What’s the Difference Between Stoats and Ferrets? (With Pictures)

Stoat vs Ferret

Last Updated on January 20, 2024 by Fumipets

The Difference Between Stoats and Ferrets: Unraveling Two Mysterious Mustelids


The world of mustelids, the family of carnivorous mammals that includes weasels, otters, and badgers, is as intriguing as it is diverse. Two members of this family, stoats and ferrets, often leave people puzzled due to their similar appearances.

However, these creatures have distinct characteristics and behaviors that set them apart. In this exploration, we venture into the enigmatic world of stoats and ferrets, unraveling the differences that make each of these mustelids unique. Prepare to delve into their biology, habits, and the fascinating contrasts between these captivating animals.

Stoats and Ferrets

Weasels, minks, badgers, stoats and ferrets are all members of the Mustelid family of carnivorous animals. These animals all share elongated bodies, short legs, and thick fur as their physical features. Additionally, they are all primarily nocturnal creatures that like leading solitary lifestyles.

Numerous physical similarities between stoats and ferrets may cause some people to mistake them for one another. The two are different from one other in character and temperament, apart from their physical distinctions, and have distinct personalities.

In this post, we examine each species in more detail to see what genuinely distinguishes it from the others.

Visual Differences

While both stoats and ferrets share the Mustelid family’s distinctive short legs, thick coats, elongated bodies, and small, rounded ears, a closer look reveals that the two are pretty easy to distinguish. For starters, the ferret is much longer and larger than the stoat. It also has a distinctive black mask, black paws, and a black-tipped tail. The stoat’s tail is longer than the ferret’s relative to its body.

At a Glance


• Adult average length: 14 to 18 inches

• Adult average tail length: 3-5 inches

• Adult weight range: 1.5-2.5 pounds.

• Lifespan: 5-10 years

• Colors: Sable, brown, silver, chocolate, black, and albino


• Adult average length: 6 to 9 inches

• Adult average tail length: 3-5 inches

• Adult weight range: 1.5-2.5 ounces.

• Lifespan: 4-6 years

• Colors: Brown, red, cream, white

Stoat Overview

Stoats are little but aggressive little creatures that can lift up to 20 times their own weight in prey. Although they are not endangered, they are often found in forested regions throughout North America. They have historically been targeted for hunting because of their stunning fur. They eat many different kinds of prey, such as mice, rats, birds, and even rabbits! The stoat’s coat becomes white during the winter, with the exception of its tail, which always stays black. In the summer, they are reddish-brown with a light brown or cream stomach.

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Due to their high level of activity, stoats are challenging to maintain as pets. They are challenging to control since they have a ton of energy and may move remarkably quickly.

Stoat vs Ferret

Personality / Character

Stoats are very territorial creatures that have a reputation for acting violently when threatened. It is difficult to touch or handle a stoat since both sexes have a reputation for biting. Stoats may typically be domesticated in the same manner as ferrets if they have been nurtured from a young age, or “kit,” when they are simpler to tame and less prone to behave violently.

Stoats prefer to live alone, and in the wild, the sexes don’t interact with one another until to mate in the summer. Males tend to have many dens that they seize from prey animals like rats and rabbits. They are quite territorial and mark their area to keep other males away.

Feeding & Care 🏥

Stoats are very skilled hunters, famed for dispatching prey considerably bigger than themselves with one swift bite behind the head. They mostly consume small animals like rabbits and water voles. They often eat tiny rodents as well, and they are also known to sometimes add eggs, fruit, and even insects to their diet.

Regular organ meats are perfect for this small creature, and feeding a stoat is not very difficult. They often eat heart, liver, and sometimes mice, with the addition of eggs and very little fruit. Given that canned cat food does not meet their nutritional needs, stouts shouldn’t be given it. This is an often recommended alternative for feeding stout people, however they need fresh organ meats to survive.

Stoats and Ferrets

Suitability 👪

The stoat is a challenging pet to maintain and is seldom ever encountered in captivity. Since most states in the United States prohibit keeping stoats as pets, there are no authorized breeders. This implies that any stoats for sale are almost certainly illegal and wild-caught animals. Another problem is when owners release stoats into the wild because they are unable to care for their complex demands, which may have a catastrophic impact on nearby ecosystems.

Ferret Overview

Stoats are much smaller than ferrets, which are normally the size of a small housecat. According to the American Ferret Association, they have grown to be a popular pet in the United States and are the second most popular pet after dogs (AFA). There are no domesticated wild ferrets since they are very uncommon; instead, the great majority of ferrets are domesticated. According to the AFA, if a pet ferret escapes from confinement, it will have minimal impact on the ecosystem since it will only live a short time in the wild.

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Ferrets are not captured from the wild and may live successfully in a domestic setting, despite the controversy surrounding their keeping as pets. They are comparable to a dog or cat in that they are often amiable and simple to care for.

Personality / Character

Ferrets are wonderful pets since they have a lot of personality and character. They are surprisingly bright and simple to teach, gregarious animals that like being around their human relatives. Ferrets are lively, wonderfully amusing tiny creatures with distinct personalities and characteristics that grow and change as they age.

Ferrets are noted for having a broad range of personality types; some are loners who like to be alone most of the time, others are very lively and amusing, and others are similar to tiny dogs in that they love attention whenever they can get it and have enough of it to offer.

Training 🎾

Animals with a remarkable capacity for learning, ferrets are clever and very inquisitive. They are simple to train, can be given simple orders, and pick up on their own names and responses rapidly. Training a ferret effectively requires patience and consistency, as well as a few goodies.

Ferrets have a well-known propensity for biting and nipping, albeit generally playfully, and you should work to break this behavior as soon as you can. There is absolutely no way to break this practice with harsh reprimands or hitting—in fact, doing so would simply make it worse. The best course of action is to ignore the behavior as much as you can; but, if it becomes really out of control, give your ferret a “time-out” in a cage apart from the rest of the family. They will quickly discover that this is a bad habit.

Care & Health

Although ferrets are inherently clean creatures, as any ferret owner can attest, they have a musky smell that persists even after washing. Most domestic ferrets are neutered after weaning and before being sold because they tend to be less stinky. However, taking a bath should be limited to no more than once a month.

Like cats, ferrets must consume a diet rich in animal-based protein since they are obligate carnivores. Grain products and plant proteins should both be rigorously avoided since they may both upset a ferret’s digestive system. A ferret’s optimum diet consists mostly of small animals like mice and rats, with occasional treats of chicken or turkey. If you don’t want to give your ferrets mice, there are commercial diets developed especially for them, although they are rather pricey.

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Suitability 👪

For responsible adults or older children who have the time to dedicate to their pets, ferrets make wonderful companions. They typically need little maintenance, are calm and sociable, and form close bonds with their owners. However, ferrets do not thrive in households with small dogs or cats because they can see them as prey. In general, larger dogs get along very well, but interaction has to be closely monitored. As the lone pet in the house, ferrets thrive.

Stoats and Ferrets Differences; Final Thoughts

Even though they seem to be similar, if you learn more about ferrets and stoats, it becomes clear how they vary from one another in appearance and personality. Stoats are seldom maintained as pets since they are smaller—at least half the size of a ferret—much more active all day long, pausing only periodically to take brief naps.

Contrarily, ferrets make excellent pets since they are sociable, clever, trainable, and domesticated rather than wild-caught. Although less active than stoats, ferrets do have an increased tendency to sleep for longer periods of time. In actuality, they are known to sleep for the most of the day and are most active between twilight and morning. Stoats should not be kept as pets, and in fact, doing so is prohibited throughout the majority of the United States. This means that any stoats you may see for sale were probably captured from the wild since they are difficult to care for and are not bred in captivity. Because they are simpler to care for and are far less active than other pets, ferrets are often bred in confinement.

Q&A: The Difference Between Stoats and Ferrets


What is the primary physical difference between stoats and ferrets?

One of the key physical differences between stoats and ferrets lies in their size. Stoats are generally smaller, with sleek bodies and a length of around 7 to 12 inches, not including their tails. Ferrets, on the other hand, are larger and more robust, measuring around 20 inches in length, excluding their tails.


Do stoats and ferrets have different natural habitats?

Yes, stoats and ferrets tend to occupy different habitats. Stoats are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of environments, from forests to grasslands. Ferrets, on the other hand, are domesticated descendants of the European polecat and are often associated with human habitation, primarily used for hunting and pest control.


Are there variations in their diet and hunting behaviors?

While both stoats and ferrets are carnivorous, their hunting behaviors and preferred prey differ. Stoats are skilled hunters known for their agility and are capable of taking down prey larger than themselves, such as rabbits. Ferrets, although proficient hunters, are typically used for smaller game and pest control, such as rodents.


Can stoats and ferrets interbreed or hybridize?

Yes, stoats and ferrets can interbreed, resulting in hybrid offspring known as “polecat-ferret” hybrids. These hybrids may exhibit a mix of characteristics from both parent species but are distinct from purebred stoats and ferrets.


Are stoats and ferrets domesticated to the same extent?

Stoats are primarily wild animals and are not domesticated. Ferrets, on the other hand, have been domesticated for thousands of years, primarily for hunting and as pets. Domestic ferrets have a long history of living alongside humans and have been selectively bred for specific traits.




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