Are Otters Rodents? (No. Why Not?)

Otters are well known to love spending most of their time in the water while coming ashore to breed. Their faces resemble a rabbit’s, although their other body features look different. Their bodies are covered with dense fur as an environmental adaptation mechanism. However, are otters rodents?

Although Otters resemble most rodents, it’s very challenging to know their diet because they spend most of their time in the water. We’ve made the work more straightforward for you. In this article are researched answers to most burning questions concerning otters’ behavior and adaptations. Read to learn more.


What are Otters?

Otters belong to the weasel family and are found in most contents except Antarctica and Australia. They are small and characterized by elongated bodies, short ears, soft-dense fur, and long tail. They are around 13 species ranging from small to giant otters.

Most otter species live in freshwater bodies like rivers, wetlands, and lakes. However, some are mainly found in the Pacific Ocean, like sea otters and other small otters. Otters are incredible swimmers due to their exceptional body features that help them swim easily.

Their feet are webbed to help in swimming; their ears are small and close when swimming to prevent water from getting inside. The dense-soft fur helps them to keep their body warm; unlike other sea creatures, their bodies do not have enough fat to make them warm.

What are Rodents?

Rodents are mammals and belong to the order Rodentia. They represent 35% of all mammals globally. Rodents are found in most continents except Antarctica, where they inhibit a variety of habitats. However, they range from semi-aquatic, arboreal, or fossorial. Rodents are also characterized by their pair of growing incisors both on the lower and upper jaws.

Rodents include rabbits, mice, voles, lamming, chinchillas, pocket gophers, prairie dogs, marmots, guinea pigs, hamsters, capybaras, porcupines, beavers, squirrels, and rats. They mainly feed on fruits, dry seeds like cereals, and some vegetables. 

Why are Otters Not Rodents?

Otters are not rodents because they do not have the body character of rodents and belong to a very different mammal order called Carnivora. They belong to the fifth largest order of mammals. On the other hand, rodents belong to the order known as Rodentia. Although otters are not classified as rodents, they also belong to a very different clade.

The world is covered with millions of plants and animals. To quickly identify them, scientists classified them into groups known as taxa. These groups are further divided into more specific groups in a hierarchical order known as the hierarchical taxonomy system.

The topmost group is made up of the largest category, called domain. Within the domain is the second category, known as the kingdom. The other categories in the same specification order include phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The closer the categories shared by the animals, the closer their relationship.

Rodents and otters are both in the same kingdom (Animalia), same phylum (Chordata), and same class (Mammalia).  After this, the relationship stops; otters are in the order Carnivora, while rodents belong to the order Rodentia.

Otters are further subdivided into the Mustelidae family, and rodents could occupy one of the many rodent families.

This shows that otters and rodents are not found in the same family of species.

Are Sea Otters Rodents?

Sea otters are not rodents; they are carnivorous animals that feed mainly on sea creatures that humans value. Sea otters are the heaviest among its weasel family and the smallest among the sea mammals. A fully grown otter weighs approximately 15 and 40 kg (35 and 120 lb).

They love spending most of their time ashore but dive into the water to forage. They love preying on fish, sea urchins, crustaceans, and mollusks. It is the smartest among its family members in that it uses rocks as tools to open the shells of some of its prey.

Sea otters mainly inhabit the regions of the North Pacific Ocean on the northern and eastern coasts. They are well adapted to fit in the environment they spend in. They have dense-soft fur, which helps to offer insulation against the water temperature. They also have small ears which close to prevent the entrance of water. They also have webbed feet and long streamlined bodies for swimming.

Are River Otters Rodents?

River otters are not rodents; they are carnivores and feed mainly on the small fishes found in the rivers and other small prey like sticklebacks. However, although they feed on small fish, they have a variety of diets composed of small river animals that are 3 to 7 inches long.

Such prey includes carp, suckers, and mud minnows. They also feed on salmon and can travel long distances to take advantage of the salmon run.

River otters have a well-developed sense of smell and can notice the concentration of fish upstream flowing to the small water bodies downstream. Although they feed on most of the river animals, they also take advantage of birds, birds’ eggs, small mammals, and fish eggs.

During the winter seasons, the top layers of the water of rivers and lakes usually freeze, leaving space for the otters to hunt and travel under the sea. They have a rapid metabolic system that digests food within a short time, approximately an hour.

River otters are well adapted to live and hunt beneath the waters. Like most aquatic animals, they have streamlined bodies with a webbed fit and long tails. The average fit length of a male adult river otter is approximately 4.5 feet, and they could weigh between 22 to 30 pounds. Most people confuse them with the other river otter cousins, the sea otters.

Although they are rarely seen, these river otters are common in the Washington ponds, rivers, lakes, estuaries, sloughs, and open waters along the coast and bays. In the colder regions, otters occupy regions that are ice-free during the winter season. They mainly avoid polluted water environments but would seek locations with concentrated food sources upstream in the urban areas.


What are Otters Classified as?

Otters belong to the carnivorous mammals in a subfamily known as Lutrinae. They are around 13 species, and they are all aquatic, semiaquatic, or marine. Some live in the saltwater bodies like seas, and others in freshwater bodies of rivers and lakes.

Their primary diet consists of small fish and invertebrates. The subfamily Lutrinae is a subgroup of the Mustelidae family. This family includes badgers, mink, weasels, and wolverines.

The den of an otter is called the couch or Holt. Male otters are boars or dogs, while females are called sows or bitches. Their young ones are known as cubs or pups. The collective noun given to otters is family, bevy, romp, lodge, or raft when in water.

Their feces have a distinctive aroma ranging from putrefied fish to freshly mown hay, known as spraints. Most otters eat fish as their main diet. They supplement this food with crabs and crayfish.

They have a distinctive smart character of using tools like stones to open some of the prey shells. They are active hunters and love chasing their prey in the water and also search food in the water beds.

Where Do Otters Live?

Otters live in wetland environments across the globe in rivers, coasts, and estuaries, except in the Antarctica regions and Australia. They seek out clean waters of rivers to make them a habitat. Due to their faster metabolic rate, they need bulky food for survival, and they could travel long distances in the water searching for reasonable hunting grounds with plenty of food.

They mainly live in habitats where they can eat around 15% of their body weight. They dig underground dens known as holts to live. Therefore, they prefer river banks with soil amenable to digging. They use these dens to raise their young ones, called cubs.

Are Otters Dangerous?

Although they have a pleasant gesture, otters can be dangerous. Keep in mind that otters are mammals in the carnivorous group and have well-adapted teeth to hurt and kill prey. On the other hand, humans are rarely attacked by otters, but they can be overprotective against their young ones and end up hurting you when you cross their boundaries.

Otters have firm jaws that can deliver the required amount needed to cause the required damage to their prey. To fit in their hunting capabilities, otters have a well-built skulls, teeth, and jaws which could crush on the thick exoskeletons of sea urchins.

Final Verdict

Otters belong to a family group known as weasels. They are mainly found in most parts of the content, except Australia and Antarctica. They are carnivorous animals and love feeding on small animals like fish, crustaceans, invertebrates, and many more.

They are made of different species and inhibit aquatic, semiaquatic, and marine environments. They have streamlined bodies, and other body features well adapted to fit and hunt in the water. They are relatively friendly but can be dangerous when provoked, especially when you mess with their cubs.

Disclaimer: This blog should not be considered as being professional pet medical advice. The content published on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult with a licensed and local veterinarian for medical advice.

About Shaun Clarke

Shaun is passionate about pets and animals, especially dogs, cats, and rabbits. He owns a dog and a couple of cats too. He loves visiting wildlife sanctuaries and shares a strong bond with animals. When he is not writing, he loves to do a barbecue in the backyard with his family and friends.