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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Does your ferret stink? Here's what to do about it:

Maybe you're the new owner of a ferret, or maybe you've just learned to live with the smell that a ferret puts off. Perhaps you've considered buying one in the past, but just don't know if you would be able to handle their natural musty odor.

Well, I'm here to tell you: Ferrets aren't nearly as smelly as what you think, and it's definitely not their poop you smell. If you doubt this, find a single piece of their dried up poo and give it a sniff. Not smelly? Of course it isn't. You can't even catch an odor until you get your face a few inches away. So their poop doesn't stink - that leaves only a couple of options as to what causes that ferret-y smell, and it can all be controlled quite easily!

Ferrets have B.O.

Waterless bath for ferretsIt's just a simple fact. It isn't their fault, but they just do. It doesn't matter if you remove their anal glands, they are still going to smell because of the glands in their skin. Before you go turning your nose up (or away in this case) at the ferret for it's stinkiness though, remember that humans tend to have a little B.O. themselves... they just put on deodorant to mask it.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you go find a tube of roll-on and slick it over your ferret twice a day, but there are things that you can apply to your ferret to keep them from stinking.

First off, if you really can't stand the smell, make sure you are giving your ferret a bath now and again, but not more than once a month.

Bathing them more than that can actually dry out their skin and end up making them more smelly - the opposite of what you're trying to achieve. Some people even recommend not giving a bath more than once every 2 to 3 months.

Try to wait until your ferret has accidentally gotten himself dirty (think rolling in poop by mistake) and then bathe him. If the ferret seems itchy after his bath, make sure his next bath is accompanied by some ferret conditioner.

Next, get yourself a "deodorant" for your ferret. If you've seen those handy little bottles of ferret water-less shampoo spray sitting on the shelves before, and thought that it was just a waste of money - it's not. This is just like you putting on your deodorant in the morning - you wouldn't go a day without it, so don't blame them for the smell if you aren't giving them something to control their B.O. daily!

Ferret water-less shampoos come in all sorts of scents and you can safely use them every day. I like to spritz both of my ferrets once right before I let them out to play in the morning.

Ferrets have smelly ears. I don't know why their earwax stinks so much, but it does. Some ferrets get a build-up of wax much faster than others do, but it all amounts to the same thing: smelly ears mean a smelly ferret. You should clean your ferret's ears about once every two weeks.

This isn't the easiest chore in the world of course, and if you're sitting around thinking "Hm, I don't think I've ever cleaned my ferret's ears...", you're going to have an even more difficult time of it. If you start cleaning their ears regularly while young, they will become more and more familiar with the process and eventually won't fight you on it. Obviously, it's easier to hold a kit (a young ferret) and ease them into new things, but if you have to hold on to a full-grown ferret while you teach them to get their ears cleaned (mind you, they will be wiggling furiously to get away), that's a lot harder. It has to be done though.

In addition to the smell, not having clean ears will increase the chance that your ferret will get ear mites - just like a cat. That leads to head shaking and scratching, which can cause bloody ears or infection. So just do yourself a solid in the beginning and make this a bi-weekly routine.

Ferret urine smells disgusting.

No, don't put your nose down to smell this one, just take my word for it. This isn't their fault either of course, and if you don't believe me, smell your own pee after a few cups of coffee or soda. Doesn't smell pretty? I didn't think so. Ferrets have a highly carnivorous diet, and their bodies and excretions seem to be heavily impacted by what they put in their bodies. There are a few things you can do to get rid of the smells caused by their urine, and the last one will surprise you.

Get a water additive.

Humans aren't the only ones that like to put a little something in their water. I'm not suggesting that you add some Mio or Crystal Light to their H2O of course, but it wouldn't hurt to add some Good-Bye Odor (or a similar product) into their drinking supply. This stuff works really well - but it's expensive. So before you buy it, grab the small bottle and decide whether or not the difference is worth the cost. You need to put three to five squirts of it into their clean water every time you change it. And you should be changing it daily, whether your ferret drank it all or not. If you can stick with it though and remember to do it every day, the smell is reduced drastically.

Get those fancy cloth toys off the floor.

Ferret in a hammockI'm sorry, I know, that cloth-scrunchy-tube-thing you bought your ferret is her F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E toy. But it still shouldn't be on the floor of her cage. If you doubt it, pick it up and give it a sniff. Peeeuwww. And you wonder why they stink? It's not always them, it's their stuff too! Well, technically it stinks because the ferret stinks, but you get the idea.

Toys that go on the floor need to be kept outside for playtime. Replace the toys inside (and the bedding, oh geez, get rid of that stinky on-the-floor bedding) with things that hang. Hammocks, that crazy floating pirate ship everyone seems to have, toys that attach (securely) to the side of the cage, and toys that are not made of cloth are all great choices. Make sure you are rinsing any non-cloth item once a day (or at least wiping it with a damp paper towel), and spritzing waterless shampoo on the other cloth stuff (in or out of the cage) once per day.

And if you're wondering why the hanging stuff smells less than the stuff on the floor... Have you ever left a slightly damp towel on the floor? It doesn't dry out. If you leave a slightly damp towel hanging in the air though, it eventually dries and you can reuse it. The towel on the floor however, starts to smell so disgusting you want to pitch it out by the time you pick it up again. Ferrets do use the litter-box, but they also have accidents. If one of those accidents gets soaked into a cloth-anything on the floor of their cage... well, you get the picture.

Scoop the litter-box(es) once a day, change them once a week.

Come on, people, it isn't that hard to scoop once per day. Have you seen their poops? So tiny. Plus, you and I both know that you have a bajillion plastic bags you 'plan to reuse' stuffed in the house somewhere. Use them to put their daily dirties in. Just make sure you always leave one little piece of poop and one tiny clump of wet litter behind. Your ferret likes to smell his way back to his litter-box (gross, right?) and if you don't leave it there, he might decide that his new preferred place to do his business is now in the opposite corner. You know, the one without a litter-box.

And the last, most important and possibly greatest change you can make to get the stink away from your ferret - is to...

Get rid of their food!

Yes; get rid of their food and buy a different brand. Go to your ferret's bag. Do the ingredients include fish meal? Do you know how horribly disgustingly smelly fish meal is? If you don't, get a little tiny bit of your ferret's food wet and then come back and smell it an hour later.

Do you feel like you want to barf?

That smell is what you are putting into your ferret.

That smell is what is coming out of your ferret.

That smell is what is in their pee, in their body odor, and even on the floor of their cage. If your ferret is flinging her food around (almost all of them do), chances are, some of it is getting wet. And if it's getting wet, the cage is getting smelly. Do yourself (and your ferret) a huge favor: don't buy food with fish meal in it.

I hope this helps some of you ferret-lovers (and future ferret-lovers) to realize that your pet doesn't have to be smelly. Yes, it's a little more work, but ferrets are naturally more work as a pet. In the end, the extra effort will leave you both happier, and that's totally worth it.

Have you found a great way to keep your ferret stink-free? What do you think of these tips?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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  1. A friend of mine had ferrets growing up, and they were so much fun!!! They didn't have all these products around back then, and I can attest that her house really did not smell that bad. I'm glad they're around now though!

    1. These products really go a long way to help, but most of the things people can do to make them smell good are free. It sounds like your friend was taking great care of her pets, I'm sure they absolutely loved her! I think ferrets always get kind of a bad rep because some owners just don't understand how to give them the right care until it's too late. I'm always happy when I hear about people who have had great experiences with them!


    1. lol! They definitely aren't for everyone. My mother-in-law was horrified when we brought them home for the first time, but she now has learned to appreciate them... from a distance ;D

  3. Your first step should be to know whether you are allowed to have ferrets as pets by your state or local governing body. There are some states in America where it is prohibited to have ferrets as pets. best ferret cages