Kids' Animal Station

For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals

True or False: The Funky Ferret’s Freaky Fragrance?!

If you’ve been following KidsAnimalStation for a while, you know that I used to be an owner of pet rats, and am a passionate activist of everything related to small animal rights. For the past few years, I’ve been interested in what it is like to have other small animal species as pets. (Fun fact, I actually first assumed that ferrets were rodents like rats and mice, however I actually found that they are weasels, and more closely related to dogs, cats, and bears than rodents! Who knew?) In particular, I’ve become interested in ferrets mostly because of their playful, fun loving attitudes and how cuddly and furry they seem. One of my moms actually had a ferret in college. In fact, I think that likely plays into my parents’ aversion to me getting a ferret. No matter how much I pester them, both my parents insist that ferrets are not only always stinky, but are not even made bearable by any type of cleaning or constant upkeep. And no matter how much I explain how I will diligently care for my ferrets, they still enforce this point. Well, I understand my parents enjoy cleanliness, but I’m not entirely sure if this claim was true, despite me hearing it from a couple sources.

Stock Photo, not mine

How much do ferrets tend to stink, really?

According to most sources, pet ferrets usually generate a “musky” smell which naturally emanates from their fur and skin. However, all agree that this odor is greatly reduced by frequent upkeep, such as cleaning the dirty cage. Otherwise, a lot of ferret owners say that they became used to the slight scent, to the point that it is nearly unrecognizable to them while in the room with the cage in it. However, this isn’t necessarily extremely convincing to my parents, who are still skeptical of this idea.

Photo from BoredPanda.com, not mine

And how much upkeep is required for a ferret, weekly?

Obviously other than responsibilities related to providing food, water, toys or veterinary services, the care of a ferret generally revolves around cleaning the litterbox or cage of droppings daily, washing or replacing the bedding each week, and the entirety of the cage about 2-3 times a month. Despite what some may assume, cleaning a ferret’s body itself is generally not necessary more than once a month, not unlike cats and other rodents, which tend to be self-cleaning. Also, just keeping your ferret/s happy, calm and healthy will contribute significantly to their scent and general livelihood, as ferrets naturally stink much more when they are stressed, and unhappy, feeling overcrowded or physically threatened. Other ways to decrease a pet ferret’s smells an range from putting an air filter or portable fan in the room where their cage is placed, training your ferrets to use a litter box in order to avoid accidents, to buying toys or blankets which specialize in absorbance and smell concealment beforehand. Generally speaking, taking care of a ferret/s is a serious responsibility and requires dedication, but it’s evident that even with simple planning of purchases and cage set-up can nearly eliminate the ferret’s legendary stink.

Stock Photo, not mine

I heard you can remove a ferret’s anal glands to help with the scent. Is this humane? And how much does it actually help with the smell?

Well, you may be happy to learn that the ferrets you see available for purchase or adoption at licensed pet stores like PetCo and other chains will have already been descented at around the age of 5-6 weeks old. This means that the anal glands have been surgically removed. Similarly, the commonplace spaying and neutering of ferrets causes them to smell less due to their naturally-occurring hormone producers. However, it is worth noting that many argue that ferret descenting is inhumane and unnecessary as long as you follow the other steps laid out in the first two questions. There is no denying that it is painful for the ferret, like any surgery is for a living creature, somewhat expensive for the owner, and isn’t something that would happen to a wild ferret naturally. Many local or small-scale ferret shops will not descent their ferrets for these reasons.

Stock Photo, not mine

Well…in the end, are ferrets really still worth it?

As you may have seen earlier, my family recently got a new puppy. Soji is now about a year old, and, in the process of training her, one thing we’ve definitely learned is that dog training has a lot more to do with ‘training’ the owners and teaching them how to approach their dogs in an effective and commanding way. In a way, I feel like adopting animals like ferrets is a similar dynamic. I’ve always loved animals and never minded the dirt, scent, or general uncleanliness of pets. Then again, my parents did end up taking on a large part of the cleaning duty for my rats when I was a kid, who would much rather play with rats than pick up their poop. And my parents likely took in their fair share of stinky animal care as kids, in college, and beyond, for instance with our old dog, Lily, who once pooped on our Playstation gaming system because she had to stay in doggy daycare while we were on vacation (LOL, she was very clever).

So for these additional reasons I’ll argue for some new ferret family members, and my parents will probably continue to say I’ll be able to get a ferret in college, or when I get my own place. Hahaha!

Check below for a poll question where you can share your opinion about ferret descenting. Do some research and report back!

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Wise Words

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if a person or animal is at stake."
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."
— Translation of African Proverb

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