Q: I have a male ferret, Taz, who is about 2 to 2 1/2 years old and is neutered. He likes to chase both of our cats for some reason. Our male cat is a bit of a scaredy-cat and will hiss and growl the moment he sees Taz, which only makes him want to chase him even more. Our female cat usually stays calm unless he starts nipping at her, and then runs off. When he chases the cats he usually waits for them to start running, then will chase them, make a “dook dook dook” sound, bite hard and not let go, even when the cats are running at top speed and screaming their heads off. From what I’ve read, he’s just trying to play with the cats and doesn’t know any better, although he does act aggressively. I also know that ferrets are much tougher than most animals and can handle all sorts of rough play, which is why he doesn’t know that playing rough with the cats is not OK.
I’ve tried scruffing him and giving him timeouts, which don’t seem to help at all. I also tried separating Taz from the cats, which doesn’t help for long. If I keep Taz confined in one room, he’ll get bored, fall asleep, and not want to play anymore, or he’ll try to escape. (He’s an excellent escape artist.) If I keep the cats confined, they’ll eventually get hungry or have to use the bathroom, and my male cat isn’t smart enough to know how to open a door. I also tried getting Taz to play with the other ferret, Ryo, but it has the opposite effect — Taz never wants to play with Ryo. Ryo will chase him, nip at him, and do anything he can to get Taz to play, but he won’t. I’ve also tried giving Taz more toys to play with, but he still prefers the cats. I’ve also had a hard time convincing Mom that he’s just trying to play with them. Are there any better ways to stop Taz from chasing the cats? Will bitter apple stop him from biting, even though the cats will want to lick themselves later? What else should I do?
A: Usually cats and ferrets can get along pretty well because they make similar “annoyed” noises, but in this case it seems that Taz is not good at paying attention to their signs of irritation. If you want Taz and the cats to be able to be together, only allow Taz time out with the cats under supervision. Every time he bothers the cats, redirect him to play with something else. You can also make sure the cats have plenty of places to go that ferrets can’t. This usually means “up” places likes shelves or bookcases. This allows the cats a place to escape to without Taz.
My guess is that Taz prefers the cats because he is either more used to cats, or he likes the noises they make. Keep trying to get him to play with your other ferret, Ryo, too.