Ferrets are small, long animals that are mostly kept as pets, with very few remaining in the wild. With their easygoing and friendly natures, they get on well with both humans and other animals. But can a ferret kill a cat, and how often do they kill cats?
A ferret can kill a cat in rare circumstances, such as if the cat is a young kitten and the ferret is a large male. Since cats are larger and more powerful, have more stamina, and have a defensive fighting style, this is very unlikely. A group of ferrets may kill a cat if the cat is alone.
Below, we will look at cats’ and ferrets’ physiology, psychology, and fighting style to understand why it is not likely that a ferret would kill a cat.
Physiology of Ferrets and Cats
Before deciding whether a ferret can kill a cat, we should consider the physiology of both animals. Generally speaking, cats are larger and heavier than ferrets. However, weight and size can vary from individual to individual.
Just like all animals, there are large and small individuals. This means that a large, male ferret could be bigger than a tiny kitten, making them more physically able to kill a cat.
When comparing a small cat to a large ferret, they could sometimes be evenly matched.
Smaller than most cats, ferrets are roughly the same shape and size as a zucchini. Their average length ranges from 8″ to 18″ (20.32 to 45.72 cm), while their weight can be between 1 to 4 lbs (0.45 to 1.81 kgs).
They are low on the ground, and their height will never exceed 2″ (5.08 cm).
Male ferrets are typically larger than females. The average weight of a female ferret is between 1 and 2.5 lbs (0.45 to 1.13 kgs), and the weight range of males is 2 to 4 lbs (0.90 to 1.81 kgs).
As natural carnivores, ferrets have pointed and exceptionally sharp teeth that can injure another animal seriously. Their jaws are also powerful, making the potential for a deep bite even greater. Their sharp claws are powerful but on the small side, but they can inflict severe wounds on another animal.
However, it would typically not be fatal as the claws are not large enough. Ferrets have very thick skin, and it is challenging to inflict serious injury on them through biting.
Cats are typically larger than ferrets in both size and weight.
The average weight range for cats is between 8 and 10 lbs (3.62 to 4.53 kgs), and they can be between 15″ to 20″ (38.1 to 50.8 cm) long. Heightwise, cats are around 10″ (25.4 cm), making them about five times as tall as ferrets.
Generally speaking, cats outweigh ferrets quite considerably in terms of size, height and weight.
One physiological disadvantage that a large cat has compared to a ferret is that feline skin is typically relatively thin. When bitten with a ferret’s strong and sharp teeth, the injury could be severe and life-threatening.
Psychology of Ferrets
Now that we have taken a look at the physical aspects of cats and ferrets, we need to look inside a ferret’s mind and what the likelihood is of a ferret actually wanting to kill a cat.
Normal Ferret Behavior
According to the NCBI, as long as ferrets are raised as domestic pets, they are friendly and sociable animals. However, they are known to become aggressive when faced with an unfamiliar ferret that threatens their position in the household.
Although ferrets have been kept as pets for over 2000 years, if they are raised in an abusive environment, they can develop behavioral problems, including aggression.
The Wild vs. Tame Ferret Scenario
If a cat encounters a ferret in the wild, the ferret poses far more danger.
Tame ferrets are used to interacting with humans and often other pets. They have a reputation for being gentle, playful, and sweet, and it is rare to hear of a tame ferret hurting another animal. Pet ferrets mostly just want to play and will see any approaching cat as another playmate.
Given that there are far more tame ferrets than wild ferrets, the likelihood of a ferret wanting to kill a cat is minimal.
The fighting styles of cats and ferrets are very different. Cats are typically defensive fighters, while ferrets are proactive, aggressive, and will make the first move. If a ferret were to kill a cat, it would have to be in fight mode.
Most ferrets are kept as pets and only go into fight mode when playing, but the intention here is not to hurt the other animal.
Let’s take a deeper look at the fighting style of both ferrets and cats.
Maneuverability Of Each Animal
Ferrets are bendy, flexible, and can move around very quickly. They can move around much faster than cats, which gives them an advantage in a fight.
Cats are also fast, but a ferret would outrun a cat in a chase over a short distance.
With their long legs and larger bodies, a cat would outcompete a ferret in terms of distance and, therefore, has more stamina.
Attack vs. Defense
Ferrets have a fight, and not a flight, instinct. They will put up a spirited fight in a stand-off, won’t back down, and do not get scared off easily. Wild ferrets, when provoked, will bite and spray. Female ferrets tend to be smaller but more dominant.
However, non-neutered males have a lot more muscle mass and hormone-based aggression.
Aggressive ferrets could inflict severe injuries to a cat with their claws, but these injuries would be unlikely to be fatal. A cat’s claws are larger and more substantial than a ferret’s, so it would probably be the other way around.
A ferret’s aggressive fighting style is evident in the way they fight with each other during play. They grab each other’s neck scruffs, knock each other down, and roll around.
A cat’s fighting style is more defensive, and they defend themselves very effectively. When faced with an adversary, cats will hiss, spit and stare to instill fear.
If they need to, they will use their claws or hind legs to try and fight off an attacker.
Cats use their hind legs defensively. In a fight, if a cat were to get hold of a ferret in its claws, it would try and hold the ferret in a hugging position to use the powerful hind legs to cause injury.
A cat’s hind legs are quite powerful and could easily disembowel a ferret in extreme circumstances.
The Crowd Advantage
As ambush predators, cats usually hunt alone. This would be a disadvantage in the wild as ferrets are sociable animals and are often found in groups. In a stand-off, ferrets would support each other. Should the intention be to kill the cat, a group of ferrets would work as a team to attack the cat.
It is improbable that a ferret could kill a cat. However, this could happen in rare cases if the cat is a small kitten and the ferret is an aggressive male. Ferrets have an aggressive fighting style, but this is only noticeable during play.
They would likely view any cat as a potential playmate.
Cats have thin skin and can suffer serious injury when bitten with a ferret’s sharp teeth. However, since cats are typically larger, more powerful, and have more stamina than ferrets, they could easily escape from the ferret and defend themselves well.
- NCBI: Ferret Behavior
- Wikipedia: Ferret
- Merriam-Webster: Physiology
- Lafeber Vet: Basic Information for Ferrets
- Wikipedia: Cat Anatomy
- Cambridge Dictionary: Zucchini
- The Free Dictionary: Maneuverability
- Merriam-Webster: Stamina
- Wikipedia: Neutering
- Collins Dictionary: Scruff of the Neck.
- Cambridge Dictionary: Disembowel
- Wikipedia: Ambush Predator
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.