Ferrets are not closely related to meerkats. But, because they both have long and skinny bodies, you may find yourself wondering: Are ferrets related to meerkats?
Although there are some similar features, ferrets and meerkats are not related to each other at all. They actually belong to different species, with the only similarity between these two being that they are both carnivores.
Ferrets belong to the mustelid family, which also includes similar animals such as weasels, minks, skunks, and other musk-producing animals.
The polecat is the closest genetic relative to the ferret. They are so close that some areas in the world have crossbred feral offspring colonies between these two types. Polecats have a slightly shorter and broader body shape than ferrets, while their coloring can be similar to ferrets.
When exploring a ferret’s disposition and needs, the closest animal you can compare them to would be a dog. Both of these pets require socialization, as well as daily exercise, along with a proper diet.
Ferrets are mainly a domesticated animal. They are presumed to have been domesticated around 2,500 years ago, when they helped hunt rabbits. However, there are some places in the world where ferrets run feral as hybrids with polecats.
One other type of wild ferret is the black-footed ferret. This type is native to North America and is an endangered species. Ferrets typically come in two body types and a variety of colors and color patterns.
Any pet owner with a ferret will tell you that they are most active during dawn and dusk while sleeping most of the daytime hours. They require a diet high in protein as they are carnivores (and love beef). If they eat fruits, vegetables, or too many carbohydrates, their health can suffer. For instance, avocados can be deadly to ferrets!
These small creatures are curious, fearless, and highly social animals that will bond with their owners. Unfortunately, a domesticated ferret cannot live in the wild as it cannot forage for food on its own. While the hybrids of ferret-polecats thrive, ferrets in North America do not have survival instincts to maintain a proper diet and find shelter to brave the elements.
Ferrets are also emotionally highly complex animals and can even become depressed if they are left alone for too long or are not kept properly.
They have sharp teeth and can bite if they do not have proper training and guidance to know manners. Similar to your domesticated dog or cat, ferrets will need attention and correction during their life to ensure they do not bite or have other negative habits.
One less-known fact about ferrets is how they love to dance. Also known as the weasel-war dance, this activity is a terrific way for a ferret to get exercise outside of its habitat.
Meerkats are small animals that belong to the mongoose family. They are similar in appearance to weasels, but that is where the similarity ends. One of the more distinct features of a meerkat is its upright stance.
They, too, are carnivores, much like ferrets, mainly feasting on insects in the wild. They are highly social animals and will live and thrive in a large group. You will find meerkats in southern Africa. One of the most famous meerkats in pop culture is Timon from the Lion King movie.
When exploring the genealogy of a meerkat, you will find that the mongoose is the closest animal to meerkats. These two animals belong to the same family, but while mongooses eat snakes, rodents, and small animals, meerkats feast on insects, birds’ eggs, fruit, mice, and lizards.
It can get confusing when trying to determine if ferrets and meerkats are related. Both of these animals carry similar characteristics and are alike in size and coloring. However, they belong to different gene families, as you will discover when you begin exploring these two animals, and there are some notable differences.
Knowing the differences between ferrets and meerkats can help potential owners recognize what an animal requires to live a long, healthy life as a domesticated pet. Although Meerkats are not domesticated, ferrets can be a joy to have in your home when they receive proper care and diet.