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Home > Ferrets > Do Ferrets Hibernate? What Is Dead Sleep? (Facts & FAQ)

Do Ferrets Hibernate? What Is Dead Sleep? (Facts & FAQ)

ferret sleeping on white sheets

Ferrets are known as big sleepers because they can sleep 16 to 20 hours a day. Their sleeping period extends during winter, but that doesn’t mean hibernation is their thing. Ferrets do not hibernate, but they do have their own form of deep rest. We’ll explain it all below.


What Is Hibernation?

Hibernation is a state an animal can experience during cold winter months with the sole purpose of surviving the harsh winter conditions. In that state, the animal minimizes every aspect of their life, from metabolic rate to heart rate, even breathing. It’s recognized as a state of minimal activity where animals sleep for an extensive period of time, from days up to a few months.

Which Animals Hibernate?

There are many animals that hibernate. For example, ground squirrels, European hedgehogs, bats, prairie dogs, bears, box turtles, even some birds. There is even evidence that wood frogs, snails, and even bumble bees hibernate too. Ferrets aren’t on that list because they don’t hibernate.

little ferret sleeping
Image By: ursulacatenazzi0, Pixabay


What Is Ferret Dead Sleep?

A ferret dead sleep is the closest thing a ferret experiences to hibernation. Dead sleep is a deep state of sleep when a ferret is unresponsive to outer stimuli. That means you can grab your ferret, hold him, pet him, and he won’t move a muscle. He will hang from your hands like a doll, which can trigger panic to ferret owners because your ferret may look like he is dead.

There is no knowledge of when or why ferrets do this. Some ferrets will do it often while others won’t fall into a dead sleep even once in their lives. We can’t know if (and when) a ferret will experience dead sleep. What we do know is that it is natural and normal for them.

How to Check On a Ferret in Dead Sleep

If you want to make sure your ferret is asleep and not in a coma or dead, the first thing you need to do is stay calm. Check his breathing and take a look at his nose and gums. If your ferret is OK, you will see slow and shallow breaths, the nose should be pink (if a ferret has a pink nose), and gums should also be a healthy pink color.

How to Wake Up a Ferret From Dead Sleep

Now that you know your ferret is not dead or in a coma, you can wake him up, but there is a chance that the process will take a couple of minutes. You have to remember to do it gently, nobody loves rude and sudden awakenings. You can try to call his name, put him in your lap, and gently pet him on the tummy or on the head behind the ears. If that doesn’t work, you can try to put a small treat under his nose. The smell of the delicious food should wake him up after a few moments.

Related Read: Do Ferrets Need Vaccination Shots? Which Ones?


Ferret Sleeping Schedule

Ferrets will spend most of their days sleeping and that is one of the reasons why they are good pets. They can easily adjust their sleeping schedule to you and your needs. It is good to know that ferrets are actually crepuscular, which means they are active the most during dawn and dusk.

Image By: christels, Pixabay

How Much Do Baby Ferrets Sleep?

The biggest sleepers are baby ferrets. They spend most of their awake time eating and going to the bathroom, which gives them 20 to 22 hours of sleep every day. But, once a baby ferret becomes a young ferret (a kit), his energy level increases and sleeping time becomes much shorter.

How Much Do Adult Ferrets Sleep?

Adult ferrets sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, similar to young ferrets (kits). But, their main difference is the activity. Young ferrets tend to spend most of their time jumping, running, playing, and exploring. Some older ferrets have the same sleeping period, but they won’t spend every waking minute running from one place to the other like kits. They will spend time relaxing, cleaning, or simply strolling around.

Do Ferrets Sleep More in the Winter?

Ferrets have two important seasons in their life, the summer and winter, and they should happen every year. Two of the most obvious signs of seasons are fur changes and weight gain. Another not-so-obvious trait is the drop in energy level. Most ferrets will become less active during the winter months, which results in a longer sleeping schedule. This is normal as long as everything else is the same in his behavior.

Can Sleeping Be a Sign of Illness?

Maintaining a good sleeping schedule is important to ferrets because it is also a sign of good health. If your ferret is sleeping more than usual, if he becomes lethargic, or even accompanies this low energy with vomit or loss of appetite, it can be a sign of some illness. A deep sleep, which looks like a coma or a seizure, often comes with drooling, stiffness or convulsions, vomit, and overall unresponsiveness. If you suspect that your ferret is not well, go to the vet as soon as you can.


Final Thoughts

Sleep is a very important part of every ferret’s life, young and old. Although ferrets don’t hibernate, they can experience dead sleep from time to time. Your first encounter with a ferret in a dead sleep may be stressful, but remember, for them that is normal behavior. But, if you have any doubts about your ferret’s sleeping schedule, it is a smart move to visit the vet with your ferret.

Featured Image Credit: ursulacatenazzi0, Pixabay

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