Mink vs Ferret: 5 Main Differences Explained

Mink vs Ferret

Written by Heather Hall

Updated: September 27, 2022

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Minks and ferrets are two adorable, somewhat similar members of the weasel family Mustelidae, which includes polecats, minks, stoats, martens, badgers, and wolverines. But while minks are of the genera Neogale and Mustela, ferrets are a subspecies of Mustela only. There are some other important, different features between the two mustelids, too.

Ferrets are domesticated European polecats (Mustela putorius), and only ferrets are kept as pets. Minks are too wild to be pets, although they are used for ratting, and European minks (Mustela lutreola) are more related to polecats than to North American minks (Neogale vision). They also have distinctions in appearance and behavior. Let’s go over all their differences below!

Comparing Mink vs Ferret

TaxonomyFamily Mustelidae; genera Neogale and MustelaMustela furo
BodySlender, long, small round ears, pointed faces & sharp teethSlender, long, small round ears, pointed faces & sharp teeth
CoatPale white, chocolate brown, dark black, including mixed colors & markingsPale white, chocolate brown, dark black, including mixed colors & markings
Tail5-10 inches5.1 inches
Length/weight12-20 inches; 2-7lbs18-24 inches; 1.5-4.5lbs
Used forFur farming, mink oil, rattingHunting burrowing animals, pet
DietCarnivorous; larger preyCarnivorous; smaller prey
BehaviorTerritorial, solitary, nocturnal, semiaquaticTerritorial, social, crepuscular
HabitatDens in coasts & marshlands in North America & around the worldTunnels in grassy plains in the wild
Lifespan & health issues5-11 years; UTIs, mastitis, hemorrhagic pneumonia & other bacterial illnesses, Aleutian disease, influenza, mink viral enteritis5-10 years; dental & heart issues, parasites, adrenal cancers
Exercise1+ hr/day2+hrs/day

The 5 Key Differences Between Mink and Ferret

Mink vs Ferret: Taxonomy

These two mammals are related in that they are both members of the weasel or mustelid family Mustelidae. Minks can either be of the genera Neogale or Mustela, but ferrets are only of Mustela. The genus Mustela includes minks, polecats, lesser weasels, ferrets, and stoats. It also includes the European mink (Mustela lutreola), the ferret (Mustela furo), the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), and the European polecat (Mustela putorius). The genus Neogale has mustelid that is native to the Americas, also known as New World weasels, including the American mink, Neogale vison.

Mink vs Ferret: Tail

Ferrets and minks have very similar body shapes, proportions, lengths, and weights, especially if they are raised in similar conditions. Domesticated ferrets and farm-raised minks tend to be heavier than their wild counterparts. Minks’ tails, however, tend to be longer than ferrets’ tails.

Mink vs Ferret: Used for

Both related mustelid species can get into tunnels, find and fight small burrowing animals, and they have similar fur. The mink can take down bigger prey animals than the ferret can, just as when hunting for food. But whereas the ferret became a popular pet, the mink continued to be used for fur farming, mink oil, and ratting.

Mink vs Ferret: Behavior

Minks and ferrets can both be territorial and fight over space. Ferrets need less space, though, and they are also more social, doing best when living in groups and needing 2 hours of exercise or more a day. Minks are solitary except for mating or raising offspring, will easily fight other minks, but need only an hour of exercise a day. They also come out at night, while ferrets come out at dawn and dusk.

Mink vs Ferret: Habitat

The biggest difference in these mustelids’ habitats is that minks live near water and ferrets are land-dwelling. This feature determines where and how they live, as minks create dens on coasts and marshlands. Compare with ferrets who live in tunnels, often taking up the burrows of other small mammals on grassy plains.

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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