Mongoose vs Meerkat: 5 Key Differences

Written by August Buck
Published: March 27, 2022
Image Credit John Magnus / Flickr
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While these two animals may belong to the same family, there are quite a few differences between a mongoose vs meerkat. But what might some of those differences be, and how can you learn how to tell a meerkat apart from a mongoose upon first glance? These small, weasel-like creatures can look fairly similar!

In this article, we will discuss all of the differences between mongooses and meerkats. We will go over their appearances so that you can tell them apart physically, as well as their behavioral and habitat preferences. Let’s get started and learn all about mongooses and meerkats now!

Comparing Mongoose vs Meerkat

mongoose vs meerkat
While they both belong to the same family, the mongoose grows larger in both length and weight compared to the meerkat.

A-Z-Animals.com

MongooseMeerkat
Size1-10 pounds; 1-3 feet long1-2 pounds; 10-14 inches long
AppearanceWeasel-like in appearance; typically brown or gray with stripes rarely. Long tail and stubby legs and snoutRodent-like in appearance; tan or brown with eight dark stripes on back. More markings on sides and face
Lifespan10-15 years10-12 years
BehaviorRelatively solitary and capable of digging complex burrows. Communicates primarily through scent glandsHighly social and needs to rely on other meerkats for survival; protect one another in complex burrows
Habitat and LocationAfrica and Asia; hot and tropical areas, though it depends on the species Africa; savannas and scrub land regions

Key Differences Between Mongoose vs Meerkat

mongoose vs meerkat
Meerkats enjoy complicated social structures, while the majority of mongoose species prefer solitary lifestyles.

Millie Bond – Copyright A-Z Animals

There are many key differences between mongooses and meerkats. While they both belong to the same family, the mongoose grows larger in both length and weight compared to the meerkat. Additionally, meerkats enjoy complicated social structures, while the majority of mongoose species prefer solitary lifestyles. Mongooses are also found in both Africa and Asia, while meerkats are only found in Africa.

Let’s discuss some of these differences in more detail now.

Mongoose vs Meerkat: Size

mongoose vs meerkat
The average meerkat weighs only 1-2 pounds total, while the average mongoose weighs anywhere from 1-10 pounds, depending on species.

Cassidy Te/Shutterstock.com

Overall, the average mongoose far outgrows the average meerkat. This is true for both the length and weight of these two creatures. For example, the average meerkat weighs only 1-2 pounds total, while the average mongoose weighs anywhere from 1-10 pounds, depending on species.

While both of these creatures have long and thin tails, the mongoose grows longer than the average meerkat. Mongooses reach 1-3 feet long, while meerkats rarely grow longer than 1 foot total. This is only one of the many differences in the physical appearances of the mongoose vs meerkat.

Mongoose vs Meerkat: Location and Habitat

mongoose vs meerkat
The meerkat resides in Africa only, while the mongoose is found in both Africa and Asia.

Zsolt Biczo/Shutterstock.com

Another difference between the mongoose and the meerkat lies in their preferred habitats and geographical locations. The meerkat resides in Africa only, while the mongoose is found in both Africa and Asia. The habitats of these two creatures can overlap, but it is rare. Let’s talk more about their habitat preferences now.

The meerkat is found in scrub land regions throughout the Kalahari Desert, while mongooses prefer dry or tropical habitats. Some mongoose species enjoy living in water and trees, while all meerkats prefer living in dry and hot locations. However, both of these species live in complex burrow systems more often than not, and this keeps them safe from the arid and dangerous desert climates they inhabit.

Mongoose vs Meerkat: Appearance

mongoose vs meerkat
Mongooses come in a variety of colors such as gray and brown, while meerkats are typically only found in shades of tan.

Oscar David Toledo Marin/Shutterstock.com

You can tell a mongoose apart from a meerkat by studying a few key differences. Mongooses look very similar to weasels, while meerkats look more like gophers. The fur of the meerkat is typically lighter than the fur of the mongoose. Mongooses come in a variety of colors such as gray and brown, while meerkats are typically only found in shades of tan.

Meerkats have stripes on their backs and sides, while mongooses are rarely striped. If a mongoose is striped, these stripes will be on their tail. Meerkats often appear masked, with markings around their eyes, while mongooses do not often have markings such as this. The snout of the mongoose is more elongated than the snout of the meerkat.

Mongoose vs Meerkat: Behavior

mongoose vs meerkat
All meerkats are highly social individuals that rely on one another for their survival, While most mongoose species live solitary lifestyles without the help of other mongooses.

iStock.com/slowmotiongli

There are a few differences in the behaviors of mongooses versus the behaviors of meerkats. All meerkats are highly social individuals that rely on one another for their survival, While most mongoose species live solitary lifestyles without the help of other mongooses. Additionally, mongooses communicate primarily through scent glands, while meerkats use a variety of vocal cues and sounds. 

All meerkats utilize a series of complex burrows in order to survive in the harsh desert climate of the Kalahari Desert. These burrows keep them warm in the harsh nighttime climate, and cool during the heat of the day. While some species of mongoose also create burrows and holes in the ground, many other species live in trees or in dens that they steal from other animals. 

You may not know this, but another difference in the behavior of mongooses versus meerkats lies in the fact that mongooses have a natural resistance to snake venom. Meerkats do not share this same level of resistance (though they still have some venom resistance), and are in fact often the victim of snake bites and snakes in general. Mongooses eat a variety of snake species, given their natural resistance to venom. 

Mongoose vs Meerkat: Lifespan

mongoose vs meerkat
While their lifespans appear similar upon first glance, the mongoose lives slightly longer than the meerkat on average.

dwi putra stock/Shutterstock.com

A final difference between mongooses and meerkats is their lifespan. While their lifespans appear similar upon first glance, the mongoose lives slightly longer than the meerkat on average. For example, mongooses live an average of  10 to 15 years, while meerkats live an average of 10 to 12 years.

meerkat_9
A Meerkat.
John Magnus / Flickr
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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