Many pet owners wonder if ferrets and rabbits can get along in the same household.
As you may find yourself considering these adorable and increasingly popular animals, it’s essential to understand their compatibility or lack thereof.
Ferrets and rabbits don’t get along.
In most interactions between ferrets and rabbits, the ferret has the upper hand. Experts consider ferrets the ideal animal for hunting rabbits.
However, there are some breeds of rabbits that can cause injury to ferrets!
In this article, we will tell you about the true predatory nature of ferrets and the surprising defensive skills of rabbits.
We’ll answer some common questions about keeping both ferrets and rabbits as pets. But first, let’s take a closer look at the amazing hunting skills of ferrets and the impressive defensive styles of rabbits.
Ferrets Are Patient Hunters
Ferrets belong to the Mustelidae family, and they are playful, curious creatures with strong hunting instincts. They are domesticated carnivores, which means their diet mainly consists of meat, particularly small animals like rodents and birds.
It’s important to note that in the wild, ferrets are predators of rabbits.
If you have seen videos of natural predators of rabbits, you may have seen a hapless rabbit ambushed by a big cat—or even a large housecat.
You may have seen a defenseless rabbit attacked by a pack of dogs or wolves. You may have even witnessed a baby bunny being snatched by a hawk or an owl from above.
But chances are you have never seen a video of a rabbit being attacked by a ferret. That’s because ferrets, like other members of the weasel family, have a hunting style that is inquisitive, persistent, and calm.
If you place your kitten in bed with your ferret, they will become fast friends. They will groom each other. Your kitten will lick your ferret, and your ferret will lick your kitten.
Your ferret won’t pay special attention to any particular part of your kitten’s body. The ferret will groom the kitten’s back and neck and ears, and play with her whiskers. Because kittens do not smell like any animal that ferrets ordinarily eat, your kitten will be safe.
Now let’s suppose that you place your ferret in your rabbit’s cage.
Once again, your ferret and your rabbit will quickly become friends. They will groom each other. Your rabbit will lick your ferret’s coat, and your ferret will lick your rabbit’s coat.
But your ferret will also pay close attention to your rabbit’s scent.
As your ferret inhales more and more rabbit pheromones, it will groom faster and harder. It will pay attention to your rabbit’s neck. As your ferret slowly realizes that your rabbit is one of its natural food items, it may strike at it for the kill.
Or, your ferret may not. Ferrets don’t eat unless they are hungry.
Eventually, unfortunately, there will be a time when your ferret and your rabbit are together and your ferret is in the mood for a snack. The ferret will bite down on the rabbit’s neck.
The first bite is usually not fatal. The rabbit may be able to get away. If you see an attack happening, you may have time to intervene and save your rabbit’s life.
The dilemma for your rabbit is that the ferret can follow it into all of its hiding places. If the ferret is large enough, it will kill and start to eat your rabbit.
Also read: Can Rabbits and Ducks Live Together?
Some Rabbits Can Defend Themselves Against Ferrets
The scenario described above is what usually happens. There are some rabbits that can fight back.
A female ferret that has been spayed may weigh as little as 1.5 pounds (675 grams). A male ferret may weigh just 4 pounds (1800 grams). Reproductively intact males can weigh as much as 6 pounds (2.8 kilograms).
Flemish Giant rabbits can weigh as much as 20 pounds (9.1 kilograms). Darius, a Continental Giant buck owned by Annette Edwards in Stoulton, Worcestershire, in England, holds the Guinness Book of Records title as Biggest Rabbit in the World. Darius is 4 feet 3 inches (129 cm) long.
Big rabbits can send small ferrets running away for cover.
But if your rabbit is an Angora, Lionhead, Holland Lop, Mini Lop, Fuzzy Lop, Dwarf Hotot, Jersey Wooly, Netherland Dwarf, or any other small rabbit, it doesn’t stand a chance in a contest with a ferret. No matter what the breed, every baby bunny must be kept far away from ferrets.
Also read: Are Rabbit Toys Safe for Birds?
The Natural Instincts of Ferrets and Rabbits
Ferrets as Predators
Ferrets are carnivores by nature, which means they rely on meat as their primary source of food. Their hunting instincts and flexible bodies make them efficient predators.
When hunting in the wild, ferrets use their keen senses and agile movements to catch and kill small animals such as rodents, birds, and rabbits.
Their predatory instincts have developed over time due to their history as carnivorous animals.
As you might understand by now, ferrets see rabbits as potential prey. This fact makes it unsafe for ferrets and rabbits to live together, as it goes against a ferret’s natural instinct and might provoke the ferret into hunting the rabbit.
Rabbits as Prey
Rabbits, on the other hand, are herbivores. They primarily eat plants and have no predatory instincts.
As they are prey animals, they instinctively try to avoid predators, such as ferrets, to stay safe.
Unfortunately for rabbits, they are desirable targets for ferrets due to their size, vulnerability, and accessibility.
The difference in the natural instincts between ferrets and rabbits means that their coexistence in the same living space presents a significant risk to the rabbit’s safety.
Although ferrets and rabbits have been domesticated over time, their inherent predator-prey relationship still exists, and it is crucial to respect it.
Also read: Can Rabbits and Guinea Pigs Live Together?
How to Intervene When Your Ferret Attacks Your Rabbit
If you didn’t know you should isolate your pet rabbit from your pet ferret, and one day to your horror you see your ferret attacking your rabbit, here is what you should do:
- Grasp the attacking ferret by the scruff of its neck with one hand.
- Pull it off your rabbit with the other.
- Remain calm. The more fear the ferret senses in its surroundings, the more violently it will attack its prey.
Give your rabbit time to escape, and put your ferret back into its cage.
There is no point in punishing a ferret for attacking a rabbit. It will not make the connection between instinctive hunting behavior and the punishment you mete out. It is only doing what ferrets do naturally.
Also read: What Kills Rabbits at Night?
If You Already Have Both a Ferret and a Rabbit, Make Your Rabbit Boring
It’s better if your ferret never finds out that you have a pet rabbit. But if you already have both kinds of pets, the best thing you can do is to make your rabbit just part of the background for your ferret.
Ferrets in nature have to be on the lookout for food. They pay attention to scents of prey that do not smell all the time. So, make sure your ferret is surrounded by the scent of your rabbit all the time.
Place a blanket in your rabbit’s hutch for a couple of weeks. Then transfer it to your ferret’s bed.
Make sure your ferret is surrounded by rabbit odors 24/7. (This is also a great technique for protecting birds. When they molt, place a few of their feathers in your ferret’s bed.)
Don’t make a fuss about the blanket. Just place it in your ferret’s cage or on your ferret’s bed and leave it there.
If you act like rabbit scent is just part of the natural environment, your ferret won’t think that it is any big deal.
If you need to run the blanket through your washer and dryer to get rid of fleas or debris, that’s fine. Make sure it is soaked with rabbit scent before you put it back into your ferret’s bed or cage.
Ferret Acts Different Around People and Rabbits
Ferrets are cute and cuddly and shy. You may wonder how such a sweet little furry creature could possibly be an efficient killing machine with your rabbits.
Here is something you need to realize about ferrets:
The cuddlier your ferret is with you, the deadlier it is with your rabbit.
Or, put another way, the shyer your ferret is around people, the more likely it is to attack your rabbit.
That’s because both not running away from humans and not attacking rabbits require impulse control.
A ferret that does not stop itself when it wants to run away from its human family will not stop itself when it realizes it can attack your rabbit.
Also read: Can Chinchillas and Rabbits Live Together?
How Your Rabbit Can Injure Your Ferret
Most of the sad stories about ferrets and rabbits involve ferret attacks on rabbits.
There are certain situations, however, in which even small rabbits can injure ferrets.
- Ferrets are not distressed by the smell of small prey animals. But they can become very upset by the sound of small prey animals, especially rabbits that scream. High-pitched animal sounds can sound like an attack on a young ferret.
- Ferrets can get their nose and toes bitten when they stick those body parts between the bars of your rabbit’s cage. Be aware that sometimes a ferret can pull a baby bunny out of its cage between the bars. Solid walls are best for rabbit cages and rabbit hutches.
- Rabbits can give ferrets staph infections. In ferrets, staph infections are more likely to result in pneumonia than skin problems.
- Rabbits can also give ferrets Salmonella. Ferrets are more susceptible to this bacterial disease than humans. (It’s still a good idea to wear gloves when you clean out your rabbit’s litter box.)
Advanced Training Techniques to Protect Rabbits From Your Ferret
If you are committed to keeping both a rabbit and a ferret, there is a training technique you can use to discourage a predator response to your rabbit.
Ferrets don’t see very well, but they have excellent hearing. They easily locate the source of a sound.
Train your ferret to go after sounds, not scents.
You will need a supply of your ferret’s favorite treats for this training exercise.
Place a rabbit toy or a blanket with your rabbit’s scent at one end of your ferret’s play space.
Stand at the other end of your ferret’s play space.
Direct your ferret away from the item with your rabbit’s scent by tapping your foot.
Your ferret cannot investigate the scent of your rabbit and locate the source of the sound at the same time. When your rabbit comes to you, instead of going to the rabbit scent, give it a treat.
Don’t respond in any way if it goes to an item with the rabbit scent. You can’t train your ferret not to hunt rabbits.You can train it to check out unusual sounds instead.
Do this training exercise 5 to 10 times a day for at least a week. Your ferret will learn to hunt for sounds, not for scents.
In any encounter with your rabbit, you have a way to distract your ferret long enough for your rabbit to get away or for you to break up the fight.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ferrets and Rabbits
Can a ferret live in a rabbit hutch?
Yes, as long as the rabbit is living somewhere else.
Do ferrets like rabbits?
Ferrets are curious about other animals. They may treat them as something to investigate, or something to eat. If another animal acts afraid around a ferret, it will assume it is a prey animal, another animal that it can eat, and attack it.
How do ferrets kill rabbits?
The ferret will bite the rabbit’s neck until it passes out due to blood loss, and then eat it.
Are there any ferrets that are safe around rabbits?
Ferrets are never safe around rabbits. Generally, the more affectionate a ferret is with people, the more likely it is to attack other pets.
Can rabbits and ferrets coexist peacefully?
Unfortunately, rabbits and ferrets typically do not get along. Ferrets are predators, while rabbits are prey animals. It’s important to remember that ferrets have a natural hunting instinct, and the two animals might not coexist peacefully in a home setting 1.
What precautions are needed when introducing ferrets and rabbits?
If you plan on having both ferrets and rabbits as pets, it’s crucial to keep them separated at all times2. You should never have the animals in the same room, even if one of them is caged. Also, make sure each animal has its own living space, ensuring their habitats are secured and far enough apart to prevent any potential incidents.
How do ferrets interact with other animals?
Ferrets are social animals and can generally get along with other pets, such as dogs and cats, given the proper introduction and supervision. However, since they are predators, their instinct to hunt smaller animals may interfere with their ability to peacefully interact with prey-like species such as rabbits3.
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