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Is My Ferret Supposed to Stink?
Can you mistake the smell of a wet dog for anything but a dog? Have you ever been around a horse? Horses have a smell that is uniquely equine. I imagine humans have a distinct smell from dogs and horses that is human. I wonder if they like the way we smell? Ferrets naturally smell like ferrets, and that smell is strong and musky. They will always have a musky smell, but ferrets don’t need to stink. Consider your ferret’s scent glands, food, bedding and bathing schedule to control their scent.
Food I like garlic. I make a potato dish that has a lot of garlic in it and my husband and I think there is not much garlic. Inevitably, the day after eating garlic, I smell like garlic. My breath smells like garlic. I sweat garlic and mosquitoes avoid me. Ferrets are similar. A ferret, like a human, smells like what they eat. Look at the ingredients in your ferret’s kibble. Do the materials smell? I do not buy my ferrets food that contains fish. My ferrets get chicken, turkey, deer and duck food. (I prefer Totally Ferret.) If you change your ferret’s food, do so slowly. Mix the old food with the new food and slowly increase the proportion of the new food in the mixture. Once you have completely switched your ferret to the less smelly food, wait a few weeks and then smell your weasel.
Anal scent glands In the US, most ferrets are put down before they get to the pet store. (This is not the case in the UK.) What does this mean? Like cats and dogs, ferrets have anal glands. Ferrets are mustelids (like skunks) and part of being a mustelid is having a strong smell in those anal glands. This stinky secretion is a form of protection when out in nature. A ferret’s descent removes the ferret’s ability to fall, so if the ferret ends up in the wild, it has lost this defense mechanism. However, ferrets have a less strong odor when their scent gland is removed, so they stink less. Ferrets still secrete musk through other scent glands on the body, as only the strongest, the anal glands, are surgically removed. If your ferret has its anal glands intact, do some research before removing them. If the ferret’s glands are not leaking and if your ferret does not startle easily, you may not need to put it down.
Bed linen Have you ever seen a mink? Go to YouTube and search mink. Look at the mink fur. It is elegant. It looks a little oily and that’s because it’s a little oily. The oil, which does not mix with water, helps keep the mink dry. Now, most ferrets do not like water, however, ferrets, like minks, are mustelids. Mustelids release oil in their fur. The oil comes out on everything it touches. Since your ferret sleeps a lot, the oil comes out in his/her bed. Change your ferret’s bedding weekly. (I have several different sets of bedding, so I can have one set in the washer/dryer cycle, one set in the ready-to-use pile, and one set in use.)
Bathroom schedule A very important part of ferret odor maintenance is the bathing schedule. Do not Bathe your ferret more than once a month. Less is better. The soap strips away the ferret’s oil and the ferret’s body works to replace the missing oil. If you bathe your ferret a lot, your ferret will be a crazy oil producer and smell more than before. So again, don’t bathe your ferret more than once a month. My ferrets usually only get four baths a year. If your ferret gets excessively dirty, tangled, or the like, wash your ferret only on the affected area or gently wipe it with a baby wipe or damp cloth.
What about the products? There are products out there designed to reduce ferrets’ body odor. Some products are a clear liquid that you put in your ferret’s water. I have tried them. They actually do work and reduce ferret smell. I don’t notice it working though. What I notice is that when I stopped using the product, my ferrets smelled stronger. I no longer use these products. Why; While these products claim to be natural and claim not to harm the ferret, I have yet to see ingredient lists for any of these products. Moreover, these products are expensive.
Perfumes are another product. Perfumes do not remove the smell of the ferret, but cover it with a stronger smell. My grandfather used to say that people shouldn’t use perfume. they should just bathe often. Although ferrets shouldn’t be bathed often, I agree with my grandfather’s sentiment. The only time I spray scent spritzes (designed for ferrets and sold in the ferret aisle of your pet store) is when I know my sister will be visiting. She hates the smell of ferret, and the spritz covers it. It seems harsh to me, however, to clog their noses with the smell of cucumber, watermelon, and baby powder.
The most important odor control Check your ferret’s food. Change the bed linen once a week. Do not over bathe your ferrets. All of these are great for odor control. However, the best way to keep your ferret from stinking is to clean its cage. Ferret urine and feces have a much stronger and unpleasant odor than a ferret. Think about yourself. What smells more: you or your production? Your best bet to reduce the smell is to clean the litter boxes daily or depending on how many ferrets you have, maybe even twice a day, and clean any exits that are missed from the litter box.
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