A-z - Animals

Are Ferrets Rodents?

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When you walk into the rodent section of a pet store, you're likely to see guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, and ferrets. But are all of these animals actually rodents?

We discuss ferret classification below, from whether ferrets are rodents to the family they belong to.

Are Ferrets Rodents?

Mink baby playing on the grass
Ferrets are not rodents but belong to the weasel family.

© Yasmins World/Shutterstock.com

No, ferrets are not rodents. Although they may look alike, they don't fit the bill of rodents, which includes ever-growing front teeth. Rodents have long, ever-growing incisors, while ferrets have sharp, carnivorous teeth. Another characteristic of ferrets is their long bodies, necks, and tails; their short legs; and their ferocious hunting skills.

Ferrets belong to the weasel family along with weasels, skunks, mink, otters, badgers, skunks, wolverines, raccoons, and gorillas. Some examples of rodents include guinea pigs, rabbits, and beavers.

The main reason people think ferrets are rodents is that pet stores keep them in the same area as rodents like mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs. This may be because they are furry, and pet stores don't usually have a "weasel" section!

It's also important to note that a pet store is not a good place to adopt an animal or receive care information. These stores usually buy their animals from large-scale breeding facilities called factories. You may have heard of Puppy Mill, which is the same concept.

Pet store employees are rarely experts, so most of the time they won't be able to provide you with the correct care information either. Additionally, pet stores sell items labeled animals that are not suitable for them, such as cages that are too small or treats that can cause illness or even death.

It's important to do your research when adopting a pet. Adopt from a rescue, shelter, or reputable breeder.

What is the Difference Between Ferrets and Rodents?

Ferret Teeth - Ferret Teeth
Ferrets have sharp, carnivorous teeth, while rodents have continuously growing incisors.

©cynoclub/Shutterstock.com

Ferrets belong to the genus Mustelidae and the Mustelidae family. All mustelids are small, elongated carnivores. They are thin, with short legs and long spines. Ferrets don't have the ever-growing incisors of rodents, and rodents don't have the elongated build of ferrets.

Also, most rodents are herbivores, while ferrets are fierce hunters. Their prey includes rodents and they should never be kept as pets with rodents.

Other animals in the weasel genus include weasels, skunks, and minks. The Mustelidae family is often called the weasel family, but it expanded to include otters, badgers, skunks, wolverines, weasels, and gorillas.

Whole heart pet food
Ferrets are more closely related to cats and dogs than to rodents!

© Gladskikh Tatiana/Shutterstock.com

Ferrets are not closely related to dogs. However, some people use this analogy when busting rodent myths: ferrets are more closely related to cats and dogs than to rodents! This is because they belong to the order Carnivora , whereas rodents do not.

Like cats and dogs, ferrets have a meat-based diet. They are known as obligate carnivores, like cats. This means their digestive system is designed to process meat, not plant matter. Fiber and complex carbohydrates are hard for them to digest.

Dogs, on the other hand, can process and benefit from plant matter. Their systems can handle carbohydrates, and they benefit from having fruits and vegetables in their diet. Dogs are not true carnivores, but omnivores.

Learn more about the weasel family

To give you a better idea of how ferrets are related, let's take a look at some of their closest relatives:

weasel

The common weasel is the closest relative of the weasel to the ferret.

©axxonlive/Flickr

Weasels are elongated, with short legs and long necks, like ferrets. They are usually brown and white or brown and yellow.

However, ferrets are larger and leaner than weasels, which have longer tails. While both are kept as pets, ferrets have been domesticated — while weasels remain wild.

Weasels eat rodents, frogs, birds and bird eggs. Their biggest predators are humans, who hunt them for their fur. Animals that eat weasels include foxes, snakes, and birds of prey.

The common weasel is the most closely related weasel to the ferret and produces two litters per year. They are known as the smallest carnivores in existence!

Mink

Mink vs. Weasel
Minks are also closely related to ferrets.

©Aleksandra Saveljeva/Shutterstock.com

Mink fur is dark brown with white markings. Their diet includes frogs, salamanders, fish, crayfish and rodents. They prey mainly on water. They are semi-aquatic, so keeping them as pets can be more complicated than keeping ferrets, as they must have an adequate water source.

While both ferrets and minks are domesticated, minks are sadly bred more often for their fur than they are in our homes. Besides humans, other predators of mink include coyotes, bobcats, otters, badgers, and birds of prey.

skunk

Humboldt hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus humboldti) looking for food in Valle Chacabuco, Chilean Patagonia
The skunk is another stinky relative of the ferret!

© Jeremy Richards/Shutterstock.com

Skunks are not as closely related to ferrets as weasels and minks are, but they belong to the same family. Understanding this relationship might better explain why ferrets stink so much!

Like skunks, ferrets have scent glands that release their scent. These are usually removed at a young age, which is called a drop. This procedure also works for pet skunks, although they are less common!

Descent is a controversial procedure because it's an unnecessary procedure with no benefit – it won't even make your ferret any less stinky! Unless your animal must have these glands removed for medical reasons, we strongly advise against it.

It is important to know that ferrets that descend will still smell. They have a natural smell that doesn't go away. Some people wish to bathe their ferrets to get rid of the odor, but this can actually make them stinkier and is only recommended if needed.

Of course, skunks are black with a white stripe on their backs. Although they are physically similar to ferrets, they tend to be stronger. Ferrets, on the other hand, have more trouble with their climbing skills and ability to adapt to tight spaces!

Skunks are omnivores, preferring meat like insects and rodents. When prey is scarce, they eat plants. These scavengers have no problem finding food in human trash, too! They are more adaptable than ferrets when it comes to diet.

The main predators of skunks are birds of prey and canids such as wolves, coyotes and dogs.

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Pet angora ferret on fresh green grass in spring in the park.
Pet angora ferret on fresh green grass in spring in the park.

© Couperfield/Shutterstock.com


about the author


I'm an animal writer for four years with a focus on educational pet content. I wish our furry, feathered and scaly friends the best care! In my free time, I'm usually outside gardening or spending time with my nine rescue pets.

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