House cats are among the oldest domestic animals on Earth. They basically followed domestication of cereals in the Middle East; mice infiltrated human habitation to eat the stored grain, and cats came in to eat the mice. To this day, house cats behave, unlike other domestic animals, as though they are guests who came in of their own volition.

I'm writing about a world that can be considered an alternate Earth, where there is a civilization rising in an area whose biome is a mixture of prehistoric Europe and America. It turns out this biome does still contain a wild cereal that seems suitable for domestication: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegilops

But it does not have house cats for when mice start eating the stored grain; it has the American bobcat, but that is not suitable for domestication.

So what to do about mice? Maybe they need to invent mousetraps early, though will mousetraps work in a grain storage building where the bait will be swamped by the local abundance of food?

Or: ferrets are native to Europe and America, and they eat mice! And they have been domesticated. But reading about ferrets, everyone talks about their use for hunting rabbits, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of discussion about their value in eating mice. Is that because ferrets have some disadvantage that I'm not aware of? Or is it just that this job in our world was already being satisfactorily done by cats, and ferrets would be valued for it in the absence of house cats?

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    $\begingroup$ If I remember right, ferrets are hyper-active and need to constantly eat. in the wild they hunt their entire waking time but being a bunch of dumbos they will often forget the place where they stored all the carcasses and need to start over again. If I'm mistaken, then the documentary I saw was about another similar animal. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Jul 7, 2021 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Green I think that sounds more like shrews and suchlike tiny insectivores? But I could be mistaken. $\endgroup$
    – rwallace
    Jul 7, 2021 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ I can tell you first hand that "fishers" (kind of big ferrets) will kill and store prey like chickens lined up neat as can be on a log (4 to 6 of them) and then seemingly forget about them. $\endgroup$
    – JonSG
    Jul 7, 2021 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @rwallace nope, it was catching prey like bunnies, rats and small birds and hiding them inside dead logs, all piled in a stack. But still, don't count me as a source cause I saw that documentary abut 8 years ago. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Jul 7, 2021 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ Can and did that is why ferrets were domesticated, but note there are many small felids out there. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 7, 2021 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


You want genets!

genet https://petpress.net/10-legal-exotic-pets-that-are-not-dangerous/


It was brought to the Mediterranean region from Maghreb as a semi-domestic animal about 1,000 to 1,500 years ago. It spread from the Iberian Peninsula to the Balearic Islands and southern France.[9] In Italy, individuals were sighted in mountainous areas in the Piedmont region and in the Aosta Valley. Individuals sighted in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands are considered to have escaped or been released from captivity.[10]

Genets are not felids or mustellids but viverrids - mongoose family. I read that the genet came to Europe with the Moors and was favored by them for its mouse and rat killing abilities. It has largely been displaced by housecats but some people still keep genets as pets. They are much more beautiful than ferrets and their semi-arboreal nature would be great for a fiction.

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    $\begingroup$ This is the most Disney-sidekick real animal I have ever seen. This thing is begging to be the pet of the next princess. My lord, what a beautiful beast! $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Jul 9, 2021 at 16:08

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