Posted: March 1, 2009, 5 a.m. EST
Q: We just bought a 4-month-old ferret. Her name is Grace, and she is awesome! I am getting a cockatoo (large, white parrot) soon for my husband's birthday. While I was shopping for a perch for the bird, I told the owner of the store that I had just brought home a ferret. She said I needed to get rid of the ferret or it would kill the bird. She also said it could kill my dog, which is a Shih Tzu. Are these claims true?
A: I have an umbrella cockatoo, dogs, cats, ferrets and more pets. That being said, the dogs generally steer clear of the cockatoo. The dachshund, bred for hunting, avoids the bird, and the German Shepherd loves the bird and even lets the bird groom him (never unsupervised).
The ferrets and the bird have never met, because they are never out at the same time. I would worry that the bird could hurt the ferret due to the ferret’s curiosity and a parrot’s need to defend itself from prey.
There is no reason different pets can’t all learn to live in the same house, as long as safety rules are followed. Your ferret and cockatoo should never be out at the same time and the parrot’s cage must be out of the ferret’s reach. The dog must leave the parrot alone or risk getting hurt. I would not let them be together unsupervised, the same goes for the ferret and dog.
When the bird has time out of its cage on a stand or with the family, then the dog should be leashed and/or next to an adult. The dog can be taught to “leave it” when on leash or when the bird is in the cage and the dog gets too close. Remember, a cockatoo is a large parrot and can easily crack a nut with its beak, so injuring a ferret or dog would be no problem.