8 Exotic Pets That Smell Bad

Updated on June 25, 2019
Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa holds a Bachelor's degree in biology and is a plant and animal enthusiast with multiple pets.

When it comes to traits that make certain animals desirable as pets, the lack of an offensive odor tends to rank fairly high. When searching for a new pet, many people purposefully seek out animals that "don’t smell"—this can apply to the animal’s body odor, environment, or bodily secretions. While most animals have smelly droppings, some some smell worse than others. Many species have special pheromones that they love to intentionally rub or spray in places where you’d rather them not. Even pets as popular as cats can have very smelly urine, and some individuals spray to mark their territory. Many exotic pets pose similar challenges. Pheromones and scent marking are fairly common in exotic mammals, and it is something potential owners need to take into consideration. Some animals have very notable body odors that can continue to linger and can permanently alter the aroma of your home.

8 Exotic Pets That Smell Bad

  1. Tamanduas
  2. Red Foxes
  3. Porcupines
  4. Ferrets
  5. Marmosets
  6. Skunks
  7. Sugar Gliders
  8. Binturongs

1. Tamanduas

This unique animal, also known as the lesser anteater, is definitely not a good pet for those who aren’t prepared to do extensive initial and continuing research for its dietary needs. In addition to being a pet that has involved care, they are also said to have a smell that is several times stronger than a skunk and can be detected up to 164 feet away in the wild.

Like skunks, they secrete a smelly spray from an anal gland under the base of their tail to ward off potential enemies. These small anteaters won’t smell as horrific when they are unstressed, but there is still a lingering skunkiness to them that some say smells like marijuana.

2. Red Foxes

The most common pet fox species, red foxes, are notorious among exotic pet owners for their pungent, skunk-like odor. Foxes have a musky aroma that helps convey their status and mark their territory, but the smell of their urine is especially strong. The foxes themselves have a typical animal muskiness, but because their pee and poop has such an intense odor and they tend to pee often and use it to scent mark, they will accumulate the smell even with frequent bathing.

Unfortunately for this reason, these charismatic canids often need to be housed outdoors, unlike their more expensive cousin the fennec fox, which has almost no odor in comparison. The muskiness of red foxes can be reduced with spaying and neutering, but not eliminated. Grey and arctic foxes also have odor issues.

3. Porcupines

These prickly animals can actually make good pets despite their intimidating quills. However, they have one problem that zookeepers who work with them are very familiar with. Some porcupines have a very strong smell that some say resemble human body odor. The species famous for this are mainly New World porcupines such as the North American and Brazilian prehensile-tailed porcupines.

Thanks to the chemical compound R-delta-decalactone that the rodent secrets as a warning signal for predators, to attract mates, and to mark territory, porcupines are not pets for people who are sensitive to strong smells. The pungent odor is secreted from a patch of skin towards the back of the animal called a rosette. Those who’ve smelled porcupine odor know that it is unmistakable. Another porcupine species that is uncommonly kept as a pet is the Palawan porcupine, and while it doesn’t have a strong body odor, the feces smell very strong for rodent poop, while the urine has a distinct "saltiness".

The Science Behind Why Porcupines Stink

4. Ferrets

Ferrets are domesticated and popular exotic pets and many are familiar with their smelly reputation. Ferrets can be a hassle because they constantly use the bathroom, which is rather unusual for a carnivorous animal, and their enclosures and body have a continuous musky odor that owners tend to go "nose blind" to while visitors can detect the scent upon arrival. Some ferret owners claim that their diet is to blame, and that feeding higher quality food or raw meals can reduce the odor. Still, the musk is impossible to eliminate completely.


5. Marmosets

Initially, you'd think that marmosets make great pets due to their small size, but unfortunately, these tiny monkeys have especially foul-smelling urine. On top of this, these active animals have a tendency to pee anywhere in their cage, or even projectile it out of the enclosure. Marmosets will rub their perineum on everything to scent mark. The smell of the animal is a "sweet muskiness". Marmoset owners should be prepared to clean the animal's habitat frequently to tame, but not fully eliminate, the aromas. Like other animals, the strength of the urine can be reduced with spaying and neutering.


6. Skunks

Skunks are a very unsurprising addition to this list, as the nature of their smelly defense mechanism is ubiquitous in popular culture and everyone is aware of them. As they are native animals, most people in North America are familiar with the potent smell of their urine that can travel for blocks and smells of burning tires, pot, and fumes. Pet skunks, however, are largely "de-skunked", or their scent glands are removed, making them one of the least smelly animals on this list but their urine and feces are still very offensive. Surprisingly in the UK, removing the scent glands is not legal.


7. Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders are marsupials that pack an intensive smell in such a tiny body. While ferrets tend to get a bad rap for smelling up a room, sugar gliders are much worse. The odor comes from their urine, poop, and the scent glands of an intact male that will intensify during breeding season. Sugar glider experts suggest that poor diet can make the smell worse, and small enclosures can enhance the smell by allowing the waste to accumulate faster. Other owners state that certain cage furniture such as running wheels can collect urine and need to be cleaned very frequently. Despite all this, there will always be some smell and those who are sensitive to this should probably skip getting a glider as a pet.


8. Binturongs

This strange-looking animal is also known a bearcat. Unlike the other animals on this list, the smell of this uncommon exotic pet might actually smell good to some people. This is because they smell like hot and buttered popcorn. This is due to a chemical compound in their urine called 2-AP, which is the same compound found in a freshly popped popcorn kernel that results from the chemical reaction of certain proteins and sugars. The smell is stronger in male binturongs, and the animals probably use the odor to let other binturongs know of their presence and sex. These civet relatives are not the only animals that remind us of snack food; dogs are famous for having paws that smell like corn ships.

“Binturong pretending to be a rug.”
“Binturong pretending to be a rug.” | Source

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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      2 years ago

      Very interesting article full of adorable creatures.


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