Domesticated Minks as Pets
Minks closely resemble ferrets which are domesticated versions of polecats. Some people might make the grave mistake of assuming that minks are only marginally different from ferrets and may seek to acquire them as pets. It cannot be emphasized enough that this is not the case. As a staunch exotic pet advocate, I must emphasize that minks can actually be quite nightmarish to care for.
Even more upsetting is the fact that farmed minks in the United States are considered to be domesticated by federal law, despite how dangerous they are for their size. Looks can be deceiving, which is why the belief that animals make better pets when they are domesticated is invalid.
Can I Have a Mink as a Pet?
If you are interested in owning a mink, check your local laws. They are not as readily legal as ferrets, but they tend to be legal in more states than other exotic pets such as foxes, monkeys, and exotic cats. They will likely be covered in laws regarding "furbearers", instead of exotic animal ordinances. As lawmakers are always quick to aid business owners that want to kill animals over those that want to care for them as pets, these legal loopholes might keep them legal unless you are required to be a licensed farmer.
Captive Mink Facts
- They have an average lifespan of about 7 years.
- They can be very playful and even affectionate depending on how they are raised.
- They have less odor than ferrets.
- Animals purchased young make the best pets.
The "Domesticated Mink" in Captivity
Minks are semi-aquatic, predacious, high-octane, voracious mustelids with an extremely fast metabolism. The mustelid group includes ferrets, weasels, badgers, stouts, and other small elongate carnivores that are mostly terrestrial. Unlike ferrets, mink have webbed feet, making them adept swimmers.
Their natural lifestyle consists of waking up, excessively hunting animals that can even be larger than themselves, eating, and going back to sleep. Minks also will catch fish, in addition to mice, rats, squirrels, and even rabbits. Having an understanding of their wild behavior will provide insight into what they require in captivity.
What Does Domestication Mean for a Mink?
The farm-raised mink that are pelted for fashion are domesticated. What does this mean? It means the animal has been selectively-bred, which has led to an alteration of its traits that makes it more suitable for human use. Do not confuse this with lack of aggression, enjoyment of living with humans, or homing ability that people erroneously believe are traits of domestication that make dogs and cats "good pets", as opposed to an exotic pet (this results in the indiscriminate persecution of anyone owning an animal that is not considered to be "domesticated").
There are numerous completely undomesticated exotic pets that make better pets than domesticated minks. Like domesticated dogs, minks are altered from their wild forms, possessing smaller brains and other organs such as the spleen. Regardless, the smaller brain size barely makes a difference with the animal’s needs in captivity. When mink are raised for their fur, the design of the mink’s environment in the farm is for optimal profit, not welfare for the animal.
Welfare in Fur Farms
Reproductive success is the only element of which the needs of the fur farmers and the psychological welfare of the animals collide. Farmed minks rarely have access to a swimming pool. One study titled, "Frustrations of Fur-Farmed Mink," in which a sample of minks were assessed to examine if they preferred access to water or toys, found that water is essential to their psychological welfare.
Fur farm minks are also subjected to cramped conditions, even though they are high-energy, continuous hunters. Their incessant pacing might be indicative of stress and inability to satiate their drive. Still, these "domesticated" animals breed and survive enough to satisfy fur farmers. Farmed mink are then dispatched via anal electrocution.
Remember: This Video Is Trying to Make Mink Farms Look Good
Those who want to keep a farmed mink as a pet shouldn't be misled because they are considered domesticated. Continuous predators like mink, spotted genets, weasels, and otters require continuous stimulation compared to a lion, which uses short bursts of energy sporadically and rests most of the time.
Therefore, stopping behaviors such as cage pacing might be difficult, or impossible. The owner must be attuned to the needs of the animal to ensure its psychological welfare, and ready to make changes when something isn’t working out.
Therefore, as one might expect, a cage should be suitably-sized, although not even a spacious cage will offset all the energy of an animal adapted as a high energy hunter. These are not pets to be confined to small ferret cages.
A good rule of thumb would be to start with a 3-level ferret nation-like cage as a minimum, but the smaller the cage, the bigger the requirement for enrichment time outside of the cage, and this can be difficult to provide with animals that are not well socialized and can potentially hurt you.
This is a popular brand of cage that I use with my exotics. The quality of the material is perfect for housing even the most determined mink.
According to Joseph Carter, who is skilled and experienced with training minks (he obtains mink from fur farms and uses them to hunt other animals) it is possible to tame minks well enough to interact with them without gloves, but should you not have time to do this, you will be dealing with an animal that is prone to biting you, and this can require a hospital visit. Minks can bite through the thickest gloves, still causing bloody wounds.
- Minks are also so aggressive that they will attack each other. They can be very determined, attacking large animals with little inhibition and powerful bite force. Minks are also skilled escape artists, so your enclosure must be extremely secure.
- Minks are a notorious invasive species in Great Britain.
- Minks fit all the characteristics that animal rights activists like to spin about ‘non-domesticated’ animals yet they are federally protected as suitable for captivity.
Feeding Pet Mink
Regarding dietary needs, minks are similar to ferrets. Both species need a very high protein diet with low carbohydrate content. A high quality commercial ferret food should form the base of the diet and it can be mixed with high protein cat food. You might want to avoid formulas that contain a lot of fish because this can make their poop smelly. Raw meat can supplement the diet (some owners prefer to feed this exclusively, but it can be messy, nutritionally incomplete, and spread bacteria to the human owner). Feeding whole carcass foods can be enriching for minks. It is completely unnecessary and inhumane to feed live prey.
Interacting With Mink
Whether or not your mink remains tame will depend on the age of the animal, your persistence, and the animal's individual personality. As is the case with most animals, getting them younger helps. Minks raised from an early age often bond to their owners, although they can become aggressive toward people who they are unfamiliar with. Don't let people play with your mink. When mink bite, they may latch on and refuse to let go. They can easily bite down to the bone. Minks are a pet for the adventurous pet keeper who is willing to accept that occasional mishaps may occur.