Ferrets are social animals and they love company. It is a great idea to get at least two ferrets or combine ferrets with some other pets like cats. Cats and ferrets can get along very well because they are very similar animals. Let’s take a look at the unique bond between these two bright and furry animals.
When you look at their nutrition and behavior, you will see many similarities between cats and ferrets. For example, cats and ferrets are both carnivores, meaning they should eat meat. Generally speaking, their nutritional requirements are similar.
Another interesting trait they share is their hygiene. We don’t have to bathe cats nor ferrets because they clean themselves. Also, both pets are clean animals and know how to use a litter box.
Based on these similar traits, we can see how they could live together without too much trouble. But, there are still rules we have to oblige when introducing one animal to the other.
Introducing Cats and Ferrets
The best situation for their introduction of these two animals would be when both are young. That way you can raise them together and that strengthens their bond. Pets growing up together are closer than those introduced later in life.
That doesn’t mean we can’t introduce an adult cat to an adult ferret. It is possible, but it has to be done in a controlled environment. It is a good idea to introduce them in short periods over a couple of days, even weeks.
What To Consider Before Introductions
Not every situation is good for introducing two animals, whether they are cats, ferrets, dogs, or other pets. Here are some of the aspects that require consideration:
Introducing an Old or Sick Pet
Owning an older cat or older ferret is a situation when it is better to reconsider putting these two together. It’s the same story with a seriously ill pet. We aren’t talking about common colds, we are talking about cancers and other difficult medical situations.
Introducing a sick or old pet to a new pet can cause stress to the sick one. When a pet is old or ill, it is best for him to avoid any kind of stress, including the introduction of a new family member. If there is a chance that the pet will feel stressed, we recommend waiting while introducing him to a new family member.
Introducing Cats With High Prey Drive
Just like ferrets, cats can have a high prey drive. We can easily see that in a cat’s behavior. If a cat is constantly hunting small animals like mice, birds, even squirrels, then the cat has a high prey drive. Due to the ferret’s size, a cat can easily attack a ferret simply because he is small enough to be considered prey. Although ferrets are very fast and can defend themselves with their teeth and nails, cats are still capable of killing them.
The good thing about ferrets is their musky odor that informs cats and other animals that they are not, in fact, prey, but unique, small predators. Their odor is actually one of the reasons why some cats are afraid of them.
Steps to Introducing Cats And Ferrets
A relationship between a cat and a ferret depends on their personalities. They can get along perfectly from the first minute, or they can learn to live next to one another after hours of intense encounters. The best outcome is when we combine ferrets and cats with similar, relaxed personalities. Animals with more extreme levels of characteristics like dominance, being territorial, etc., require more control and supervision during an interaction. That is why it is very important to follow rules that can make any introduction run smoothly.
Use Neutral Ground
Ferrets and cats are both territorial pets so to avoid unnecessary stress, the introduction should be on neutral ground. Neutral ground can be a room neither pet hangs out in, the backyard, or someone else’s home. That way, cats or ferrets won’t feel the need to defend their territory from (in their mind) an intruder.
Give Both Pets an Escape
Before letting animals meet, it is smart to provide escapes for both of them. It is easier for cats because they can simply jump to a higher position, for example, a chair nearby. But, with ferrets, we have to provide them with something different. That can be a tunnel or a box big enough for a ferret to enter, but too small for a cat to join.
Separate Them With a Cage
The best way to make first contact is through the cage. It is smart to leave the ferret in the cage and let the cat come closer to the cage. That way it is easy to see the reactions of both pets. If there are no bad reactions (hissing, tail wagging, growling, etc.), it is safe to go further.
Keep Them at a Safe Distance
If the cage introduction goes well and you don’t hear or see any bad sounds or physical reactions from either party, it is safe to let the ferret out of the cage. The best way to do this is to hold both animals at a safe distance. You can hold one pet and a family member can hold the other. Let them sniff each other, but pull them away if you see a shift in their behavior towards a bad direction. Hold them firm, but not too tight because the strength of your hold can cause additional stress.
Put Them on the Ground
The last step is to see how they interact on their own. Slowly put them on the ground and observe their behavior. There will be sniffing and touching, but abort the entire process if biting, scratching, or any other attack happens. If it happens, separate them, check if both pets are OK and you can try again in a few hours, even the next day.
Keep Them Under Control
If the steps above went great (without a fight), then the only thing you have to do is keep both pets under control. Ferrets communicate by biting, so they will probably nip the cat a couple of times and if that happens, corrections are in order. If a cat does the same, you have to correct the cat too. It is up to you to correct wrong behavior and reward good behavior. You can do that by giving them treats when they are respectful of each other.
Signs of Mutual Affection
There are a few things animals do only when they are comfortable with other living beings. If your current pet eats, sleeps, bathes, or simply hangs out with the other pet, then you are in the clear. If you can see them spending time together without chasing or ignoring each other, then you will know they are in the right place with their relationship. Still, supervise them for your own peace of mind.
Ferrets and cats generally get along thanks to a number of their similarities. If you want to introduce your ferret to a new cat, or vice versa, keep the introduction calm and under control. You can easily see in the first minutes of their introduction how that relationship will go. If you steer it the right way, you may create a couple of buddies in no time.
Featured Image Credit: Jagodka, Shutterstock