Stinky! Do Ferrets Smell Bad?

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Updated: March 31, 2022
Image Credit Couperfield/Shutterstock.com
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Ferrets are a huge responsibility. They require a large cage, a ferret-proofed free-roaming space, and plenty of enrichment. Owning a ferret also involves a lot of cleaning to keep their environment from becoming smelly.

In this article, we’ll talk about ferret odor, from cage cleans to bath time to that natural odor we all know and love…or maybe hate?

Do Ferrets Smell Bad?

mongoose vs ferret
Ferrets have a natural, musky odor that’s made by the oils on their fur.

K.Schenk/Shutterstock.com

Ferrets naturally have a distinct, musky smell. Even when they’re clean and well-kept, you will notice this odor. People who dislike the smell of ferrets shouldn’t adopt them because the smell will never disappear.

Most ferret owners grow used to this smell, and some even begin to love it. After all, the smell is associated with their favorite thing—their little furbabies!

Can You Stop a Ferret From Smelling?

You cannot fully neutralize the odor of ferrets. You’ll always smell them, but their environment shouldn’t smell bad. If your ferrets are incredibly smelly, you likely aren’t cleaning their enclosure often enough. Ferret cages should be spot-cleaned at least once a day and deep-cleaned weekly.

Ferrets living in smaller cages will also seem messy, and the smell will build up quicker. The minimum cage size for one ferret is 3 feet wide, 2 feet deep, and 2 feet high. Multi-level cages are best for ferrets as they provide the most space without taking up your entire floor.

Keep in mind that the above dimensions are the minimum—you should buy the largest cage you can afford. The above is the suggested size for a single ferret, but ferrets should always be kept in pairs or groups. So, realistically, the actual minimum is double that size.

If you have more than three ferrets, consider housing them in two or more separate cages (while still keeping them in pairs) and allowing them to interact all together during free roam. This may be easier than finding a large cage for a ferret herd.

Cages should be well-ventilated. Otherwise, they will build up ammonia which can be dangerous to your ferrets and extremely smelly! Lack of ventilation can also lead to suffocation or heat stroke in ferrets.

Remember that ferrets should be allowed to free roam for at least six hours a day in the morning and evening, which are their most active times.

Do Ferrets Pee Everywhere?

Side view of a Ferret isolated on white
Ferrets can be litter trained.

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Ferrets don’t pee everywhere. Like cats and rabbits, they are clean animals that like to pee and poop in one central location. This habit makes them possible to litter train as well! It takes work, but greatly reduces the smell of their enclosure. It also makes free roaming—which is essential for ferrets—less messy and more feasible.

Keep litterboxes away from a ferret’s food and sleeping space; otherwise, they might not use them.

Important things to look for in a litterbox include:

  • Size: Your ferret should be able to stand completely in the litterbox. Many people buy those tiny, corner litterboxes from the pet store—these won’t cut it!
  • Shallow edges: Your ferret must be able to climb into the litterbox easily. They’re much less likely to use it if it’s difficult for them.
    Ferrets also don’t need a deep layer of litter. They don’t bury their waste and will likely only make a mess if you give them too much. Remember, they have an instinct to burrow!
  • High backs: While the front edges should be shallow for the ferret to walk inside easily, the back edges should be higher. This keeps your walls clean and prevents poop and pee from landing outside the cage.
  • A safe litter: No dust, chemicals, or toxic materials. Clumping cat litter is also unsafe for ferrets. Instead, choose non-clumping paper, corn, or chemical-free pine litter pellets.

How Often Should you Bathe a Ferret?

Despite their odor, ferrets are very clean animals. They are self-grooming, like cats, and you shouldn’t bathe them unless necessary.

Ferrets are mischievous creatures, so they might get into things they shouldn’t. If they’re dirty, it’s okay to bathe your ferret once every few months. If they’re clean, though, skip the bath! Baths tend to stress ferrets out because most of them don’t like water. Frequent baths can dry out their skin as well.

Lastly, baths can make your ferret smellier. That musty odor is natural for ferrets. It’s the smell of their natural oils. When you wash these oils away, your ferret’s body will produce more, and they’ll be smellier—especially when bathed repeatedly.

How to Get Rid of Ferret Smell in Your House

stoat vs ferret
Ferret odor majorly comes from improper cleaning.

Couperfield/Shutterstock.com

1.     Clean the Cage Regularly

Ferret cages should be spot cleaned at least once a day. This means cleaning their litterboxes, checking for and cleaning any soiled items or bedding, taking away any food your ferret has stashed away, and cleaning water bottles and bowls with soap and water. You may also have to vacuum or sweep around the cage.

Every week, you should deep-clean your ferret’s entire enclosure. This means deep-cleaning litterboxes with soap and water, removing and washing all bedding and toys, and wiping the entire cage with a vinegar and water mixture.

2.     Litter Train Your Ferret

Litter training your ferret is essential to keeping their cage and your home clean. Here’s how:

  • Set up the litterbox in the cage. Place it in a corner away from your ferret’s eating and sleeping areas (preferably on another level entirely). Lay down a thin layer of litter and, if you can, take poop from your ferret’s cage and place it in the litterbox. This will show them where you want them to go in the future.
  • Cover the rest of the cage with toys, bedding, food, and water bowls. This will prevent them from using these areas to potty since ferrets don’t like to potty where they sleep, play, or eat.
  • Encourage your ferret to use the litterbox before free roam time. Wake them up and wait for them to go potty. This may take around fifteen minutes. Reward your ferret for a well-done job with treats, praise, and play.
    This way, your ferret has gone potty before free roam time and is less likely to have an accident outside the cage.
  • Repeat this process until they’re using the litterbox reliably. This may take a week or more of you having your ferret potty every time you take them out of the cage.
  • Expand their space. Once your ferret is potty trained within their cage, begin giving them more space during free roam. One room should be fine at first, and you can expand it further until your ferret is roaming as much of the house as you’re okay with.
    Every room should have a litterbox so that your ferret doesn’t have to go far to find someplace to pee or poop.
    If your ferret regresses in their training, go back to a reduced space or have them potty before coming out of the cage.
    Don’t keep your ferret caged until they’re litter trained—this is neglect and doesn’t give them enough space to play and socialize.
  • Watch your ferret closely in free roam and reward each time they use the litterbox. Repeat this until they’re entirely potty trained!

3.     Do not Bathe Your Ferret

As discussed above, bathing your ferret can make them smellier! You should only bathe your ferret if they’ve gotten into something messy, and no more than once every few months.

If your ferret is clean, there’s no reason to bathe them. It will only serve to stress them out if they don’t like water, and it can dry out their skin.

4.     Purchase an Air Purifier

Air purifiers are a must-have if you have pets, especially those with distinct odors like ferrets! It is recommended to place them in the room near your ferrets’ cage or litterbox to lessen the smell.

5.     Air Out the Ferrets’ Room

If you don’t have an air purifier or want some extra freshness, air out your ferrets’ room. First, put your ferrets in their cage so they can’t escape the house, then open all the windows.

You can do this throughout your home if you’d like to let in the fresh air everywhere! Ventilation is always great for getting rid of bad smells that build up over time.

6. Don’t Descent Your Ferret

Most ferrets in the United States, sadly, are already descented. This surgery removes the ferrets’ anal glands. The problem with this surgery is that it doesn’t take away a ferret’s odor—the natural oils that ferrets produce on their skin are the cause of their distinctive smell.

It’s also an unnecessary surgery. Ferrets don’t benefit from descenting, and the practice is banned in many countries.

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