Understanding Ferret Smells: Are Ferrets Smelly?

Some pets can have a really bad smell that just isn’t pleasant for anyone. When you’re very sensitive to smells you want to get a pet isn’t that smelly or at least know how to reduce the bad smells. So how about the smell of ferrets?

Are ferrets smelly? Ferrets are pets with a naturally musky odor. A lot of people will consider this a bad or neutral smell. However, some people might like this smell. Luckily, there are some ways to reduce the smell of your ferret and its cage.

The smell of a ferret doesn’t have to be an obstacle for you to get a ferret. You might even like the smell as some people do.

In this article, you’ll learn why ferrets are smelly and how to reduce the smell of your ferret. You’ll learn how a proper diet and cleanliness can lead to a less smelly ferret.

Why Are Ferrets Smelly?

Ferrets are clean animals but they’re smelly and can do little about it. Even very well-cared ferrets will have a certain odor. This smell is primarily caused by:

  • discharge from the anal glands
  • an oily skin

Anal glands

Ferrets are carnivorous animals and like all carnivores have anal glands that are located just outside the anus. Under certain circumstances, a ferret can discharge a bad-smelling odor from these glands. This is also called a “poof” and it can be released when a ferret is excited, scared or angry. Luckily the smell doesn’t last very long and will dissipate after about 10 minutes.

Oily skin

Besides this special kind of smell, ferrets are naturally smelly pets. Their skin has a lot of oil glands and this oily skin has a certain smell that can be different from ferret to ferret. The smell of a ferret can be compared with the smell of a dog. Some will like the smell, others will be neutral towards it and some people even like the smell. There’s no real way to know this unless you take a sniff of a ferret’s smell.

Reasons for a specially bad smell

Mating season

When the mating season arrives for ferrets, unneutered male ferrets will produce more oily skin and the smell will be a lot more than normal. After the mating season, a male ferret will again have normal skin and have the same mild odor as before. You can prevent this bad smell by neutering your male ferret. This is always recommended when you’re not going to breed ferrets.

Adrenal disease

Adrenal disease is a common health issue in ferrets. This disease can cause excessive growth of the adrenal glands and even tumors on the adrenal glands. The body will produce excessive hormones and this can cause a bad smell depending on the kind of hormone that is produced excessively.


Ferret ears can have yeast or bacterial infections. When your ferret has such infection the ears will often be itchy and the skin will be irritated and smelly. You can treat these infections by going to your vet and giving your ferret the right treatment. The smell will quickly go away when the infection is treated.

There are other diseases that can also cause a bad smell. When you notice that your ferret has a bad smell (that isn’t caused by the cage or litter box) and other symptoms of a disease you should seek the help of a vet and find treatment.

How to Reduce the Smell of a Ferret?


The majority of pet ferrets that are sold in the United States are already descented and neutered. Descenting is the surgical removal of the anal glands that cause the bad smell under certain conditions. However, there’s no real way to know if your ferret is descented and even when the anal glands are removed, your ferret will still have a smell from their oily skin.

If you buy a pet ferret elsewhere chances are high that the ferret wasn’t descented. For example, in Europe, this is forbidden and ferrets still have their anal glands. This is also recommended because descenting can cause a wide range of health issues (such as abscesses and incontinence) and most vets won’t descent a ferret unless there’s a really good medical reason.


When your ferret is really smelly, a bath can do wonders but you should be careful not to bath a ferret too often. When you bath a ferret you remove the oils from the skin which will in response produce more oil. The result is that your ferret will even smell more than before. A bath is for these reasons only recommended once a month and you can even limit it to once every three months unless there’s something dirty in the fur of your ferret. When you bath a ferret don’t use a shampoo that’s used for humans. You should use special shampoo for ferrets. If you can’t find such a shampoo easily, a shampoo used for kittens can also be used.

Cleaning the ferret cage

Most of the time the smell you notice isn’t caused by your ferret but by the cage, bedding or toys that absorb the smells. When your ferret comes in contact with its cage or other objects inside the cage the oil rubs of on these objects. This will cause them to have a smell and they should be cleaned regularly.

The ferret cage should be cleaned every week and the litter box should be cleaned daily to reduce smells. A ferret will use the litter box several times a day and depending on their diet the smells can be really bad. The cage accessories like beds, hammocks, and toys and anything that your ferret comes in contact with should be washed regularly.

Bedding material

Use a bedding material that is scent absorbing but don’t use any potentially dangerous materials like cedar chips. Some people use cloths to put on the cage floor as bedding material. This can be a good idea if you regularly wash this cloth bedding.

Proper diet

Ferrets are carnivorous and should eat meat like they’re supposed too. When you feed a high-quality diet with meat the nutrients will be absorbed in the body and there will be less poop. The poop will also smell a lot less. On the other hand, ferrets are sometimes fed kibble which is less nutritional and leads to smellier poop. If you do choose to feed kibble, use quality kibble with meat and no fruit or vegetables in it.

Perfumes and odor control

If you really can’t handle the smell of your ferret you can try a perfume for ferrets. These perfumes are fairly cheap and last long. However, most ferrets won’t need such perfumes because the smell isn’t that bad.

Related Questions

Do ferrets stink?

Ferrets do have a particular smell but don’t really stink. They can discharge a smell from their anal glands which smell bad but this lasts only a few minutes. When you feed your ferret a good diet and clean their cage, accessories, and litter box regularly.

Do female ferrets smell?

Female ferrets will have a similar smell to that of male ferrets. However, male ferrets will be a lot smellier during the mating season. This can be solved by neutering the male ferret.

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