The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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If you are looking into getting a ferret, you might have more than a few questions about these adorable companions. For example, you may have heard that ferrets tend to have a musky odor to them, and by extension, you might be worried that this odor will attract rats and mice to your home.
If you are worried about something such as this, then you won’t have to worry about a thing. While it is certainly true that ferrets have their own musk to them, this musk is not going to attract rats or mice to your home in any way, shape, or form.
In fact, there’s not an insignificant chance that the smell of a ferret will actually help to deter rats and mice from showing themselves in your home. Many people are surprised upon hearing this, but the truth is that much the same as cats, ferrets have been historically kept by farmers to keep rats and mice away from crops and storage.
How Ferrets Relate to Mice and Rats
While most people will refer to the ferret as a rodent and place them in the same group as rats and mice, the truth is that ferrets are far more closely related to weasels and stoats. Ferrets aren’t even considered rodents when you look into their animal family.
Ferrets are a part of a family known as Mustelids (Mustelidae), which are carnivorous mammals that include weasels, badgers, otters, minks, and even wolverines. Ferrets are only related to mice and rats by appearance alone. In terms of genetics and ancestry, they have no relation to rodents to begin with.
They are actually predators of rats and mice, and in this sense, can be considered much closer to cats. Both ferrets and cats are obligate carnivores, which means that there are certain proteins and nutrients that these animals need that can only be derived from eating live animals.
Because of this, ferrets will often hunt down rats and mice (among other animals) as their natural prey, which is why some farmers would raise them so that they could keep their farms pest-free.
Unlike cats, ferrets are much closer in size to rats and mice, so a well-trained ferret could easily chase a rat or mouse into its home and hunt them down from there, making them particularly useful in both home and farm environments.
With this in mind, most rats and mice recognize that a ferret is a natural predator of them and will not want to come out and be near its presence, keeping your home free of rats and mice while you have ferrets.
In fact, ferret urine is considered a natural deterrent to rats and mice for this very reason, as rodents will know that this is a predator’s marking and will want to stay far, far away from it.
Can You Use Ferrets as a Natural Rat Killer?
Upon hearing this, you might begin to wonder if you should adopt a ferret to get rid of a rat problem that you have. While it is true that ferrets have been used historically to get rid of rats and mice, it is not as commonplace today for a number of reasons, with the largest reason being that rat poisons are far more easy to obtain.
Most people will have rat (and mouse) poison that they use when they suspect that there is a rat infestation. Ferrets, being naturally curious little creatures, might take an interest in the rat poison and accidentally poison themselves.
There’s also the chance that your ferret will become injured by the rat. Unlike cats, who tower over rats and mice as natural predators, ferrets are often closer to the same size in terms of height, which makes them far more likely to be noticeably injured by a rat or mouse’s attempt at fighting back.
These wounds, whether from saliva or blood, run a high risk of becoming infected or carrying a disease and getting your ferret sick. Plus, most people don’t appreciate their pets becoming noticeably wounded by another animal and it is not kind to your ferret.
If you suspect that your home has rats or mice in it and you have a ferret, you shouldn’t try to set the ferret loose on them. You should instead contact a pest control service.
Even if ferrets were once useful in getting rid of rats and mice, in today’s time, there are far better solutions that you can consider for both you and your ferret friend.
What About the Smell?
Ferrets have a bad reputation for being smelly pets and there is good reason why this reputation exists. Ferrets do have a natural musk that they produce.
It can certainly be something unpleasant and not something that you want to experience, but you don’t have to worry about that smell attracting rats or mice to your home or to your ferret’s enclosure.
If you want to get rid of the smell of your ferret, you may be partially out of luck. All pets come with their natural downsides to them and one of the disadvantages of owning a ferret is that they do not smell pleasant.
If this is enough to dissuade you from owning a ferret, then this might be for the best, as you cannot do much to keep your ferret from producing its natural musk. Within the United States, it is considered common procedure for ferrets to be de-scented.
This is the surgical removal of the scent glands of a ferret and will cut down significantly on the production of the musky smell that ferrets have, though it will not stop it completely.
In addition to getting your ferret de-scented, you can also consider putting up odor absorbers and air fresheners around the ferret’s enclosure. When dealing with the way that a ferret smells, it is best to try to work with your ferret rather than trying to stifle it.
What this means is that the scent is going to be there whether you care about it or not. Because of this, you should focus your scent-removing efforts to be more toward dealing with an unpleasant smell rather than the source. There are air fresheners, air purifiers, carbon and coal scent removers, and so on that you can use when trying to deal with the natural smell of your ferret.
It is not recommended that you bathe the ferret all that much, as bathing the ferret (even with ferret-safe shampoo) will strip your ferret’s skin of its natural oils; as a response, the skin will produce more and this will only lead to a stronger scent.
At the very least, you can rest assured knowing that even if your ferret is a smelly companion, the smell of the ferret will actually work much more as a deterrent to rats and mice that might be near your home and trying to get in, due to the ferret’s natural position as a predator of rats and mice.
At the very least, rats and mice aren’t going to want to go anywhere near a location that smells strongly of a natural predator, which will inadvertently keep your home free of rats and mice for as long as you keep your ferret.