Can cats safely live in a home with pet rodents?

I have two rescued feral kittens who are about 9 weeks old and are fully socialized. I’ve been debating whether I should adopt them myself, but the problem is that I already have chinchillas and guinea pigs. The chinchillas are caged; the guinea pigs run around in an enclosed (though not cat-proof) area. Getting rid of the rodents is not an option. The question is, can I keep the cats without endangering the rodents?

I’ve been getting conflicting advice about this. My vet says that he’s heard anecdotally that it can be done, but he does not recommend it. The local Humane Society staff says that given the age of the kittens, it’s completely safe and will continue to be safe, but the Humane Society book (The Complete Guide to Cat Care) says that under no circumstances should this be attempted.

A bit of backstory if it helps: I’ve tried introducing the animals, and the rodents don’t seem at all frightened, just curious or indifferent. The kittens, however, are simultaneously fascinated by and terrified of the rodents. I haven’t seen any hunting body language from them, though they will hiss or strike if the rodents get too pushy or sniffy.

Does anyone have any experience with this type of situation, or do any professionals want to weigh in? I’m really at a loss here. The kittens are as sweet as can be, but they will inevitiably turn into cats. Can you really teach cats not to hunt?

I have anecdotally heard just about everything. Don’t do it. Even if they appear to get along initially, one day “play” behavior will result in a gory mess. Unless you are prepared to come home to that, don’t do it.

If Roy’s tiger, whom he raised for six years from a cub, could attack him unexpectedly on a bad day, also could your kittens do so to the rodents.

As long as the cats don’t choke on the bones, the answer is, “Yes”.

Those are larger rodents, sicne the kittens will get used to them, there shouldn’t be a problem- IF you don’t let the cats outside where they’ll get used to hunting other rodents.

Over the course of 3 months my kids acquired 4 young gerbils and a pair of kittens. We never thought to let the animals all frolic together, especially since we had a mouse living in the kitchen who was sort of a training aid for Arthur (the boy cat). When he was about a year old Arthur spent most of his time outdoors hunting and doing the usual cat thing of leaving us offerings of birds and mice at the foot of the bed. he’d never eat them, but he just loved killing them.

One day, a gerbil got out of her cage in the middle of the night. After a few days we assumed she had either taken up residence with the kitchen mouse as a slave or she had met Arthur and had been buried in the garden.

Soon after that I was watching TV when Arthur came trotting up from the basement. He was carrying a good sized black, furry something in his mouth. Before I could do anything he trotted up to me, hopped up in my lap and spit out the live missing gerbil into my lap. And then he looked at me and meowed and took off.

This and a few other observations suggest to me that cats, and probably dogs for that mater, know the difference between pets and food. If you’ve got kittens they’ll probably not intentionally kill the critters. But God help the rodent that acts anything like a cat toy.

I wouldn’t advise it. Unless you’re prepared to come home to a couple **HUGE **hairballs.

Ok, firstly, i agree with the above, the cats will be perfectly safe :smiley:

The piggies on the other hand will be in great peril i’m sure. I’m not saying it’s impossible that the cats will leave them in peace but personally i’d say it is irresponsible to hope that will be the case.

Trust me, i was irresponsible and although there was no deaths, i now have a skinny pig (hairless piggy) with some serious scarring. And that was from a cat who had never been out and had no way of learning to hunt, it could only have been instinct.

Here’ s your anecdote: I had a cat that would hunt and kill wild rabbits and birds, but ran away from my pet rabbits and birds and never harmed them in all her 17 years. However, you have no way of knowing if your cats will do the same. The simplest solution seems to be to kitty-proof the guinea pig area. You can let the animals mix as long as you are ready to swoop in and save the rodents.

Keep in mind however, that any bite wound from a cat could be fatal. Guinea Pigs and birds do not handle Pasturella multocida very well, and the feline mouth is full of this bacterium.

Thanks, everyone, for your responses so far. I’m very open to any other thoughts or advice. It seems the general answer so far is that mmmmmmaybe it would work, but probably not. That’s basically what I expected; I’m glad to hear I wasn’t so far off base.

What’s strange is that I at first assumed this was a no-brainer; of course you can’t keep cats and rodents. But when my responsible cat owner friends started asking why I wasn’t keeping the cats, they were every one of them surprised as to my reasons. Everyone I know who has had cats (which is most everyone I know) says that the idea that cats can’t be taught not to hunt is a myth. A book I’m reading now (Animals in Translation) says that cats learn to categorize other animals as Food and Not-Food, and can override instinct to do so, provided they learn it young enough, like these kittens are. And yet the professional advice I’m getting says this is just folk wisdom, which is what my gut tells me also. I guess the key here is that cats can learn; they just don’t always choose to obey.

I would be less worried about all this if I didn’t want so badly to keep these two together. I know in a shelter they would have a great chance of being adopted separately. But they’re terrific friends, just inseparable, and I don’t think it’s right to split them up. Yet I know this is handicapping them in terms of their chances of being adopted out of a shelter, and I don’t want them to spend their lives even in a no-kill shelter. Keeping them myself would solve all of these problems, but then there are the piggies and the chinnies to think about.

Sorry; I’m starting to drone on a bit. Any other advice is certainly welcome!

Do you have a cat-only shelter in your area? I work with PetConnection a lot. They would have no problem honoring your request; in fact often twofers are an attraction. Also, PetConnectioon is cage-free.

There is a local no-kill cat shelter; I have a call in to them, but I haven’t heard back yet. I really didn’t think that people would come in looking for two cats, or that the shelters would genuinely honor a request like that. I had the idea that they had to take homes where they could find them. I imagined me dropping the kits off, asking for them to be kept together, and the shelter saying, “…uh, sure, yeah, we could do that.” Then the cats go where they go, together or not. Maybe I’m just being a bit fearful; I don’t have much experience with shelters.

Cat do indeed need to be taught to hunt, but that isn’t all that’s too it.

My cat was taken way too early from her mother. She barely knew how to eat. Well she got past that and became a healthy cat.

But she constantly was bringing home LIVE stuff. She would catch moles, and bird ands mice. She had all the hunting instincts, when she’d spot a bird, her mouth would quiver, her back would huntch up and she could catch animals.

The thing was she had NO IDEA how to kill them. She just kept them in her mouth till we yelled at her to drop it. Before we closed the kitty door, she would bring the live animals in and spit them out in the house, then we’d be chasing a bird flying around our house

So I do not believe cat’s ever lose the hunting instinct, but they do seem to have to be taught in order to kill something.

That said you cat still could cause problems with her claws or accidently injure them trying to play with them.

Since these are large rodents, and since the kittens are so young, I think you would have a good chance of success. It would need a lot of supervision, especially the first year or so when cats are so very, very playful. Once the cats get a little older they calm down a bit and would be less likely to accidentally hurt the little guys.

I had five cats and a cage with a pair of pet rats. One of my cats, Antoine, was fascinated by the rats. He would sit right next to their cage and watch them. They would watch him. He would press his nose against the wire of their cage, and they would come and sniff him, often touching noses. Then one of the rats (oops, guess he wasn’t a he after all) had a litter of babies. Baby rats are very small. Snack sized. Anyway, one day I hear Antoine, who was a bigtime tattle-tell (he was always the one to let us know when one of the other cats pushed out a screen or something and got out), doing his tattle-meow. I went into the room where he was, which was the room where the rat cage was. He was sitting on the floor kinda near the rat cage, meowing and looking at me. Then I saw the little pink blob between his front paws. Ew. I didn’t want to look but I knew I’d have to clean it up. It was obviously one of the rat babies. But then when I bent down to look at it, I realized something. The baby was totally intact. In fact, the baby was totally fine in every way, except probably a little cold and maybe scared. Antoine was just letting me know that he’d fallen out of the cage so I could save him. I put the baby back in the cage and put up some cardboard around the bottom so that the babies couldn’t fall out between the wires anymore. Antoine hopped up into his usual place and resumed his favorite hobby of rat-watching.

Anecdote 2:
Kaia, one day our most ferocious cat (who would probably have chased mailmen if we let her out), was staring quite intently into the rat cage. It was a very determined stare, and since she’s such a smart cat and since she is so strong and good at getting what she wants, my husband and I got a little worried that she was looking at the rats as potential tasty treats, and worried that she might actually find a way to, if not get into the cage, at least injure one of the rats through the bars. Then the rat I thought she was eyeballing moved away, but Kaia’s gaze didn’t follow. That’s when we realized. Kaia was looking into the cage with the idea of getting a snack, for sure. But the snack wasn’t the rats. The snack was the Dorito laying in the cage that we’d stuck in there as a treat.

When I was in kindergarten, I had two guinea pigs in an open-top cage. My family then adopted two kittens. One ignored the guinea pigs completely. The other kitten was fascinated with the guinea pigs, to the point that he would hang out in their pen with them. At first, he was about the same size as they were, but even when he grew into a huge, 18 pound Maine Coon style cat, he’d still hang out in their pen–he didn’t realize he’d become larger than them. I have photos of this somewhere. Pretty cute.

My best friend adopted a feral kitten and had another older cat as well. She had three different guinea pigs in an open-top cage and neither cat ever did anything to any of the pigs.

If you’re that desperate to adopt the kittens and you’re worried about the pigs, how much effort would it take to cat-proof the cage?

The guineas are in a bedroom, along with the chinnies (in their cages). About half the bedroom is fenced off for the pigs, but the area is topless and the barrier is only about three feet high. Strictly speaking, cat-proofing the area is as simple as closing the bedroom door. What concerns me is that inevitable day when I forget to close the door.

And I wouldn’t really say I’m desperate to keep the kitties. Just that I want them to have a good life, even if it means I have to keep them myself. I’d rather inconvenience myself than send them off to a bad home. If that sounds contradictory, it’s because I’m very conflicted about the whole situation.

The question is, Do you feel lucky punk?

In that case I say keep the kitties. While they are kittens, only allow them in the piggie room when you are there to supervise (do that A LOT in the beginning). Close the door when you aren’t able to watch them. Once they’ve gotten used to each other, I don’t think the kitties would actively try to harm the piggies, so even if they got in once in a while it probably wouldn’t be a big deal… but if they played together all the time unsupervised, sharp and pointy and spastic as kittens are, they might accidentally hurt them. Once they’re older I don’t think it would be an issue.