Do Ferrets Smell? And Does Bathing Help?

Ferrets are some of the sweetest pets you can have and they’re also extremely intelligent. You won’t ever have a boring day with a few ferrets in your home. But despite being excellent pets, some people avoid getting them simply because of how much they hear that these creatures stink.

Ferret indoors
Photo by Yulia Vambold on Unsplash

And while ferrets will always have a distinctive musky smell, it won’t get stronger than a dog’s typical smell if you’re properly taking care of them. In this article, we’ll talk about what causes a ferret to smell bad and what you can do about it.

Do ferrets smell? Do they really stink?

YES! If you’re taking home an intact ferret, you will more than likely be overwhelmed by its smell. And when they go into heat, they’re completely unbearable, especially male ferrets. But getting an intact ferret is extremely hard and is highly recommended to not even attempt it. Breeding ferrets is definitely not a lucrative business so you should avoid everything and get a ferret that’s been to the vet already.

Ferrets have various glands that produce a bad smell, and you need to properly take care of them to avoid dealing with a stinky pet. While ferrets do stink pretty badly, it’s not as bad as skunks do and the ferret smell dissipates incredibly fast. And despite their musky smell, they are actually very clean animals and they tend to clean themselves various times a day.

Do ferrets smell worse than rats?

Regardless if the ferret is intact or not, it will always smell worse than a rat. This is because no matter how much you take care of a ferret, they will always have a very faint musky smell that’s impossible to get rid of. On the other hand, rats are incredibly clean and they don’t have any bad natural scents. They get their bad reputation because of the fact that they’re forced to live in the most infected places to find food.

The bad smell of a ferret can be held under control and you can get rid of almost 98% of it. But because of the glands that release oils with a musky smell, they still smell a bit worse than a rat. These oils are incredibly important for their coat so there’s nothing you can do about it. And if you plan on getting an intact ferret, the smell will be 1000 times worse than that of a rat.

Does bathing help with ferret smell?

The biggest mistake ferret owners make when trying to get rid of the musky smell is to give their ferret a bath. As mentioned before, they have special glands that release oils with a musky smell to help keep their skin and coat healthy. And if you give the ferret a bath, you’re ridding them of these oils. And while it seems like a problem solver, it actually makes things worse.

Ferrets need these oils and their skin can get very irritated and they can end up getting all sorts of skin diseases if you keep washing them and getting rid of these oils. Their bodies know this and when you give your ferret a bath, their glands start working overtime to replace all these oils and make sure the skin stays healthy.

This inevitably makes the ferret smell about 10 times worse for up to three days after you give them a bath. Bathing ferrets should only be done once every 3-4 months or when they get into something they shouldn’t have. But it’s best to find an alternative way to get rid of whatever’s on them as they’re very mischievous and they tend to get themselves into trouble all the time.

Desexing a ferret to reduce smells

Nail Trimming For Ferrets
Source: DepositPhotos

Ferrets will release a very bad smell around the house to mark their territory. And when they’re in heat, the smell can be extremely terrible. More than that, when male ferrets are in heat, they completely ignore self-cleaning and they even end up rolling in their own urine.

De-sexing your ferret is the main step you should take if you want to get rid of these horrible behaviors they have during heat. Female ferrets stink very badly as well but spaying them is a matter of life and death. Female ferrets can die if they don’t mate when they’re in heat.

Is scent gland removal an option?

Ferrets also have anal glands that release a bad smell every time they poop to mark their territory. But it’s not very noticeable. The real problem with these glands is that when the ferret is scared, it can release a big bomb of this bad smell that is very overwhelming.

This is why it’s also recommended to ask your vet to remove these glands as well. But most ferret breeders should get all these procedures done before they put the kits up for sale. Most states require them to do this by law so you won’t throw or lose the ferrets and mess with the local ecosystem.

How to stop a ferret from smelling? A few easy steps

Dalmatian Ferret
Source: Amanda Milo

The first step in making sure you’re ferret doesn’t smell so bad is litter training them. As mentioned before, ferrets are clean creatures, which means they will gladly keep the rest of their cage clean. But they don’t have that natural instinct of using a litter box. Be patient with it and find the spot they usually do their business in if they’re getting stubborn.

Another important thing is to clean their litter box daily and deep-clean their cage weekly. Ferrets won’t poop in a litter box that is already full (unlike cats), and they will start doing it around the cage again. A clean cage and a clean litter box will lead to a clean and better-smelling ferret.

Their sleeping bed is another place they get the bad smell from. This is because the bedding gets filled with the musky smell very quickly and it will make the ferret smell bad if it keeps sleeping in there. The solution is very simple, all you have to do is wash all bedding weekly with a detergent that is for sensitive skin.

Don’t use one with a strong fragrance in hopes that your ferret will take the same nice smell as your ferret will get very sick from it. You can also add an air filter on top of their cage, and it’s best to place it right above the litter box.