Do ferrets smell & how to get them to smell Less ?
It’s true that ferrets have that musky, funky and earthy smell but it’s just their natural odor produced by their anal and subcutaneous glands. Over time, ferret parents get used to this smell and even come to like it for some. Nevertheless, poor hygiene of your ferret, its cage and accessories can accentuate the smell and make it stronger.
Neutered and descented Ferrets don’t really smell that bad!! it’s just their natural smell, certainly different from other pets but it’s just the smell of your adorable little fur ball!!!
If your ferret smells really bad, the reason must be one of the following, usually bad hygiene or bad maintenance of the cage or other accessories.
I would even tell you for each of them how to get rid of the musky smell emitted by your ferrets, and reduce it and even mask it with neutralizers if you can’t stand it, which is for me really strange ! When you love an animal, you have to love it in its entirety !! with its smell, its defects and its qualities … but hey !
Let’s dive in …
What is the reason when a ferret smells bad ?
Ferrets have their own smell, like all the mustelid family, it’s a musky smell, a little earthy, personally I like it ! it’s the smell of nature.
Here in the USA, ferrets sold in pet stores are all descented, their scent tassels are removed with a surgery, they do not produce this pungent anal gland secretions, which is the first reason of their smell so particular, they generally use it to defend themselves against a possible predator, to mark their territory and during the mating season to attract the female ferrets and vice versa.
Why do even descented and desexed ferrets still smell?
Even though most ferrets in the US are descented and neutered before being sold, they still have that slight musky smell because
1- Ferrets have glands under their skin that secret oils to protect their fur and fragile skin from elements like heat and cold and parasites as well and these oils also have that musky smell.
2- Male ferrets smell stronger during the mating season (the rut) to attract females.
3- Ferrets have extra scent glands in the face behind their eyes, these are not removed like their anal glands and these two extra scent glands also secrete this musky substance which is used to mark their territory and to exchange their scents in order to recognize members of the same family when they live in groups
There are probably other reasons why your ferret smells bad or too strong , not potty training a ferret is one of them , here’s are some other reasons :
1- An inadequate diet can accentuate the smell of ferrets
The smell of your ferret may be caused by its diet, they are carnivorous and if you feed your ferret with Cheaper kibble from the store.
Be aware that this dry food contains fillers such as corn meal, wheat flour, starch … and your ferret’s digestive system will have difficulty digesting these foods, which will cause an increase in your ferret’s secretions, the disruption of its hormones, sweat, not to mention bad breath and poop and urine of your ferret will smell too strong.
You have to change your ferret’s diet to whole prey or frankenprey, otherwise to premium kibble that contains animal products (chicken, rabbit, lamb…) and not fillers and food waste! If you want your ferret’s body odor to decrease and its poop and urine to become less smelly, not to mention a healthy skin, shinier coat, less smelly breath.
2 – Dirty Litter may be the reason why your ferret smells that bad
Ferret poop and pee can be very stinky especially if your ferret is fed with kibble , add to that the fact that ferrets go to the bathroom on average 8 to 10 times a day !
If you use potty pads, you must change them daily and remember to regularly clean the litter box of your ferret and just remove the poop every time you find it in the litter box.
If you leave the litter box without regular cleaning, your ferret will create secret potty spots in all corners of your house, under your furniture, beds and sofa and you will not know where the bad smell comes from after that!
If you are adept at free roaming, install potty pads and litter boxes everywhere your ferrets have access and change the potty pads or clean the litter boxes at least once a day.
Remember also to clean the litter pans regularly to remove the residues of the poop & pee … also disinfect with vinegar and rinse well with water after that.
Also think about Litter_training your ferrets , all this will greatly reduce the smell in your house.
3- Smelly bedding can be the culprit of a stinky ferret!
Your ferret smells strong because maybe it’s because of his bedding, his Hammocks, sleep sacks, t-shirts, fabric tunnel, blankets and possible clothes that he stole from you and that he uses to lie on it, sleep in it ….etc
For your ferret, the stronger his bed smells, the better. The ferrets secrete oils that will cover their hair to insulate them from elements such as heat, cold and humidity and these oils also protect them from ticks, parasites and fungi.
The problem is that these oils that are secreted by glands under the skin of your ferret are necessary but they smell very strong and the bedding of your ferret will be impregnated with these oils and the bedding will end up smelling “bad” if you delay to wash it.
In this case, even if you clean your ferret and it does not smell strong, it is enough just that it goes to make a small nap so that the musky odor returns and is diffused in all the room and on your hands, they are oils!
Ferrets also have this habit of walking on their poop and pee and soak their paws and then go teacher their bedding and dirty it !
That’s why you need to regularly (at least once a week, even twice during the summer) use scent free detergent like Hypoallergenic detergent to wash your ferrets bedding to remove those oils, poop and pee so your ferret won’t smell so bad.
4- Your ferret bad smell maybe caused by a dirty cage
It may not be your ferret that smells bad, but the bad smell may also come from its cage!
Don’t expect to see poop in his cage or pee running down the litter pan! It’s at the microscopic level that it happens!
The pee, the poop and the oils and secretions of your ferret can impregnate the elements of the enclosure and you will not see anything just with your eyes, the cage absorbs the odors too.
To get rid of this bad smell from your ferret’s cage, remove the food, take the cage, litter pan, his blanket in the bathroom or outside and wash all these elements at least once a month, scrape well using a good detergent in order to get out and wash the tiny particles of pee, poop and tiny droplets of oils, food remains … etc.
5- Your ferret does not smell bad, just get some fresh air in your room!
If your ferret is clean, his cage and bedding, his toys and accessories are clean and the smell still persists, know that it is the room where you have installed the pen and where your ferrets spend most of their time, it is these places that smell bad and are poorly ventilated, why?
The bad smell can come from :
From the carpet or the floor because ferrets love to roll around and leave their smell everywhere they go.
Ferrets will drag their belly on the floor to mark their territory and even if your ferret is descented, it will still leave its oils, dirty litter and hair on the carpet, or your rug and the objects it touches and the room will smell musky for several days
Kibble and food scraps that your ferrets leave behind will rot and give off a strong smell in the room
A secret potty spot that you haven’t discovered yet!
So you must regularly clean your ferret’s room, vacuum and remove stains, and look in the corners and under the furniture, you may discover a secret potty spot full of pee and poop!
You can use this best seller dog hair remover to pick up your ferret’s hair on the ground and on your bed , sofa …etc
You should air the room every day and install an air purifier and never use wall plug-ins or essential oil diffusers which are generally toxic and will only add another smell to the room and risk damaging the respiratory system of your ferrets (they have fragile noses and a very sensitive sense of smell!)
6- Over-Bathing your ferret will make him even smellier
Over-bathing your ferret is washing it more than once a month!
This will result in your ferrets body being continuously stripped of its natural oils, the oils secreted by glands under the skin, these oils will actually coat the hair and go between the hairs to form an insulating layer that will protect the ferret from external elements and parasites.
When you wash your ferret, you will force it to produce and secrete more of these oils in order to quickly recreate its insulating layer of oil and this is what will make your ferret even stronger than before.
His cousins in the wild do not take water baths but like hamsters, they just use the sand to get rid of excess oil or things that might have gotten stuck in their fur.
So avoid washing your ferret too much if you don’t want it to smell strong, limit how many times you’re bathing your ferret to one time every two or 3 months during winter, or even 4 months and once every 2 months during spring and summer!
If you want my opinion, ferrets don’t need anything at all, they are clean and spend their time grooming themselves.
So stop over-bathing & over-grooming your ferrets, these bad habits will only worsen the situation !
7- A sick or stressed ferret can smell bad
A ferret that has a skin problem will secrete more oils, so it will smell stronger, check your ferret’s ears, they may also contain too much wax, this may be a problem and you need to consult a veterinarian and clean his ears because that’s what you smell when you approach him.
Use a Q-tip & an ear cleaner for pets, just be careful not to push the Q-tip too far into your ferret’s ear.
Stress can also cause hormonal imbalance which will cause the oils produced by your ferret’s skin to smell stronger, not to mention illnesses that can cause diarrhea or just give your ferret’s pee and poop a bad smell.
8- Poofing may be the reason why your ferret smells really bad
Ferrets have anal glands, they are usually removed before they are sold (they’re getting descented), but if this is not the case and your ferret was born in your home or in a breeder’s home that did not do this, be aware that like a skunk, ferrets can also release a strong odor (poof) with these two glands when they feel threatened or stressed, excited or just irritated and it is an unbearable smell.
This smell will disappear in less than 15 minutes, just air the room and either you have to accept this, or you go to the vet and ask that your ferret be descented and also neutered if it is a male.
During the mating season (the rut), a non-neutered male ferret will smell very strong, it will get very musky and really stinky to attract nearby female ferrets to mate.
You can recognize a descented & neutered ferret if he has some kind of tattoo in his ear or on his paw (Marshall Ferrets).
How to reduce a ferret’s smell ?
If your ferret is not sick and everything is clean but you still want to reduce the smell, deodorize naturally your ferret, take him to your backyard where he can find sand or buy a bag of kids play sand, fill a dig box and let your ferret play in it and take a sand bath.
As with hamsters, the sand will remove the excess oils that saturate your ferret’s fur and the musky smell will quickly diminish or even disappear for a while until your ferret secretes a surplus of those oils.
Some ferret parents, replace sand with rice!! just avoid fine sand and anything dusty!!
You can also use Ferretone, a natural vitamin supplement to help your ill ferret if he has dull coats and dry scratchy skin, this will help reduce the odor as well.
Do ferrets need a bath?
No, ferrets are very clean and spend a lot of time grooming themselves… You should not wet them except in case of extreme necessity because they have a layer of oil that covers their fur and is an insulating layer against cold, humidity, heat and parasites…
Giving a ferret a bath will just make it smell even better because it will quickly secrete more oil to replace the one you took away.
So how do you clean a ferret?
You can give him a sand bath like hamsters do, buy kids play sand, big sand and let your ferret play in it, the sand will get rid of the excess oil that is covering his fur and will smell strong and your ferret will smell less after that
Final thoughts :
Descented and neutered ferrets only have a slight smell of their own that all ferret parents quickly get used to and even grow to love for some ferret owners.
If your ferret smells bad, the cause can only be him if he is sick or has not been neutered or descented, otherwise, it is either a hygiene problem of the cage, his bedding or the room he has access to, so make a regular cleaning, air your house and install an air purifier if the natural smell of your ferret bothers you and is unbearable.
Ferrets do not smell bad, they just have their own perfume, they smell less than a cat or a wet dog, so do not stigmatize them because they are adorable little balls of hair.