Do Ferrets Stink?

With any household pet, there are going to be moments where a bath is certainly needed. However, there are some animals that, in general, have a rather unpleasant smell. When it comes to how ferrets smell, do they stink? 

Depending on how you interpret the smell, ferrets may be considered to stink by some, but smell fine by others. Ferrets do have a very particular odor, but it is not one that is necessarily offensive. Their musky scent is very distinct and one that many find rather pleasant. 

When bringing a pet into your home, you want to make sure that the pet is comfortable, loved, and well cared for. However, what you don’t want out of a pet is for it to come into your personal space and change the entire scent due to its offensive odor. If you are looking to bring a ferret home as your next pet, read below to find out what ferrets smell like, the times when they do actually stink, and what you can do to reduce the smell of ferrets in your home. 

What Do Ferrets Smell Like? 

Ferrets are small animals that are incredibly playful, endlessly curious, easily excitable, and are always happy to be around someone new. For those looking for a small pet that has a slew of great qualities but does not require a lot of intensive care, a ferret is a great choice. However, ferrets are small animals that spend quite a bit of time in their cages buried beneath the bedding and snuggled among themselves. Knowing this, what exactly do ferrets smell like?

Ferrets do not necessarily stink, but they do have a very distinctive smell. When described by owners and breeders, many will comment that their smell is more of a musky scent. Some individuals even consider their smell to be along the lines of earthy, which is sometimes even considered pleasant. 

When questioning what ferrets smell like and if they stink or not, the important thing to remember is that every individual is going to experience their scent differently. Some people may love a musky smell, but others may find it completely repulsive. However, when it comes to the general consensus of the smell of ferrets, they are more often than not considered to be a pet that does not put off any type of offensive odor. 

Many ferret owners don’t even notice that their ferrets have a scent after some time of having them, which is a testament to how mild the smell really is. Ferrets do have a very particular scent, but when compared to the term “stinky,” they don’t generally fall under the category. Although ferrets may not generally stink, only smell, there are times when circumstances cause ferrets to briefly stink. What are they? 

Are There Times When Ferrets Stink? 

You now know that in general, ferrets are not considered to be stinking animals. But just like any other pet, there are of course times when ferrets have a stronger scent than normal. During these times that sporadically occur, some owners will say that their ferrets do actually stink. However, it is important to remember that these periods are temporary and it is not a general state for this animal. That being said, what are the times when ferrets stink? 

Ferrets Can Stink When in Heat 

Although ferrets are not the type of animal breed that constantly carries an obnoxious odor with them, there are moments when they can genuinely stink and one of these moments is when a ferret is in heat. The oil that is produced from a ferret’s skin is what gives them their distinct musky scent and when they are in heat, this oil is overproduced in order to work as an attraction method for mates. When this happens, the intensified smell can be quite noticeable.

Stink can be Caused by Ferrets Anal Glands 

© Dr. Louise Bauck / MSD Veterinary Manual

A ferret’s anal scent glands.

This may not be the most inviting topic, but the anal glands of a ferret can be a big source of stink. The anal glands of a ferret are actually used as a type of defense mechanism when they are scared or threatened. An incredibly potent odor is released from the glands which is often referred to as a “stink bomb.” This smell is incredibly unpleasant, but it is one that is rarely experienced by owners who have their ferrets in a comfortable living environment. 

The Ears and Paws of Ferrets Can Stink 

© librariansarah / Flickr

When you think about how much your ferret touches within a day, it should be no surprise to hear that their paws can carry quite the odor. Running about their cage with droppings or urine (if not litter trained), eating raw chicken or lamb as a treat, and constantly grooming themselves can leave their paws rather dirty. Their ears can also become very gunked up over time, which will cause them to release an odor as well. Be sure to clean each often and thoroughly.

What are the Ways to Reduce the Smell of Ferrets? 

Ferrets are typically the type of animal that, although original with their scent, is not considered to be overall stinky. However, there are times and situations when ferrets can begin to stink up any home or office, which means that a resolution is needed. If you notice that your ferret is beginning to actually stink, there are a few different things you can do to stop the smell, but there are also preventative measures you can take to keep it at bay. 

Clean the Litter Box 

© CHaynes2013 / Instructables

One of the first steps you can take to keep the smell at bay with your ferret is to keep its litter box clean. If they are trained to use this, ferrets will religiously visit the spot multiple times a day, which means there is plenty of waste sitting within it stinking. Beyond keeping the smell of ferrets controlled by cleaning their litter box, this is also essential to your ferret’s health as they always need a clean place to use the restroom to avoid disease. 

Clean Their Toys 

If you own a ferret, it is more than likely that you are surrounded by a plethora of toys. Ferrets are very playful creatures and they need toys in order to stay active and bond with their owners. However, these toys (especially if fabric) become logged with saliva over time and can begin to stink without warning. To stop this process in its tracks, thoroughly clean the toys of your ferret to ensure they are playing with stink-free items and keep your house smelling great. 

Keep Their Cage Clean and Tidy 

© MsCantBWrong / Flickr

With most ferret cages, there will be a smooth fabric lining that is on the bottom of the cage (some opt for other alternatives). No matter the base of the cage, be sure to change it out regularly with a fresh replacement to keep odors at bay, but to also give your ferret a clean place to live. It’s also important to either wash or replace any fabric items that are in the cage, such as hammocks, as these retain an incredible amount of odor when used over a long period of time. 

Spay or Neuter Your Ferret 

Getting into more preventative methods, to keep the smell of your ferret at bay most effectively, you should either pay or neuter it. This should happen after your ferret has turned a year old, but once this is done, they will no longer be able to go into heat. Because of this, there will be less time when they are obviously excreting a scent, but it will also help to diminish their overall smell, not just when they are in heat. 

Avoid Bathing Your Ferret 

Baths may seem like the best choice when it comes to quickly and effectively getting rid of any obnoxious smells coming from  your ferret, however, this can actually cause more damage than good. Ferrets skin is very delicate and can easily dry. When this happens, their skin will actually overproduce the oil that causes their distinct smell, which can leave you in an even more stinky situation than you were before.  

Give Your Ferret High-Quality Food 

Just as it is with humans, if you feed your ferret poor-quality ferret food, it will result in their body excreting just what is in it, which can cause a rather peculiar odor. When purchasing ferret food, be sure to give them a brand that is high in good proteins, and always be sure to avoid feeding your ferret any fruits, vegetables, or grains. If you notice that your ferret’s scent is off, try switching their food to see if it helps make their smell more pleasant. 

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