Ferret vs. Stoat vs. Weasel: What Are The Differences?

Ferret vs. Stoat vs. Weasel

When considering small carnivorous mammals, the ferret, stoat, and weasel are frequently confused with one another because of their similar appearances. However, each of these creatures has distinct characteristics and behaviors that differentiate them. By gaining an understanding of these differences, you can determine which of these animals may be better suited as a small pet if you are seeking an exotic furry companion.

Habitat and Behavior

Ferrets, scientifically known as Mustela putorius furo, were originally domesticated for their hunting prowess. They excel in human-made environments and are commonly kept as pets in households. Ferrets display playful and social behaviors, making them engaging companions. They are adept at entertaining themselves and exploring their surroundings. Ferrets are members of the Mustelidae family, which includes other animals such as weasels, mink, otters, badgers, stoats, and martens.

Stoats, or Mustela erminea, are indigenous to the northern regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. They inhabit a variety of habitats including grasslands, woodlands, and even arctic tundra. Stoats are solitary creatures with exceptional climbing and swimming abilities. They are renowned for their skill in blending into their surroundings by changing their fur color according to the seasons.

Weasels, scientifically classified as Mustela nivalis, can be found in diverse environments worldwide, including grasslands, farmlands, and forests. They are proficient hunters known for their agility and speed. Weasels, like stoats, are solitary animals and prefer to hunt alone.

Physical Characteristics

A- Ferret

A Ferret

Ferrets are known for their long and slender bodies, measuring approximately 51-61 centimeters in length, including a 5-inch (13 cm) tail, and weighing about 1.5–4 pounds (0.7–2 kg). Their fur is commonly brown or black, with a distinctive mask-like pattern on their faces. Equipped with sharp claws and teeth, ferrets possess excellent hunting abilities. Furthermore, they have exceptional eyesight and a keen sense of smell, making them efficient predators in their natural habitat.

B- Stoat

A Stoat

Stoats possess a compact body, measuring between 18 to 30 centimeters in length. Their fur undergoes a seasonal color change, transitioning from a white coat in winter to a brown coat in the summer months. This adaptive fur coloration aids in their ability to camouflage with their environment. Additionally, stoats have long and slender tails that are approximately one-third of their body length. Stoats are known to be primarily active during the evenings and daytime, in contrast to ferrets who prefer to be active at night or during twilight and dawn hours.

C- Weasel


Weasels are the smallest of the three animals, measuring only 17-22 centimeters in length, with females being typically smaller than males. They usually have red or brown upper coats. Weasels possess a slender and elongated body, allowing them to navigate tight spaces in pursuit of their prey. They have short legs and a bushy tail, which is uniformly brown in color. Their fur can vary between individuals, with brown, white, and black coats being common. Weasels and Stoats share similar coloration and general appearance, although stoats are larger in size.

Differences in Feeding Habits

Ferrets are strict carnivores that require a well-balanced, meat-based diet to maintain optimal health and fitness. According to the RSPCA, ferrets cannot thrive on a vegetarian diet due to their inability to digest large amounts of fiber or complex carbohydrates, such as those found in bread and cereals.

Stoats primarily prey on small mammals, particularly rabbits and water voles when they are plentiful. They also consume small rodents, birds, eggs, fruit, and even earthworms when food sources are limited.

While small rodents like mice and voles are the preferred prey for weasels, they also feed on moles, shrews, tree squirrels, chipmunks, and snowshoe hares. In times of scarcity, weasels may turn to insects, earthworms, frogs, snakes, birds, and bird eggs for sustenance.


The lifespan of a ferret is influenced by various crucial factors, such as genetics, nutrition, activity level, and overall care. On average, pet ferrets typically live between 5 to 7 years. However, with a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper attention, pet ferrets have the potential to live for 10 years or more. The oldest recorded ferret lived to be 14 years old.

In the wild, stoats have a life expectancy of 4 to 5 years, but as pets, some individuals have been known to live up to 10 years

Weasels, on the other hand, typically live 1 to 2 years in their natural habitat, but can live up to 10 years in captivity.

Social Behaviors

Ferrets are highly sociable creatures that thrive on companionship, forming strong bonds with both their owners and fellow ferrets. As pets, ferrets are typically kept in pairs or small groups to prevent feelings of boredom due to their social nature.

On the other hand, stoats are primarily solitary animals that only interact with others during the mating season. They are territorial creatures that mark their boundaries with scent markings. Stoats lead independent lives and generally prefer to avoid encounters with other members of their species.

Similarly, weasels are also solitary animals that prefer to live and hunt alone. They are known for aggressively defending their territory from other weasels and displaying a fierce nature when intruders are present. Like stoats, weasels are not inclined to socialize with others of their kind.

Ferret vs. Stoat vs. Weasel As Pets

While all three animals possess unique qualities, ferrets stand out as the most suitable choice for a pet due to their social nature and adaptability to domestic environments. Ferrets are renowned for their playfulness and their ability to form strong bonds with their owners. However, you need to consider the commitment and responsibility that come with owning a pet ferret, as they require specialized care, proper housing, and a balanced diet.

On the other hand, stoats and weasels are not commonly kept as pets due to their solitary nature and specific dietary and environmental needs. Their wild instincts and territorial behaviors can pose challenges when trying to maintain them in a domestic setting. Additionally, it is worth noting that stoats and weasels are illegal to own as pets in many states or regions. Therefore, before considering bringing a stoat or weasel into your home as an exotic pet, you might first want to verify if they are legal in your area.


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