Why Ferrets Like Tubes

Ferret outside playing in a blue tube.
Ferrets love to play and hide in tubes.

Getty Images / Tim Graham

Some ferrets are simply obsessed with tubes and spend most of their time running through them. This is not a problematic behavior but knowing why your ferret frequents these play tunnels can help you better understand your pet. It can also encourage you to continue to provide it with physical and mental stimulation.

Why Do Ferrets Like Tubes?

Ferrets are domesticated relatives of the European polecat and members of the weasel family. Black-footed ferrets and minks are also closely related. This group of animals naturally use burrows in the ground as their dens. It is in these dens that they sleep, have their young, store their food, and eat. Ferrets may be a step away genetically from their cousins the European polecat, black-footed ferret, and mink, but the instinct to spend time in a den-like structure has not left them.

Black-footed ferrets exclusively use the burrows of prairie dogs as their homes. They don't dig the burrows out themselves but they will eat the prairie dogs and then live in their underground homes. Minks may dig a burrow out or use an old hollowed-out log as a den, still enjoying being in a cozy, tunnel or cave-like house. European polecats may utilize multiple dens in the wild or take over an abandoned badger or fox burrow.

This is why ferrets like tubes so much. It is a natural, normal behavior for a ferret to want to play or sleep in tubes since they are similar to dens and burrows. Ferrets also like to run around, chase other ferrets, and hide in these tubes. They like the close quarters the tubes provide and may even hide their toys and food in their tubes.

Why You Should Get a Tube for Your Ferret

If you don't have a tube or play tunnel for your ferret, you are missing out on the opportunity to provide your pet with some wonderful enrichment. Tubes are also not only fun for your ferret but are very entertaining for you to watch your ferret play in. Any time you can mimic a more natural environment or provide mentally stimulating activities for a pet, you should. Your ferret will be happier, be provided with something to keep it from getting bored, and have an opportunity to exercise.

If you don't have tubes for your ferrets, your ferret may try to dig in its litter box, blankets, carpeting, furniture, and other things in an attempt to create a den. This can lead to unnecessary destruction, mess, and frustration. Tubes can help prevent a ferret from causing extra trouble and act as pseudo-burrows and dens to fulfill the need to hide.

Different Types of Tubes for Ferrets

A few different kinds of tubes are available to purchase for pet ferrets. Hard plastic tubes and flexible slinky-like tubes are regularly seen in pet stores but many ferret owners also purchase items that aren't necessarily designed for ferrets to make their own homemade ferret tubes.

Hard tubes can be added to ferret cages that are designed to have tubes connecting one level to the next, much like a large hamster cage. Flexible tubes are for use outside of the cage. You can also often create several feet of flexible tubing outside the cage by connecting multiple sets of tubes together. Hard tubing that separates in half is easier to clean than flexible tubing, but flexible tubing is more versatile, especially if you don't have a cage specifically designed to fit the hard tubing. The little bit of work it takes to clean the tubing is worth the hours of enjoyment it will bring your ferrets.

Homemade Tubes for Ferrets

If you opt to make your own tubes for your ferrets to play in, choose tubing material that can be washed. Make sure the tube diameter is large enough to fit your ferret and that there are no sharp edges that could injure it when it's running and playing. Ensure the material that the tube is made of isn't easily torn or dangerous if your ferret were to chew on it. Dryer and other air duct vent tubing, children's play tubes, pond tubing, and more can be used as ferret tubes but some are easier to clean than others. Simply placing these tubes on the floor in your ferret-proofed room will provide hours of fun and exercise for your ferret and enjoyment for you as you watch it play.