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Polecat is the common name for mammals in the order Carnivora and subfamily Mustelinae. Polecats do not form a single taxonomic rank; the name is applied to several species broadly similar to European polecats, the only species native to the British Isles.

In the United States, the term polecat is sometimes applied to the black-footed ferret, a native member of the Mustelinae, and (loosely) to skunks, which are only distantly related.

Despite the name, polecats are more closely related to dogs than cats, which is why they belong to the suborder of Caniformiae.

In Canada, the term polecat is sometimes applied to electric utility linemen.


According to the taxonomic theory proposing two subfamilies within Mustelidae, the polecats are classified as:

Subfamily Mustelinae

A more recent classification based on genetic analysis suggests that Mustelidae should be divided into eight subfamilies, one of which is the Mustelinae.[1]



Mustela, Neovison (subfamily Mustelinae)

Galictis, Vormela, Ictonyx, Poecilogale (subfamily Galictinae)

Melogale (subfamily Helictidinae)

Eira, Gulo, Martes (subfamily Martinae)

Arctonyx, Meles (subfamily Melinae)

Mellivora (subfamily Mellivorinae)

Taxidea (subfamily Taxideinae)