Do Ferrets Play Dead? Surprising Facts About Ferrets

Ferrets are amazing animals with a range of beautiful traits that are often misunderstood. They are very sociable and make good pets, however they behave strangely sometimes, which make their owner worried.

Sometimes ferrets just seem to be laying, appear dead, with no movement at all. Sometimes it can happen when they are in sleep or when they are playing.

Well, do ferrets actually play dead or what is this strange behavior? Yes, ferrets do play dead sometimes based on their moods and the prevailing health condition.

In the following you can learn about the different reasons why ferrets might appear dead to their owner:

Why do Ferrets Play Dead?

Ferrets play dead when they are alone, playful, or sick. Also, since ferrets are highly-social, they require enough time to relax and rejuvenate.

Your pet may play dead as a sign of requesting more hours of rest. This happens mostly when you are not giving the small buddy enough time to sleep by frequently disturbing it, especially during the nights.

– When Alone

How long do you leave your ferret at home, all alone? Just like cats, ferrets are independent. They can stay by themselves at home. But, have you ever wondered whether these creatures feel lonely? How do they even cope up with loneliness?

Regardless of age and reputation, ferrets do get lonely when unattended, especially for a long period. Since they are social beings, these small carnivores strongly bond with their owners. Most of the time, they need companionship and a partner to play with, failure to which they become depressed and anxious.

Just like most humans, ferrets combat separation anxiety by either sleeping too long or playing dead. Some other signs to check out for in a lonely ferret include reluctance to move, frequent crying, teeth grinding, and whimpering.

– When Sick

Ferrets hide illnesses, making it too daunting to know if subtle changes in their behaviors show health problems. In the wild, this trait protects them from potential threats such as predators that may take advantage of their health status to cause harm.

Also, your pet is not likely to show that it is sick since it lacks an emotional relationship with its discomfort. Just like cats, ferrets accept illness, pain, and suffering as a new normal. For this reason, you need to keep an eye on your pet so that it doesn’t undergo prolonged pain when you should help.

When sick, ferrets can play dead especially if you ignore them. However, to rule out this sign of sickness, it is best to check for other accompanying signs that we have detailed below.

– When Lacking Enough Sleep

Ferrets need deep sleep to rejuvenate and grow. Since they live on a high protein diet, their system requires enough rest to let the enzymes digest the food properly.

If your pet does not get enough sleep, it will frequently play dead as a sign of requesting extra sleeping time. Therefore, to keep your pet both psychologically and physically fit, it is best to observe and understand how much sleep it needs.

– When Playing

Ferrets exude different mannerisms to speak out their moods. When playful, your pet will start dancing as a sign of encouraging you to go and play with it. It will roll as an alligator, wag the tail and paw the ground.

Ferrets love battling their owners. Once your pet gets your attention, it will roll on the ground and play dead. It is prudent you reserve some time to play with the small carnivore as this makes it all-day jovial and in a happy mood.

Just watch these ferrets play, and see how one ferret just start playing dead. Watched the video multiple times, and couldn’t figure out what happen.

How Long Do Ferrets Sleep?

On average, ferrets sleep about 18-20 hours a day. They will sleep during the day and they during the night as well. These creatures undergo both REM and non-REM periods of sleep that follow a specific sequence.

Ferrets are crepuscular, which means they are mostly active at dawn and dusk.

So they wake up at around 4-5 AM and will be active for about 3 to 4 hours. This is a perfect time to give your pet breakfast and other morning treats.

After this period, they will go back to sleep. However, your pet will wake up multiple times to eat and play. Fortunately, most owners leave for work at this time, hence giving them the perfect time to sleep.

At about 5-7 PM, they are awake again. This is the best time to have dinner together and share a good time with your pet.

Depending on your lifestyle, your pet ferret will adapt to your sleeping habits. If you are going early to bad, your ferret will also fall asleep earlier, if you are awake until midnight, then your pet will mostly be around you until you go to sleep.

During night ferrets undergo deep sleep. This is the period, when they sleep like they are dead.

If you respect and observe this sequence, you’ll never see your pet lacking adequate sleep.

Ferret Playing Dead or Medical Problem

You should know when your ferret is playing dead and when it is actually sick. Normally, a ferret playing dead becomes limb as a rag-doll, yet it breathes soundly. You can thumb the chest, pinch the toes, or pick them up without seeing the pet move.

On the other hand, a sick ferret portrays other signs such as shivering, shaking, ragged breathing, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, nasal discharge, and a lot more.

When your pet is not moving and showing signs such as fever and drools, call the vet as soon as you can.

Ferret Dead Sleeping Behavior

Ferrets have two types of sleep—normal sleeping and dead sleeping. In normal sleep, they are half-awake half-asleep.

When deep sleeping, ferrets look like they are dead. It is best to leave the pet alone to sleep for as long as eighteen hours to allow for the natural body functions to take their course.

However, if you suspect that your pet is oversleeping, like resting more than 20 hours without moving, pay attention as this may signify a case of insulinoma. This condition results from a low blood sugar level, and it makes ferrets lose appetite, become exhausted, and lose the enthusiasm to play.

Try swabbing some honey over your pet’s gum and rest it for a few minutes to gain strength. A wet Karo syrup also works the same magic as honey.

Can You Teach a Ferret to Play Dead?

Ferrets are very intelligent and fast-learners. You can easily teach a ferret how to play dead easily, especially when you have a strong bond. Here are a few steps to make this process a success.

– Step 1: Get your pet’s attention

Does your ferret have a name? If yes, call the name aloud to get its attention. Dash some treats and lure the pet to come closer to you.

– Step 2: Make the pet relaxed

Once closer, run your hand over its coat while speaking to it in a soothing tone. You can add some treats and encourage the pet to enjoy.

– Step 3: Make the buddy rollover

Hold the ferret by the backside and use one hand to serve the treat, then say the word “rollover”. At first, the pet might not know what to do.

While still holding it, roll the pet physically over, then serve treats. Repeat this process for a week or two, until it progresses to rolling by itself.

– Step 4: Make the pet stand

Immediately the small buddy is done rolling, say the word “stand”. Using one hand, guide the pet in the process of standing. As you repeat step 3, the ferret will learn the art of standing immediately after rolling over.

– Step 4: Play dead

Hold the pet’s backside with one hand. Say the words “play dead” and gently push the pet onto either one of their sides. Hold the pet down for a while—you can as well cover the eyes.

Say the word stand, and physically guide the pet on its feet. Serve more treats. Repeat this process until when the ferret can do it on its own.


Ferrets hate frequent changes in the environments they live in, and that includes day-to-day shifts in owner’s attitude. If you are happy, your pet will always be active and playful most of the time. When moody and downhearted, the pet will become withdrawn, shy, depressed, and physically sick.

Other than giving your pet enough sleep, keep it as close as possible. This way, it will become familiar with you, form strong bonds, and you’ll find it even easier to teach the small carnivore how to play dead.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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