Mink vs Ferret! Whether you’re trying to find your latest unique family pet, or you just don’t know the differences between these two similar mammals, there’s a lot to learn.
Both the mink and ferret belong to the Mustelidae family of mammals. But the ferret is more suitable and more common as a domestic pet.
Some minks are kept in captivity, but have much more complex care needs than ferrets. So, minks are often only found in zoos or other animal care facilities, not in family homes.
Mink vs Ferret – What’s the Difference?
The mink and ferret both belong to the Mustelidae family, as we already know. Both are carnivorous, and have been domesticated for certain purposes.
But, whilst the ferret is mostly kept as a family pet, minks are usually either wild, kept in captivity, such as in zoos, or farmed for their fur.
Another key difference is that the mink is a mammal, but the ferret is a subspecies of mammal. Ferrets are a domesticated form of the European Polecat.
Although both the mink and ferret look quite similar, there are some key differences that make the ferret a better pet.
Let’s take a closer look.
Mink vs Ferret – Appearance
Minks and ferrets both share relatively similar appearances. This is because they are from the same family of mammals.
Both animals are slender and sleek with small rounded ears and pointed teeth. They have short, soft coats and quite long tails.
In terms of size, the wild mink and domesticated ferret are quite similar.
Ferrets tend to grow to an average of 20 inches long (excluding the length of their tail!), and can weigh between 1.5 and 4.5 pounds.
Wild minks usually grow to around 23 inches in length, although those bred for fur farming are often a little shorter, averaging at 19.5 inches.
Wild minks are usually lighter than farm-bred ones. They tend to weigh around 2 pounds, with farm bred minks weighing much more, even as much as 7 pounds.
The ferret tail tends to be about 5 inches long. But, the mink’s can be anywhere from 5 to 9 inches.
Mink vs Ferret Coat Colors
One of the most popular physical traits of the mink is their lovely fur. It’s glossy, and a popular choice for the fashion industry – a focus of many animal rights groups.
Ferrets have a similar short, soft coat. Although, unlike the mink, the ferret is not farmed for their fur.
Both animals come in similar colors.
They can vary from a pale white, to a chocolatey brown, to a deep black.
They can even have mixed colors and markings.
Ferret vs Mink Temperament
Out of the two, ferrets are more suited to life as a family pet. They are curious, playful, and can form very strong bonds with their owners.
However, it’s important to handle them from a young age and socialize them with people well in order to encourage the best temperament.
They are social little mammals that often are happiest when living in small groups. However, some individual ferrets may need to live alone – it will depend entirely from one to the next.
Minks are not domesticated animals. They are very territorial. Males will often fight other males in their territory, but may be accepting of females.
Although they will usually share the ferret’s natural inquisitiveness, they are less likely to enjoy human company and cuddles.
If you’re looking for a small pet to form a strong bond with, the ferret is a better choice.
Mink vs Ferret Proper Habitat
The mink and ferret both belong to the same family of carnivorous mammals.
Minks are native to North America but can be found across the world. They prefer living near rivers or in wetland, often by the coast or in marshland.
Ferrets, on the other hand, generally choose to live on grassy plains in the wild.
Minks usually live in dens, close to water. Many choose to make their dens in rabbit warrens.
Similarly, wild ferrets will live in tunnels, often those dug by other animals like prairie dogs.
The shelter of tunnels and dens provides both mammals a safe, warm place to raise kits.
Minks kept in captivity need plenty of space to mimic their natural habitat, including a large body of water. Whereas ferrets can be kept as family pets, needing less space.
Ferret Space Requirements
Like any pet, the more space you can offer the better. But, as a minimum, the PDSA recommends a 10 square foot area.
You can fill this with things to entertain and stimulate your ferrets.
Including, tunnels, tubing, toys, different layers and light levels, lots of places to sleep, and easy access to food and water.
Domestic ferrets need plenty of space to exercise. You could choose to convert a shed, buy a large cage or hutch, or even dedicate an entire room in your house to your ferrets.
Mink vs Ferret Care
Minks are most often kept in captivity when they aren’t wild, rather than as family pets. They need a lot more space than ferrets to stay happy, and a more complex environment.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the key general care needs of each.
Both mammals are carnivores, so they eat other animals in the wild. However, minks tend to choose larger prey.
Ferrets will be happy eating small insects, raw meats and bones. Specific ferret food is available in some places, but many owners will also feed their ferrets kitten food.
Minks in the wild will often eat fish, small mammals, birds, and eggs. However, in captivity or in farms, their diets will often include meat byproducts, dog or cat food, and more.
Ferrets are very social, so will often need to be kept in small groups. They also have high mental stimulation needs, so make sure you offer them plenty of toys, forms of exercise, and things to explore.
They will spend a lot of their day sleeping, but will need stimulation in their waking hours. And, don’t offer anything too small, as ferrets love to explore with their mouths and are prone to choking hazards.
In captivity, minks should have an environment similar to their natural one, with dens, a large water source, and plenty of space to exercise in.
Mink vs Ferret Health
Minks can live up to 10 years when kept in captivity, but in the wild this lifespan is likely to decrease, due to natural predators, illness and injury.
Ferrets live for a similar time, usually averaging somewhere between 5 and 10 years old.
Common health issues for domestic ferrets include:
- Adrenal cancers
- Heart issues
- Dental issues
The mink is prone to a number of health issues, including:
- Hemorrhagic pneumonia
- Urinary tract infections
- Other bacterial diseases
- Aleutian disease
- Mink viral enteritis
- And more.
Mink vs Ferret – Which Makes a Better Pet?
Overall, the ferret is more suited to life as a family pet. They require less space and less complex environments.
Plus, they are already domesticated. So, with proper handling and care from a young age, a ferret will enjoy human company and cuddles.
Minks need lots more room to explore and run around, and can be very territorial, which can lead to aggression towards you.
If you’re keen to bring home one of these small furry mammals, you will do best seeking out a reputable ferret breeder.
If you’re considering bringing home a new small pet, you might also want to consider the following:
Mink vs Ferret – What do You Prefer?
For most people, the ferret is a more suitable pet. But, which is your favorite?
We would love to hear your opinion about mink vs ferret in the comments!
References and Resources
- Yamaguchi, N. (et al), ‘Habitat Preferences of Feral American Mink in the Upper Thames’, Journal of Mammalogy (2003)
- ‘The Ideal Home for Your Ferret’, PDSA
- Biggins, D. (et al), ‘Evaluating Habitat for Black-Footed Ferrets: Revision of an Existing Model’, Recovery of the Black-Footed Ferret: Progress and Continuing Challenges (2004)
- Biggins, D. (et al), ‘Habitat Preferences and Intraspecific Competition in Black-Footed Ferrets’, Recovery of the Black-Footed Ferret: Progress and Continuing Challenges (2004)
- ‘Fur Farms’, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture (2014)
- Kobrunner, D. (et al), ‘Insight into Husbandry Conditions, Health and Behavior of Pet Ferrets (Mustela Putorius Furo) Among German-Speaking Ferret Owners’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2010)
- Hildebrandt, H. ‘Bacterial Diseases of Mink’, MSD Veterinary Manual (2014)
- Hildebrandt, H. ‘Viral Diseases of Mink’, MSD Veterinary Manual (2014)