark.
Some of these helpful traits include special eyesight to see things better in the darkness, as well as highly-developed senses of both hearing and/or smell.
These heightened senses make it easier for nocturnal animals to hunt or to not be hunted, depending on if they are prey or predator-type animals, making it more likely for that animal species to continue thriving.
What Types of Animals Are Nocturnal?
When we think of nocturnal animals, most of us think of bats first.
Bats are nocturnal animals.
However, there are many other types of animals that are also nocturnal. Here is a short list of nocturnal animals:
- some frogs/snakes
- sugar gliders
- some birds
- some mice
- and so many other species found on the planet!
Are Ferrets Nocturnal?
Ferrets are crepuscular– they are more active during twilight periods, so they are more active at dawn and at dusk.
A normal, healthy adult ferret will usually sleep between 18 and 20 hours a day but can sometimes adapt their sleeping habits to the environment around them (more on that below!).
Wild Ferret Sleeping Habits:
Wild ferrets sleep even more than their domestic counterparts do.
For instance, the black-footed ferret sleeps up to 21 hours per day.
During their three hours of activity, the wild ferret hunts at night, with their good sense of smell, hearing, and sight.
During the day is when these wild ferrets get most of their 21 hours of sleep.
Pet Ferret Sleeping Habits:
Domesticated ferrets can adjust their sleeping schedule to their owner’s sleep schedule quite easily.
They love to sleep and will snooze for over half of the day – which is a completely normal amount of sleep for a healthy adult ferret.
How Do Ferrets Sleep?
Ferrets don’t really care how they sleep- as long as they’re comfortable, their positioning doesn’t matter.
They can sleep on their back, belly, or sides, or even curl up into a ball or stretch out.
Ferrets are flexible and have long bodies so don’t be bothered with a wacky sleeping position, they are more flexible than us!
Ferrets do close their eyes while sleeping and can spend several hours in a single position without moving.
How Long Do Ferrets Sleep?
When ferrets are awake, they are typically playing or getting into some mischief, which makes a pet tired- that’s hard work!
No one ferret is the same and some might sleep a little bit more or a little bit less.
As a majority, adult ferrets sleep between 18 and 20 hours a day.
Young ferrets and older adult ferrets may sleep up to 20 to 22 hours a day.
However, a young ferret will spend more time awake, playing and exploring.
Ferrets won’t sleep 18 hours in a row– they can’t handle that much sleep in one long haul.
Ferrets will fill up their day with periods of activity, such as playing, eating, swimming, and running, with periods of napping.
Where Do Ferrets Sleep?
Wild ferrets burrow, so it should come as no surprise that pet ferrets also like to burrow and will sleep in dark and hidden places.
When a ferret is really tired it can fall asleep almost anywhere, but they tend to seek out hidden places.
For the pet ferret living inside your home, most will tend to seek a snooze spot like under blankets, under the bed, sock drawers, piles of laundry, and under rugs – so be CAREFUL where you step!
These silly pets can sleep practically anywhere!
You can buy commercial ferret beds and sleeping hammocks at your local pet stores.
The most important thing is to make sure that your pet is safe and secure while sleeping.
If your ferret can’t find a bed to sleep in, they may just make a bed themselves, usually resulting in a lot of fun destruction as they dig their way to comfort.
Even when your ferret is in their cage, you should make sure that they have a comfortable place to sleep.
I recommend to have multiple beds/hammocks for your ferret to choose from.
There are several kinds of hammocks, some are open and some are closed, so experiment with different bed types to see what your ferret prefers and go with that.
Because ferrets sleep for such a large part of their day, you should make sure to invest in some good bedding and/or hammocks for your ferret.
Here are my Veterinarian-Recommended Ferret Beds and Hammocks:
Adaptive Sleeping Habits
Like I mentioned above, ferrets are crepuscular pets that show activity during the day but are more active during dawn and at dusk.
However, like I also mentioned above, they are capable of changing their sleeping habits and become more diurnal, or awake during the day and sleeping at night.
The sleeping rhythm or cycle of your ferret can be adapted based on your own lifestyle and when you are awake and sleeping.
Changing Sleep Habits- Tips and Tricks:
Help your ferret get their best sleep, by using these tips and tricks:
- Play while you are home: Your ferret will want to play with you and will notice when you’re awake as they will want to be awake with you. Your ferret will likely change their sleeping habits quite rapidly to align closer with yours. When you work during the day, play with your ferret in the morning and evening, before and after work. Your ferret will likely stay awake during these periods and sleep for most of the day while you are away, and then again at night, when you are sleeping too.
- Keep lights at a minimum: ferrets don’t need light at night, and light may make it even harder for them to fall asleep. Make sure that your ferret has a bed that they can hide from light in. You can also cover the cage at night so there’s no light disturbing your ferret, making sure that the cover still allows for ample fresh air.
- Let your ferret wiggle: ferrets aren’t meant to be cooped up in their cage all day. They need time to exercise and play or they will drive themselves, you, and the rest of the household bananas. Let your ferret outside of its cage at least a few hours each day for enrichment. Play with your ferret and let your ferret get tired from all that playtime. They'll sleep much better for you when you want them to settle down while you are sleeping!
Ferrets are not nocturnal, but are crepuscular- more active at dawn and at dusk.
They sleep up to 20 hours a day, which means that when they are awake, they are busy, active, and playful.
You can teach your ferret to adapt to a differing sleeping habit by following the simple steps outlined in this article.
If you have any question or concerns regarding your pet ferret and their sleeping habits, contact your local veterinarian for more information.