There are several similarities and differences between ferrets and weasels. Though they tend to look alike, these two mammals are not the same.
Ferrets are little and flurry mammals, that have been domesticated about 2500 years ago, though the wild species called black-footed ferret is said to be rare.
On the other hand, a weasel is an invasive predator related to ferrets because they belong to the same family. Ferrets and weasels have certain things in common.
They both have thick furs and strong scents, attracting the females for mating and marking territory. Yes, ferrets and weasels are both territorial mammals.
But those are the only few similarities both mammals have in common. Most times, people confuse ferrets with weasels. In this article, you’ll find the differences and similarities between these two animals.
Food & Diet
Although ferrets and weasels are both carnivores, they feed on different things and have different diets.
Ferrets: Ferrets eat only meat. The black-footed ferret, mostly found in the wild, feeds on small mammals like rabbits, rodents, and hedgehogs. Sometimes they eat birds, fish, and reptiles. However, Domestic ferrets feed on factory-made food.
If you want to prepare a healthy diet for your pet ferret, it should comprise little carbohydrates, 36% protein, and 20% fats.
Weasels: Just like ferrets, weasels feed on meat too. They feed on mice, rats, and rabbits. They occasionally eat bird eggs and birds. Unlike ferrets, however, weasels don’t eat factory-made food.
Depending on their species, ferrets and mammals can be found in different countries due to their very adaptive nature.
Ferrets: The black-footed ferrets (mostly wild) can be found in North America, just like weasels. They were said to be extinct until a few were found. These ferrets were used for a breeding program, and in 2016, they were released into 8 reintroduction sites. However, wild ferrets are still said to be rare in North America.
If you have domestic ferrets, you can put them in cages and allow them to come out for about four hours every day. The wild ferrets, however, build their homes from burrows of other animals and dog tunnels.
Weasels: The most popular weasel (short-tailed) can be found in North America, Asia, and Europe. You can find other species like the long-tailed weasel, tropical weasel, Japanese weasel, Mountain weasel, and African-striped weasel in North America, South America, Japan, Asia, and Africa, respectively.
Unlike weasels that can be found everywhere, ferrets are only common in North America. Weasels mostly live in marshes, meadows, and riverbank areas.
Like other animals, ferrets and weasels have certain behaviors that characterize them. Their behaviors mostly involve daily habits and the different ways they react when frightened.
Ferrets: Domestic ferrets are very friendly and will only sleep when you want them to, unlike the vicious weasels. However, ferrets can sleep for up to 18 hours.
The black-footed ferrets only move at night because they are nocturnal creatures. They like to live, roam, and hunt alone. While they sleep during the day, they spend their night hunting. When they feel frightened, ferrets will make chattering and hissing sounds, and they can stay underground for a week during the winter.
Weasels: Just like the ferrets, weasels sleep during the day and move about at night. Hunting, eating, and storing excess food are the activities that take up a weasel’s time if it’s not sleeping. Since their bodies do not store fats, these mammals are always hunting and eating to stay alive.
The smallest weasel eats up to 60% of its body weight. Yes, weasels eat that much, and it’s essential to note, especially if you want to keep them as pets. Even though weasels can quickly dig burrows for themselves, they like taking over other animals’ burrows and hills belonging to termites.
Ferrets and weasels do not have the same body size. An average ferret’s tail is longer than that of a weasel.
Ferrets: With the size and shape of a zucchini, ferrets usually weigh about 0.5 to 2.5 kg (1 to 5.5 lbs). They also have a head and body length of 8 to 18 inches (20.5 to 46 cm). Ferrets have tails (between 2.5 and 7.5 inches) that are almost half of their body lengths.
Weasels: Although weasels species vary in size, the smallest weasel weighs 1 ounce (25 grams) with a body length of 4 to 10 inches or (11 to 26 cm). This smallest weasel species is said to be the smallest carnivore in the world.
However, large weasels, which includes the long-tailed weasels and the tropical weasels, mostly have a body length of 10-13 inches (25 to 30 cm) and can weigh about 3 to 12.3 ounces or (85 to 360 grams). Their tails can be as long as 4 to 8 inches (10.3 to 20.3 cm), making them shorter than that of ferrets.
As with all mammals who have furs, ferrets and weasels have colorful and attractive furs.
Ferrets: Domestic ferrets can have their fur colors ranging from albino, dark-eyed white, black sable, silver, sable, chocolate, and cinnamon. However, the wild ferrets or the black-footed ferrets don’t have nice fur colors. They don’t have a variety of fur colors—just pale-colored fur and white patches on black feet, throat, muzzles, and forehead.
Another difference between ferrets and weasels is that their furs don’t turn white during the winter.
Weasels: Even though all weasels usually have white furs during the winter, unlike ferrets, they are known for their colorful furs. Their furs are typically gray, brown, and black, accompanied by yellow or white markings. When exposed to ultraviolet light, the fur of the smallest weasel glows with a bright lavender color.
Now that you have known the differences and similarities between weasels and ferrets, we hope you can differentiate them. It’s vital to note that you can only keep the domestic ferrets as pets and not the wild ones, which are the black-footed ferrets.
In the case of weasels, you can’t keep any of their species as pets because they are wild and not domesticated, unlike ferrets.