It is an age-old conception that ferrets smell. But, Do Ferrets smell bad and if so, what can you do about it?
Do Ferrets Smell Bad And What Can You Do About It?
Ferrets have a distinct smell. It’s best described as ‘musky’. However, pet ferrets living in homes don’t really smell as bad as one would think. And even though the smell of a ferret isn’t all bad, there are ways to limit it. These are habits that the owner of a ferret will need to practice and develop.
Why Do Ferrets Stink?
There are a few reasons behind why do Ferrets smell bad. Many animals, especially carnivorous, have ‘anal glands’ that make them smelly by secreting a particular scent. This scent is different in different species of animals. This smell caused by the anal glands of ferrets can be eliminated by removal of these glands which is known as “de-scenting”. Ferrets bought from pet stores are usually “de-scented” beforehand.
Apart from the secretions from the anal glands, natural oils produced by the skin of ferrets also cause them to smell. This smell isn’t that bad and is tolerable for most people. Some ferret owners say that they even grew to like the musky smell of their ferrets. Kits (young ferrets) also have a sharp smell which dies down as they grow older.
Adult ferrets with their sexual parts intact also smell bad, especially males. These sexual organs produce certain hormones which cause a ferret to smell really bad. This strong smell can be eliminated by neutering your ferret. It is recommended to have your ferret neutered during young age.
The smell of your ferret can also be affected by their diet. Fish based food causes ferrets to smell bad. If it does not directly make your ferret smellier, it will definitely make the litter box of your ferret smell much worse. Foods containing lamb and chicken are much better and do not make your ferret smellier.
How To Control Your Ferret’s Smell?
Pet store ferrets are almost always de-scented. However, if you have bought or adopted a ferret that hasn’t been de-scented, it is recommended to get it done at the earliest. This will reduce the smell significantly.
The stool of a ferret can also smell really bad depending on the diet of your ferret. Switching the food may be really helpful. If you aren’t already feeding your ferret food based on chicken and lamb, make it a part of your ferret’s diet and slowly remove the previous food product. This process has to be carried out over a period of 2-3 weeks. Sudden changes in diet can make your ferret ill. If the food of your ferret already has chicken or lamb as core ingredients, try changing the brand of food given to your ferret. A particular ingredient in the current brand of food may be causing the strong smell.
Making sure that the litter box does not smell is also done by cleaning it regularly. Maintenance is a really important part of eliminating the smell. Cleaning frequency will vary depending on the size of the litter box and also the number of ferrets you own. Many people adopt ferrets as a pair. If you are one of them, cleaning frequency will be much higher.
The litter box should ideally be cleaned every day. It should be washed and dried before putting back into use. Stale urine traces can convert into ammonia which will be the cause of unpleasant odor. There are deodorizers that are safe to use around ferrets which can be used on the litter box to make it smell better. However, using a deodorizer should not be used as an excuse to neglect regular cleaning of the litter box.
The cage of your ferret should also be cleaned fairly regularly. Take everything out of the cage once every week, and thoroughly clean the inside and outside of the cage. Disinfecting and removing any dirt is essential as your ferret will be less smelly if the environment he lives in isn’t smelly. Washing the toys and bedding of your ferret is also good practice.
Neutering is also very important to reduce the smell in adult ferrets. The sexual organs of a ferret will produce hormones that will make them smell really bad once they reach sexual maturity. The removal of these organs will significantly reduce the odor of your ferret.
Grooming Ferrets – How Can I Groom My Ferret?
Keeping your ferret clean is just as important as cleaning the environment around your ferret. Because the skin of a ferret is really sensitive, bathing too often will remove all of the natural oils from it. The natural oils are very important and the skin of your ferret will substitute the oil that was removed in no time. This will make your ferret even smellier than it was before.
Ferrets should not be bathed regularly. One bath in a month is fine. Some people consider even one bath a month to be excessive. The ideal gap between baths should be 3 months. However, if your ferret gets really dirty, you can wash him to clean up the mess.
When bathing a ferret, soap should not be used. A shampoo is a better choice. Shampoo made for humans, however, should never be used to wash a ferret. There are shampoos made special for ferrets. These can be bought from your local pet store. If a ferret shampoo is not available to you, mild shampoos made for babies are the best alternatives. They have a neutral pH level which will not cause any harm to the skin of your ferret.
Cleaning the teeth of a ferret is also very important. Crunchy foods or dry foods clean the teeth of a ferret to some extent. If any type of dry or crunchy food is a part of your ferret’s diet, clean his teeth once every other week. If your ferret eats softer foods, his teeth should be brushed once every week. Brushing will be tough as it will hurt your ferret a bit. After a few times, your ferret will have adjusted and it will be natural. The toothbrush and toothpaste used should be made for pets and not for humans. Try to be as gentle as possible and do it slowly. Start from the back molars and slowly make your way to the canines and incisors in the front.
The ears of your ferrets should also be cleaned on a weekly basis. This will prevent infection, mites and bad odor. Use commercial ear cleaning products that your vet recommends. Warm the drops before squirting only a few of them into your ferret’s ears. Massaging the ear will help the cleaner go inside the ears. It will also loosen the wax that would be accumulated making it easy to be removed using a damp q-tip. Use multiple q-tips until the ears are completely clean. The ear canal of a ferret is L shaped. There is no way you can damage the eardrum with the q-tip. Be gentle and everything will be fine.
The nails of your ferret can get very long and sharp. Long nails can get caught up and get ripped off. Clipping them twice each month is highly recommended. Using ferret nail clippers is essential. Standard human nail clippers can cut too high and cause your ferret to bleed. It is important to put your ferret on his back. Then, place a few treats, like ferretone, on your ferret’s stomach. Clip the nails while your ferret is licking his belly. There is a red line close to the middle of the nail. It’s a vein which will start bleeding if you cut too close to it. Styptic powder should be used in that case to stop the bleeding.
Keep Your Ferret’s Cage Clean
Ferrets are incapable of cleaning their own mess. It’s their owner who is responsible for cleaning after them.
The food and water dishes of your ferret should be cleaned daily. Wash them and rinse properly before re-using. The litter box of your ferret also requires daily maintenance. You don’t have to wash it every day. However, scooping the litter box should be done daily. If you have more than one ferret, you should scoop twice every day.
Even if your ferret is litter trained, accidents can still happen occasionally. Cleaning the cage in case of an accident is essential. Disinfectant wipes can be used to clean the cage in these cases.
The cage should be cleaned inside-out every week. Shelves, ramps, bars and different levels should be cleaned or wiped with disinfectant wipes. Some cages have drip pans on the bottom which collect feces and urine. They should also be cleaned regularly.
The bedding of your ferret needs to be clean for your ferret to remain healthy. Once a week, wash all the fabric items in your ferret’s cage in a washing machine. Mild detergent should be used to wash them. Keep in mind that the nose of a ferret is highly sensitive. If their bed fabrics are washed with a detergent that has a strong scent, they will try to stay away from the scent and may get aggressive if forced to be near it.
Washing the toys and any other accessories that stay in the cage should also be cleaned or washed regularly.
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