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Why frequent ferret baths are doing more harm than good

Ferret moms and dads know their pets can get a bit musky (to put it nicely). It’s one of the facts of life when your family includes this cute slinker. But you can develop a cleaning routine to keep both you and your animal happiest. Surprisingly, this won’t include frequent bathing — instead, other regimens will help you keep the smell at bay while not introducing any other issues. So, can you bathe a ferret? We’ll walk you through it.

Why do ferrets smell?

Scent glands! Actually, almost all mammals have them, even us. Ferrets in particular can get pretty pungent, especially if they haven’t had any of their anal glands surgically removed and if they haven’t been neutered. Your pet mostly uses these to mark his land, though that doesn’t mean he’s feeling particularly territorial. You can take a few steps to reduce the smell (more on that later). No matter what you do, though, he will have a little bit of a whiff about him. Most likely, you’ll just get used to it. 

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Ferret gets shampooed while taking a bath in the sink

How often should you do a ferret bath?

When we smell bad, we take a shower and put on some deodorant. This doesn’t work for our furry friends, though. Remember, our pets don’t typically take showers in the wild. While a quick dip in the stream might be on the agenda, soap and shampoo are human inventions. Instead, your little ferret has evolved oils on his skin to keep clean, and he probably gives his fur a lick now and then. That’s why bathing can do more harm than good. And not just for his dry and itchy skin — it’ll increase the smell, too (trust us, you don’t want this). We’re not telling you to skip the water entirely, as you should give him a dip every few months, maybe four times per year.

Where do you bathe a ferret?

As you’d do with a baby, you can stick that animal into the sink. Bring special shampoo (try to find one just for him, but kitten shampoo also works), a soft cloth, and a drying towel. We’ll be honest, your pet might hate this. Ease him into the process and make sure to keep lots of treats on hand. A few other tips about the water: not too deep or too hot. While you might like a scalding shower, that will further irritate his skin. Find a gently warm temp and don’t fill the sink so high that he’s submerged, which will increase his anxiety. 

Ferret looks up at his owner

What should go into your cleaning routine?

Instead of his bath, you can apply a few other quick cleaning methods to keep the smell down and his happiness up. For starters, while we don’t recommend bathing too often, we do encourage frequent cage cleaning. Be sure that he goes to bed on a clean cloth, his toys are freshly laundered (unscented), and his litter is scooped daily. Sometimes your home smells because his home smells. 

Additionally, while a full bath is not advised, his ears and teeth do need regular attention. Both should be cleaned once per week or more often if you spot any issues. Lastly, brushing your ferret’s coat often acts something like bathing, without introducing any of the unwanted drawbacks. Get into good habits around these measures to keep your home smell-free.

How else can you prevent odor?

If you’ve gone through all these steps and still have an issue, it’s time to talk to the vet. Get your ferret a once-over and discuss options, like neutering, that will decrease the smell. Go through his diet to make sure it’s not causing any unfortunate digestive issues (you’ll both benefit when he’s regular). Your animal doctor will work closely with you to identify any issues. Even if nothing will prevent the smell entirely, research pet-safe air purifiers or air filters that will make things more pleasant for you.

Most of all, keep in mind that your ferret friend doesn’t know he smells. In fact, he might think it makes him alluring. Consider designating a specific room or area of the house the “ferret zone” to keep the smelliness in one spot. If you’re dealing with a particularly scent-sensitive household, though, think carefully before bringing him home. We can’t stress this enough: Even with surgery, proper cleaning, infrequent baths, and air fresheners, he will still get fragrant. 

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Lizard on substrate in his cage

When we bring home pets, we sign up to take care of them for life, including the less pleasant aspects of that. Reptiles, rodents, and birds all bring another aspect that is not part of owning a dog or cat: cleaning their cages. One of the best ways to actually improve your cage cleaning is to invest in a reptile carpet, which allows you to skimp on another substrate. But this still needs a good washing. Here's how to clean a reptile carpet.

What is a reptile carpet?
All reptile tanks need something to go on the bottom. This serves as a substitute for the dirt, leaves, or sand that your pet would walk around on in the wild. You can choose a reptile carpet or another type of substrate, such as wood chips. Unlike those natural materials, the carpet does not need to be replaced frequently and instead should be cleaned. 
How often should you clean a reptile carpet?
With any animal, you need to regularly clean up after her — to remove waste, uneaten food, and shedded skin (or fur). For those who live in cages or tanks, that means keeping it very tidy. Just as you would scoop out a litter box every day or pick up after your dog when he uses the park as his bathroom, so too you should set aside five minutes daily to spot-clean your pet's home (we'll go through the process in a minute). On top of that, you need to do a full deep clean every week. 
How to spot-clean a reptile carpet
If you don't keep on top of your ritual cleaning, you will soon find yourself overwhelmed by lizard poop. That's why we recommend picking up a little bit each day. Your animal will leave a fair amount of droppings behind. When you go for your daily feeding, take a look around quickly and try to spot any poop or urine that you can see. You might want to throw on a pair of gloves and grab a rag to do the actual dirty work. Soak up any pee and pull out poop (you can use a little scooper if that works better). Then wipe down the spot with your wet rag. That's all you'll really need to do for your day-to-day treatment.

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Why do guinea pigs poop so much? Here’s what’s normal
Cute guinea pig rides on his owner's shoulder

When you bring home a pet, you agree to take care of all their needs: heap on attention, supply plenty of food, and scoop the poop. And in addition to being chatterers, guinea pigs are poopers, big ones. If there's one thing they know how to do, it's deliver their excrement, everywhere and always. Unfortunately, this skill doesn't also come with good cleaning abilities, so you're stuck with the pickup. Don't let this deter you, though. These sweet little guys make great companions, and you can teach them to go a little more conveniently if you work at it. But why do guinea pigs poop so much? Don't worry too much if it feels like you have a never-ending supply of guinea pig dung; this is completely normal. 

How much poop is normal for a guinea pig?
We don't want to alarm you, but some owners report cleaning up 100 pellets per day per pet. Also, since they need to stick together in pairs or small herds, you get the muck of multiple animals in one cage. That's A LOT of poop and A LOT of man-hours to remove it. Expect to give the cage a once-over at least twice a day, morning and night when you feed and replace water. To help you along, the first thing you want to invest in is a vacuum. That will speed up the process so you aren't spending literally all your time grabbing bits of pig leavings off bedding. Don't put it off either or the cage will get extra dirty and start to smell. 
Why do guinea pigs poop so much?
In order to keep their teeth worn down, their bellies full, and their nutrient levels high, these pets eat constantly. Little rodent bodies require lots of calories to go, so they consume food most of their waking hours (oh, and sleep 14 hours a day, too). With plenty of roughage going in, you'll see plenty of droppings going out. Having that hay around all the time actually keeps their digestion in check, so while it leads to lots of surprises for you to discover, this is how we want it to be. Never cut down on your piggie's food even if you feel like he's eating too much. Report any changes in food consumption to the vet, though, as that could mean he's sick. 
What should guinea pig poop look like?
We know that there should be a lot of doo-doo coming from your pigs and you want to keep track of it. That makes it easy to get a good idea of what their droppings should look like. Look for an oval, darkish brown, and relatively un-smelly turd. Gut and digestive problems give you an early warning sign that something is not quite right with your animal. Diarrhea, light-colored poop, or bloody poop means a trip to the vet should be added to the calendar. Keep in mind, they do eat their own feces for extra nutrition, so don't panic (or try to stop them) if you see that happen. 

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How long do hamsters really live?
Hamster peacefully eats a worm while being held in hand

Our pets can't stay with us forever, but the right setup and care will prolong their time for a good while. In fact, life expectancies of many indoor animals have been steadily increasing as we perfect their nutrition and homes. Still, we only can have our sweet companions for a handful of years (unless you decide to bring home a tortoise, in which case prepare your great-grandchildren to inherit it). While in dogs a smaller breed typically lives longer than a larger one, for small pets the opposite is true. Bunnies have a better life expectancy than guinea pigs, who make it more years than hamsters. While no one wants to say goodbye to a furry friend, realistically looking at a hamster's lifespan can help you plan ahead. 

What is the lifespan of a hamster as a pet?
This varies a bit based on what type of hamster you bring home, but you should expect to have him in your care for two to three years. Of course, if you adopt an older hamster, that will shorten the amount of time you have together, but does provide a noble and necessary service for abandoned pets. The oldest hamsters live to reach four, and if you're lucky, you'll have one for that long. If longevity matters to you, in particular, seek out a Robo Dwarf Hamster, which has the best shot of getting to a ripe old age.
What ailments afflict hamsters?
We certainly hope that old age eventually comes for your pet after he's lived a long and happy life. But hamsters, like all animals, do tend to get certain illnesses. One of the most common in these little guys is a cold. You'll notice by spotting the telltale signs: runny nose, droopy eyes, and sneezing. Your vet may give him something to manage the symptoms a bit, but mostly you simply have to wait it out (just as you would if you were sick). However, don't confuse a cold with wet tail, a deadly disease that can kill in 24 hours if untreated. If your hamster's underside is moist, call the vet immediately and get him on antibiotics (and possibly fluids).
How can I help my hamster live longer?
It all comes down to a good diet, lots of exercise, and a peaceful environment. Many hamster sicknesses are brought on by tension, so you want to do your best to avoid stressors. That means eliminating things from the area that would bring on anxiety, such as other pets. It's completely possible for a small pet and large one to coexist, but they need their own spaces far away from each other. 

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