Ferrets and Sleep – Things You Should Know

Ferrets can sleep up to 18 hours per day and this is perfectly normal for them. They are active for a very short period of time at dusk and dawn, which is why their bodies had to adapt to this schedule. When they are awake, they consume a lot of energy and their sleep is very important in remaining happy and healthy.

In this article, we’ll talk about ferrets and their sleeping habits, including their famous “dead sleep”.

How much do ferrets sleep?

Ferret toy
Source: Frankie D

The amount of time your ferret sleeps each day depends on their age. Kits (ferrets younger than 1 year) sleep the most. They can easily sleep between 20 to 22 hours each day. They are basically babies and they need all the sleep they can get to recover from the 2-4 hours a day they spend playing, eating, and messing around.

Adult ferrets usually sleep between 16 to 18 hours each day. This gives them a bit more time to be mischievous than when they were younger. They typically play around 4 hours a day and spend the remaining 2-4 hours to eat, drink water (they drink water up to 20 times a day), and have some bonding time with your and their family of ferrets.

Older ferrets also sleep a lot. They can also sleep around 20 hours, sometimes even more, simply because they are now less energetic. But no matter how old the ferret is, you should keep in mind that they don’t sleep for 16-22 hours straight each day. They usually sleep around 6 hours, then get up to use the litter, eat, drink water, play, etc. Then they sleep another 6 hours and the cycle repeats.

Why do ferrets sleep so much?

The reason why ferrets sleep so much is not that they are lazy creatures. In fact, owning a ferret will quickly make you realize how active, smart, and clean a ferret can be. They can do nothing about their natural smell that keeps their skin healthy, but they always clean themselves and will never even use a litter box if it hasn’t been cleaned for the day.

Ferrets need to sleep as much as they do simply because of how their bodies are built. They are small creatures that have a very high brain metabolism. And since these kinds of animals need higher bursts of energy in a shorter span of time, they need a lot more sleep to recover. These animals are always busy and can always find something to do. Being locked in a cage with no way to exercise and use their brain can cause some very serious health issues.

If your ferret seems to sleep a bit more than usual, you should take into consideration whether it’s winter and if the temperature in your home has dropped lately. Colder temperatures can cause the ferret to go into their peri-hibernation phase, which will cause them to sleep more than usual. And since they still have hibernation periods, cold temperatures can send triggers to their bodies that it’s time to sleep as much as possible.

On the other hand, the hot temperatures can also cause them to lose some of their energy, which in turn, will encourage them to sleep more and more. A temperature range between 60F to 75F is highly recommended for your ferret’s room so it can maintain a normal sleeping schedule.

Do ferrets have deep sleep?

One of the most misunderstood things about ferrets is their deep sleep. This is also one of the reasons most new owners can get very scared when they cannot wake their ferret up. This is a sleeping phase that ferrets go through and it’s 100% normal for them. They sleep so soundly that you just cannot wake them up by calling their name or even picking them up in your arms.

Waking a ferret from a deep sleep can be dangerous if done suddenly by banging into something very loud. It can scare the poor animal to death. Massaging their head and shaking them lightly should do the trick when you absolutely need to wake them up. But it’s best to wait for them to wake up on their own as a sleepy ferret can easily turn into a cranky ferret.

Your ferret might also go into a deep sleep while you’re petting it if it trusts you completely. So try not to panic when it stops moving as scaring it will cause it to lose trust in you. The easiest and safest way to check if they are still alive is to check their breathing. You should put your hand right in front of their nose and try to feel them exhaling. You can also place your head on their heart and listen to it if you have good hearing.

Do ferrets sleep together?

Ferrets are creatures that thrive in groups, even in the wilderness. A group of ferrets is called a business and they are very attached and close to each other. If you have more than one ferret, you will quickly realize that if one of them falls asleep, the next one that is sleepy will go right next to it. They would rather struggle to breathe all together in the same hammock than to sleep separately.

If it’s very hot, then they will start to look for a more secluded place to sleep so they can cool off. It’s highly recommended to offer a hammock or sleeping place for each ferret even if they don’t typically sleep separated. And if one ferret is hurt, you should place it separately so its recovery won’t get delayed because of sleeping badly.

In the wilderness, all the ferrets from a business get together into a big ball of fur so they can keep each other warm. If the temperature in the house is getting a bit colder, then they might crawl into each other’s hammock to keep warm. But even if the temperature is just right, they might simply do this for comfort. And if you don’t tend to cover their cage while they sleep, they might do this to feel safer.

Do ferrets sleep more in the summer or winter?

Ferrets need the proper temperature to be able to have a normal and fixed sleeping schedule. Otherwise, the changing of temperature in either direction can affect how much they sleep and how much energy they have. Even if it’s not winter but you keep your home extra cool most of the time, the ferret will react the same as if it was in the wild, in the middle of the winter. The same if your home is way too hot.

It’s important to keep in mind that ferrets come from the Northern Hemisphere, where winter temperatures are not a joke. And similar to the animals that live there, ferrets have a hibernation period as well. Except they go through it each day and the temperature around them decides how serious their bodies are about hibernation.

In winter, ferrets sleep closer to 20 hours a day and only go out if they absolutely have to. When necessary, they can go up to 7 days without getting out of their burrows. They spend the time sleeping so you can expect them to do the same in your home if the temperature is too cold. You might also notice that their fur gets longer and thicker.

During summer, ferrets can sleep between 18 to 20 hours a day as well. This is because they become sleepy and lethargic when the heat becomes a bit too much for them. If the temperature gets higher than 75F, then they start shedding a lot and sleeping more and more as they lose lots of energy. Make sure your ferrets are never in a room with a temperature higher than 80F, especially as they can barely survive in temperatures higher than 90F.

Where do ferrets like to sleep? Inside or outside the cage?

Ferret in hammock
Source: Adobe Stock

Ferrets prefer sleeping inside their cage, especially if they have hammocks or their own burrows. This allows them to hide away and feel safe while they nap. Once they get used to you, they will start falling asleep around the house as well, even in your arms or right next to you. And this will quickly lead to you finding a ferret or two sleeping in your socks drawer because it was closer than their cage and they wanted to nap.

It’s very important to accessorize their cage properly. Their sleeping hammocks or beds need to be very comfy and make the ferret feel cuddled and safe. If the hammock is big enough, it’s not strange to find more than one ferret in the same hammock. They love sleeping together. There are also shy ferrets that will prefer sleeping inside their cage no matter how close you two are. That’s just where they feel safer.

If your ferret has a drawer that he really likes to sleep in, you might want to consider moving your stuff out and place something just as fluffy back inside. This way, you won’t have to worry about your belonging getting chewed on or filled with hair.

Do ferrets need total darkness to sleep?

Ferrets dig burrows to sleep in, which are very dark places. This means you should offer similar sleeping accommodations in captivity. The cage needs to have hammocks or other similar sleeping areas. More than that, it’s recommended to place a breathable cloth over the cage to offer them total darkness while they sleep. You should also keep in mind that this is something they absolutely need in the long run, even if they sometimes fall asleep in odd places around the house.

If you always keep your ferrets in a room with nothing but artificial light, and they don’t have access to a dark place to sleep in, they can develop adrenal disease, which is a very serious health risk. This is why you might find your ferrets sleeping under a couch, in a drawer, burrowed in clothes, etc.

Should ferrets sleep in your bed?

If you have any plans on keeping your ferret with you in bed at night, it’s totally possible. But you should be 100% sure you won’t end up rolling over the poor pet, especially while it’s in a deep sleep and it takes a while to wake up. It’s also important for the bed to not be very tall. Otherwise, a sleepy ferret can get hurt jumping off of it in the middle of the night.

Other things you should keep in mind before allowing your ferret to sleep in your bed are that they can be very determined if they want to play and they might pee in bed (or worse). If the litter box is too far away or the bed is too tall, you might wake up to a very unpleasant surprise. More than that, you might wake up next to the surprise and the ferret sleeping soundly in its cage.

If they somehow wake up in the middle of the night ready for playtime, they won’t care that you’re sound asleep. They will start nipping at you and doing everything they can to get your attention. And if you somehow manage not to wake up, they will start scanning your bedroom for things to break and steal.

It’s much better to allow them to sleep in their cage while you rest. This way, you won’t be bothered in the middle of the night, the ferrets won’t run around the house unsupervised, and you won’t wake up to any unwanted surprises.

Making a proper place for a ferret to sleep in

Regardless of whether you keep your ferrets inside or outside of your home, you will need to provide an appropriate place for them to sleep in. This includes attaching hammocks to the cage or placing a nesting box filled with dust-free bedding. They also need to be able to fit more than one ferret together in case they get cold and want to snuggle. But they should also have their own separate sleeping place in case it’s too hot and they want to cool off.

Fleecy blankets are excellent for ferrets as they love to snuggle up in them. And when it’s time to wash them, make sure to only use washing detergents that are made for delicate skin. Otherwise, ferrets can get irritated by strong detergents and their skin can easily start to break out.

Their sleeping area should also be as dark as possible. And if it can be completely dark, it’s even better. However, make sure that it’s breathable enough, especially during the summer.