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Our cats are super cute, and so are many small furry rodents, so maybe they can be friends and live together under our roof? After all, a cute little hamster is just like a cute little cat toy, right?
That’s the problem. There are no two ways about this—small rodents are natural prey for cats. Cats were originally domesticated specifically for being such excellent hunters of mice and rats. Our pet cats share the same instincts and abilities and could easily kill mice, rats, hamsters, and even small bunnies.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t keep the two types of pets together. A lot depends on the cat’s temperament and the age at which you introduce it to small rodents. Some cats are sworn hunters. They may spend their days indoors, but as soon as a moth flies in, the hunt is very obviously on. Other cats are more passive and less likely to try and hunt down other animals. Only you can judge the character of your own Kitty and assess the risks.
Regardless of the cat’s temperament, it is always best to introduce cats to rodents at a very young age. Kittens are far less likely to attack an animal their own size or close to it, and can soon learn to interact peacefully and accept a rat or a guinea pig as part of the family. Size matters down the road as well. The larger the rodent, the safer. Most cats instinctively shy away from attacking very large prey. The rodent’s behavior also plays a big part here.
Scurrying around and running away from a cat is more likely to trigger a cat’s hunting behavior. Relaxed and slow bunnies are safer in that regard.
Cats and Rabbits
Cats and bunnies can get along quite well, according to many owners’ testimonials. Generally speaking, cats are solitary creatures, preferring a companion or two. Rabbits are pack animals and like to establish from hello just who is in charge – and between a cat and a bunny, it’s usually the bunny.
Bunnies have been known to charge a cat during the initial meeting. Once the cat is sufficiently startled and knows his place, the bunny feels confident in a friendship. To keep the meet and greet as safe as possible, first keep Fluffy in his crate or cage. This lets Tiger see Fluffy in action, running up and down ramps or eating. Always provide a cardboard box or other shelter within the cage so Fluffy can hide when she’s had enough cat company. The bunny and the cat will be able to sniff each other and get used to the idea of the company before actually going face to face.
Always keep the cat’s nails trimmed so if he scratches, he can’t hurt Fluffy. Do this about once a month. Even a small scratch, not noticeable to the human eye, can cause an infection.
When they are acquainted and comfortable with each other, and this can take weeks or months, the rabbit can be out of the cage, but keep the cat harnessed and on a short leash for quick retrieval in case a chase starts. A small room is best for the initial play. Cats and bunnies can be friends but supervised togetherness is always best.
Cats and Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs make fun pets but not for cats. Even laid-back, friendly cats can hurt a guinea pig during play. It’s best to put a secure lock on the piggy’s cage so kids and cats can’t open it and to be sure it’s never left not quite closed.
If piggy needs out of the cage playtime, lock the door to his room before letting him out to run. Children will forget to read the note you’ve posted. An open door and a curious cat could be disastrous for a guinea pig.
Cats and Hamsters, Rats and Mice
Hamsters fall into much the same category although since they are smaller, there is a danger that the cat will not just hurt the hamster, but kill and eat it. It’s best to have a wire cage with openings small enough the cat’s paw can’t reach through to terrorize the hamster. Keep the cage locked, as above.
Rats and mice are in a similar situation. Lorie Lewis, owner, and publisher of Kings River Life magazine has had cats, mice, dogs, and rats, all at the same time. “I’ve had cats and rats in the same house for years. You just have to be careful and smart. The best thing is to bring a kitten into a house that already has rats so they can grow up with rats around.”
“Have a sturdy and reliable cage that a rat can’t get out of or just as important, that a cat can’t get open. The bars have to be close enough together and sturdy so rats can’t chew through. It must have a good latch,” she says.
Life in a multi-species household has its challenges, but it can also have unique rewards. Watching cats peacefully interact with smaller critters can be nothing short of inspirational. Just please remember cats are predators and keep the small furries in your household safe.