Do Ferrets Kill Rats? Everything You Must Know

Rat infestations are very hard to deal with. They take over your environment and refuse to leave, leaving many in despair about potential solutions. You may be wondering if ferrets kill rats because you have reached your absolute limit, and we don’t blame you.

It’s frustrating having to deal with rats scurrying around in your walls 24/7. Perhaps they’re on your land, eating your vegetables or disturbing other animals. But there’s no need to fear.

Brown rat on brown ground walking into green water with weeds in it

Ferrets are as good as dogs and cats when it comes to their predatory nature. They are also smaller than the later mentioned, making them an option for a lot of people trying to control pests in their environment.

But are ferrets the best option? We explain everything in this article. From the basics about whether ferrets do kill rats or just hunt them, and alternatives should you choose not to go down that route.

We also talk about the differences between pet ferrets and ones that are bred to hunt and kill rats to help you decide the best option for you.

Can Ferrets Be Trained To Hunt Rats?

Ferrets are part of the weasel family, and considered to be predators of rodents, including rats. This means that they have a natural instinct to hunt rats and will do so instantly given the opportunity.

The FDA says a ferrets lean body makes them perfect for getting into burrows and holes and chasing rabbits and rodents out to be hunted–by themselves, or their owners.

Ferrets hunting rats is so popular a term has been created to describe it: ferreting. This usually involves an owner releasing their ferret to chase a rat, or other rodent, into a pre-estabilshed trap. It has been adapted for wild hunting in recent times, too.

If your ferret was purchased with the direct intention of hunting, you can reinforce behaviors with treats, and use toys to encourage their natural instincts.

Do Ferrets Kill Rats?

Ferrets kill rats instantly due to their predatory nature and natural instincts. They have an enhanced sense of smell which allows them to scout out their prey quickly and easily. Their sharp teeth mean that a rats death will be instantaneous once a succesful bite has been initiated.

Rats are more intelligent than a lot of the prey ferrets would usually target, however. They are also larger, so it may take more time for a ferret to successful bite a rat.

Once the rat has been killed, some ferrets are thrill-killers and will leave it to rot. Others will eat every part of it; including the meat, which is nutritionally dense, as well as the fur and bones.

Is Ferret Hunting Rats A Good Idea?

Ferrets are somewhat popular as a pest control method.

There are even specialist ferret owners in the US who train ferrets for exactly this purpose. They will be bred as hunter ferrets to control pest populations and protect delicate environments.

Some pet owners will even feed ferrets a raw diet consisting of live animals, including rats. This can be beneficial to a ferret as they are obligate carnivores, and at least 70% of their diet should be meat.

If your ferret is domesticated, however, priming them for pest control services might not be in their best interests. There are several for this, some of which we will go into below.


In most scenarios, domesticated ferrets won’t be trained to hunt. This means they will look for prey that can be sourced easily, as well as ones that are generally slow and sluggish.

Rats are usually incredibly fast and highly intelligent, so your ferret probably won’t be catching a healthy rat. They are far more likely to go for a rat that has been slowed down, potentially be being poisoned.

If this is the case, your ferret will consume the same poison as the rat, and the results can be just as fatal. Even if it’s not something poisonous to the rat, if your ferret’s stomach doesn’t agree with what they last ate, it could make them incredibly unwell.


Wild rats are known for being big carriers of serious zoonotic diseases like rabies and bubonic plague. This means they can spread diseases to other humans, which is why most people call pest control for when wild rats invade their living spaces.

But rats don’t just spread these diseases to humans. If bitten or consumed by your ferret, they may also contract these diseases. This could make your ferret seriously unwell, or even be fatal.

While ferrets are vaccinated against rabies, the same cannot be said about the bubonic plague. If they become infected with this, they could transfer it to any human they come in contact with, including you.

Fleas & Ticks

In addition to diseases, rats are incredibly likely to have fleas or ticks on them. This is especially true if your ferret is burrowing to find wild rats in woodland or other vegetation-thick environments, but you should take care regardless of where the hunting takes place.

Even in ferrets that are bred to hunt, you should check their fur afterward to make sure they do not have ticks and treat them for fleas regularly.


If ferrets kill rats, it won’t be without a fight. Rats are larger prey than many that ferrets would go for, and far more intelligent, too.

This could put your pet at risk of being scratched or bitten in the process of hunting the rat. As a predator, they are likely to be successful eventually, but there could be expensive vet bills at the end of it.

White ferret on soil with woodchips and green grass around the outside | Do Ferrets Kill Rats?

Alternative To Ferrets Killing Rats

While ferrets are a valid pest control measure for some people, there are lots of risks involved. If your ferret is a pet and not bred to hunt, you may be understandably concerned about the process.

If you don’t want your ferret to kill rats, there are a lot of alternative methods to remove the vermins from your environment. This may include calling a professional pest control company in your state, but there are other options.

Some other alternatives to ferrets killing rats include:

  • Combinations of hot pepper, onion, chilli and garlic spray
  • Vinegar or amonia soaked cotton pads
  • Essential oils, such as euculyptus and peppermint
  • Citronella
  • Coffee Grounds

Do Ferrets Deter Rats?

It’s a common pest control myth that ferret urine or poop can be used to deter rats. This is because rats are prey, and tend to stay away from anything they associate with being from a predator.

While it may have mild success, urine and droppings on their own aren’t enough. Rats have grown to live with their predators for centuries, so these smells alone aren’t enough.

But ferrets do elicit a pretty unique scent, as any ferret owner will know. And rats have such a good sense of smell they will be able to smell out a potential predator from far away.

A study from 2020 suggests that prolonged exposure to this can cause extreme stress. It may also reduce the reproductivity in rats, which is good from a pest control perspective.

Some rats may still try their luck, even with a present scent of ferrets, but it cuts down on the number considerable.

Ferrets are high maintenance pets, though. If this is your only reason to purchase one we wouldn’t recommend it; but if you already own one, it’s a happy coincidence!


Ferrets kill rats in addition to hunting them, or ferreting them as it is often referred to.

Though it can be tempting to qualm your emotional journey by using a pet ferret, however, this may not be the best route to go down. If they are not specifically bred to hunt, they could get injuries if the rat fights back. Things like transfering diseases and even poison are not completely out of the question.

But that’s not to say ferrets cannot control your rat problem. Even if you don’t use your own, a specialist company or ferret breeder may have ferrets who are trained and can help you.

And, if not, you do not need to suffer in silence. There are plenty of alternative pest control options for rats. Whether that involves a professional service, or more hollistic treatments, like essential oils.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *