Ferrets are often known for their somewhat ‘musky’ smell, and while it bothers some, many ferret owners have gotten used to their natural odor over the years. However, there are a number of reasons why your ferret might smell a little interesting and knowing what these reasons are, and how to combat them can go a long way in curbing that ferrety smell.  Since your dear ferret is a very distant relative of the classically smelly skunk, they might always have a bit of a whiff about them.  However, our tips will help you to lessen their smell considerably.  While many ferret lovers do not notice their smell, or have become immune to it, this guide might be helpful for those who live with family members who are complaining.

Posing ferret on blanket

So Why Do Ferrets Have A Certain Smell To Them?

Before we can look at some of the ways to tackle the smell of ferrets, it’s useful to think about why they smell the way they do. Identifying some of the main causes for their musky smell, can give us a better understanding of ferrets.

It Could Be Their Anal Glands

Many mammals (including ferrets and dogs) have anal glands that release a particularly strong scent. This is a way for animals to communicate with their species and also allows them to mark their territory. Some ferrets undergo a surgical procedure to remove these glands and their smell might be less potent, however, ferrets with their glands still in tact will have a stronger smell than those who do not.  The ‘de-scenting’ procedure is relatively simple, however it will not completely remove the smell. Unfortunately those in the ‘mustelid’ family usually have a stronger scent than those from other species, so your pet ferret might always have a bit of a smell to them. This will be especially heightened if they feel defensive and want to mark their territory.

It Could Also Be Skin Glands

If you’ve picked up a musky smell and have noticed that your ferret’s fur is sometimes greasy, then you’re probably dealing with their sebaceous glands. These skin glands secrete a more pronounced smell if your ferret is in mating mode, and thus are interlinked with their sex hormones.  Unneutered ferrets will have a more pronounced smell than those who have been neutered and thus, you might want to consider getting your ferret neutered if they are healthy and of an appropriate age. Female ferrets who are not spayed can also stay in heat for an undetermined amount of time, and thus spaying and neutering them is a good call and should be discussed with their vet.

It Could Be A Number Of Factors, Including A Dwelling That Isn’t Cleaned Enough

While the reason for ferrets smelling is usually linked to biological factors like sebaceous glands and hormones, sometimes it just comes down to their cages and litter-trays needing a good clean. Keeping their living spaces fresh and hygienic will go a long way in preventing a build up of bad smells in your home.

Nice ferret baby

Tips To Make Your Ferret Smell Better! (We Aren’t Saying Perfect!)

  • Becoming a grooming master

Grooming your ferret regularly and safely can be a key way to reduce their smell. While they will always have a somewhat musky smell, proper grooming can certainly curb the stink and make it a little more pleasant to our uninitiated friends who might never have smelt a ferret before.

  • Clean their ears regularly

Like some other pets, including dogs with long ears, ferrets ears can get very dirty and a build up of wax can occur if they are not regularly cleaned.  When this happens, they can produce a musky and somewhat unpleasant smell thanks to the build up of wax. It is thus important that you clean their ears every week or 2. However, since the ear canal can be very delicate you need to do this extremely carefully, to avoid causing any damage. Opt for pet-friendly ear cleaning wipes that are specifically formulated for smaller pets and if you are unsure of how to clean their ears safely, ask your vet or nurse to give you a demonstration.  It’s always best to ask for help when you’re unsure, as this could prevent injury or harm. Learning to effectively clean their ears will also help you to get all the wax out and keep their ears healthy.

  • Bath them every now and then

Bathing your ferret every now and then can go a long way in controlling the build up of bad smells. However, bathing your pet ferret too much can actually do the opposite. When you over-wash animals, you deprive their skin of essential oils and nutrients, in consequence, their skin can become very dry and their coat very dull. To counter this, their oil glands actually begin to produce more oil.  You should only wash your ferret every month or 2, and when you do so it’s essential to use a specifically formulated shampoo that has been made for ferrets.

  • Keeping their home clean
  1. A sure way to reduce funny ferret smells around the home is to ensure that your ferrets’ dwelling space is always clean and hygienic. You need to ensure that you wipe the surface of the cage regularly to ensure that there is not a build up of urine or faeces on the cage itself.
  2. You should also change their bedding every 2-3 days to ensure that their home is fresh and clean at all times.  If you use material for their bedding you also need to wash this often, and preferably on a hot wash so that they can be effectively cleaned and rid of any bacteria.
  3. You also need to clean their litter boxes out every day or 2 and this can be a huge contributor to bad smells. Ultimately, the cleaner your ferrets home, the less smells you will encounter. Be sure to also wash any toys, food bowls, and accessories often as well.
  • Giving them lots of outside time

Another way to curb bad smells in the home is to ensure that your ferret has plenty of time to play outside and to enjoy time in the fresh air. This will give them much needed exercise, sunshine, and oxygen, and will allow you to air out their area.  If the smell is really bad and you have tried all our ideas, you might also want to keep them in a selected part of your home, such as a laundry room, or spare room. Of course you need to ensure that they will get enough attention and be surrounded by their humans, but this will also help to contain their smell and keep it in one area of the home. If you have an outside garage, you could also convert it into a ferret room.  However, remember to always give them their outdoor time as the fresh air will also help to reduce bad smells.

Champagne ferret boy in park

  • Feed them a top-quality diet

Feeding your pet ferret a high quality diet that is filled with essential nutrients will impact their overall health and ensure that they are in top-notch condition. This will impact their bodily functions and ensure that they are embodying overall health and wellbeing. When their skin and coat health is in good order, the chances of them smelling badly due to under-nourishment or illness will decrease. Chat to your vet about the best food for your ferret and the appropriate quantities that they need.

  • Trying a natural supplement or pet-friendly odor neutralizers

In addition to a brilliant diet, healthy and regular grooming practises, and possibly spaying and neutering, you could also opt for a ferret-friendly supplement that aims to enhance their skin and coat health.  You can try something like ‘Ferretone’ as this aims to enhance their skin health by providing them with essential fatty acids. As always, consult your vet before choosing a supplement and ensure that it’s the best option for your beloved pet. You could also opt for a pet-friendly odor neutralizing spray. You might spray this on their bedding and cage, however it’s imperative that you opt for a spray that is safe for pets and that you follow the instructions carefully. Do not spray it directly onto your pet, unless otherwise stated and always consult your vet before using a new product to ensure that it is safe.

At the end of the day, ferrets have a somewhat musky smell, and part of being a pet-parent is embracing and loving our pets for who they are. However, these tips should help you on the stink front and should at least reduce their smell so as not to scare of guests.

Sources:

  1. Do Ferrets Stink? – Pets Mom.me
  2. How to Get the ‘Stink’ Out of Your Ferret – PetMD
Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

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