Mongoose Vs Ferret: What Are Their Differences?

If you’ve ever seen a ferret next to a mongoose, you may have wondered if they were similar. Perhaps you even thought they were the same animal. But did you know they don’t even belong to the same scientific family? So, mongoose vs. ferret: what are their differences? What animals are more closely related to each? Keep reading to find out more!

Are Mongooses and Ferrets the Same?

Are Mongooses and Ferrets the Same

If you were to see a mongoose and a ferret side by side, it would be easy to think that they were closely related–cousins within the same genus of animals, perhaps.

Ferrets and mongooses look similar; they both have long, furry bodies, short, stubby legs, and pointed snouts. 

They are both carnivores. Both can be domesticated and kept as pets. 

The truth is, though ferrets and mongooses are somewhat related, these family ties are not as close as you might expect. 

To get an idea of their differences, we need to first discuss what each animal is. Let’s take a closer look at both mongooses and ferrets in turn.

What Are Mongooses?

The name “mongoose” is actually a blanket term that refers to many closely related carnivorous mammals. To be exact, there are 33 species of mongoose belonging to 14 genera under the suborder Feliformia. 

These small but fierce carnivores will eat just about anything they can find and kill, including poisonous snakes. They are considered destructive pests and, in some places, are banned because of their tendency to destroy native animal populations in an effort to satiate their endless appetite.

Mongooses are native to Africa, Europe, Asia, though they have been introduced in other parts of the world as well, such as the Caribbean islands and Hawaii. They seem to thrive and rapidly grow their populations wherever they are introduced, as they can adapt to a variety of environments.  

Check out this video to learn more about mongooses.

What Are Ferrets?

Ferrets are similar to mongooses, but they are not as genetically diverse. According to Britannica, there are two species of ferrets, and both fall under the mustela genus. 

Ferrets are more easily tamed than mongooses and much more commonly kept as pets. Those found in the wild are not as destructive as mongooses.

At the same time, domesticated ferrets become highly dependent on their owners and will usually die within a few days if they run away or are let loose outside. They are not as adaptable as mongooses are. 

Ferrets are far more easily controlled than mongooses. They are commonly used for ferreting, a practice that involves releasing them into animal burrows to chase out rabbits and other vermin. 

Ferrets are native to Europe but can be found throughout the world. 

Check out this video to learn more about ferrets.

Mongooses and Ferrets: The Differences

We’ve already discussed some of the similarities of mongooses and ferrets; what about their differences? 

Now that you have a better understanding of what each type of animal is, let’s take a closer look at some of their distinctive qualities.

  • Scientific distinction: As noted above, mongooses belong to different scientific families than ferrets do. In fact, genetically, mongooses are more closely related to cats and hyenas, while ferrets are more closely related to dogs.
  • Coloring and appearance: Mongooses generally have slightly larger, more rounded ears, while ferrets have smaller ears and generally longer, smaller bodies. Ferrets have more white, gray, black, and dark brown markings, while mongooses are generally more brownish gray.
  • Family status: Ferrets tend to be solitary, coming together only to mate. The females raise their young alone, and the babies set out on their own when they are mature.

On the other hand, mongooses are highly social pack animals. They live in family groups that grow larger as time goes on, and the babies tend to stay and inbreed with the colony they were born into when they are mature.  

  • Behavior: Mongooses are seen as pests due to their aggressive, destructive, and unpredictable nature. For this reason, they are banned in the United States and other areas. 

Meanwhile, ferrets are not banned in the U.S. because they are more easily tamed and controlled, and those living in the wild are not seen as pests because they don’t destroy populations of existing animals and insects.

  • Foods: Both ferrets and mongooses are carnivores, and they eat many of the same types of foods, including small mammals, birds, eggs, and insects. But while mongooses are most known for hunting and eating poisonous snakes, wild ferrets are most known for eating prairie dogs.

What is the Closest Animal to a Ferret?

What is the Closest Animal to a Ferret

So, if mongooses aren’t closely related, then what animals are?

There are several other animals belonging to the Mustelidae family, including otters, badgers, minks, and martens. Ferrets would be considered cousins to all of these animals.

Specifically, though, ferrets are most closely related to other animals in the Mustela genus. These animals include weasels, stoats, ermines, and polecats.

Ferrets are direct descendents of European polecats, so they are probably most closely related to polecats out of all animals. They are also very closely related to weasels.

Are Mongooses and Weasels the Same?

So, considering the genetic similarities of ferrets and weasels, you may be wondering if mongooses have similar similarities with weasels.

But, as with ferrets, weasels are not closely related to mongooses. Weasels and mongooses are simply different species of mammal, as weasels belong to the Mustela genus while mongooses belong to various other genera. 

In addition, there are physical differences between mongooses and weasels. Weasels are the smallest carnivorous mammal in the world, and most mongooses are significantly larger than weasels.

Weasels are typically brown with white throats and bellies, and they are closer in appearance to ferrets than they are to mongooses. Because of their small size, they hunt and eat generally smaller prey than mongooses do. 


Mongooses and ferrets have many differences, starting with the fact that they belong to different scientific genera. Some other differences include their behavior, appearance, and family and lifestyle habits.

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