Meerkats are small burrowing animals from the mongoose family inhabiting the plains of Southern Africa.
These animals have slender bodies with large eyes on their broad heads, tiny ears, pointed little faces, and thin tapering tails.
Meerkats rightly deserve a spot among the most charming animals, with their ability to stand upright on their hind legs as they watch for predators and other behaviors.
Meerkats, however, are not unique. They share some characteristics and behaviors with many other animals in the wild. And to help you identify and differentiate the creatures, this article describes these animals in comparison with meerkats.
Some of the animals similar to Meerkats include Banded Mongoose, Yellow mongooses, Ferrets, Weasels, Minks, Marmot, Prairie dog, Raccoons, Chipmunks, Badgers, Beavers, Wombats, Kinkajous.
13 Animals Similar to Meerkats
1. Banded Mongoose
The banded mongoose is a small, greyish member of the mongoose family mainly found in Africa’s savannas and grasslands. Although a rare scene, you can also find the animal in Asia and Southern Europe.
Banded mongoose share several physical characteristics with meerkats, including pointy faces, long bodies, and tiny ears to make the two animals look alike. What’s more, like meerkats who are always in cooperative packs, banded mongooses live in groups of about 40 individuals.
Also, both animals shelter in burrows as they’re excellent diggers, and are carnivorous, although banded mongoose won’t say no to occasional fruits.
But while the two animals closely resemble each other, you can differentiate them based on color and size. The banded mongoose is bigger, fluffier, and has a longer tail.
2. Yellow mongooses
Also called the red meerkats, yellow mongooses are small mammals that prefer open country and grasslands of Southern Africa.
Yellow mongooses look like meerkats thanks to their tiny ears and pointy faces. Also, both animals are professional diggers, making underground tunnels and burrows for shelter.
Behavioral characteristics that make yellow mongoose similar to meerkats include living in groups and demonstrating cooperation when hunting for prey. They are also carnivores, with termites, grasshoppers, and crickets making most of their diets.
The main distinguishing feature is the tail. Yellow mongooses have a bushy tail that narrows at the tip, unlike their cousins.
Also called fitchet, the common ferret is a small, domesticated species of the European polecat from the Mustelidae family. The animal is found mostly in several European countries, including Spain, Britain, Russia, and also in Morocco in Africa.
Ferrets are similar to meerkats in several respects. They have long, slender bodies with small heads and tiny ears. The bodies of ferrets are also covered with patches. That’s why it’s easy to confuse a ferret for a meerkat or vice-versa.
Again, the fitchets live in social groups, as they like playing together, like their counterparts. Both animals are carnivores, although the ferrets take it too far to include bones in their diet.
Ferrets are, however, not as common as meerkats.
Coming from the same family as the ferrets, weasels, are small mammals that mainly inhabit North America. They like exploring the open fields and forests and sometimes do not shy away from humans as you spot them in urban areas and farmlands.
But you can easily mistake weasels for meerkats. With their slender and elongated bodies, small heads, pointed snouts, short legs, and slim tails that narrow at the tip, Weasels resemble their brothers.
What’s more, like meerkats, weasels live in social groups and are always on and about, never resting while looking for food, mainly small rodents – although they are known to kill larger prey than themselves. And interestingly, weasels demonstrate a rare behavior of meerkats as they can stand up with their hind legs, probably looking for prey and predators.
That makes it hard to differentiate between weasels and meerkats unless you have enough time to examine the color. Weasels are usually brown, with yellowish or whitish underparts, while Meerkats’ color is from the orange color family.
Minks are small, dark-colored mammals from the family Mustelidae, like many animals on our list. They are native to North America and some parts of Europe. As semi-aquatic mammals, minks live near lakes, rivers, and marshes with trees around them.
Despite being semi-aquatic, minks are similar to meerkats in several ways. Both have slender and elongated bodies, pointy snouts, short legs, and sharp claws. Also, minks are carnivores and proficient tree climbers like their cousins.
The prime difference between the animals, apart from the color, is minks are nocturnal creatures that only live in groups during mating season.
Marmots are massive, heavy ground squirrels native to mountainous and plain regions of North America and Eurasia.
Marmots are just but large versions of meerkats, from their appearance. They have small ears, short legs, powerful claws for digging, and long, slender bodies. Both are social animals that prefer living in groups and sheltering in tunnels. They also show similar behaviors, including standing upright on their hind legs to scan the surroundings – but in case of danger, marmots bark while meerkats whistle.
The prime difference between the animals is marmots are herbivores and are only active during the summer.
7. Prairie dog
The prairie dog is a ground squirrel species endemic to grasslands and plateaus of North America.
Contrary to their name, prairie dogs resemble meerkats, from the Short legs, small ears, tiny tails, and sharp, strong claws that make the animals experts at digging like their counterparts.
Prairie dogs also demonstrate several similar behaviors to meerkats, as the animals are social animals. However, the rodents take it too far, living in dense colonies containing about 400 million members, living in swaths of land in Texas as per Britannica.
Additionally, both animals shelter in burrows, although prairie dogs dig sophisticated tunnels compared to the simple ones built by meerkats. But unlike meerkats, prairie dogs are herbivores.
Raccoons are small mammals from the Procyonidae family and are native to North America. You can also find them in various parts of the world, inhabiting different habitats, including swamps, forests, and urban areas.
While unrelated, raccoons share several physical characteristics with meerkats, including color variations, short legs, small ears, and pointed faces. Behavioral similarities exhibited by these small mammals include living in groups, as they’re all social animals. And like, meerkats, raccoons are agile tree climbers.
But unlike the carnivorous meerkats, raccoons eat anything they find, including vegetables and small mammals. Raccoons also have bushy ringed tails, and their fur is shaggy and coarse.
Chipmunks are small, cute, and playful members of the squirrel family. They are native to forested regions of North America, although the Siberian chipmunk species is endemic in Asia.
Chipmunks bear a close resemblance to meerkats as they also exhibit the playful behavior of meerkats, dig burrows for shelter, and are social and live in small groups. However, chipmunks are omnivores and adorn soft, furry coats.
Badgers are small, black-and-white striped mammals belonging to the family Mustelidae, alongside weasels. Found in various parts of the world, these small mammals prefer farmlands, prairies, plains, and wood edges.
Badgers are similar to meerkats as they both have small heads, short legs, tiny tails, and long, slender bodies. Both animals also have sharp claws and live in their own burrows.
But they also show some differences as badgers are solitary animals who only pair during mating season and are omnivores.
The world’s second-largest rodents, the beavers are semi-aquatic animals from the family Castoridae. They are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere and live near water bodies with trees nearby.
Although unrelated, beavers share some physical characteristics with meerkats. With gray to brown fur, the semi-aquatic animals look like most species of meerkats.
Also, both animals have tiny legs and ears. And similarly to meerkats, beavers prefer living in families of about 10 members. You can, however, easily differentiate the two animals, as beavers are way slower and have larger heads than meerkats.
Wombats are muscular marsupials native to Australia, where they range in the woodlands in the hilly regions of the country.
Coming from the family Vombatidae, wombats are not related to meerkats, but that doesn’t stop the two animals from showing similar characteristics and behaviors. Both are short-legged, have small tails and ears, and sharp claws.
And like meerkats, wombats dig and live in tunnels. Some wombat species are Social, living in groups of about 15 individuals in the tunnels. However, it’s easier to differentiate the two, as wombats are much slower than meerkats.
Kinkajous are small mammals from the raccoon family living in Central America, Bolivia, Sierra Madre of Mexico, and SouthEastern Brazil in the Atlantic and Andes forests.
Although from different families with meerkats, the kinkajous share a few notable similarities. Kinkajous are brownish like many meerkats species, making it easy to confuse the two if it were not for the long, prehensile tails of raccoons.
Also, Kinkajous have short legs, like meerkats, and short pointed snouts. Both animals forage in groups, although kinkajous are diurnal and herbivores. The other prime difference is kinkajous don’t dig burrows, but prefer sleeping on trees.