"Stink" is a loaded word. While it's true that ferrets have an odor, whether or not they stink depends on various factors, including the sensitivity of a person's olfactory glands. Still, even the most fervent ferret lover knows that his pets' scent isn't to everyone's liking. There are ways to minimize eau de ferret.
The Musky Smell
That musky scent your ferret friend exudes emanates from his skin. If you've ever noticed that your ferret's fur feels greasy, that's his sebaceous glands at work. There's a sex link to the skin glands, so ferrets in mating mode smell more. If you or someone in your household really can't cope with ferret odor, rethink your choice of pet. You could limit your ferret to one particular room or area of your home, as your pet should be out of his cage for hours each day in order to exercise adequately.
The Anal Glands
Your ferret's anal glands also cause a foul odor. He's a distant relative of the skunk, so he does use those anal scent glands defensively. Fear, fighting and sex are the general reasons for the scent glands' unleashing. The anal sacs are located at the base of his tail. Your vet can also remove your ferret's anal sacs, a common and relatively simple procedure. That de-scenting operation won't eliminate all the odor, but will lessen it considerably.
Spaying and Neutering
If your ferret isn't spayed or neutered, get your pet fixed as soon as possible. Male ferrets in particular have a very strong smell, which neutering lessens but doesn't eliminate. However, even ferret aficionados admit that unneutered male ferrets stink. In addition to improving odor, neutering also decreases aggressive behavior, which makes your ferret a better pet all around. Unspayed female ferrets can stay in heat indefinitely.
Dealing with Odors
Since even after elective surgeries your ferret still smells, bathe him monthly with a mild shampoo to reduce odor. Don't give him more frequent baths, as this will strip away his skin oils, which can cause his skin to produce even more oil, increasing the smell. Since your ferret's ears also give off an odor, clean them regularly, but very gently. Keep your ferret's bedding scrupulously clean, along with his litter box. Feed him a high-quality meat diet, either one designed especially for ferrets or top cat food. You can purchase ferret odor neutralizers to spray directly on your pet and his bedding, but ask your vet for a specific product recommendation.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.