Ferrets are small mammals from the Mustelidae family that people have domesticated since 2,500 years ago.
Historically, people domesticated ferrets for hunting, as the small animals can get down to burrows to chase rabbits out. And now, the adorable ferrets make great pets due to their curiosity and friendly nature.
But can you find other animals similar to ferrets in terms of physical characteristics and behavior? Certainly, yes. Especially other members of the Mustelidae family.
And in this article, we’ll explore these animals that, in one way or another, share similarities with ferrets. You’ll also learn to differentiate these animals from ferrets and know if you can keep them as pets.
But first, a little more about ferrets…
Table of Contents
- What are Ferrets?
- 17 Types of Animals Similar To Ferrets
- 1. European polecats
- 2. Weasels
- 3. Black-footed ferrets
- 4. Wolverines
- 5. Minks
- 6. Martens
- 7. Stoats
- 8. Badgers
- 9. Skunks
- 10. Meerkats
- 11. Tayras
- 12. Fishers
- 13. Civets
- 14. Mongoose
- 15. Polecat-Ferrets
- 16. Otters
- 17. Greater Grisons
What are Ferrets?
Learning a few things about ferrets goes a long way in pointing out the similarities (and differences) they share with other animals.
Ferrets have long, slender bodies and furry tails. An average ferret can measure about 50 centimeters and weigh around 2 kilograms.
They’ve various colorations, including black, brown, white, or a blend of these colors, with white patches on the toes and throats. They’ve cone-shaped noses, short limbs, and long claws.
What’s more, the pets produce a musky odor, which you should be able to tolerate if you want to keep them.
As sleep enthusiasts, ferrets can spend about 18 hours sleeping. And as crepuscular animals, it means they’re active around dawn and dusk hours.
Ferrets live in social groups and like making burrows.
As domesticated animals, ferrets happily coexist with humans at home, except the
endangered black-footed ferret that lives in the wild.
Ferrets are carnivores that munch on small animals since their time in the wild.
But as that lifestyle is no longer available now, they feed on prepared dry foods, although most of it is entirely meat. Some owners, however, try to give the pets a natural diet by providing pre-killed meat, including mice.
17 Types of Animals Similar To Ferrets
1. European polecats
The European polecat is a mustelid native to North Africa and western Eurasia. It inhabits lowland areas, including marshes, and agricultural lands.
European polecats are the most similar animals to ferrets. From body shapes and sizes, from short legs to long claws, these polecats resemble ferrets such that many people often confuse the two relatives.
What’s more, the two animals share a lot in genetics, leading to many people crossbreeding the two to get offspring, called hybrids.
Prime differences between European polecats and ferrets
- Polecats have larger heads than their counterparts
- European polecats have dark noses, while the color is only limited to the face in ferrets
Can you domesticate European polecats?
No, it’s illegal to keep polecats as pets.
Weasels are small, vicious predators, famously known for killing as huge prey as deer.
Although weasels are shorter than ferrets, they share several physical characteristics, including long slender bodies, long tails, and short legs.
Furthermore, weasels are mustelids and carnivorous animals that exhibit a polygamous lifestyle, like their cousins.
Prime differences between weasels and ferrets
- Weasels are shorter than ferrets, usually 40 centimeters
- Weasels have typical red-brown coats with white bellies, while ferrets are black, brown, or a mixture of the colors
Can you domesticate weasels?
It’s not only impossible but also illegal to domesticate weasels.
3. Black-footed ferrets
The endangered black-footed ferrets are small predators that live in central North America.
Because the black-footed ferret shares a name with the ferrets, you’d think the animal also displays several gene similarities with its counterpart, like the European polecat.
But the lack of similar genes doesn’t stop the two animals from resembling each other. In terms of body shape, the two animals look like each other. In fact, you can mistake a black-footed ferret for a typical ferret because of its coloration.
Prime difference between black-footed ferrets and ferrets
- Black-footed ferrets are only found in the wild
Can you domesticate black-footed ferrets?
The animals live in the wild, and you’re not allowed to domesticate them.
The largest of all land-dwelling mustelids, wolverines are scavengers and voracious hunters, known for a badass reputation of going after as big animals as the moose.
Although wolverines look more like small bears than ferrets, the animals have several similarities. First, they share the same family and have similar short legs and round heads. Secondly, wolverines are polygamous and produce a musky odor to resemble ferrets in terms of behavior.
Prime differences between wolverines and ferrets
- Wolverines are way more enormous than their cousins
- Wolverines diet is not limited to meat as they sometimes forage on plant-based foods
Can you domesticate the wolverines?
These voracious predators can’t coexist with humans.
There are two species of minks, the American mink and the European mink, named after their native regions, although you can find American mink in Europe, where it has fled the exploitative fur farms.
Although all minks are slightly larger than ferrets, usually around 55 centimeters, the animals are similar in several respects. Minks are mustelids with body shapes mimicking those of their distant cousins. The minks are also carnivores.
Prime differences between minks and ferrets
- Most minks have dark-colored fur, although you can still brown individuals.
- Minks are bigger than ferrets
Can you domesticate minks?
Minks are domesticated, not as pets, but for their valuable fur.
Martens are weasel-like mammals that inhabit various parts of the world, including North America, Asia, and Europe.
Martens are mustelids and are roughly the same size as ferrets. They also have the body types of ferrets, including long furry tails, round heads, and short legs. And like wild ancestors of ferrets, martens are solitary creatures.
Main differences between martens and ferrets
- Martens can partially retract their claws, while this ability is only an imagination in ferrets
- Although minks are carnivores, they won’t say no to fruits
Can you domesticate martens?
While they make poor pets, it’s illegal to own martens.
Also called ermines, stoats are aggressive mustelids native to Eurasia and some parts of North America.
Stoats share several physical characteristics with ferrets, including slender bodies, short legs, long tails, and non-retractable claws. Stoats also belong to the same family as ferrets, and behavioral similarities include being carnivorous and polygamous, like their cousins.
Prime difference between stoats and ferrets
- The coat color of stoats changes to white, apart from the eyes and tail tip as autumn approaches
Can you domesticate stoats?
Due to their aggressive behavior, the cute animals are not appropriate as pets. Also, stoats are illegal in many US states.
Badgers are stocky, ferocious hunters known for their excellent digging skills.
The eight subspecies of badgers are similar to ferrets in two main ways. First, badgers are mustelids that produce a smelly substance from their anal glands, like ferrets. Secondly, male badgers have multiple partners, like their polygamous cousins. Physical similarities include short legs and ears.
Prime differences between badgers and ferrets
- Badgers are significantly larger than ferrets
- They also have a characteristic black and white striped face mask
Can you domesticate badgers?
No. Badgers are not worth the trouble they can cause.
Skunks are small, docile mammals from the Mephitidae family.
Belonging to different families doesn’t stop skunks from having similarities with ferrets.
Like their counterparts, the skunks have slender bodies, short legs, and long claws. Also, skunks produce a powerful, foul-smelling substance from their anal scent glands, which is one of the reasons why they’re known.
Prime difference between skunks and ferrets
- Most skunks are black and white, although a few individuals are brown or gray
Can you domesticate skunks?
If they’re permitted in your region, you can domesticate them. In fact, skunks are rewarding pets, although they need specialized care.
Meerkats are small, cute, adorable mammals that inhabit the arid deserts of southern Africa.
Although meerkats belong to the mongoose family, they share several characteristics with ferrets. The mongooses have slender bodies, tiny legs with long claws, and are roughly the same size as the ferrets.
Meerkats are also playful creatures and live in large social groups of about 40 individuals, called mobs.
Prime differences between meerkats and ferrets
- Meerkats’ coat color is a mixture of brown and orange
- Meerkats have lightly striped backs
Can you domesticate meerkats?
While you can keep meerkats as pets, they’re hard to raise due to their complex needs.
Tayras are weasel-like mammals native to subtropical and tropical forests of South America except for Paraguay.
Tayras belong to the Mustelidae family and thus have several ferret-like features, including long slender bodies and round ears. And like wild ancestors of ferrets, tayras live in burrows they’ve put no effort into building.
Prime differences between tayras and ferrets
- Tayras are significantly larger than ferrets, usually about 90 centimeters long
- They have short, curved claws
Can you domesticate tayras?
Although playful like ferrets, tayras make poor pets because of their restless behavior.
Fishers are small, pretty aggressive mustelids native to North America.
The carnivorous animals are nothing but huge, wild ferrets with brown coats, fluff tails, long and slender bodies, and small rounded ears. You’d hardly differentiate the two cousins were it not for the size.
Prime difference between fishers and ferrets
- Fishers are gigantic compared to ferrets, usually 83 centimeters
Can you domesticate fishers?
No. Fishers are vicious mammals you’ve no business keeping.
Civets are elusive, mysterious mammals native to the tropical forests of Africa and Asia.
Civets belong to the mongoose family, but some ferrets-like features, including elongated bodies, small rounded ears, and furry tails, are not elusive to point out. Also, the civets, like ferrets, have anal glands that produce a stink-smelling substance.
Prime difference between civets and ferrets
- Civets are significantly larger than ferrets, and their coat color is black with white or yellow markings
Can you domesticate civets?
No, the civets are carriers of the SARS virus.
A mongoose is a small terrestrial mammal from the Herpestidae family.
While the mongoose and ferrets belong to different families, the two animals are similar in terms of appearance. You can easily confuse a mongoose with some ferrets, thanks to their body color, petite legs, and small rounded ears. Also, some mongooses are the same as many ferrets.
Prime difference between mongoose and ferrets
- The mongooses are stocky-bodied
Can you domesticate a mongoose?
While you can keep them, it’s not wise as mongooses are temperamentally unpredictable.
Well, the Polecat-Ferrets hybrid is a cross between wild polecats and ferrets – as the name suggests.
Because of that, the hybrids are similar to the original ferrets in many aspects, especially body shapes, from little legs to rounded ears and heads to coat fur color.
Prime differences between Polecat-Ferrets and ferrets
It’s hard to distinguish the two animals in terms of physical characteristics. However, Hybrids are not easy to handle. In fact, they can ignore their owner.
Can you domesticate Polecat-Ferrets?
Yes, but as mentioned, the hybrids can be a nuisance, especially if they’re more polecats.
Otters are small mustelids classified according to their habitats. They can be semi-aquatic, aquatic, or marine.
All species of otters are related to the ferrets and thus have several characteristics, including long slender bodies, small rounded ears, and short limbs. And, like most mustelids, otters are carnivores. But that’s where the physical similarities end.
Prime difference between otters and ferrets
- Otters have webbed feet as the prime distinguishing feature
Can you domesticate otters?
Yes, so long as you tolerate their loud noise and aggressive behavior.
17. Greater Grisons
Greater grisons are small mustelids native only to the Americas.
The small mammals are related to the ferrets and thus share several of the same physical characteristics, including long slender bodies, short legs, and small rounded ears. Physical features aside, the grisons are carnivores and have powerful odor scent glands, like the ferrets.
Prime difference between grisons and ferrets
- The distinct long necks of grison is the main distinguishing feature.
Can you domesticate grisons?
Grisons make affectionate pets if domesticated at a young age.