Ferret vs. Weasel: Similarities And Differences Explained For Kids

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 17, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Oct 25, 2021
Ferret enjoying walking in city park
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.5 Min

Ferrets and weasels appear to be quite similar.

Not only are weasels and ferrets similar in appearance, but they also belong to the same family. So what exactly is similar or different about these two species?

In this article, we are going to explain everything you need to know. Starting from their difference in appearance to habits and characteristics. If you ever had any confusion about these two species and how they are related, you are going to find all the answers to your questions right here. So sit tight as we take you through the journey with these amazingly cute animals. Read these fun and educational weasel vs. ferret facts that we found just for you.

If you want to read more educational fun facts, then be sure to check out more similar articles right here: moles vs voles and kangaroo vs wallaby, here on Kidadl.

Main Similarities And Dissimilarities Between Weasels And Ferrets

Ferrets and Weasels, although similar animals have many differences. Let us look at everything that makes them different, and also those that make them so similar.

As for similarities, if you looked at these animals side by side, you will see why many people confuse them. They both have long tubular bodies with long necks and tails with short legs. Both of the species have thick fur covering their bodies and strong scents as well. These creatures are very similar in appearance. Not only that, the biggest and perhaps the most important reason why they are often confused with one another is that they belong to the same Mustelidae family. They are both mustelids and that is why they are often mistaken for one another. But if you look past the similarities, you will find a ton of differences between them that will help you identify them.

The first thing to know about ferrets is that they were domesticated almost 2,500 years ago by humans. There are rare species of them found in the wild, but they are mostly domesticated animals. The weasels on the other hand are a species of invasive predators. They are domesticated sometimes but not as much as ferrets, and weasels are still wild animals. Now looking at the differences between their appearances, even though they both have long, tubular bodies, ferrets are longer than weasels by a considerable amount. The average length of ferrets is about 8-18 in (20-46 cm). While the average length of the largest weasel species, the tropical weasel and the long tail weasel, is about 10-13 in (25-30 cm). Most other weasel species are even smaller. They also have different coat colors. Weasels usually have a red-brown or lighter brown coat with white underbellies. Ferrets typically have black-brown or dark brown coats with lighter patterns. Ferrets often have a mixed coat. Ferrets also have typically longer necks than weasels. But weasels have longer tails than ferrets. A ferret's tail is about half the length of its body, while a weasel's tail is often as long as its body. As wild animals, weasels also have different food habits as they hunt and feed on rabbits, snakes, rats, and mice. Although wild ferrets do hunt for prey like rabbits and snakes, the domesticated ones often eat suitable pet food that their owners provide.

What family are ferrets and weasels in?

As we mentioned before, both weasels and ferrets belong to the Mustelidae family.

Since they belong to the same family, weasels and ferrets have a lot of similarities in appearance. This causes people to confuse them sometimes. Other mammals belong in the Mustelidae family as well. Some of these animals are otters, badgers, wolverines, martens, and also minks. The mammals that belong to this family have some common physical and characteristic traits. These animals are all carnivorous. But the ferret is the only mustelid that is predominantly a domestic animal. There are roughly 50-60 species that belong in this family, divided across about eight sub-families. Both the ferret and the weasel belong in the same genus Mustela. They have thick fur coats and share many other physical traits with the other members of the Mustelid family. These creatures are all closely related to each other.

The weasel has a wide range of habitats as they are found across North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. The Black-footed Ferret is a wild ferret species that can be found in North America and they are similar in size to the mink. Other than this, most other ferret species are domesticated all around the world. Weasels, ferrets, and other mustelids are found across the world in the wild. They are all carnivorous mammals. The mink also have a similar diet to the weasel as they also hunt and eat rabbits, snakes, mice, fish, and more. Badgers mostly prey on rodents of different kinds. Wolverines also prey on rabbits and rodents. Otters are a mustelid species that live mostly in water. So, their diet mostly consists of fish, crabs, and frogs, but they also eat crustaceans. As we said, the ferret is the only mustelid that is predominantly kept as a pet and they can also eat special food provided by their owners. However, meat is an important part of their meals. The other types of mustelids are all wild creatures found in nature.

Weasel looking for food

Ferrets Vs. Weasels As Pets

We already said that ferrets are predominantly kept as pets. But what about weasels? Here are some amazing pet weasel vs. ferret facts for you.

Ferrets make for really cute pets. They have long bodies with short legs and adorable faces. Ferrets also have a black-brown or dark brown coat with patterns. They have a pretty thick coat of fur. Ferrets are also very intelligent and social as pets. These creatures live for about 5-7 years on average but can live longer than that. They are kind of fragile in nature and can be hurt easily. So if you have a small child in the house, we recommend you to not get a pet ferret. However, if you are thinking of adopting one, we would suggest you adopt a pair of them, because they get lonely easily. Ferrets nap for most of the day but are very active pets when they are awake. They love to bounce and play around. They have a strong, musky odor that never goes away completely, but the odor is much more manageable if your ferret is neutered. You should bathe them about twice a month since they are naturally pretty clean animals. Ferrets are obligate carnivores and need meat in their diet. They need meat-based protein and fat in their food. Mice and rats are the best food for your pet ferret but if you feel uncomfortable, the only other way is to give them a specialized ferret diet after talking to your vet. Be sure to talk to specialists about how to care for your pet ferret before you get one.

Another member of the Mustelidae family, weasels are much different as pets than ferrets. They have physical differences as well. Weasels are smaller than ferrets but have longer tails. Weasels also have lighter brown or red-brown coats and white underbellies, but the difference does not stop there. Weasels are predominantly wild animals, unlike ferrets. As a result, weasels are not as easy to live with. Smaller children can get hurt if a weasel gets scared as they have sharp claws that may cause damage. Weasels are also harder to train than ferrets. If you want to get this animal as a pet, you need to be well accommodated with them first. Weasels are not good as first pets.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for ferret vs. weasel, then why not take a look at prey animals, or the nocturnal animals list?

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

Read full bio >
Read the DisclaimerFact Correction