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

Marsinah Lusanne Reijgwart, C.M. Vinke, C.F.M. Hendriksen, Miriam Van Der Meer, N.J. Schoemaker, Y.R.A. van Zeeland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)114-121
    Number of pages8
    JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


    • Animal welfare
    • Behavioural priorities
    • Consumer demand
    • Enrichment
    • Ferret
    • Maximum price paid


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