Ferrets are cheerful animals that love to play around and explore their surroundings to their hearts’ content. Many people adore having them as pets since every day is a new adventure for them.
However, some people mistake ferrets as rodents because they’re witty creatures that kind of look like a stretched rat. Ferrets are neither rodent nor feline, but actually part of the mustelid or weasel family.
There are many interesting differences between them which you’re about to learn.
Are Ferrets Rodents?
Some people believe that ferrets are a species of rodent because of their size and physical characteristics. Although it’s possible to mistake ferrets as rodents at first glance, there are many traits that separate ferrets from animals, such as mice, guinea pigs, and hamsters.
You must take into consideration their evolution tree, body shape, and family characteristics to understand that a ferret is nowhere close to a rodent.
Different Animal Classifications
Even though both ferrets and rodents are classified as mammals, they are members of different orders. Ferrets are part of the Carnivora Order, which includes animals that consume fresh critters, possess canine teeth or claws.
Because of this, you can say that a ferret is more related to cats, dogs, bears, and raccoons than with rats or hamsters. The characteristics that unite them are their carnivorous instincts and dental structures.
Think of them as far away cousins!
On the other hand, mice and other similar creatures are part of the Rodentia Order. All rodents have the following physical features, such as:
- They have a single duo of incisors in each jaw
- There is space available behind these incisors
- Lack of Canine Teeth
- Their denture is built specifically for gnawing
- They possess a penis bone called a baculum
As you can see, ferrets have no structural characteristics that make them similar to mice, rats, and guinea pigs. Actually, beavers, gophers, squirrels, and chipmunks are animals that truly belong in the rodent family, but people do not realize it.
Ferrets are Mustelids
Ferrets are small creatures that are known as mustelids and share common traits with badgers, otters, minks, wolverines, and skunks. Some zoologists simply say that these animals are part of the weasel family.
Most mustelids have the following attributes:
- Usually they’re modest-sized animals with small legs, round-shaped ears, and elongated bodies.
- Mustelids are nocturnal creatures and tend to be more active at dawn and dusk.
- Not all mustelids hibernate, but their metabolism does decrease when the temperature drops.
- All mustelids are heavy sleepers and sleep between twelve to eighteen hours a day.
- Most have carnivorous instincts but can resort to plant-based feeding when necessary
- They possess thick fur as protection against harsh weather conditions and allows them to regulate their body temperature.
Although all weasel-like species share the previous characteristics, only ferrets have been able to be domesticated. Otters, minks, and wolverines thrive in the wild, and those kept in captivity help repopulate the species. Thus, mice and other rodents do not match the characteristics needed to be portrayed as mustelids.
Pungent Scent: A Particularity Among Ferrets
A unique feature that definitely separates ferrets from rodents is their musky scent. Although most animals in the weasel family release a strong scent, as the skunk does, ferrets have a more manageable aroma that can be reduced with proper hygiene practices.
In regards to the scent, ferrets have numerous amounts of sweat glands distributed all over their face and body. These glands secrete an oil-like substance that maintains their skin and fur healthy but is the cause of the so-called stench.
People who aren’t familiar with the smell might be shocked at first, but it is just a musky aroma. Some people allude this smell to corn products, like stale tortilla chips or old popcorn.
The scent becomes stronger when ferrets get older and are able to reproduce. This is because sex hormones play a huge role in the smell’s pungency. Additionally, the aroma allows them to attract the opposite sex for mating purposes.
However, ferrets also have anal glands that release a foul-smelling odor when they are frightened or mating. Though this strong stench only occurs on rare occasions.
Neutering your ferret will drastically reduce the scent and also decrease the likelihood of many diseases that ferrets suffer as they grow older.
Overall, you can say that ferrets have no attributes similar to rodents, except their small frame and charming and cute personality. Both are great options to have as a pet, but I do prefer ferrets due to their mischievous nature and cuddling instinct. I melt when my ferret snuggles up to me when he wants to play.
Are Ferrets Rodents or Felines?
Ferrets have no common traits with rodents, but they are indeed related to cats and other felines. In the evolution tree, felines and ferrets have common ancestors since they both belong in the Carnivora Order.
All species that belong to his animal classification are most carnivorous animals, or omnivores by default, and possess similar dental structures.
Specifically, they have canine teeth with three incisors located in the upper and lower jaw and lack of a third molar. This jaw structure is built to rip apart flesh without exerting too much force on the bite. Because of this, most animals in this group are cunning and efficient hunters who prey on smaller creatures.
However, apart from this reason, there are no other characteristics that connect ferrets with felines. Both have different body shapes, belong to other animal classes, and possess different personality traits. Therefore, ferrets are associated with felines by evolution lines but are physically different from one another.
Where do Ferrets Live?
It’s a frequent misconception that ferrets are wild animals. A ferret is a creature that was domesticated millions of years ago and will not be able to survive if set free. It was bred from its ancestor, the European polecat, and from this point forward, human households have become a ferret’s true habitat.
However, people confuse your beloved furry companion with the black-footed ferret, which are two different species. The domestic ferret is known as Mustela putorius furo, while the black-footed ferret is Mustela nigripes, an endangered animal originated from the United States.
Both are biologically ferrets, but your pet is a domestic animal, while the other belongs in the wild.
For this reason, animal restrictions on having ferrets as pets are illogical because they will not be able to endure one day on their own. They need the care and devotion of humans to have an appropriate quality of life.
If someone asks if your ferret belongs to the rodent family, you can easily educate them that they are charming and frivolous animals known as Mustelids. Steve Irwin will truly appreciate your intention!