Ferreting Out an Unlikely Friendship

There’s no doubting that a multi-pet household comes with plenty of challenges, from vet bills and vacation time to just finding some peace and quiet in your home. But for as many cats and dogs living in harmony, the third most popular category of pets in the U.S. lays low and burrows under the radar. Ferrets, members of the weasel family, have gotten a bad rap over the years, with cities and even entire states like DC, California, and Hawaii laying down the law against owning a pet ferret.

The affectionate, playful, and intelligent animal has a reputation for not playing well with dogs, cats, or other animals that may be in the house. Some vets warn that ferrets pose a threat to the other animals in your home, while others believe that cats and dogs are more likely to harm your ferret. Some dogs tend to treat ferrets as a squeak toy, while cats have been known to attack them, surprised by their social aggressiveness. Even playing can end badly–it just takes a dog to shake off a ferret during a wrestling match to injure the inquisitive creature. However, depending on the personality and temperament of both animals, the pets can traverse species barriers and size advantages and become playmates or even best friends.

That’s what happened with Tess Oliver’s Shetland sheepdog, Archer, and his best friend, a ferret named Ash. Natalie Trujillo, who has four other ferrets in her home besides Ash, says that he and Archer bonded the first time they met, but the pup shows no interest in any of the other ferrets. Natalie and Tess introduced Archer and Ash two years ago and the two became fast friends. Though Archer has since grown from his puppy size, he is still gentle enough with Ash to play and help him get the four hours of stimulation that ferrets need daily. Though the pair’s friendship sure is cute, the question of whether to house ferrets with other animals remains hotly debated and contingent on the specific animals’ personalities.

Watch Ash and Archer: A Fun-Loving Ferret

For more on Ash, Archer and other unlikely duos with special bonds, check out this week’s episode of Unlikely Animal Friends, this Saturday, April 30th at 8/7c on Nat Geo WILD.