Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Ferrets’ (Mustela putorius furo) enrichment priorities and preferences as determined in a seven-chamber consumer demand study

Volume 180, July 2016, Pages 114–121

  • a Institute for Translational Vaccinology (Intravacc), Antonie van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9, 3721 MA Bilthoven, The Netherlands
  • b Department of Animals in Science & Society, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 2, 3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • c Division of Zoological Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 108, 3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands


Ferrets’ motivation for six enrichment types was tested in a consumer demand study.
Ferrets pushed to their maximum push capacity for sleeping enrichment.
Motivation was also high for water bowls, social contact, foraging toys and tunnels.
High inter-individual variation was present in motivation for access to tunnels.
Within the categories, ferrets preferred a hammock, large bowl, flexible tunnel and ball with bell.


Knowledge of species-specific motivation and preferences for enrichment options is necessary to put in place an appropriate enrichment plan. This knowledge is currently lacking for ferrets. Therefore, seven female ferrets were consecutively housed in a seven-chamber closed economy consumer demand set-up consisting of a corridor that was connected to six enrichment chambers (EC) and an empty control chamber (CC) via weighted doors. In each EC, enrichments from the categories tunnels, balls, water bowls, foraging, sleeping and social enrichment were placed in random order. Motivation to reach EC was measured by daily increasing the doors’ weight until the ferret no longer entered EC (the maximum price paid, MPP). Preferences within a category were evaluated by comparing interaction times with the enrichments. Ferrets pushed the highest weights for sleeping enrichment (MPP 1450 ± 120 g). MPPs for water bowls (1075 ± 153 g), social enrichment (995 ± 267 g), foraging enrichment (950 ± 228 g) and tunnels (940 ± 393 g) were also significantly higher than for CC. Compared to other enrichments, inter-individual variation in motivation for access to tunnels was very high. Ferrets preferred the hammock (9.2 ± 5.9 h) over the Savic Cocoon® (0.6 ± 0.8 h; P = 0.011) within the category sleeping enrichment; the large (5.8 ± 1.7 min) over the small water bowl (3.1 ± 0.8 min; P = 0.014) within the category water bowls; the flexible (6.1 ± 2.6 min) over the rigid tunnel (0.3 ± 0.2; P < 0.001) within the category tunnels; and the ferret ball (0.9 ± 0.5 min) over the golf ball (0.3 ± 0.3 min, P < 0.001) within the category balls. Within the category foraging enrichment, no preference for one over the other item was found (P = 0.144). Results of this study show that a hammock, conspecifics, foraging enrichment and a large water bowl are preferred enrichment options for ferrets.


  • Animal welfare;
  • Behavioural priorities;
  • Consumer demand;
  • Enrichment;
  • Ferret;
  • Maximum price paid
Corresponding author at: Department of Animals in Science & Society, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80166, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.