Does a Ferret Stink?
When you mention adopting a ferret, one of the first things non-ferret owners usually say is, “what about the smell?”. The famous ferret funk is perhaps the biggest reason why many people are deterred from owning our favorite house weasel, which is a shame considering the stink is entirely manageable with proper care.
Let’s take a look at why ferrets stink and what you can do to help minimize the smell with your own pet!
Like a lot of similar animals, ferrets are born with scent glands located near their anus. These anal scent glands, though they do produce an odor, are actually not the source of the famous ferret stink.
This smell is actually caused by a separate series of musk glands located around the ferret’s face. This is the more pungent aroma, so you can expect your ferret’s face to be rather stinky. The smell can rub off on their surroundings and things they choose to touch, as well.
It varies from ferret to ferret, but generally most people report it to be similar to a corn chip scent, sweet musk, or even curry like. The smell can be rather strong and can linger if the ferret rubs on you. Some people, especially those who own ferrets, tend to actually like the smell and find it to be pleasant.
Other people claim it to be similar to the aroma produced by a startled skunk and find it wholly unpleasant. Either way, the funky smell is just kind of part of owning a ferret and is entirely natural.
There are quite a few different ways to diminish the presence of or wholly remove the overpowering scent that comes with some ferrets. For starters, it is important to understand that the smell is not a physical thing. They did not roll in something stinky and are not nasty animals. The odor is hormonal.
The easiest way to help stop the stink is to get your ferret spayed or neutered. This should be done anyways if you do not plan on breeding your pet since it prevents unwanted litters and health problems, especially in females who can actually die if they are unable to breed when in heat.
Additionally, you may opt to have your ferret’s anal glands removed. This will fix the smell from said area but not the overall musky scent. Additionally, removing the anal glands can cause health problems and even death.
The anal glands are actually good indicators of your ferret’s health since they will be smellier when they are sick. As gross as it is, the surgery has been deemed unnecessary in most cases aside from when the glands themselves pose frequent health problems or when the ferret cannot stop spraying gland liquids or seem to otherwise have no control over the excretion.
While bathing your ferret may help get rid of the smell in a pinch and keep them smelling better for a short period of time, most vets agree that baths should be few and far between for most members of the species.
When you bathe a ferret, you end up stripping their skin of vital oils, leaving it dry. This can damage the skin and fur, resulting in infections. Additionally, when your ferret’s skin is dry it may overcompensate and produce even more musky oil, resulting in a stronger smell following the bath.
If you are going to bathe your ferret, it is a good idea to use a shampoo specifically created for ferrets or kittens. Try to go for one that is as gentle as possible and rinse really well. Refrain from ever spraying your ferret with perfumes or other sprays, as they can damage your pet’s eyes and respiratory system.
Like dogs and cats, ferrets need to have their teeth brushed from time to time. Ferrets are very prone to tartar build up, which can not only be quite stinky but also cause tooth decay, tooth loss, abscesses, and infections.
Pick up a special brush from your vet or a pet supplier than is made for the tiny teeth of ferrets and a toothpaste that is safe for your pet. Brush gently on a regular basis and offer lots of tooth strengthening treats to help keep their mouth clean and fresh.
If your ferret’s ears are not cleaned from time to time, they can end up being clogged up with wax. Wipe over your ferret’s outer ear with a cotton swab soaked in pet safe cleanser, taking special care to get into the hard to reach nooks and crannies; do not go into the inner ear, even if you see wax there.
The wax should not be dark in color, as blackened wax indicates mites or infection in one form or another. Wax issues are common with ferrets due to the sheer volume they produce so cleaning their ears every week or two is a good idea to keep them healthy and funk free.
Clean your ferret’s cage regularly to help keep it smelling fresh and clean. Additionally, be sure that any cage materials are washable. Wooden toys and structures will absorb urine and oils, resulting in a lingering and potentially quite strong smell. Opt for a wipe-clean, ferret safe material for all cage aspects.
Any blankets or cloth pieces in the cage should be washed frequently, as well, as the smells can linger in the soft cloth. The same goes for beds and hammocks. If you wash your own, it is a good idea to wash your ferret’s.
Be sure to wash everything with a cleanser that is lightly fragranced or fragrance free. Rinse hard surfaces well to prevent residue from being exposed to your pet and never spray air freshener or leave candles burning near the cage, for obvious safety reasons.
Does ferret pee smell? As is true with most urine, yes, ferret pee does stink. Some people compare the smell of ferret pee to battery acid. Ferrets are, by nature, funky little animals but the smells are not overwhelming if you take proper care of your pet and clean up their messes soon after they happen. It is akin to having a litter box (which you can actually use for ferrets, too!) for your cat. You have to scoop it out regularly or else the smell builds and builds, spreading through your home.
Change your pet’s soft materials and bedding regularly and scoop the litter or whatever material you choose often, as well. Clean the cage and keep everything tidy to help prevent strong smells from forming or lingering.
Just a heads up, male ferrets sometimes cover themselves in pee to help attract mates. If your pet does this, a bath is totally fine. Fixing a male usually remedies this behavior quite well, though.
How often do you bathe a ferret? Try to bathe your pet as infrequently as you can. Ferrets do not generally like being bathed and it doesn’t really help their health in most cases. Bathing a ferret too much can actually cause more harm than good since it dries out their skin and opens them up to infections and hair loss.
If you are going to bathe your pet, opt for products that are safe for the species and rinse it really well. Towel dry and keep him warm until he is fully dried out. Do not bathe frequently and give weeks between each bath unless directed otherwise by your vet.
Never ever spray your pet with perfumed sprays. Even those made for dogs and other pets can cause respiratory issues and hurt your pet’s sensitives eyes and mouth. A bath will suffice just fine.
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Ferrets are, naturally, quite stinky little creatures. They use their smell to communicate and attract mates. Despite being smelly, ferrets are not overwhelmingly foul if cared for properly and kept in good health. Do your research and find products that work well for your pet and suit your preferences and needs!