Stoats as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips
The stoat is of the mustelid family, larger than the least weasel and considered particularly aggressive. Stoats, however, weigh less than 260 grams (9 oz), which gives them impressive and dizzying agility and speed to add to their ferocity. In fact, stoats are capable of taking on and defeating prey twenty times heavier than themselves. Stoats are distributed around the northern areas of the Eurasian and North American continents, living in steppes and wooded alpine areas at low altitudes. They are not endangered animals, but they have been hunted and farmed for their fur.
Undoubtedly fascinating and cute, some have wondered about whether we can keep stoats as pets? With AnimalWised, we look in detail with our guide to stoats as pets, providing guidelines and tips to help you know what to do.
Can you keep a stoats as pets?
The attraction to keeping stoats as pets is obvious when we look at them. Their cuteness and similarities to other companion animals makes us think they might be similarly suitable living companions. When we see stoats in action, we can have an idea of their behavior. Said behavior makes them inappropriate pets.
Short, also known as ermines or short-tailed weasels, are very active animals. They have a lot of energy and can move like lightening, running in and out of small spaces with great ease. Stoats are also very aggressive animals. This is to do with natural territoriality. For both males and females, the area they consider home will be protected at all costs. Even though we let them into our homes, they will consider it their territory.
This aggressiveness will result in physical attack. Stoats have various levels of aggressive behavior. They will bite when threatened. As wild animals which have not been domesticated, this will happen a lot. Although they feel soft to the touch, petting them isn't easy.
Stoats are fierce carnivorous animals, specialized in biting the back of their prey's neck until they draw blood, regardless of whether it's a rabbit or an eagle. The stoat will cling to the back of the attacked animal, as the victim usually won't be able to reach them there no matter if they have paws, claws or wings. Eventually, the wound will widen until the blood flow is unstoppable.
Since stoats can attack large animals twice their size, they can easily take down dogs and cats which are much larger than they. Since keeping stoats as pets is rare, records of them attacking humans are rare. However, attacks on young babies and seniors have been reported. Cats have a greater chance of survival than dogs against stoat attacks. Mustelids can't climb, and cats can often reach the back of their necks with their claws - something that dogs don't find as easy.
The threat to other animals and even humans in the home can be serious, so you will need to keep it in consideration. Stoats will need plenty of space to run around for their own health, so if you cannot do this safely with other animals, it is not advised you keep them as pets. If you like the idea of keeping a pet stoat, check out our article on ferrets as pets. They meet very similar criteria, but are more domesticated and better suited in the home.
Are stoats legal as pets?
We strongly advise against adopting stoats as pets. Not only for the behavioral reasons we mention above, but there aren't any stoat breeding centers that we're aware of. It is not uncommon to confuse mink farms with stoat farms, but minks are a different mustelid species. When you do find stoats for sale, they are usually illegally captured wild specimens. If you buy one, you'll be promoting illegal and harmful wildlife trade.
It is not legal to keep stoats as pets in the USA. In fact, some states also ban ferrets and similar mustelid species. One reason is that these animals are considered a seriously invasive species. When irresponsible owners abandon them, they can have a seriously detrimental effect on the local ecosystem.
However, it's not uncommon to find orphaned stoats. This happens when, for whatever reason, the baby stoat - which is a tiny creature - gets lost, or the mother dies. In these cases it is lawful to save the small one and adopt it, although the best option is undoubtedly to take them to a wildlife recovery center.
Before picking up a young stoat, you need to wait for them to call their mother. If she doesn't appear after a certain amount of time, you should take it upon yourself to save the life of the orphaned stoat.
Raising a young stoat as a pet
The main priority will be feeding the kit milk for stoats and ferrets to hydrate and satiate them. If the stoat kit already has some teeth, you'll have to supplement their diet with tiny pieces of meat, such as slices of turkey or chicken.
An immature stoat will be able to become domesticated in a similar way a ferret. The young pet stoat should be taught to bite softly when playing, and to do their business in cat litter. It should be noted that the stoat is much more active than the ferret, so much more time should be devoted to playing with them. However, even with a certain level of taming a stoat, it will not negate all negative behaviors we have mentioned.
It is much better for the stoat to live in the wild. This is why wildlife recovery centers will be able to help reintroduce them (unless they are considered an invasive species in the area).
What does a stoat look like?
There are more than 30 subspecies of stoat, but by widely generalizing you could put them into two categories:
- Cold climate stoats have two types of colorings, as they molt their fur. During the winter, cold-climate stoats turn completely snow-white, except for the tip of their tail, which remains black. When they are white, stoats are more likely to be called ermines. During the summer, cold-climate stoats are a cinnamon color from head to tail, except for the black tip, and an ivory white on their underside.
- Temperate climate stoats keep their summer coat all year round and they never turn white. However, as is natural, their silky layer of fur becomes denser and warmer during the winter months.
A pet stoat's diet
Wild stoats are essentially carnivorous, although they will consume berries every once in a while. Stoats prey on insects, small and large birds, rabbits, hares, rats and mice, frogs and, in short, any prey that crosses their path.
If you have a stoat as a pet, your vet will give you the guidelines for an adequate diet. It is very important to let a professional give you advice.
Can a stoat live with other pets?
If you've had a pet stoat since they were very young it might be possible to get them to relate to a dog or a cat, although they will always be the boss.
However, you'll find it difficult to get a pet stoat to stop looking at your frightened parakeet or canary as prey, as their appetizing look will draw the preying stoat like a magnet. As we said, stoats can't climb, but they can jump very high and they are perfectly capable of catching birds.
If the stoat has been captured as an adult you will never manage to domesticate them, and they will become a very dangerous guest for you, your family members and your pets. Don't adopt them - stoats prefer to live in freedom. This is the same with other so-called exotic pets such raccoons and coatis.
Keeping stoats as pets is part of a larger trend of a desire to keep wild animals as pets. The problems with this impetus are explained in our video below:
If you want to read similar articles to Stoats as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.
1. The Daily Mirror. (2006). Attacked by a Stoat.