How I build a home made ferret cage using recycled materials including discarded produce case under-grates (similar in design to refrigerator grates) for about $40.00
Homemade Ferret Cage: How I Built It Using Recycled Materials
Using the under-grating of a discarded produce case, I built a homemade ferret enclosure. Some simple tools and supplies, and my ferret "Trouble" would have a multi-level home that would last for years.
Built in a single weekend, this utilitarian small animal cage was built using recycled grocery store produce case under-grating and about $40.00 worth of lumber and supplies. A lower-level nesting box, recessed litter box for your pet and split level climbing porch were later added. No blueprints for this ever existed and I took very few photographs of it. So, reconstructed using image-editing software, are some of the highlights of this creation, with commentary on key milestones.
In the 1990s, I owned a ferret that lived in a homemade enclosure borne of necessity and frugality. Her first enclosure was something functional, but crude. It was a cleaned white 55-gallon chemical barrel lying on its side, with a large oblong opening running lengthwise on the topside, forming an oval skylight. To this cage, I added a upright portion of a 55-gallon barrel, with a HDPE water pipe to connect the two forming something that looked vaguely like “SKYLAB”. Mounted onto vertical boards with horizontal ‘feet’, it sufficed. I built a screened 'sun porch' for both modules to give her visual access to the outside. This looked a bit crude but it was fairly complex, serviceable and spacious, and functional. It provided her ample climbing opportunities and room for toys and effects to keep her interested.
When I was dating, my girlfriend would come over for visits, I was more self-conscious of the fact that my pet was living in an ugly cage. I decided to build something better. Over the course of the following two-day weekend, I built a 2’ X 4’ wooden elevated ferret cage. No blueprints or plans were ever used. I just let myself create. I had decided to use recycled grates from refrigerators as the sides so that much was already figured out.
Ferret Cage Build Under a Budget
I am not a carpenter nor draftsman so this was mostly constructed logically. Every piece that was needed was measured on-the-spot and custom cut accordingly. The ol’ ‘measure twice, cut once’ approach that professional contractors use would be imperative. No actual blueprints for this cage existed then or now. I will re-create in PaintPro drawings some of what I did.
I wanted the cage to be of a certain height approximately, and it would consist of recycled materials wherever possible. I would use the under grating of discarded grocery store produce cases for the barred sides of the cage, but for this article, let’s assume that you will use Refrigerator grating. Shown below are several discarded refrigerators awaiting recycler pick-up. This presents a cheap or even free opportunity to obtain all the under grating that you would need. In the case of this cage, you would require six grates. Most refrigerators have two grates, some have three. Shown here on four discarded refrigerators are possibly enough grates for two cages.
Discarded Refrigerators, Awaiting Recycling
(image by author)
Often, tenement buildings and most assuredly recyclers/salvage yards will have discarded refrigerators that you can salvage these grates from. For this article and to keep the math easy, let’s assume that the width of the grates are 24-inches (2-feet.) We will build a cage that is 2-feet wide by 4-feet long so a total of SIX (6) grates will be required.
Start With The Uprights, The Table Legs
Two clean pine wood boards, 4-feet long and 6-inches wide by ¾-inches thick, are used. See below image. T-ed on one end with a 24-inch long board, these will form the uprights, the table legs. Wood screws would ordinarily be used to attach the pieces. I used drywall screws which worked a little better than common wood screws for securing the pieces together.
Supports For The Ferret Cage ‘Table Top’
Below: Here I used two 1-inch X 1-inch X 24-inches long cleats, attached centered to the uprights, approximately two-feet from the top. Be sure that these are centered to the upright and the same distance from whichever end you measure from. Your table top/deck level will sit on top of this, and it needs to be level based upon these measurements.
The Floor Of the Ferret Cage
For the floor/deck level of the cage, I used poplar wood instead of white pine. It is a little bit harder, maybe more moisture resistant and it certainly would take the stain & varnish quite well. Either four boards that are 6-inches wide by 4-feet long, or two boards that are 12-inches wide by 4-feet long will do. I prefer the 12” X 4’ (“two boards”) method, but either approach would work. It might work a bit better to plan for the 'length' of these four (or two?) boards to be a little bit MORE than 4-feet long. An extra quarter-inch would be fine. This will later allow room for the refrigerator grates to set in securely without forcing them.
Just remember that the bottom shelf board must be the exact same length as the 'table top' for this to work correctly. Any size adjustments to the table top must be duplicated here too.
A under-table/deck 'shelf' is required and added for strength and stability. It also creates a convenient place to store other items associated with the keeping of the ferret.
A 'back-splash' board can be added to prevent items from getting pushed back too far and falling to the floor. Again, this also adds to stability and this is what I did.
Edges Around The Ferret Cage Floor
This tabletop needs to have a ‘edge frame’ built all the way around it, to support the screen and reduce litter that will accumulate in the cage when the ferret inhabits it. Note that the two LONG pieces are 1 ½-inches longer than the width of the table. You want to provide a ¾ overlap on each end (3/4" + 3/4" = 1 1/2-inches,) to pair-off the end pieces. The image below demonstrates this.
Install The Screen Grates of the Ferret Cage
In this next image, the Refrigerator grates are being installed onto the cage, held in place with flat window frame brackets and drywall screws. These can be permanently attached or, as in the cage that I built and using ‘draw hasps’ available from any hardware store, making these removable. I liked the removable feature as it made the cage able to be disassembled for intense cleaning, or fully collapsed for long distance transport.
Starting To Look Like a Ferret Cage!
Install the screens as shown here. Secure to the upright boards and edge frames with window frames brackets and wood screws to hold these firmly to the table. Framing around the top of the screens in a similar manner with more wooden boards to which hinged door can be attached will complete the cage. I built my own custom-sized screen doors for the top of the cage.
It is advised to use a water-based stain not oil-based, as it is toxic to most animals that might chew and swallow. Additionally, I used a polyurethane spray finish to seal the wood, making it easier to wipe clean.
Trouble the Ferret's New Cage
My ferret enjoyed and lived in this cage for over 12 years. I would add to and modify the cage frequently. My first renovation was a cutout recess to accommodate a standard plastic cat litter box. The top of which would be at floor-level, making it easy for the ferret to get into and out of.
Next, a round hole was made in the floor on the other end, sanded round and smooth and a shallow removable plastic knick-knack/mini-sweater box was added, as a subterranean nest for her. The shallow requirement was so that she would not have to climb vertically very far. She was becoming aged and climbing was getting harder for her to do.
Later, I built a grated split-level climbing deck too, with wide, gently sloping walkways. I used this cage for over ten years until the ferret finally passed away due to age and I reluctantly dismantled the cage and returned it to recycling.
Having posted a picture of the cage on a popular image-sharing site, I noted that it receives nearly a dozen views per day sometimes, so apparently some people are curious about it. I hope that this little ‘how-to’ showed some of what was involved in the creation of this low-budget custom ferret/mammal cage for your pet.
The Finished Ferret Cage For Your Pet
Above is the completed cage, replete with nesting box, litter facility and the ferret is visible, inspecting the cage. She is in the cage to the far right.
Notice that I has also installed common trunk-handles on the uprights at the top end. This makes moving the cage around much easier and as installed, are above the center of gravity. The cage will not flip or spill when lifted straight up by the handles.
Note: It appears some of the including pictures were lost when the photo sharing sent went down.