Bringing a small pet into a home with a cat sounds like a recipe for disaster. After all, your feline sees that sweet new hamster or beautifully singing canary as one thing: prey. Let’s be clear upfront- you’ll never be able to trust your cat alone with your small pet. So, if you have visions of viral videos featuring unlikely besties dancing through your head, you may be disappointed. You can, however, create an environment in which both your kitty and your tiny pal can live harmoniously. Keep reading for tips on how to keep your small pet safe from your cat.
Know what you’re getting into
Before you adopt a small pet, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Yes, we’ve all seen the videos of cats and mice snuggling together, but those are very rare exceptions to the rule. Cats are highly predatory creatures.
Even your domestic “never been outside in his life” feline has an incredible instinctual urge to hunt. You’ve likely seen him stalk, pounce, or bat around a toy mouse. Now imagine if that was a real one. Keeping your small pet safe from your cat isn’t necessarily a full-time job or anything quite so dramatic. However, it’s not something you do once and then forget about. Your cat will always want to hunt your tiny pal.
Choose the right small pet
If you’re in the early stages of choosing which pet to add to your family, let me give you a piece of advice: go with something that isn’t natural prey for your cat. Avoid the obvious, such as mice, hamsters, and gerbils. Fish are okay, as long as you secure their habitat (more on that later). A fish in an open bowl, however, is just an invitation for kitty to enjoy some sashimi.
Your best bet is to go with creatures that cats really aren’t all that interested in, according to PetMD. Lizards and turtles are great choices. However, larger rodents like ferrets and guinea pigs make great pets for a household with a cat. In fact, if you’re still holding onto that dream of going viral on YouTube, Roy Cruzen, DVM explains that cats and ferrets can actually bond with each other.
Invest in a secure habitat
Whether you adopt a hamster, bunny, ferret or iguana, the best way to keep your small pet safe from your cat is to invest in a really good habitat. Honestly, buying (or making) the best home for your furry friend should be top priority even if you don’t have a cat. We have a responsibility to give our animal companions a life that’s equal to or better than the one they would have in the wild.
Before you even bring home your new pal, do a little research into the best habitats for his needs. Choose one that includes a lid that securely closes and grates that are close enough together to prevent your cat’s claws from reaching your small pet.
Make proper introductions
Making proper introductions can go a long way towards keeping your small pet safe from your cat. Obviously, you’re not going to sit your cat and gerbil down together in a room and say, “meet your new sibling!” However, you do need to give your cat a chance to satisfy that second basic feline instinct- curiosity.
Supervise their meeting every step of the way and keep them separated by a barrier. For example, you can hold your cat outside your small pet’s habitat and let them sniff each other through the grate. If kitty shows signs that he’s thinking about snacking on your new pal, tell him “no” and remove him from the room. Likewise, if your small pet looks completely terrified and wide-eyed at the introduction of a predator, end the meeting.
Give your cat plenty of attention
It’s natural to want to spend more time with your new pet than with your kitty. After all, you want to get to know each other and form a bond. If you have children, they’ll also be more likely to focus on their new friend than their “old” one.
However, this is the worst thing you can do, especially if you have a particularly spoiled feline that’s used to being the center of attention. Your cat not only has a new prey he’s not allowed to touch, but that also cuts into his time with you. While cats may not necessarily feel resentment the way people do, it’s still a good way to ensure that kitty abhors your itty-bitty guy. So, do yourself and your feline friend a favor, give him the same amount of attention that you did before Mr. Gerbil entered the picture.
Always (always, always) supervise
Last, but so very far from least, always, always, always supervise any and all interactions between your cat and your small pet. Always. Even if Frank the Ferret gets along spectacularly with Cookie the Cat, they should never be left alone together. It only takes a moment for you to lose one pet and forever look at the other in a completely different light.
While most cats and small pets will probably never star in a video of unlikely friends, they absolutely can coexist peacefully together. You just have to be willing to put in the work to make it happen.
About the author: Nicole Etolen is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor of PetsVills.com. She currently has two cats and a dog, both of which lived in harmony with her two guinea pigs for years.