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Is My Ferret Supposed to Stink?
Can the smell of a wet dog be mistaken for something other than a dog? Have you ever been around a horse? Horses have an exclusively equine smell. I imagine humans have a different smell than 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 smell musky, but ferrets don’t need stink. Consider your ferret’s scent glands, food, bedding, and bathing schedule to control its odor.
Food I like garlic. There is a dish of roasted potatoes that I make that has a lot of garlic in it, and my husband and I don’t think there is too much garlic. Inevitably, the day after eating garlic fries, I smell like garlic. My breath smells like garlic. Transpi garlic, and mosquitoes avoid me. Ferrets are similar. A ferret, like a human, smells what it eats. Look at the ingredients for the ferret croquette. Do the ingredients stink? I do not buy food for my ferrets that contains fish. My ferrets get food made from chicken, turkey, deer and duck. (I prefer Totally Ferret.) If you change your ferret’s food, do so slowly. Mix the old food with the new 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 couple of weeks and then smell the weasel.
Anal scent glands In the United States, most ferrets are desexed before reaching the pet store. (This is not true 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 scent in the anal glands. This smelly secretion is a form of protection when found in the wild. Putting a ferret down removes its ability to poof, so if the ferret ends up in the wild, it has lost this defense mechanism; however, ferrets have a less strong overall odor when their scent gland is removed, so they stink less. Ferrets still excrete musk through other body scent glands, as only the strongest, the anal glands, are surgically removed. If the ferret has intact anal glands, do some research before removing them. If the ferret’s glands are not leaking and the ferret is not easily spooked, you may not need to put it down.
Bedding Have you ever seen a mink? Go to YouTube and search for mink. Look at the mink skin. It’s elegant. She looks a little fat, and that’s because she’s a little fat. The oil, which does not mix with water, helps keep the mink dry. Now, most ferrets don’t like water, but ferrets, like minks, are mustelids. Mustelids release oil into their fur. The oil comes off everything it touches. Because your ferret sleeps a lot, the oil is released from its beds. Change your ferret’s bedding every week. (I have several different bedding sets, so I can have one set in the washer/dryer cycle, one set in the ready pile, and one set in use.)
Bath time A very important part of maintaining your ferret’s scent is the bathing schedule. Do not do it bathe your ferret more than once a month. Less is better. The soap removes the oil from the ferret and the ferret’s body works to compensate for the missing oil. If you bathe your ferret too much, your ferret will be a crazy oil producer and stinkier 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 very dirty, tangled or similar, rinse the ferret only in the affected area or gently wipe it with a baby wipe or damp cloth.
What about the products? There are products designed to reduce body odor in ferrets. A couple of products are a clear liquid that you put in the ferret’s water. I have tried them. They actually work and reduce ferret odor. I don’t notice it working though. What I do notice is that when I stopped using the product, my ferrets smelled stronger. I no longer use these products. Because? Although these products claim to be natural and claim not to harm the ferret, I have yet to see the ingredient lists for any of these products. Also, these products are expensive.
Perfumes are another product. Perfumes do not remove the smell of ferret, but cover it with a stronger smell. My grandfather used to say that people shouldn’t wear perfume; they should only bathe frequently. While ferrets shouldn’t be bathed frequently, I agree with my grandfather’s sentiment. The only time I spray perfume spritzes (designed for ferrets and sold in the ferret aisle of your pet store) is when I know my sister is coming to visit. He hates the smell of ferret, and the spray covers it. I think it’s cruel, though, to cover their noses with the smell of cucumber, watermelon and baby powder.
The most important odor control Take a look at your ferret’s food. Change the bed linen once a week. Don’t bathe your ferrets too much. All of these are great for controlling odors. However, the best way to keep your ferret from stinking is to clean its cage. Ferret urine and feces have a much stronger and more unpleasant odor than that of a ferret. Think about yourself. What smells better: you or your exit? The best way to reduce odor is to clean the litter boxes and clean any exits that have missed the litter box daily, or depending on how many ferrets you have, maybe even twice a day.
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