Ferrets (Mustela furo) are natural predators of rodents, so there’s no need to train ferrets to catch rats. Some owners use a hunting technique known as ‘ferreting’ to direct rats toward a predetermined trap.
Instinctually, ferrets are good at hunting and catching rats in their burrows.
Their sharp teeth can kill rats instantly, and they’ll eat the rat, including the fur and bones. Ferrets produce a natural odor that terrifies rats, inducing stress hormones that deter them from entering a home.
Ferrets are better at ratting than dogs, including schnauzers and Jack Russels. Despite common misconceptions, ferrets aren’t part of the order of Rodentia, so they don’t get along.
Are Ferrets in The Same Family as Rats?
No, rats and ferrets aren’t members of the same family.
Ferrets are part of the family Mustelidae, which includes badgers, minks, otters, weasels, and martens.
Rats are part of the order of Rodentia, which includes mice, squirrels, and voles.
Ferrets have a larger body size than rats, excluding the rats’ tails. A female adult ferret measures 13-14 inches long, whereas adult males usually grow to 15-16 inches.
Ferrets reach their full size at around the 4-months mark. Full-grown females weigh 1-1.5 pounds, while males weigh 2-2.5 ounces.
Can You Use Ferrets To Catch Rats?
Ferrets have been used to catch rats for centuries, and some people still use them for rodent control today. Ferrets are natural ratters that are skilled at hunting (ferreting).
Their small heads and slender bodies allow them to move through small holes when chasing rats. Usually, they consume their prey whole, including skin, fur, and bones. Ferrets also have a fast metabolism, which means they have to eat frequently.
Ferrets are one of the predators that rats fear most. The mere sight or smell of a ferret is enough to discourage rats from living in or entering your property.
How To Train A Ferret To Hunt Rats
You don’t need to train a ferret to hunt rats.
Ferrets will naturally chase down and kill rats and mice. So, they’ll instinctively pursue rats on sight. You can praise and reward your ferret’s behavior to reinforce its instinct.
When they’re young, you can cultivate this by using toys to play together. This will encourage natural jumping, chasing, and biting behavior when interacting with small, prey-like objects. Consequently, those skills will be honed for when it meets a live rat.
Once a ferret is old enough to go hunting (usually at around 10 months), place it in front of a rat burrow, as the ferret will instinctively squeeze itself through the hole in search of prey.
Some owners choose to attach bells to ferrets when hunting for rats. This ensures that they can be traced to whatever part of the home or building they enter.
If you see a rat, you can move your ferret toward the rat or catch its attention to draw its eye to the scurrying creature. The prey behavior of a rat should trigger the predatory instincts of ferrets.
Do Ferrets Eat Rats?
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, which means that all their energy requirements are derived from meat. In fact, ferrets require more protein than cats and dogs.
A ferret’s natural diet consists of the following:
When kept as pets, some owners give their ferrets live food, while others feed them an assortment of meats and premium cat food.
Due to food availability, pet ferrets tend to be picky eaters, meaning that they’re likely to kill a rat for the thrill of it and not eat it afterward.
Are Ferrets Better at Hunting Rats than Dogs?
If you’re considering using ferrets for ratting, you may wonder how they compare to dogs, such as Schnauzers and Jack Russell Terriers.
After all, many breeds are known as “rat dogs” or “ratting terriers” due to their natural specialty. In truth, hunting rats with ferrets is more effective than with dogs.
Ferrets have small heads and elastic bodies that can squeeze through tiny rat holes and burrows. This enables ferrets to pursue rats in places where dogs may not reach them. Additionally, they usually eat the entire carcass of their prey after killing them.
Ferrets have sharp claws, which they use for digging and catching prey. Their mouths have 4 sharp canines that can kill rats of every size. Also, they have 12 premolar teeth located at the sides of the mouth, which are used to chew food and cut through flesh.
The back of a ferret’s mouth has 6 molars (2 on top and 4 on the bottom), which it uses to crush food. Also, 12 incisors are located between a ferret’s canines, but these are only used for grooming.
With these natural weapons, there’s no doubt that ferrets are apex rat hunters.
Ferrets will kill any rats they find and deter new rats. Since ferrets are among nature’s most prolific rat killers, rodents know better than to go anywhere near your home.
Rats have a good sense of smell and can pick up the odor of ferret urine. Keeping a pet ferret on your property can be an effective rat deterrent.
Are Rats Scared of Ferrets?
Rats are terrified of ferrets. In fact, according to Behavioral Neuroscience, the smell of ferrets will trigger the release of stress hormones in rats.
This includes the following stress hormones:
Rats will avoid spaces where ferrets are located. Even if there’s ample food, they’ll opt for another home rather than risking an encounter with their natural enemy.
Will the Smell of Ferrets Keep Rats Away?
Rats are deterred by the smell of animals they perceive as predators, including cats, dogs, and ferrets.
However, ferrets have a stronger odor than most pets. Given their powerful olfactory senses, rats can pick on the smell of ferrets. This is paired with cues associated with ferrets, including:
While ferrets are lethal to rats due to their in-built predatory instincts, ferrets aren’t a threat to most healthy humans. The probability of getting ill from handling a ferret is negligible.
Ferrets are skilled at hunting, catching, and killing rats, so they can be used for pest control.