Author: Haley Pearson | The Modern Ferret
If you are a ferret owner or thinking about bringing a pet ferret into your home in the near future, you’ve likely already answered important questions like, “Are ferrets good pets?” and “Is a ferret right for me?” Now, you may be wondering if you can safely house your ferret with other pets. The short answer is: it depends.
There are many pets that new owners are surprised to find are unsafe to house with or near their new ferret. With the large variety of household pet options out there, it’s best to evaluate each species of animal individually when deciding if letting them interact directly with your ferret is a safe option or not.
In addition to sharing my own personal experience with ferrets for over ten years, in this article I will answer:
- Why do ferrets get along with some animals and not others?
- Can I house my rabbit and ferret together?
- Can I house my ferret and rodent together?
- Will my reptiles get along with my ferret?
- Can my ferret become friends with a bird?
- What should I do if I already have these pets?
Why Do Ferrets Get Along with Some Animals and Not Others?
Answering this question is a great place to start when first trying to understand which species are safe to keep around your ferret and which are not.
Contrary to popular belief, ferrets are not rodents. They are not closely related to other small animals found in pet stores such as rats, mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs.
Instead, ferrets are more closely related to predatory animals like dogs and cats (broadly speaking). That’s why it’s important to provide a species-appropriate, high-quality diet with low fiber and high animal content like Oxbow’s Essentials Ferret Food.
More specifically, ferrets are part of the Mustelidae family and are related to otters, badgers, and wolverines. It is important to note that each of these animals are predators. Though your ferret may seem harmless, they were in fact evolved to hunt. This greatly narrows the choices of a safe furry companion for your new housemate!
Can I House My Rabbit and Ferret Together?
In the wild, rabbits live in burrows and spend their lives foraging for food like grass, flowers, vegetables, and other plant material. As prey animals, rabbits also spend a lot of their time hiding from possible predators like foxes, dogs, cats, birds of prey, and wild weasels (to which the domestic ferret is closely linked).
Historically speaking, even domestic ferrets were trained to hunt rabbits, which is another indication that a friendship between the two is unlikely.
For these reasons, housing ferrets and rabbits together is a big ‘no-go.’
Can I House My Rodent and Ferret Together?
Just like rabbits, rodents spend their lives wary of predators like your ferret. This would include hamsters, mice, chinchillas, and guinea pigs. The smell of their urine alone is enough to provoke a predatory response in your ferret.
During my personal experience with ferrets, I had a mouse make its way into my home. It found a large cardboard box and got trapped inside. When my ferret followed the enticing ‘rodent smell’ and hopped in the box too, what happened next was a series of quick displays of predatory instinct. It did not take long for my once ‘kind and docile ferret’ to act out the behavior of a seasoned hunter.
As you might guess, ferrets and rodents are another ‘no-go’!
Will Reptiles Get Along with my Ferret?
The short answer is ‘no,’ but the reasons vary. Reptiles come in all shapes and sizes. There are nano-chameleons that measure .5 inches long and Argentine Black and White Tegus that can reach nearly five feet in length! That means that some reptiles (both snakes and lizards) will be small enough for your ferret to hunt, while others might become so large they decide to hunt your ferret!
I have personal experience with the effect that the smell of a ferret has on a snake. Years back I had a friend over to my house who handled my first ferret, Moose, quite thoroughly. He hugged him, scratched him, cradled him, and let Moose sniff and investigate his shoes and socks. Essentially, Moose got his scent all over this friend of mine.
Later that day, this same friend visited another person with a pet snake. He said its behavior was quite striking and unusual. A snake he was assured ‘never bites’ became curious about my friend’s shoes, socks, and calf area.
After thirty seconds of intense investigation, the snake lunged at my friend’s lower leg, bit him, and quickly released. Both my friend and the snake were fine. However, it was a valuable teaching moment.
In the same way that my ferret had previously reacted to the smell of a rodent, the snake in question became provoked by the smell of a ferret.
Because ferrets and reptiles have different dietary and housing needs, it would not be logical to keep them together. Definitely skip this pairing choice!
Can my Ferret Become Friends with a Bird?
Much like reptiles, birds come in all shapes and sizes. And, similar to the variations of lizards, there are small birds like finches (which might activate your ferret’s predatory instincts) and much bigger ones like cockatoos and parrots. These larger birds could easily injure your ferret with a single bite from their incredibly strong beaks.
Though it may seem like a fun ‘unlikely friendship,’ perhaps this type is unlikely for a reason! It is best to keep these types of pets as far away from one another as possible.
What Should I Do if I Already Have One of These Pets?
If you already have one of these pets at home, it is necessary to house them in separate cages and it would be ideal to even house them in separate rooms of the house. If possible, I would recommend they are also housed in separate corners of the house to keep them as far away as possible.
Also, don’t let your ferret peruse a prey animal’s private space (even if they are not there) because a ferret can leave their scent on the cage and surrounding accessories.
For a predator, the smell of urine and body oils of a prey animal can provoke the hunting instinct. However, for a prey animal to smell a nearby predator (and in their ‘safe space’ no less!), it has the potential to provoke fear and unnecessary stress.
In an ideal world, all our animals would play nice together. In real life, however, there is a distinction between predator and prey for a reason. Some animals are just not meant to be friends.
It’s important to keep ferrets away from things that would want to eat them, and it’s important to keep your ferret away from things they would try to eat. Ultimately we want to provide our pets with the best lives possible, and sometimes this means keeping them safe and far away from one another!
About the Author: Haley Pearson is the founder of The Modern Ferret, a global social media community centered around celebrating ferrets and educating new ferret owners. Her Youtube channel has almost 60,000 subscribers and she runs a Tiktok account with over 900,000 followers! Haley lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her rescue ferret, Elijah. When she isn’t making Youtube videos about ferrets Haley loves to serve at her local church.