Two of the most common pets are the cat and the ferret. Cats live for up to 18 years and ferrets live for up to 8 years, and choosing the wrong pet can be a big mistake.
Within this article, we’ll cover the most important factors pet owners should consider between a cat and a ferret and the pros and cons of each.
Cats live longer, are more independent and require less work than ferrets. Ferrets require more veterinary checkups than cats and also need to be kept in a large enclosure. Ferrets arguably provide greater companionship than cats and may form a closer bond with their owners.
What Are the Most Important Differences Between Owning a Cat vs. Owning a Ferret?
Here are some differences between owning a cat and owning a ferret.
|Point of Comparison||Cat||Ferret|
|Diet||Mainly carnivorous, but can enjoy a variety of grains and vegetables in addition to animal protein.||Strictly carnivorous, can’t digest plant fibers, so should never be given vegetables or grains.|
|Lifespan||12 – 18 years||6 – 8 years|
|Veterinary Care||A complete checkup once a year.||At least two or three checkups a year. Ferrets are prone to gastrointestinal blockages and tumors that should be detected soon for treatment. They also require annual vaccination for canine distemper virus and rabies.|
|Space Needed||Fine living in small spaces but they need to be entertained with toys and regular exercise||Ferrets need a large enclosure (at least 24”x18”x18”)They need to be taken out of it for exercise for at least 2 hours daily in a ferret-proof area|
|Companionship||Cats can be solitary pets. They’re independent and don’t require a partner to thrive||Ferrets can be left alone, but they do better in pairs. If you raise a single ferret, it’ll need a lot more attention from you.|
|Hygiene||Cats are self-grooming and have little to no scent as long as you change their litter regularly||Ferrets are related to skunks, so they have musk glands. They retain their odor even if the glands are removed, and their litter is changed daily.|
Are Ferrets At All Similar To Cats?
Ferrets are very different animals compared to cats, and both animals require particular care. Ferrets require more attention, vet visits and consideration of their enclosure. One similarity is that they are both carnivores.
Ferrets are supercharged energy balls. They enjoy burrowing, digging, and chewing on almost everything they get their hands on. If that weren’t enough, they also stick their heads into holes, no matter how small.
However, some ferret owners say they tend to misbehave when there are two of them. They’ve even been seen encouraging one another to escape their cage, and we all know how chaotic that can be.
Cats, on the other hand, are more independent. Some kittens can be playful when they’re young, but they all grow up to enjoy a pretty sedentary lifestyle.
They like cuddling and playing with feather toys. Although, they can be somewhat moody, coming and going as they please to demand your attention.
Cats are independent creatures that don’t require a lot of tending-to. They spend their time grooming themselves, playing with their toys, or finding a spot to chill out for hours on end. So, if you have to work long hours, your cat might miss you, but they won’t be heartbroken about it.
What Are the Major Pros and Cons of Cats vs. Ferrets?
People look for different things in a pet. Some prefer quiet, small animals that are low-maintenance and easy to care for.
Others look for rowdy creatures with larger-than-life personalities that can make them laugh whatever the circumstance.
We put together this pros/cons list to help you decide. It isn’t a definitive list, but it covers most bases for both kinds of animals. After that, it’s up to you whether you consider a particular trait a benefit or a drawback.
- Long lifespan of 12 – 18 years, perfect for children to grow up with
- Clean, have no foul odor, easy to litter-box train
- Independent and don’t require much attention
- Relatively small
- Have no problem living in small spaces
- Some can be unaffectionate with their owners
- Family members could have allergies
- Cause lots of shedding and hairballs especially long-haired breeds
- Tend to scratch furniture and upholstery
- Highly energetic and fun to be around, require a lot of attention
- Can be caged for fewer cleanups
- Can bond with humans, unlike hamsters and other rodents
- Can learn tricks with a lot of positive reinforcement
- Highly energetic
- Have short lifespans of 6 – 8 years
- Are illegal to keep as pets in some states
- Musky odor even if their head glands are surgically removed
- Prone to tumors, human flu virus, canine distemper virus, and rabies
Is It More Expensive to Keep a Cat or a Ferret?
Ferrets are smaller in size than cats. This leads some people to think you’ll save up on food costs if you opt for a ferret.
However, they’re strictly carnivorous and can’t digest plant fiber. This means you’ll spend lots of money on an animal protein diet.
When it comes to ferrets, what you save on food you’re more likely to spend on vet visits and ferret-proofing your home. Ferrets are notorious for swallowing things they’re not supposed to. In other words, unless you’re very careful, you could be paying a lot of visits to the emergency room.
Even if you have the world’s most well-behaved ferret, basic vet care for ferrets is more expensive. They require at least two full checkups every year, as opposed to just one for cats.
In addition, ferrets are prone to tumors and catching various viruses. So, tumor screens and virus vaccinations can add up in the long run.
Which Pet Takes More Commitment: a Cat or a Ferret?
Cats are pretty laid-back creatures, the “set it and forget it” of the animal world. Once you adopt your cat, litterbox-train it and let it explore its surroundings. It should feel relaxed and at home within a couple of months, especially if you don’t have many people coming and going.
As for ferrets, assuming you’ll get a pair, you’ll need to buy a suitable cage for them. It has to be spacious and preferably with multiple levels to climb.
Bear in mind that ferrets like to hide and snack on things while they’re hiding. So, you’ll need to ferret-proof your home to prevent accidents. This means blocking any holes and small openings in your place. In addition, it’s a good idea to baby-proof all your closets and kitchen cabinets.
Here’s another pro-tip: ferrets get bored easily. You’ll need to take them out of their cage for at least 2 – 4 hours daily for supervised playtime.
Check out these cute toys to keep your ferret happy:
Is a Cat or a Ferret Easier to Take Care Of?
Any pet owner you ask will hands-down say a cat is easier to take care of than a ferret. Even the most avid ferret enthusiasts will tell you they can be quite a handful.
From special diets and regular vet visits to changing your own home to suit your pet’s quirks, it’s definitely not easy being a ferret parent. They can be plenty challenging, especially for someone with limited space or financial resources.
Can You Keep Pet Cats and Pet Ferrets Together?
You can, with some precautions, keep both cats and ferrets as pets in the same home. The most important thing is to supervise their interactions and be alert if any unpleasant behavior happens.
A young ferret, called a kit, might practice “nipping” on your cat. Nipping is basically biting, and with a ferret’s sharp teeth, it can be quite dangerous.
Make sure never to hold a ferret close to you, or your pet. Also, you must discourage this behavior early on so it doesn’t grow up to be bitey.
You can do this by holding the ferret from the loose fur around the back of its neck and firmly saying “no” while looking into its eyes. Just keep the ferret at a safe distance as you do this because it might just nip at you.
Adult ferrets can hold their own against adult cats, but they can be violent to small kittens. So, it’s best to keep the two pets separate until your kitty is a little more grown-up.
If you’re looking for a calm and sedentary companion, a cat is your best bet. In general, they require less work and are more independent than ferrets.
Alternatively, ferrets are cute little creatures and arguably provide more companionship and entertainment than cats. Still, they’re a lot of work, so make sure you can provide it with the care it needs before bringing one into your life. It would be unfair to adopt or buy one when you don’t have the means to give it a happy home.