Like most animals, ferrets have their own distinctive odor. The natural ferret smell is musky, and some have likened it to corn crisps. They certainly have a bad reputation when it comes to smells, so you will have concerns that a ferret will stink up your house.
Here’s all you need to know about why ferrets stink and what to do about it.
Why do ferrets stink so bad? Ferrets stink due to bad odors they emit from their anal glands, pee on their bedding, living in a confined space, plus the ramifications of their diet, hygiene, and health. Indoor ferrets are notorious at making your house smell bad.
That’s the very short answer, but to understand why your ferrets stinks all the time, and how you might be able to stop your ferret from smelling, read on.
Why do ferrets stink up your house?
Ferrets will stink up your house due to the confined spaces that they must live in when adopted as indoor ferrets. Captive ferrets will smell bad as most people encounter them in confined spaces, in a pet store, or in someone’s house.
In the wild however, they might not smell so bad as they are in the fresh air, cleaning and deodorising themselves naturally.
There are several factors that determine whether the stink of pet ferret smell will be intolerable or not. These are:
- The ferret’s anatomy.
- Its environment.
- Its diet.
- The health of the ferret.
- General hygiene.
When you understand these stink factors better, you might be able to take steps to stop your ferret from smelling as bad – it all goes towards explaining why your house smells like ferret.
1. The ferret’s anatomy
Ferrets are related to polecats and skunks, animals that are notorious for emitting pungent odors from glands at their rears, when threatened. Ferrets are also born with these anal glands and are similarly capable of ‘poofing’ when startled – this is one of the main reasons why ferrets stink!
However, some ferret breeders will remove the glands before selling the animals. Often, they will tattoo the animal on its butt as proof that this has been done.
Intact male ferrets have glands near their ears that they use to produce a scent that is designed to attract female ferrets. Unfortunately, humans find this courtship offensive to the senses, and most breeders remove these glands, too. This practice is also indicated by a tattoo.
Throughout their coats, ferrets have oil-producing glands which help to lubricate their skin. Pet owners often make the mistake of bathing their ferrets to remove the smell of the oil.
This is a counterproductive measure as it has the effect of making the glands redouble their efforts, producing more oils to compensate – you might be making your ferret stink up your house even more by doing this!
2. The ferret’s environment
The smaller the space available to a ferret, the more concentrated the bad stinky odor will be. Most people first encounter ferrets in a pet shop where they are confined to small, escape proof areas.
Once the cage is opened, the stink will hit you!
The more free flowing air there is, the less likely it is that the bad smell will be a problem. Try airing the areas housing your ferrets by opening the windows. Always make sure that these do not provide opportunities for your ferret to escape.
Many people will compare this to a smell of urine. Why ferrets smell like pee is addressed a little lower down the page.
In winter, when it is not feasible to let natural air in, consider using an air filter. Do not use diffusers and essential oils for any length of time to mask the odours, as these can cause your ferret to develop respiratory problems.
Bedding and sleeping quarters
Ferrets are active for brief periods around dawn and dusk. For most of the day, they like to burrow under blankets to sleep. Their oil deposits will accumulate over time in their sleeping quarters.
They could also drag litter detritus into their fleece blankets and hammocks. This litter issue is a common reason why ferrets smell like pee.
Their bedding should be washed with a scent-free, hypoallergenic washing powder, and air dried thoroughly, at least once a week, to remove the oils and attendant scents.
If your ferrets have a cage to sleep in, it makes sense to give this a thorough wash down before replacing the blankets.
Another reason why ferrets stink is their litter tray situation. Ferrets need specialised litter trays, preferably one in each area that they frequent.
These need to be placed in a corner as ferrets spray backwards when doing their business. The trays also need to be large enough to accommodate the ferret’s entire body.
Ferrets do not enjoy going on litter that is covered in prior deposits and will choose an alternative spot that you may not find for days. They do not bury their poops so it is easy to employ a scoop, much like you would do when out walking your dog. This should be done at least twice a day.
Handy Hint: Did you know that a healthy ferret will probably poop up to 4 times a day and 4 hours after eating?
The entire contents of the litter tray should be replaced on a regular basis, determined by how many ferrets you have, and how often they use the facilities. Litter that is appropriate for ferrets should be your first choice.
Natural substances, like bark or pine needles are good but paper pellets are a viable alternative. Some ferret owners have opted to use puppy training pads (view on Amazon) as these are easier to dispose of and can be folded up against the wall, to protect your skirting boards.
Choose a disposal unit that seals if you are not able to remove the waste from the area immediately.
3. Diets and feeding stations
Another possible reason your ferret is making your house stink is their diet. Ferrets are rodent hunters in the wild. They need a carnivore diet that consists of at least 70% raw meat. Their digestive systems are not designed to process carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, and grains.
There are species appropriate pellets on the market, that are prepared especially for ferrets. They are dry and tend not to be digested as efficiently as a meat diet. Ferrets tend to eliminate pellet poop at a faster rate than raw meat.
Cheaper pellets consist of higher proportions of filler than quality pellets. This diet will affect your ferrets’ long-term health and will stink up their environment in the short term.
Ferrets tend to make a mess when eating so choose a bowl that minimises this. There are splash proof water bowls and feeding bowls with small apertures designed for this purpose. The bowls need to be cleaned daily, and the water replenished.
Handy Hint: If you are new to owning a ferret, here’s a guide to how often you should bathe and clean them.
4. Your ferret’s health
Out of their natural environment, much can go wrong with a ferret’s health. Their teeth often cause problems as they age, or if they are not fed an optimum diet.
Regular dental check-ups and oral hygiene will prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Dental problems could shorten your ferret’s lifespan and cause bad breath which add to the assault on your senses – yep, that’s right, your ferret might stink due to his teeth!
Care also needs to be taken that their ears remain healthy. A yeast or waxy build up in the ear canal, can lead to discomfort for your pet and obscure odours. Check these regularly yourself and annually when you and your ferret visit the vet.
The wrong diet will affect a ferret’s digestive system, resulting in a general loss of condition, as well as more frequent and more smelly poops. Their blood sugar and glucose levels can also be negatively affected by a carbohydrate-rich diet, which may affect their body odour.
Handy Hint: Research in 2008 found that the smell of ferrets is enough to scare rats away!
5. General hygiene
If there are carpets in the area available to free roaming ferrets, these need to be vacuumed regularly, as ferrets can drag fragments of their litter around with them after visiting their litter trays.
Ferret entertainment usually includes meters of tunnels and piles of plushies. They like to play, running in and out of the tunnels which simulate their natural environment of underground burrows. These need to be hosed down regularly.
They may not confine their ‘ferreting’ to the tunnels that you provide. Ferrets have been known to create hideouts in box mattresses, inside settees and behind air vents. Your home needs to be made ferret-proof else these little dens will start to smell.
Ferrets are sneak thieves; they will steal objects that you leave lying around and hide them in their favourite dens. Most owners indulge their pets by buying several small stuffed toys for them to play with and hide or sleep with. These need to be tracked down and washed as regularly as the bedding.
Handy Hint: Some owners will look into the descenting of their ferret. It won’t always work though, and some smell will remain.
How do I stop my ferret from smelling?
Aside from the tips I’ve already shared on why your ferret stinks and how you can stop the smells, here are some more things to try.
Ferret owners have found that allowing their pets access to outside areas and taking them for regular walks, helps stop the ferret from smelling so bad. If ferrets can bathe in soil, this seems to have a natural deodorising effect.
It may help to provide your ferrets with their own soil bath area but keep an eye on it so that it does not become mistaken for a litter pit.
How often should I bathe my ferret?
According to Spruce Pets, you should bathe a ferret once every two or three months, unless the ferret is very unhygienic and needs stinky stuff washing off.
Keep the cage and litter clean and it will help keep your ferret smelling fresh. Bathing tends to dry out the skin and coat, at most bathe once a month. Unless your ferret has gotten into something that needs to be washed off, a bath every two to three months is probably plenty.
Do indoor ferrets smell?
Whilst I cannot offer any scientific evidence to back-up the claim that indoors ferrets smells worse than wild ones, I think based on what’s established, perhaps indoor ferrets will smell worse.
As discussed, this will mainly be due to the environmental factors and being kept in a small space, rather than living on a larger open-air area.
Do male or female ferrets smell worse?
It’s said that male ferrets will smell a little worse than females. This is due to male ferrets being incredibly smelly when “in rut”.
The process of de-sexing the ferret is known to reduce how much they might stink out your house. If you have this procedure with the male ferret, it could stop them being so smelly.
It goes without saying, but having more than one ferret will make the smell so much worse.
Do ferrets smell worse than dogs?
The answer to this question is rather subjective, but in my opinion, yes ferrets do smell worse than dogs.
However, this will depend on the dog owner. Providing the dog is kept clean, then it should not smell bad at all compared to a ferret.
Do ferrets smell worse than rats?
In my experience, rats, if kept clean, will not smell. You can’t always say the same about ferrets, particularly males which have not been castrated.
Based on that, I’d say that as a general rule of thumb, ferrets to smell worse than rats.
Do ferrets smell like skunks?
Ferrets do smell and stink, but providing you keep them clean in your house, the smell will be nothing like a skunk. The smell of a skunk is notorious and one of the worst animal smells you can encounter!
The noxious scent of skunk spray can be long-lasting and overpowering. Skunk spray contains sulfur-based organic compounds called thiols. These compounds let off an immediate blast of acrid scent, reminiscent of rotten eggs.Healthline.com, https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-skunk-smell
Do ferrets smell worse than rabbits?
Rabbits have moderately smelly urine. If you can keep their hutch clean, you should be able to cope with any stink ok. Compared to ferrets, rabbits smell better I believe.
How to get rid of ferret odor in room?
If you are coming to this guide a little too late, and already have a ferret who stinks out your house, then I hope the following brief notes help you get rid of odor.
- Train your ferret to use the litter box or have a corner easy to clean.
- Clean the ferret’s litter box or cage daily.
- Scrub your ferret cage at least once a month.
- Launder your ferret bedding weekly.
So that should help you get rid of ferret odor in a room. The ferret smell in a carpet can be potentially solved using this odor eliminator found on Amazon.
Ferrets are supposed to stink to a certain degree. However, if your house is smelling so bad, then you need to take action. Ferrets should not stink to the point you can’t even handle it.
A little bit of a smell in your house is to be expected and anything more might mean you’re not taking care of the animal as you should be.
You might also like…
- How much it costs to keep and maintain ferrets
- How many days a ferret can live without food and water
- A guide to weird and strange ferret noises
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/ferret-putoisé-mustélidé-drowsy-3723085/