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Stoat as a Pet: 15 Things You Should Know Before Getting One

Kristin Hitchcock

While stoats aren’t legal in all places, they have become increasingly popular as pets in the last few years. This is largely due to their presence on social media, where they commonly star in cute videos.

However, there are quite a few things you should know about a stoat before you decide to adopt one. They aren’t as simple to own as other pets. In many cases, they don’t really act like pets at all. We’ll discuss some of the key things you should understand below.

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1. They’re Quite Aggressive

Stoats are naturally territorial. Anywhere they live, they will consider their home and territory. They will defend their territory viciously, which sometimes means attacking their owners. While stoats are quite small, they can do a surprisingly high amount of damage. They will bite whenever they feel threatened.

Of course, different animals have different levels of aggressive behavior. But this species has not been domesticated, so attacks are bound to happen at some point.

Victor Parhimchik, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Juvenile_Colin Seddon Shutterstock

They are also carnivorous animals. You may think that larger animals like cats and dogs are safe. However, they have been known to kill animals that are twice their size. In the wild, they regularly kill rabbits and eagles. Typically, this is done by biting the back of the animal’s neck. They will attack cats and dogs when threatened, which will occur when the animal enters their territory.

They cannot climb super well, so some cats are able to escape. This is not true of smaller dogs, though. Even a medium-sized dog can be in danger if a stoat is determined enough.


2. They Are Only Somewhat Like Ferrets

While stoats look a lot like ferrets, they are very different. Stoats are not domesticated in the least, while ferrets have been domesticated for a fairly long time. Stoats are also largely solitary, while ferrets offer companionship. Stoats only interact during mating season, which means they typically won’t be interested in their owners.

Their temperaments are also very different.


3. They Are Not Good With Other Pets

As we somewhat explained in the first section, stoats are not great with other pets. As carnivorous animals, they will hunt just about anything—even things that are quite larger for them.

Stoat, Mustela erminea_Martin Prochzkacz_shutterstock
Image Credit: Martin Prochzkacz, Shutterstock

They are not domesticated, so unlike other pets, their hunting instincts are in full swing all the time. They are perfectly capable of attacking larger animals, like cats and dogs.

Stoats need quite a bit of room to roam around. They cannot be kept in a cage, even though this would make them safer around other pets. Instead, they must be allowed to run around, as they are very active. This makes them difficult to keep with other pets.


4. They Can Be Very “Hangry”

Stoats are not very happy when they are hungry. They can be downright aggressive and cruel. They need to eat often as well since they are quite small. While they can take down large animals, they are not very good at eating them quickly. They also need to eat quite a bit—up to 60% of their body weight a day. All of this combines for a stoat that is hungry a lot.

You can’t let them graze, though, as they will eat until they make themselves sick. This usually means that you have to feed them often throughout the day.


5. They Don’t Smell Very Pleasant

Similarly, to skunks, stoats can spray a bad-smelling liquid when they are threatened or hunting. Often, this liquid will be aimed at you. They may decide to spray whatever comes into your territory, which may as well be your whole home. If you aren’t careful, a stoat can make your whole home smell like a skunk.

Stoat
Image Credit: TessLuna, Wikimedia Commons

6. They May Be Illegal In Your Area

It is illegal to own stoats in many areas, including the United States. This is largely because they are a serious invasive species. Like other wild animals commonly kept as pets, stoats are often released by people once they realize how much of a handful they are. This can wreak havoc on local environments, especially since these animals are such good killers.


7. They Aren’t Always White

Many people see pictures of beautiful white stoats and assume they always look that way. However, they will look different depending on where they are located and the time of year. Like many species, most stoats have two different coat colors: one for the summer and one for the winter. The animal will molt as it gets cold and turn white. They look very similar to ermines when in this coat.

In the summer, they morph back into a cinnamon color with a white underside. Depending on where you live, these animals may hardly be white at all. Every time they molt, their fur will get everywhere.

Some species of stoat never turn white at all. Instead, they have a “summer coat” all year-round. Their coat often changes in other ways, though. For example, in the winter, it will become denser and warmer.


8. They Are Not Nocturnal

A Stoat
Image Credit: Airwolfhound, Wikimedia Commons

Unlike ferrets, stoats are not nocturnal. They will be active for most of the day. They are extremely active while they are awake. They are also quite smart, which means they can get into trouble if they are not supervised during their waking time. For this reason, they are not best for those that are gone for long periods during the day.


9. They Are Not Domesticated

We’ve said this a few times through this article, but it is worth reiterating. Stoats are not domesticated. While there are a few videos on YouTube of stoats as pets, they are wild animals and have never been kept as pets until recently. For this reason, they are extremely independent and aren’t the type to cuddle with their owners. Instead, they are much more likely to keep to themselves.

This also means that they listen almost completely to their natural instincts, living how they would naturally in the wild. For the most part, this is solitary, defending their territory from invaders. This can lead to a lot of physical attacks, as they will interpret most excursions into their territory as aggressive.


10. They Need A Particular Diet

In the wild, the stoat has a varied diet. They eat almost nothing but meat. However, they are opportunistic predators, so where they get that meat can vary a bit. For instance, they may kill a rabbit one day and a mouse the next. They are not particular about their victims, as long as they get to eat.

Mustela erminea_Stoat
Image Credit: soumyajit nandy from Kolkata, India, Wikimedia Commons

In captivity, this diet can be difficult to maintain. These stoats cannot hunt as they normally would, which means that their owners must feed them a diet consisting of a variety of different meats. These will often need to be common meats that people eat today, such as beef and pork, even though stoats do not eat these foods naturally in the wild.


11. They Will Hunt Even If They Aren’t Hungry

As opportunistic predators, a lot of this predator’s success comes from luck. They take advantage of moments when they come. For this reason, they will often hunt whenever they have the opportunity. They don’t know when they’ll have another opportunity, so they take advantage of any prey they can.

Stoats don’t just kill animals that are smaller than them, though. Often, they will kill animals over 10 times their size. This means cats and even some dogs are at risk. Children may be at risk too, depending on the age and size of the child. While these animals are smaller, they are very ferocious.


12. They Don’t Carry Diseases

A stoat usually doesn’t carry any more risk when it comes to diseases than any other animal. They often carry bacteria and viruses, of course. However, they don’t carry any particularly dangerous diseases when compared to your average cat or dog. These animals are exotic, but they don’t carry exotic germs in most cases.

Stoat_Mustela Erminea head
Image Credit: Keven Law from Los Angeles, USA, Wikimedia Commons

Often, stoats are at risk of similar diseases as cats and dogs. However, this disease may have different symptoms in stoats than in other animals. This doesn’t make the diseases different from those that are apparent in other species.

Overall, there is no greater risk of diseases when you have a stoat as a pet.


13. They Are Extremely Active

Stoats are extremely active. They need to eat so much largely because of their high activity level. They need either a very large cage or room to roam throughout a whole room for this reason. They can be difficult to keep as pets for this reason. It is very difficult to ensure they are getting the proper exercise unless you’re devoting hours a day to exercising them.

A stoat that hasn’t been properly exercised may be more aggressive than normal and can develop health problems. Obesity isn’t terribly common for stoats in the wild, but it can happen in captivity if these animals don’t get enough exercise.


14. Pets Need To Be Raised From A Young Age

Adult stoats that have been caught in the wild are not particularly tame by any means. They are very prone to bite and may be more territorial. You can’t really handle them. If you come into their space, they will likely see you as a threat and may feel cornered, which can lead to aggression.

Stoat in the wild
Image Credit: Airwolfhound, Wikimedia Commons

Stoats that are raised from kits are often tamer, as they have grown up around people. While they will still have natural instincts, they wouldn’t have grown up using them. This makes them calmer, though you may still have trouble handling them with much success.

There are no stoat breeders that we could locate. This means that most stoats kept as pets are not raised from kits, which often means they’re wild. Instead, they were likely captured as adults. This makes finding a somewhat tamed stoat extremely difficult. The only way most people are able to locate a tamed stoat is to find an abandoned one in the wild, which is extremely rare.


15. Stoats Are Often Considered Invasive

Stoats are considered an invasive species in many areas. They are often illegal to own in these areas, as the stoats don’t need to be introduced further into the local environment. If baby stoats are found in the area, they are often not released back into the wild. Instead, they usually stay at wildlife centers. Alternatively, some of them can become pets. However, because pets are illegal in these areas, the owners need to be registered wildlife rehabilitators

Often, it is these people that post the videos to YouTube. They aren’t your average pet owner. Instead, they’re taking care of the stoat because it has nowhere else to go. Stoats are a lot of work, and the training a wildlife rehabilitator goes through can be highly beneficial to taking care of a stoat.

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Featured Image: camdhud, Pixabay

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!