Ferrets, particularly unneutered males, have a very distinctive, pungent smell to them that many people find unpleasant and that often puts people off considering ferrets as pets, or at least, keeping them inside rather than in outdoor hutches.
The smell that most people associate with ferrets is a type of musk, which is produced by scent glands around the tail and bottom, and that makes up part of ferret’s territorial arsenal as a form of scent marking, and keeping other competing ferrets from moving into an occupied territory in the wild. The musk is also an integral part of ferret reproduction, mating and attracting a mate, which is why unneutered male ferrets are more likely to smell strongly than females.
However, owning ferrets does not have to mean resigning yourself to a home that smells strongly of ferret musk-and there are various different things that you can do to reduce or eliminate the smell, if it bothers you or puts people off visiting!
Read on to for our seven top tips for ferret owners on how to keep your home smelling fresh and not ferrety!
One thing that ferret enthusiasts will find out quickly when researching ferret ownership is that for unspayed female ferrets, mating is literally life or death-if your female ferrets are not neutered, they will, at some point, go into an extended heat cycle, which can only be ended by mating-if they are unable to mate during this time, they will eventually sicken and die of aplastic anaemia.
This means that in order to keep females healthy, they should either be spayed, bred, or mated with a vasectomised male ferret, which resolves all of the issues without the need to spay the females.
However, having your females spayed and your males castrated or vasectomised will also go a long way towards getting rid of the musky ferret smell that often accompanies them-and as males are the main producers of this smell, you may find that it is both more economical and effective at reducing smells to concentrate on males rather than females.
Urine and faeces will certainly not improve the smell of your ferrets and their cage, but the litter tray itself will also be one of the main areas of the cage that will begin to smell musky, as the glands that produce the signature scent are located around the ferret’s back end.
Cleaning out the litter tray thoroughly before smells have the chance to build up will help to reduce the musky smell in your home.
The cage itself needs to be cleaned out regularly in order to stay clean, and anything soiled or messy should be removed immediately, and a once a week deep clean performed.
All disposable bedding such as straw or paper should be thrown out and replaced with fresh, and soft fabric bedding and accessories should be washed regularly using a biological product and high heat-additionally, the cage should be thoroughly disinfected regularly too.
Picking the right room for your ferrets to run around in when outside of the cage requires a reasonable amount of consideration, in terms of what will be safe and fun for your ferret, and where you can secure exits and ferret-proof the room without having to carry out any major remodelling!
However, it is also worth paying some mind to picking the best room in terms of odour management as well-rooms that have carpets, long curtains and a lot of soft furnishings will start to pick up the musky ferret smell over time, and this will be held in the fibres of the carpet and other furniture.
Rooms with little to no soft furniture and especially, no carpets make for better run-around rooms in this respect than others.
It is important not to bathe your ferret too often, as this can lead to dry skin and fur, and actually encourage the overproduction of sebum and other bodily secretions that all contribute to the ferrety smell.
However, if your ferret is getting a big pongy, giving them a bath can help with this, when used in conjunction with other methods of odour reduction as mentioned above.
Brushing and grooming your ferrets now and then is a good idea for many reasons, not least because they will likely enjoy it and it provides good opportunities for bonding and communication between you. Additionally, brushing and grooming helps to stimulate the skin and healthy hair growth, and helps to remove shedding hair from the coat that might otherwise become spread around the home and take the smell with it!
Finally, a house or room that is closed up and does not have any airflow though it will soon begin to smell musty and stale, especially if there are pets within the home adding to the problem. It is never wise to have open windows or doors in a room where your ferrets are loose, but otherwise, cracking a window and letting some breeze pass through can help to keep your house smelling nice and not musky!