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Do Cats and Ferrets Get Along? The Ultimate Guide

Do Cats and Ferrets Get Along? The Ultimate Guide

✔ This article was reviewed for accuracy by a licensed veterinarian.

Ferrets were historically used to hunt rabbits and rodents. Cats, regardless of whether they’re domesticated or not, are wired to hunt — born with cute faces and a high prey drive. It sounds like a match made in heaven — two brothers from another mother. But if you plan on having both in one home, it begs the question: Do cats and ferrets get along?

Yes! Cats and ferrets can get along famously. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they will.

This helpful guide will answer every question you have regarding whether these two species are a good match. Read on to determine if your household will foster the Hakuna Matata energy you want!

Below is an overview of the various topics we covered in this post:

Do Cats and Ferrets Get Along? 

Cats and ferrets generally get along well.

It’s not uncommon for cats and ferrets to enjoy playing with each other, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your two pets will be an excellent match. The beginning stages of interaction should be supervised closely to determine if they can get along.

However, if you have a kitten, make sure to give a closer eye, as adult ferrets tend to be a little rougher when playing. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t play well together, as cats will typically distance themselves to avoid confrontation.

You may also be wondering if your cat will attempt to hurt your ferret. Typically, cats won’t try inflicting any harm because ferrets don’t behave like a cat’s prey or have the same scent they’re used to. 

In addition, most ferrets are far too quick for cats to catch them, and they can also get themselves in extremely narrow places. However, if your cat isn’t fixed, it could indeed have a greater tendency to scratch or claw at a ferret, and the ferret will defend itself.

Overall, cats and ferrets can definitely get along. Just don’t make any assumptions prior to monitoring their early interactions.

Understanding Temperament

Ferret Temperament

A ferret is being held by its owner. Do cats and ferrets get along?
“You talkin’ to me?” – Robbie De Niro

Since a ferret is a more uncommon pet to own than a cat, it’s essential to understand its tendencies. Generally, ferrets are friendly and curious, and they love playing with humans and other animals.

They do tend to require a closer eye than other animals in the home. Especially if you have smaller pets like guinea pigs or hamsters. Ferrets are carnivorous, and you don’t want a small oversight early on to lead to a bad outcome!

Cat Temperament

Cats do pose some similar behaviors as ferrets, such as being inquisitive. Cats are known to have very individual personalities. Some are loud while others are quiet. Some can be very affectionate, similar to ferrets, and some may be more standoffish.

With proper training, these two furry creatures can live peacefully under the same roof. But it takes both patience and consistency as a pet owner. 

Are Ferrets Dangerous Around Cats? 

They can be, but it’s not the expected behavior.

As a pet owner, you should be aware of any possible noises your ferret makes, such as hissing or barking.  These sounds can indicate that your ferret is frustrated with the presence of or interaction with your cat. 

While ferrets are generally considered the inferior species, they can still damage your cat with a strong bite force and claws. However, cats have rows of sharp teeth and claws, a significant threat to ferrets.

While ferrets don’t have great eyesight, they have excellent hearing and are quick on their feet. Cats also have these abilities and would most likely be the winner in a fight. Taking all the necessary precautions beforehand will reduce the likelihood of an unpleasant outcome.

What Diet Is Needed to Keep a Ferret and Cat Healthy? 

Cats and ferrets are both carnivores, but there are differences in their dietary requirements. It’s recommended to tailor their food to the breed recommendations.

What do ferrets eat?

Ferrets are carnivores through and through. They require a high protein diet involving meat and animal products. They require fewer carbohydrates and fiber.

Raw meat is the preferred option, but we’re cognizant that many people don’t want raw meat in their homes. You can find prepackaged ferret food at local pet stores as well.

What do cats eat?

A cat being fed a treat by a person. Do cats and ferrets get along?
Susan, I have to be honest. This tastes terrible. You’re a horrible chef.

Cats are also big meat eaters! They require high protein and carbohydrates as well as fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Cats love fish, and they can have it, but don’t overdo it. This is due to the high levels of fatty acids found in fish. 

Can you feed ferrets cat food?

In a pinch, you should be okay. It is not recommended to consistently feed your ferret cat food, as the nutrients in the food aren’t made for ferrets. Cat food is heavier in grains than a ferret’s digestive system is made to process. It can have negative effects long-term if you feed cat food to a ferret for a long period of time.

What Items Are Needed for A Cat and Ferret to Get Along Under One Roof? 

Before taking the plunge and introducing a cat and ferret, you first must set up a proper living space! Not only will having a thoughtful plan benefit in the long run but there’s a far less likely chance of an unhealthy bond.

Just like their diets, both pets have similar requirements for play and exploration. Here are the items you’ll need to provide a suitable living environment for each one.

  • A designated play space.
  • Plenty of toys. Toys that do not disintegrate quickly. Rubber balls, small plastic toys, and other small toys can be broken into pieces very quickly by ferrets, and there is a risk of suffocation.
  • Use treats as positive reinforcement for desired behaviors. (Positive reinforcement is always key!)
  • A litter box for your cat. Also, a litter box for your ferret if they are out often.
  • A cage for your ferret.

Most of the above seem pretty obvious, except for the ferret cage. A ferret cage is vital to ensuring your ferret is secured and comfortable, while also protecting the rest of your home from a loose ferret. They are prone to tear up curtains, tip over expensive items, or scratch up your couch. (But then again, my cats have done a number on my couch.) A great, quick guide on ferret cages can be found here.

The ferret cage should include proper bedding, water bottles, toys, and tunnels for them to explore. A highly interactive cage allows them to explore their inquisitive side, and you won’t have to fear them sneaking out of the house!

How Do I Properly Introduce Cats and Ferrets? 

Introducing your cat and ferret is the most critical component. You’ve heard that you only get one chance to make a great first impression, and that statement holds true for your ferret and cat. The actions you take in the first few meetings will set the pathway for their relationship moving forward.

Ferrets should not be alone in any room by themselves unless you are there to supervise. That sets up the perfect recipe for damaged property or an altercation with your cat. A small quarrel can quickly escalate before you even have time to react. 

First: The Initial Introduction Between a Cat and Ferret

The big moment has finally arrived! You are now officially ready to introduce your ferret and cat. The ferret should remain in its cage for the first introduction, and likely the next few as these animals get familiar with each other.

Patience is the most crucial aspect of ensuring this introduction goes smoothly. It will take several days or even weeks for them to get used to each other.

  1. Ensure the ferret is in its cage and the cage is locked.
  2. Then, slowly approach the cage with your cat held calmly in your hands. 
  3. Next, let the two sniff around and get familiar with their respective scents. 
  4. Finally, closely monitor how they are interacting. If either of them shows signs of aggression — swiftly end the interaction so you can set a precedent that aggression won’t be tolerated. If the interaction goes well — reward them both with treats and toys! Positive reinforcement is always the best way to teach.

Second: The Cageless Meeting Between a Cat and Ferret

After the initial interactions have gone well while using the cage, you can take the next step and let the ferret out of the cage for the next meeting. 

  1. As carefully and calmly as possible, you can slowly take the ferret out of the cage.
  2. Have a spotter early on. This means it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member help handle your cat while you get the ferret out of the cage.
  3. Then, while holding your ferret in a loose manner, allow your cat to come to greet and sniff your ferret and vice versa. Make sure your grip is not too tight on your ferret, or it may cause some unease for them during the interaction.

Remember, this process should mirror the exact steps you followed when the ferret was inside the cage. Pay close attention to the behaviors of each pet, and quickly correct aggressive behaviors. 

Don’t expect perfect harmony the first time around! It will take time, but the reward will be worth it. Have realistic expectations and know that it will take at least a few weeks for them to feel comfortable around each other. 

Third: A Leashed Ferret and Cat Hangout

You can now allow the ferret and cat to meet without holding them both. You should still have a leash on your ferret as a safety measure. Only do this once you feel comfortable with the cageless interactions.

  1. Place a leash on your pet ferret so you can have some control over them for this interaction. This is a safety measure and insurance that the ferret doesn’t run and hide if the interaction goes poorly.
  2. Next, allow them to play and monitor closely how aggressive it seems the playing is getting. Some kicking and nipping may happen but ensure it doesn’t get too intense. Watch their body language and listen to the sounds they make as they play.
  3. Finally, let more of the leash go as they interact so it feels as close to a completely free interaction as possible.

Important note: Even if this first leash playdate goes well, make sure you have a few more before taking the leash away. And as always, reward positive interactions with treats, toys, and play. They will continue to associate these meetings with rewards as they go well, and it will foster a positive relationship between them.

Fourth: A Free, Unencumbered Playdate Between the Cat and Ferret

The training wheels are almost off! This next step is huge as you remove the leash and let the two interact in a closed room with your monitoring.

  1. Close the door to the room so you can ensure you can monitor both closely.
  2. Then, let both animals play freely, without a leash on your ferret.
  3. Remember to keep a close eye on body language and listen for any sounds of discomfort.
  4. Also, start off with a short interaction here. Give the first playdate a cap of 10 minutes or so and be sure to reward them both when it goes well.
  5. Finally, gradually allow this interaction to continue. And keep expanding the allotted time until you’re into an hour or more.

If all goes well here, you’re looking good! These two should be well on their way to a fun and enjoyable relationship. 

It is worth noting that it is always a good idea to be close by when they play in the future. Even if most past interactions have gone well, you never know when something can go poorly. 

If things do take a turn for the worse — it is extremely valuable for you to be able to move swiftly to separate them. Continue to remind them that negative interactions are not to be rewarded and will be dissolved quickly. 

What’s Daily Life Like with A Ferret and A Cat in The Same House? 

A cat resting on top of a toy ferret. Do cats and ferrets get along?
Be very quiet, ferret. I’m making biscuits.

Hopefully, you’ve reached the point in your ferret-cat training and experimentation where you’ve got a routine. They can become a great compliment to each other — and even best friends! 

Once your cat and ferret are old pals, life with them in the same house is pretty normal. You still treat your ferret like a ferret, as far as cages, toys, and food goes. The same goes for your cat.

You let them play together, as it’s beneficial for both to have companionship and fun, and you also give them time apart. Especially as your cat may need some time to just be a cat. (If your cat is like either of mine, it truly enjoys its alone time.)

If you’re looking for a precedent — look no further! Grab the tissues and read this great article by the Dodo about how a pet ferret’s favorite place to sleep is on the head of his cat brother!

What Should I Do if My Cat and Ferret aren’t getting along? 

Unfortunately, not all cats and ferrets will get along, regardless of the time and effort you put into it. If it seems that there won’t be a match, there are a few options for you.

  1. Keep both pets and revisit the steps above. If these steps don’t work once again, look for a professional trainer.
  2. Keep both pets but separate them entirely. This includes where they sleep, where they play, where their food is, etc. 
  3. Keep both pets and ensure they are always monitored. Don’t let them sleep or eat together, and ensure the ferret is in its cage when the cat is loose. 
  4. Remove one of the pets from the home. This is the toughest decision to make, but it can be necessary sometimes. You must reflect on the mental and physical health of your pets, and yourself. But don’t feel bad if you need to. You need to do what is best for your entire family, and both pets individually. 

Key Takeaways About Owning a Cat and Ferret

  • A beautiful relationship between the two pets takes time, persistence, and positive reinforcement.
  • It’s always best to supervise interactions between the two.
  • Ensure your ferret’s cage is big enough for him, and secure so he can’t get out.
  • Cats and ferrets can get along famously if the right steps are taken early on in their relationship.

Watch this cute video of a kitten and its ferret roommates! They get along incredibly well.