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Build Your Ferret a Dig Box – Fun and Easy DIY Project

ferret dig box DIY guide

Ferrets are intelligent animals with a natural instinct to dig. They need dig boxes so they can fulfill this instinctual need and have fun doing it! Ferret dig boxes will require some creativity on your part, but they’re not hard to DIY. Follow these tips for building the ultimate dig box that suits your ferret’s needs.

1) Pick safe materials – paper, cardboard, plastic eggs or ping pong balls are all great options.

2) Create different levels of difficulty in digging by varying the depth of each level you create.

3) Make sure there is enough room for your ferret to move around freely.

4) Find a place where you can easily see inside the dig box.

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5) Include items like newspaper or dried leaves for texture.

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What is a ferret dig box?

A dig box for ferrets is a container filled with ferret-safe materials that fulfill their instinctual need to dig. This can include shredded newspaper, crinkled paper, leaves, ping pong balls or plastic Easter eggs.

Why do ferrets need dig boxes?

Mimicking your ferrets’ natural habitat as closely as possible is essential to their well-being. One of the best ways you can do this is by providing them with a dig box. Digging is a natural behaviour for ferrets and they find it incredibly satisfying. Supervised digging in a designated dig box is something that should be encouraged as a way of burning excess energy, providing enrichment and giving your ferret a sense of security and safety.

Why does my ferret love to dig?

Domesticated ferrets are descendants of the European polecat and members of the weasel family, as well as closely related to black-footed ferrets and minks. In the wild black-footed ferrets will spend as much as three hours a day digging. Their sharp claws and streamlined bodies are perfectly designed for digging and tunneling deep underground in pursuit of game, searching for existing burrows or for making their own below-ground hideaways where in the wild they would store food, sleep and have their babies.

This is an excellent explanation for why many domesticated ferrets absolutely love to dig at the carpet, the floor, their food bowl and their litter box. And often much to dismay of their owners they also love to dig up any household plants.

For a lot of people considering getting a ferret this can be an issue as all rooms where a ferret will be loose will need to be ferret-proofed otherwise corners of the carpet, under furniture, potted plants, blankets and cushions are at risk. A ferret should never be left unsupervised in a room where it might be able to dig or chew something that could prove harmful.

It is also important to remember that all domesticated ferrets will dig and burrow, usually in enclosed areas and it is a normal, healthy and natural behaviour that should be encouraged.

A lot of ferret owners satisfy their innate desire to dig by allowing the ferrets to dig away safely in a large plastic play box filled with substrate. They also tend to like towels, blankets, and other soft items in their burrows.

This is also why ferrets love tubes so much.Due to their resemblance to dens and tunnels, ferrets naturally like to play, hide or sleep in tubes. They enjoy the close confines of the tubes and may even hide their toys and food in them.

How to make a ferret dig box

Follow these steps to make your perfect dig box.

Step 1: Choose a box

When choosing a box it is important to consider the following:

  • Is this box sturdy enough to contain all of the material and a wiggly ferret without breaking?
  • Is this box deep enough to allow the ferret to dig so that its whole body is underneath the filler?
  • Is this box likely to leak or has holes or cracks in it that smaller filler can fall out of?

Good options for your ferret dig box include: a plastic storage bin, a medium to large sized sturdy cardboard box, a laundry basket (not recommended for finer substrate)

For multiple ferrets or if you’d like to provide a large play space a dog, or child playpen, or even a kids pool can be good options. But bear in mind how much substrate you will need to fill it with. Filling a kiddie pool with rice would be an expensive and time consuming way to fill an afternoon. Also remember with a lot of substrate options it cannot be allowed to get wet as this will not only create a mess but be difficult for your ferret to dig through.

Do not put your ferret in an enclosed box with no air holes as it will not be able to breathe. Some people like to put a lid on their dig box to minimise the mess. This is not reccomended. Be aware that when making holes in a plastic box or lid the edges can be really sharp and hurt your ferret.

Step 2: Choose a filler

You can use a variety of materials to make your ferret’s dig box, but it is important to choose something that is safe (to eat, chew, breathe in and touch) and non-destructive. Mixing materials can be fun as well. Avoid materials that are especially dusty. Any time your ferret spends in its dig box must be supervised so as to prevent the ferret from ingesting anything.

Fillers for Ferret Dig Boxes – Pros and Cons

Filler MaterialProsConsTips
RiceRice can be a good cheap option for a small dig boxrice is too heavy for a deep box .Never use instant rice; if swallowed, it quickly swells up in your ferret’s stomach and can cause serious problems. Can be mistaken for a litter box.The best rice to use is long grain rice.
Dirt or sandReadily available, easy to replaceMessy and could encourage the same behaviour in potted plants. Can be mistaken for a litter box.Heavy if you need to move your dig box around.
PastaCheap, fun shapes, readily availableNot ideal for a deeper box as it can be heavy. Be aware that pasta can break up into small pieces and so needs to be replaced regularly.
Dried beans:Good fun, ideal size. tidy.Beans are too heavy for a deep box, your ferret might eat them.Check that the beans you have chosen are safe for ferret consumption just in case your ferret decides they look like a tasty snack.
Plastic: plastic easter eggs, pingpong balls, ballpit ballsEasy to clean, replace and tidy upCan be expensive, do not let your ferret chew plastic. Remove any damaged balls immediately
Paper: shredded newspaper, crinkled up paperCheap, readily available.Not as much fun to dig in. Must not get wet, can be mistaken for litter box, can make a mess. Gets flattened quite quickly and needs to be replaced.
Leaves: Dry raked leavesFree, natural materialOnly readily available in autumn, time consuming to gather, needs to be dry. Do not use leaves from poisonous plants.
Exploring the pros and cons of fillers for ferret dig boxes

Step 3: Add toys and treats

You can add just about any toy to your ferret dig box for example; bells, treats or balls, . A great thing you can add is a tunnel/tube. You can either place this on the top of bury it in the filler so that your ferret can dig into the substrate and hangout in their little hidey-hole simulating a burrow.

An appropriate dig box provides your ferret with a safe, fun, non-destructive place to satisfy their digging and burrowing instincts.

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Warnings:

  • Do not use instant rice this is very harmful to ferrets if eaten.
  • Do not leave your ferret unsupervised.
  • Remove your ferret and all of the effected substrate if your ferret deficates in their dig box.
  • Do not fill a deep dig box with a heavy material as your ferret may struggle to get out.
  • Do not allow your ferret to eat the filler.
  • Do not put your ferret in an enclosed box with no air holes as it will not be able to breathe.
  • Do not use packing peanuts as a filler, this is very harmful to ferrets if eaten.

In Summary

Your ferret will love having their own dig box to play in and you’ll love how easy it is to keep clean. Be sure to choose a safe filler material and add some fun toys for your ferret to enjoy. A deep dig box filled with rice or beans can provide hours of entertainment for your furry friend. Let us know how your ferret likes their new dig box.

Ferret Dig Box
Yield: 1

How To Build The Perfect Ferret Dig Box

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ferrets need a dig box in order to mimic their natural habitat and fulfill their instinctual needs. You can use a variety of materials to make your ferret's dig box, but it is important to choose something that is safe and non-destructive. Some good options for play box contents include shredded newspaper, scrunched up paper, leaves you raked outside, ping pong balls or even plastic Easter eggs.

Materials

  • Sturdy Box
  • Filler materials ( rice, sand, pasta, dried beans, pingpong balls, shredded newspaper, dry leaves)
  • Toys (balls, chews, balls)

Tools

  • Scoop for filler
  • Drill for air holes

Instructions

    1. Prepare box.

    2. Add filler to the dig box.

    3. Add toys and treats.

Notes

Do not use instant rice this is very harmful to ferrets if eaten.
Do not leave your ferret unsupervised.
Remove your ferret and all of the effected substrate if your ferret deficates in their dig box.
Do not fill a deep dig box with a heavy material as your ferret may struggle to get out.
Do not allow your ferret to eat the filler.
Do not put your ferret in an enclosed box with no air holes as it will not be able to breathe.
Do not use packing peanuts as a filler, this is very harmful to ferrets if eaten.

Ferret Dig Box FAQs

What do ferrets like digging in?

From personal experience I would recommend pingpong balls but you can use a variety of materials to make your ferret’s dig box for example; sand, soil, shredded newspaper, crinkled up paper, raked leaves, dried beans, long-grain non-instant rice, pasta, ping pong balls or even plastic Easter eggs.

What kind of rice can go in a ferret dig box?

You must not use instant rice in your ferret dig box as ingesting instant rice can seriously harm your ferret. Any species of rice is fine. Preferably long grain but some ferret owners like to use jasmine rice as it makes their ferrets smell nice.

Do ferrets like sand dig boxes?

Yes! Ferrets love digging. It is one of their natural behaviours and should be encouraged. Sand is a good filler for a ferret dig box but it cannot be used in large dig boxes as it is too heavy and compacts easily.

Ferrets pooping in the dig box?

If your ferret is pooping in its dig box it may mean that it is mistaking it for a litter box. Remove all of the faeces. Try changing the substrate to a material that looks the most dissimilar to their litter box.

What dig box can you use for multiple ferrets?

Bigger the better, ideally for bigger dig boxes you will want to use a lighter material such as newspaper shreddings or leaves.

Why is it bad to put dirt in a dig box?

Dirt is a good filler for a small ferret dig box but it cannot be used in large dig boxes as it is too heavy and compacts easily. It can also make quite a mess.

How old do ferrets need to be before they can use the dig box?

Your ferret should be old enough to eat and move around independently and confidently on its own. Start younger ferrets in a shallower dig box to prevent them getting stuck under the substrate or panicking when they can’t find a way out. I recommend waiting until your ferret is at least two months old before introducing the dig box.

What do I do if my ferret doesn’t dig?

Try burying some of your ferrets favourite treats or toys partially in the dig box to encourage them them to start digging them out. Then move the toys deeper and deeper to challenge your ferret more. Ferrets have a great sense of smell so they will most often know the toy is there even if it is fully covered.

How long should I leave my ferret in its dig box?

Do not leave your ferret in a dig box unattended. Ferrets will enjoy playing in their dig box for anything from fifteen minutes to three hours. When your ferret is no longer engaging with the items in the dig box or appears to be looking for a way out then it is time to get them out. Try not to leave them in the dig box too long as they may need to poo or wee which can create a mess and you will need to remove any soiled substrate.

My ferret destroys everything! What do I do?

Ferrets are natural diggers and will replicate their instinctive behaviours in your home! The best way to prevent your ferret from being destructive to your home is to make them a dig box which is a safe place for them to express their natural behaviours. Read the article above for instructions for creating a ferret dig box.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7158301/

https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/ferrets/behaviour

http://totallyferret.org/about-ferrets/ferret-behavior/

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