Ferrets are known for their particular smell, but what can we say about it? Do ferrets stink?
If you are one of those persons who want to know the answer to the “Do ferrets smell?” question, then you are in the right place.
This post has all ferret smell questions answered in one place, from how and why they smell, do all ferrets smell, and how to get rid of the smell. My name is Anja, I am the owner of the Friendly Ferret brand. I am a ferret expert with a 10-year of experience and I made this post in collaboration with my friend Tijana who is a vet student in the last year of Veterinarian college and Maja who is a ferret expert with 20-year experience and a ferret breeder.
Do Ferrets Smell or Do Ferrets Stink?
Ferrets have a rather strong smell for such a small animal. But at the same time, the ferret odor isn’t a bad one. It is a distinctive musky, some will even say “earthy” smell. Their smell is rather unique in the pet world. Personally, I don’t think that ferrets smell bad and that was at the bottom of my list of questions when I did the research for my first ferret.
Words Of Ferret Expert:
“Personally, I like the musky smell of the “Eau d’furett”, and – I have to admit – I often bury my nose in my ferret’s fur, and sniff at them, as crazy as this might sound. Strangely enough, but since I own intact ferrets I also got used to the smell of intact hobs. And until very late in the season, I don’t find their odor too bad. But still, I never go in public wearing clothes in which I was handling my intact males … Because, on the other hand, there are people who really can’t stand the smell of ferrets, despite good hygiene, proper nutrition, and even if the ferrets are not intact. The truth is also, that every ferret has a distinctive odor, and you get used to the smell of your own ferret.”
Why Do Ferrets Smell?
The ferret odor is produced in two ways on a ferret body. The first one is produced on the skin of the ferret. The second one is produced by anal glands.
Ferret Body Smell
It is an odor that secrets all over their body as oil on the skin. When they are in heat, the ferret smell is much stronger and that is a situation when you can hear that some ferrets smell bad. That is not because they smell different than before, it is because their smell is pretty intense and you can easily smell it. Actually, not just their smell, you can feel that a ferret in heat has oily fur too.
Smell From Anal Glands
The second smell ferrets produce is a rare one and that one is pretty smelly. Ferrets have anal glands that release a rather bad smell. You can consider that as some sort of defense mechanism, but not as strong (or active) as skunks. This smell is activated when ferrets are very scared so they release “stink bombs”. Since our ferrets are pets, consider that this odor won’t be released if your ferret is at home away from any type of danger.
But, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Almost every pet ferret releases a stink bomb, but that happens only a few times during their life. There is a procedure to remove anal glands and it is called descenting. Later in the article, I will talk more about that so keep on reading.
Also, if you want to know more about the reason for their odor, read my post about Why Do Ferrets Smell? It is a post written from a more scientific point of view and both ferret smells are explained in detail.
Do All Ferrets Smell The Same?
The interesting part about ferrets and their smell is that you can’t say that every ferret smells the same. You can’t even say that one ferret smells the same during every part of life. Ferret smell changes with years, health state, and overall condition of a ferret.
Ferret Kits And Young Ferrets
Ferret kits, especially younger, few weeks old kits who are still suckling at their mother, have a very distinctive – sweeter and strong odor. It is a mix of musky ferret odor, milk, and poops. When they are older and don’t have to be with their mother, they still have a sweeter smell, although not that strong as when they were with their mother.
Intact Ferret Smell
Intact ferrets, of both genders, have a very strong odor. But the smell of males in the heat is… not for everyone. Especially because the odor is not just much stronger than natural ferret’s odor, but it is also mixed with the smell of ferret’s urine. Intact hobs mark their territory by urine and when they do, they also drag their belly and testicles through this. This behavior is special for intact ferrets and most pet ferrets are fixed so this is a situation you will encounter once you get a ferret and he or she reaches its maturity, before the fixing procedure.
Female And Male Ferrets Smell
Female ferrets in general have a weaker smell than male ferrets, but that is normal for almost the entire animal kingdom so ferrets aren’t exceptions. When both genders are in heat, they have an intense smell, but when they are on a proper diet and fixed, you can’t really smell them.
What Do Ferret Owners Say?
My ferrets, for example, smelled like popcorn and honey when they were little, later that smell almost vanished. But, I wanted to hear other ferret owners too so I’ve gathered testimonials of different people and their ferret odor experience so read more about them here. You can see that most ferret owners love the ferret smell.
Melissa from Willamette Valley Ferret Shelter
“I love how ferrets smell. Some smell sweet and some smell like corn chips, and some hardly smell at all. Their musk can build up to become overwhelming if their environment is not kept clean. The longer their environment is not cleaned the more oils become rancid and get really bad. You must wash their blankets used in their sleeping areas at least once a week and scoop litter daily, we also wash the litter boxes at least weekly. Their musky smell can also build up on carpets/rugs so you need to clean the carpets in the area they frequent more often. The food/treats they are fed can also affect smell.”
How 100 Ferrets Smell On a Ferret Show
Ferret shows are held in big rooms or halls, depending on the number of ferrets participating. When you enter a big room filled with ferrets, you will definitely smell them. But again, the smell isn’t bad. It is strong and it lingers in the air, but not in a bad way. Once you get used to the smell you don’t feel anything.
During the show where I was a judge, I had to hold half of the participating ferrets to check their body and other characteristics. After each one, I had to disinfect my hands to remove the smell from the hands. My hands might’ve been without their odor, but, my clothes still smelled like them when I came home and I must say, it was that musky/honey smell I really love and it was pretty great.
Living With Ferret Smell
When a person wants a pet, he or she has to prepare that their house won’t be squeaky clean and smell like roses all the time. Pets are animals and every animal has its natural smell. That smell you can minimize, but can’t completely get rid of. So, with that in mind, I did a small comparison that consists of ferrets and the most popular pets – cats and dogs.
Smell In Ferrets, Cats & Dogs
I am surrounded by people with different pets, mostly cats and dogs. On numerous occasions, I watched their cats and dogs when they couldn’t be with them. The smell of an apartment with cats or dogs is not that different from the smell of an apartment with ferrets. If I have to compare them, I would say that ferret and cat smell was similar to its intensity, while the dog’s smell is stronger. For example, a wet dog (doesn’t matter if it was caught in the rain) smells much worse than a ferret. But, also, the cat’s litter box smelled worse than the ferret’s.
How To Get Rid Of Ferret Smell?
If you are worried about your home and you have that “Do ferrets stink up your house?” question in your mind, then I have to make a reality check with you. It doesn’t matter how bad ferret smell if you don’t maintain their cage, hammocks, and their diet. Those 3 are the most important factors in an adult ferret you have to consider are the source of that “ferrets smell bad” conclusion.
Fix Your Ferret
The first thing you can do to reduce the ferret body smell is to castrate/fix/neuter your ferret. But, there are pros and cons of each procedure. You have to do it at a known veterinarian, choose the type of castration and make sure that your ferret is old enough for the procedure. If one of those things is wrong your ferret can develop serious illnesses later in life.
Feed Your Ferret With Proper Diet
The second thing you can do is to choose a proper diet for your ferret. Most ferret stink comes from low-quality kibble. If you want to reduce your ferret smell, check out what is a good and proper diet for your ferret. There are a few choices you can choose so you and your pet ferret can be happy with it. Also, if your ferret has too much fish in its diet, it can worsen the body smell so try to keep the fish on the down-low.
Don’t Bathe Your Ferret
The third thing is connected to their hygiene. Don’t bathe your ferrets, don’t use deodorants or any perfumes on them. That will only make them smell worse. But, what you can do is to make sure their paws and ears are clean. Those things are your grooming responsibilities. The fur cleaning will ferret do alone, they are very similar to cats in that way. If you want to know more about bathing ferrets, read my post about ferret baths.
How To Get Rid Of The Smell In a Ferret Cage?
The biggest source of ferret stink is not a ferret, but a ferret cage. The cage is filled with hammocks, blankets, toys, and litter boxes your ferrets use every day, the entire day. So, you have to clean the entire cage, replace hammocks and other fabrics too.
Don’t forget about cleaning the litter box too. Another big step in reducing the ferret smell is picking the best litter. That litter has to be safe for your ferret and it has to minimize the smell of poop and urine. What are my recommendations? Read in my post about picking the best ferret litter.
How To Get Rid Of Ferret Smell In Your House?
This last question actually depends on the questions above. If you have a ferret on a proper diet, if you clean the cage regularly you won’t have to do much to keep your ferrets from stinking up your house. The only tasks you can do are airing out your home, which is healthy for you no matter if you have pets or not.
I would recommend keeping perfumes and other air fresheners to a minimum, especially in ferret rooms (if you have them). It won’t smell good if those fresheners mix up with your ferret’s smell. Also, there are ingredients in some perfumes that are actually harmful to most pets so it is not recommended to use them in pet-friendly household.
Removing Anal Glands – Yes or No?
Descenting ferrets is a surgical procedure that removes anal glands in a ferret. Yes, those anal glands I talked about at the beginning of the article. But, as I already mentioned, anal glands are responsible for a different ferret smell.
If you decide to do that to a ferret, you have to understand that you won’t remove its natural smell, you will only remove its ability to drop “stink bombs”. With that in mind, you can see that this procedure is actually without a purpose. But, if you are interested in learning more about it, read my post about descenting ferrets here. It will help you clear your thoughts.
You can ask yourself every question there is on the planet: “Do ferrets Smell? Do ferrets stink up your house? How bad do ferrets smell?” I gave you my honest opinion, explained to you how and why ferrets smell and showed you that you can minimize the smell with a few simple tasks. The best way to know how bad do ferrets smell and if you can handle that is to visit someone with a ferret or a ferret shelter, hold a ferret, and see for yourself. What are your thoughts about it? Share them with us in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe for more posts about ferrets!