There is no denying that ferrets and chinchillas are as cute and cuddly as pets come. They are both intelligent and are less common than your run-of-the-mill mammalian pets, and so it should come as no surprise that in recent years they have both seen a boost of popularity.
But is it really a good idea to have both of them? Chinchillas and ferrets are very different and the differences between them aren’t minor. Sometimes marrying two different things produces a combination that’s incomparably superior — case in point, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
On the other hand, you can likely think of combinations that simply don’t mix, such as oil and water, or are outright disastrous, such as cats and dogs.
Unfortunately, ferrets and chinchillas often fall into the latter category. There are a lot of factors that make them a bad match under normal circumstances.
Fortunately, however, as long as you account for the significant issues that this pairing raises, you might still be able to find a way to keep both in the same space, albeit separated from one another.
Let’s start with a few basic differences between chinchillas and ferrets to better understand why they are both cute and cuddly in their own way but aren’t necessarily the best playmates.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to chinchillas and ferrets, and one of the big reasons why they aren’t the best match, is the difference in their social skills.
For one thing, ferrets tend not to be as socially active as chinchillas as they grow older. For another, they are predators, and so the combination of their aloofness and predatory nature can cause them to lash out at a chinchilla if they try to disturb their alone time.
In short, if you are only getting one of these animals and want it to be a social one, chances are that you should opt for a chinchilla rather than a ferret. What’s more, chinchillas are a lot less expensive to own than ferrets, especially in the early stages.
Ferrets can cost a lot of money to maintain, what with all of their specialized health and dietary needs. Chinchillas require a fair amount of care as well but the cost is much more affordable than ferrets.
Then there is the fact that chinchillas are far cleaner and a far better choice for people who can’t stand pet dander. Chinchillas are comparatively clean pets and typically don’t require more than a simple dust bath to maintain their coats.
What’s more, chinchillas can be trained to go to the bathroom in a tiny litter pan and their waste doesn’t tend to smell too badly. By contrast, ferrets can be a bit messier and their excrement can be more than a bit odious.
So what happens if you put a neat freak together with a slob? You may that think it’d be an Odd Couple-esque comedy, but in fact it’s much more likely that your ferret’s smelliness will upset the chinchilla.
After all, both of these animals are creatures who base much of their lives based on their sense of smell. A foreign odor from another species is already bad enough but when you have, well, another creature’s strong excremental odor all around your home, it makes sense why chinchillas might not be incredibly enamored with ferrets.
Chinchillas tend to eat timothy hay and formulated pellets and similar things, whereas ferrets, as mentioned above, are carnivores. While ferrets are less picky than chinchillas, the fact remains that to keep them healthy, you’ll need to supply them with meat.
At the same time, to keep your chinchilla from becoming stressed out, you’ll need to make it clear that they aren’t to be your ferret’s breakfast.
Even if your ferret doesn’t “eat” your chinchilla, you don’t want it biting it and causing severe injury because it thinks that it is fair game, and your chinchilla certainly won’t want to live with that kind of existential threat.
All of which brings us back full circle to behavior. While chinchillas are naturally peaceful and like interacting with humans, ferrets are typically a lot more aloof and indifferent.
This doesn’t mean that ferrets can’t be affectionate after you’ve had them for some time, but it does mean that they aren’t as naturally peaceful or ready to make friends as a chinchilla.
Overcoming These Differences
By now, you are probably beginning to see why a ferret and a chinchilla typically aren’t two animals that you’d put together as pets.
While they may both be cute and cuddly, a chinchilla is likely to be a lot cleaner, peaceful, and more sociable, whereas a ferret can leave more of an odor, be more aggressive, and doesn’t have the same immediate need for socialization as chinchillas have with one another and their human owners.
That’s why any attempt to own both of these creatures and make them “get along” is going to require some creative thinking. First and foremost, you absolutely need to find a way to ensure that your ferret doesn’t scare your chinchilla or, worse still, bite them.
The best way to do that is to make sure that the ferret is both well fed otherwise and give it incentives to trust the chinchilla and treat it like a friend in a way that it would not normally do so.
Put another way, it is in a chinchilla’s nature to make friends, whereas with a ferret, you’re trying to use nurture to reshape their nature. In order to do this, you’ll want to introduce the two to one another as early as possible so they have plenty of time to grow up together.
This is especially true when it comes to both parties becoming familiar with one another’s odors. The chinchilla especially needs to learn that this smellier creature with sharp teeth isn’t something to be wary of or wrinkle their noses at, but is in fact a friend.
And nothing solidifies friendship quite like treats. Make sure that you have plenty on hand when you introduce the two to one another and for many sessions afterwards, so that both animals associate one another’s presence with treats and thus think of them positively.
That said, it is probably still best if you keep both the ferret and chinchilla in separate cages. You don’t want the ferret to get the wrong idea due to its instincts and start terrorizing the chinchilla with its sharp teeth and predator nature.
Make sure that both animals have plenty of space both in their cages and your home in general. They may be territorial, so be sure to keep them away from one another’s territory, especially at first.
Any play session needs to be very carefully supervised, and should take place in an enclosed space where neither can escape quickly. Finally, if the two haven’t been gradually socialized over months or even years, it’s probably best to keep them apart. A ferret will most likely see a new chinchilla as a snack.
At best, these animals can be kept in nearby cages and even then, if the ferret can smell the chinchilla, it might start lunging at the cage trying to get to it. In short, while ferrets and chinchillas can theoretically be trained over years to tolerate one another, they aren’t natural friends and introducing one into the other’s space is likely asking for trouble.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house. Growing up, I had pet dogs, cats, deer, sugar gliders, chinchillas, a bird, chickens, fish, and a goat.