If you own a Ferret or are looking to get one, then you may have a number of questions about their behavior. One of those, which you will likely ask at some point or another, is whether Ferrets play dead. You may have noticed signs of this, but is this a thing, and is it commonly experienced among Ferret owners?
So, do Ferrets Play Dead? Ferrets can and do play dead. This is because Ferrets require a lot of sleep and may use this as a strategy to be left alone. Additionally, Ferrets sleep for a long time which sometimes gives off the impression that they are playing dead. If your Ferret is sleeping for long periods of time this should not cause concern unless they are showing symptoms of ill-health.
Ferrets are interesting animals with unique character traits.
They are friendly and playful in nature and this can lead to situations whereby you are not quite sure of their motive. Playing dead is one of these.
I decided to research the topic extensively to see for good weather this is experienced regularly by Ferret owners. I’d like to bring to you my findings below.
Why Do Ferrets Play Dead?
Ferrets are extremely lively animals and move and play a lot when they awake. It is no surprise that they get extremely tired and need a lot of sleep to regain their energy!
If Ferrets are not getting enough sleep; or are too regularly interrupted, they may play dead as a mechanism to relax.
This serves as a warning to the owner, which usually means the owner backs off and gives the Ferret time to relax.
Over time this can become a learned behavior, and it can happen more frequently as time goes on. It is therefore very important, especially for the health of your Ferret, that you let them rest when they require it.
Ferrets sleep on average for around 18-20 hours a day (both during the day and during the night. Sleep patterns typically follow this pattern:
- Awake – 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM.
- Asleep – 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
- Awake – 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
- Asleep – 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM.
It is therefore important to appreciate these times and respect them.
If your Ferret appears to be sleeping outside of its schedule (which will be different from Ferret to Ferret) then it may be sleeping dead.
Otherwise, it is likely sleeping as normal.
If they are playing dead it does not necessarily mean you can and should disturb them. There is likely a reason for it.
During sleep, their bodies are 100% relaxed, and movement is minimal.
While this can be quite worrying, you’ll notice their rhythmic breathing patterns which indicate that all is good and well. During sleep, Ferrets are known to breathe slowly.
Signs That Show Your Ferrets Are Playing Dead
Ferrets are so still when they are asleep that it can cause concern. It also can make you believe your Ferret is playing dead when it is not (and vice versa).
This unique act sounds funny, especially if your Ferret has not done it before, or you are yet to learn of their character.
Generally, you know that a pet is sleeping dead if they awake ‘easily’, they are moving more than normal, and they are ‘sleeping’ outside of their typical hours.
If your Ferret has been sleeping for a long time and it is starting to worry you, as long as its body is warm, it is breathing slowly (but regularly), and it has a moist pink mouth then there are usually no signs of concern.
Usually, if there is a reason for concern, signs to look out for are significant drooling, stiffening, moaning, and coldness (particularly in their extremities).
If you have any concerns about the health of your pet, you should contact a vet immediately.
Playing Dead or Medical Emergency?
With Ferrets, it can be a real dilemma as to whether they are safe and sound they require medical attention. It is essential to know what is normal or abnormal in your pet.
Observing your pet’s daily activities like; playing, eating, sleeping, urinating, and defecating can determine the health conditions of your Ferret.
Some abnormalities that Ferrets can face that indicate a problem include:
Playing Dead vs. Actual Sleep
One of the standout reasons why Ferrets may appear to be ‘playing dead’ is because they are overly tired.
Ferrets recuperate in a deep sleep. However, you need to carry out a quick check and ensure that they are warm; their mouths are moist and pink in color and they should breathe regularly.
These all indicate healthy dead sleep.
It’s important to keep a close eye on your Ferret when they sleep.
Particularly in the early stages of owning one and when they are young.
As they sleep for so long and so regularly, you cannot do this around the clock but you should make sure you monitor them when they sleep during the day.
If your Ferret’s tongue appears blue or grey colored, then this is abnormal. This condition is an indication of a lack of oxygen, toxic condition, shock, or cardiovascular disease, which needs immediate medical attention.
Normally, a healthy ferret’s mouth should have moist pink gums and tongues.
If you press your finger firmly on the upper gum and take away your finger, tissue blanching should take place.
Tissue blanching is the act that makes the blood disappear from the tissues.
Tissue blanching should get back to normal after 1 to 2 seconds to show normal blood flow in the body tissues.
Abnormal Changes in the Eyes
You have to seek immediate medical attention for your Ferret if you notice a glassy or far-away appearance in its eyes.
The glassy eye appearance is an indication of low blood sugar, shock, and/or pain.
Additionally, the appearance of white conjunctiva and a loss in the color of the blood vessels indicate loss of blood, shock, or cardiovascular disease.
Usually, Ferrets’ eyes need to be fully open, moist, and white with dark pink-red blood vessels.
This state of the eyes shows that the pet is not anemic, and it is free from any signs of cardiovascular disease.
Dehydration needs quick medical attention for Ferrets. You will know that your Ferret is dehydrated if its skin loses its elasticity.
Take time to observe the nature of your Ferrets hydration by gently pulling back its skin and checking elasticity.
A dehydrated Ferret’s skin returns slowly after tenting it. Other signs of dehydration include dry-looking eyes and sticky gums.
Lastly, you can learn if your Ferret is in pain if you observe its eyes respond to lights with pain.
Squinting can indicate pain and this is likely due to an infection or wider issue with their eyes.
The following conditions also indicate that your Ferret may need to see a vet:
- Rapid or difficulty breathing can be a sign of respiratory problems
- Sudden weakness,
- Salivating at the mouth,
- Eating foreign objects
How Long Do Ferrets Sleep?
Ferrets have unique sleep patterns and styles. Why? They can sleep continuously for 18-20 hours in a single day! The only time these creatures wake up is playing and eating time. Sleep patterns depend on the gender and age of the animal.
Male ferrets tend to be lazier than females. They are only active for around 4 hours of the day and the rest of the time they are sleeping”
Ferrets can sleep even better when temperatures are colder, and the cage or room is free from noise.
Sleeping in rare calm places is the only adaptation that Ferrets share with other wild animals.
The younger ferrets, less than one-year-old, are known to sleep better than adult ferrets. Amazingly, when young they can sleep for about up to 22 hours a day! If you excite them, they easily wake up to play with you.
Some ferrets prefer running around for hours and falling asleep only when you calm them down.
Usually, this is when they are left in peaceful, dark, and comfortable resting conditions.
Conversely, sleeping too much may be a sign your Ferret has health concerns.
You need to be observant to discover health conditions for your pet.
Conditions such as absent-mindedness and fatigue after waking it up are a clear indication that the animal is unhealthy.
In this case, you should take your Ferret to your vet for an examination.
Ferrets are sleep animals; they sleep as much as they can!
If they are not getting the sleep they need, or they need a break from playing or attention, then they may be playing dead.
However, you need to monitor the behavior and condition of your Ferret to ensure that they are healthy and not in need of medical attention by a registered vet.
In time, you will learn to recognize your Ferrets behavior. Watching their sleep patterns is a great way to do this.
Want to learn more about ferrets and their interesting traits and behaviors? Then be sure to read my guides below:
- Can Ferrets See In The Dark? [Considerations For Owners]
- How Big Do Ferrets Get? [Average Growth Rate & Expectations]
- How Often Do Ferrets Poop? [& 5 Best Toilet Training Tips]
- Do Ferrets Get Along With Cats? [Can They Be Kept Together]
- Are Ferrets Noisy At Night? [They Can Be & How To Prepare]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.