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Can Ferrets Have Catnip? Vet Approved Advice

Jordyn Alger

By Jordyn Alger

catnip plants

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Catnip is a popular way to entertain your pet cat, but what about your pet ferret? Can ferrets have catnip? For those looking for a unique way to entertain their pet ferret, you’ll be happy to hear that ferrets can have catnip. Catnip is considered a safe herb, so there shouldn’t be any issues with exposing your ferret to it.

However, do ferrets even like catnip? And are catnip toys safe for ferrets? If these questions are running through your head, stick around as we explain the answers and more below.


What Is Catnip?

Catnip is also known as Nepeta cataria. It is an herb that belongs to the mint family. This herb is feather-like in appearance, with pale green foliage and purple flowers. It is easy to grow in many parts of North America and is a common sight in American herb gardens.

Catnip has more uses than just feline entertainment. The catnip leaves have been used to make tea, and the flowers have been used in cough remedies. Furthermore, it is often used as an ingredient in natural insect repellants.

Since catnip is a safe herb, giving it to your ferret occasionally is fine. Too much of anything, even a good thing, can be harmful, but as long as your ferret only partakes in moderation, you shouldn’t have anything to be worried about.

catnip plants outdoor
Image Credit: lwccts, Pixabay

Do Ferrets Like Catnip?

Some ferrets love catnip, others are indifferent, and an occasional few will hate it. For the most part, your ferret probably won’t be intrigued by the presence of catnip and may even ignore it. Some don’t seem to care all that much about it. In fact, only around 60% of cats enjoy the intoxicating effects of catnip, so it is possible that similar ratios also apply to ferrets.

Of course, your ferret’s reaction to catnip will vary on a case-by-case basis. If your pet enjoys catnip, there is even a chance that they can experience a cat-like “high” from the herb, making them love it even more. If you aren’t sure whether your ferret likes catnip, try offering a small portion and see how they react!

Can Ferrets Play with Catnip Toys?

Since catnip is safe for ferrets, then catnip toys should be safe too. Right? As logical as that reasoning is, it isn’t always the case. The safety of catnip toys has little to do with the catnip itself; rather, it has to do with the construction of the toy.

Ferrets easily tear toys apart, increasing the risk of them swallowing something they shouldn’t. If your ferret chomps down on cloth, stuffing, rubber, plastic, or other material, there is a chance that a piece of the toy will become lodged in their throat or digestive tract.

Instead of offering a catnip toy (which is designed for cats), look for ferret-specific toys that have your pet’s needs and safety in mind. If you are struggling to find ferret toys to purchase, you can use a pair of old jeans, which your ferret can use as a tunnel to enjoy countless hours of fun. Similarly, you can look for safe DIY toys that you can craft, such as a tunnel maze of PVC pipes.

Ferret licking man's hand
Image Credit: David Vogt Photography, Shutterstock

Can Ferrets Eat Cat Food?

Kitten food is a healthy alternative if you run out of ferret food. Ferrets are carnivorous animals that require high-protein meals to remain healthy. Kittens need more protein than adult cats, so feeding your ferret kitten food can be a viable option. As long as your ferret receives sufficient fatty acid supplements while you feed them kitten food, they should be just fine. Adult cat food would be fine in a pinch, but as it tends to be significantly lower in protein, it is not something we would recommend to use in anything but an emergency.

The table below gives a breakdown of the nutritional information for a popular ferret food, alongside values from a premium kitten and adult cat food.

Ferret Kitten Adult Cat
Crude Protein 38.0% min 34.0% min 27.0% min
Crude Fat 18.0% min 16.0% min 11 – 15%
Crude Fiber 5.0% max 4.4% max 5.7 % max
Moisture 10.0% max 7.5 % max 8.0% max

Of course, commercial ferret food is generally a better option. However, it can be challenging to find unless you order it online, so having backup options is a good plan.

Ferrets can (and will love) fresh raw meat and bones. Because of their high metabolic weight, ferrets need to eat quite frequently, so offer small portions of raw meat at a time to make sure there is none left over to spoil. Variety is key for these curious critters, but always introduce a new food slowly to make sure it agrees with them. When feeding bones, always use larger bones they can gnaw on, nothing small that may splinter, and never feed them cooked bones.

ablino ferret pet being fed
Image Credit: Nikolett Emmert, Shutterstock

Which Treats Can You Give Your Ferret?

If you want to treat your ferret, but catnip isn’t doing the trick, there are plenty of other options. Some excellent treats you can feed your ferret include commercial ferret treats, cooked eggs, or bits of chicken, turkey, and lamb. Avoid grains, vegetables, or sugary foods. All treats should be given in moderation and only make up a small portion of your pet’s diet.


Final Thoughts

Catnip is a perfectly fine herb to offer your ferret, but there is a chance that they will not take much interest in it. A healthy treat may be the better option if you want to spoil your pet. If your ferret goes crazy for catnip, offer it in moderation. While it is a safe herb, ferrets that consume it frequently may experience stomach problems. Before offering anything new to your pet, consult your vet. A professional who knows your pet best will be able to help you come to a well-informed decision regarding your pet’s care.

Featured Image Credit: lwccts, Pixabay

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