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Stoats as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 1, 2020
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.

You may also be interested in: Marmosets as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

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[1]. 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.

Stoats as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Are stoats legal as pets?

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).

Stoats as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Raising a young stoat as a pet

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.

Stoats as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - A pet stoat's diet

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.

References

1. The Daily Mirror. (2006). Attacked by a Stoat.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/attacked-by-a-stoat-703463

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Nigel Taylor
Hi last week I found a what I thought was an albino pet ferret in my back yard at night in Cumbria I've been trying to get help I now think it might be a albino stoat it's very friendly I either need it renowned or set free is there albino stoats in the wild of Cumbria and would it survive in the wild if it's an escaped pet . Thank you regards Nigel Taylor .
Administrador AnimalWised
Thanks for the comment and good luck with looking after the animal!
Rating:
lance
were can I buy a stoat for the cheapest and for it to be the tamest.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Lance,

Please read this article where we advise against keeping a stoat as a pet. However, if you like the idea of a mustelid as a pet, ferrets have been domesticated and there are many ferrets looking to be homed in animal rescue shelters. Unfortunately, we cannot advise on a given specific location, but if you contact your local animal authority, they will point you in the right direction.
Mandy
Yea so we have this stout named Weasle moved in with us and our two large country dogs last year.yea that’s right,the little wild pain in the butt just made himself at home..we get along fine with him despite his all night partying except one thing.He destroys my garden..why when he isn’t eating it.He pulled all the tomatoes off the plant and made a pile of the leaves.
Rating:
Annette
We had a stoat 11 years in our kitchen, we adopt them when he was just 1-2 days old - 20gramms and blind for 10 days. At first: stoats can clim very very good! I think the best climbing-animal I saw in my life. And yes, it is difficulty to have a stoat as a pet. We never let it together with our cat, better for both. And yes, it is also not so nice for visitor which doesn´t like to get bite from a rappid fur flush : ) I could play with him very good ( the first year I played about an hour a day), I could touch him and he never bites me, but other people, they found it not so amuseing. And we tryed to teach him to do his business in a cat litter, we tryed, but often he did his business not in his place. But we had a very good time and we miss him.
Chris Wright
You may want to re-examine your comment about a Stoat attack on a cat or dog and the cat having a better chance of survival. Most dogs would be to big for a Stoat, and a cat stands no chance in that the Stoat is much much fasert and agile, and unbelievably vicious.
Rating:
Allen
Your advice seems sound and I would not have one as a pet. However, would like to have wild stoats on our wooded property. I saw one once (winter/white coat) and didn't see any ground squirrels for some time after. I like ground squirrels but there are so many of them and rabbits--they are out of balance. Anywhere I can get a breeding pair to let out in the woods? Or, would this be a bad idea?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Allen,

We can understand why it would be lovely to have new fauna introduced to your local area, observing happy animals in the wild is always a pleasure. However, we need to advise you against this for many reasons. Firstly, you cannot predict what will happen to a local ecosystem when you introduce a new animal to it. When an animal is introduced by local authorities it is researched as much as possible and considerable tests are carried out to see if it would be a good idea. Even with this, it is impossible to completely predict what might happen. Stoats can also be vicious hunters, so you need to be extra careful.

Also, it is likely to be illegal. If you have a local wildlife authority near you to whom you can speak, you might be able to suggest it to them. They will be the ones who can determine whether it is a good idea, but bear in mind, it probably won't be.

We're sorry if this is a disappointing answer, but thank you for asking the question and we hope we have provided some food for thought.
Rose
This is the threat New Zealand faces from stoats as an invasively introduced pest. We've lost several of our native bird species to stoats - they are considered a massive risk here and basically a "kill on sight" pest (Upsetting as that may be, we have no natural land predators, and a massive variety of birds, who are very vulnerable to rats/stoats/possums)
https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/pests-and-threats/animal-pests/stoats/
I hope this maybe informs any decision you may want to or have made.
Rating:
Archangel
If anyone asks for a Stoat, just give them a Ferret, they will never know the difference.
Rating:
Anthony Baker
No - the weasel, not the stoat, is the smallest mustelid
Jose Martinez
I would love to purchase one can you send me some shipping prices
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Jose, Thank you for your question.
We actually strongly advise not purchasing a stoat as they are illegally captured wild animals. However, attached is a link on adopting Ferrets as pets, which we recommend is a better option.
https://www.animalwised.com/ferrets-as-pets-guidelines-and-general-tips-479.html

Shipping animals on the other hand always depends on who is shipping the animal, its size and related laws. AnimalWised
Jose Martinez
I understand about the concern about me wanting to purchasinng a stoat.. I really want to save a small mammals. ..can you help me adopt a mink maybe
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Jose,

The same concern goes for mink. They are not properly domesticated and for them to be even a little friendly with humans they need a lot of socialization from a very early age. Generally they are prone to biting and can be a handful. They are intelligent, but not generally obedient to humans. We cannot help you adopt any pets specifically, our international audience is too big to do so. Depending where in the world you live, you can give money to animal rescue organizations, national wildlife trusts or similar if you want to benefit the mink. Having them as a pet is not going to benefit them unless they for some reason cannot live in the wild.
Are you serious
"can you send me some shipping prices" unbelievable
Rating:
Shirley Diana
I have an ermine, not as a pet but as a friendly guest who comes and goes. Herman showed up just after Christmas in his white coat, and has since turned brown (in March) and is about twice as big. He loves to play and is very curious. Tonight he showed up before supper, played hide and seek (or maybe it was peekaboo) for a while, but didn't stay for supper although I wanted to feed him some of my pork chop. He often does this - drives me crazy actually, since I love to feed him bits and pieces! But he doesn't stay to eat; he just comes to play and have a look at me.

I think Herman is a short-tailed weasel, and wonder if that is the same thing as a stoat. I'd love to have him as a pet, but he has never let me get close enough to touch him and I doubt he ever will. If one comes into your house, though, welcome him. For one thing, he will get rid of every mouse in the place! After that, he should have some food available (kibble cat food with a dish of water will do) because I've read that when the rodent population dwindles for any reason, they often starve to death. I won't let that happen to my Herman!
Mandy
Any advise?our little to party animal moved in and we love the little jerk.we too have no desire to ever see him domesticated . We named him Weasle.i didn’t know he could run out of mice and starve so easy,he is the best mouser we’ve ever had.my canine persons don’t eat kibbles so I’m wondering if he can have some chicken liver.how should we feed him so he won’t become dependent or dangerously tame?

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