There are claims that pet snakes smell like rotten eggs, sulfur, or even a skunk or dead animal. Do snakes naturally emit a foul smell, or is the unpleasant odor a result of not keeping your snake’s enclosure clean?
Snakes do not smell bad and are virtually odorless. However, snake poop and urine stink, so you need to spot clean regularly (as required) and thoroughly sterilize your snake’s enclosure every 3-4 weeks. Snakes also have a defense mechanism called “musking” where they release a putrid odor to dissuade their enemies. Snakes kept in captivity may musk if they feel threatened or stressed.
Young or small snakes are more likely to musk than adults. Not all snakes musk, even though they’re all capable of doing so. If a captive snake does release foul odors, it should be easy to identify the cause. This behavior will reduce once your snake determines that you aren’t a threat.
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Can You Smell Snakes in a House?
Snakes are odor-neutral and don’t give off any scent. You won’t smell anything from your snake, aside from its bodily secretions. These types of smells are common in most/all animals, but can be resolved/minimized.
An unpleasant aroma is usually due to the snake’s urine or feces, which can be removed with regular spot cleaning. Most snakes go to the toilet once a week, shortly after they’ve digested their previous meal.
If you leave snake excrement and urine in a tank, the snake is inevitably going to pass through these substances on its stomach.
Aside from the smell transferrence, there’s the risk of scale rot. This occurs when a pet snake is exposed to wet or damp living conditions.
My Snake Smells Like Poop And Urine
A snake’s tank must be cleaned regularly to remove rotting food, spills, urates, feces, and shed skin. Removing any spillages and waste each day will keep your home smelling fresh and clean.
- The daily cleaning schedule: This involves using a reptile scoop to remove excrement/urates, spoiled/unwanted food, and changing the snake’s water. Snakes sometimes like to soak in warm water, which will help to get rid of any build-up of odors on the scales.
- The monthly cleaning schedule: This involves completely disinfecting the cage, changing the substrate, and cleaning everything inside. Make sure that you use the right type of snake bedding.
You’ll have to move your snake to a clean cage while you perform this level of deep cleaning. Avoid putting two snakes in the same tank as snakes are asocial and may fight for dominance.
My Snake Smells Like a Skunk
Like skunks, snakes have a very effective defense mechanism. This involves releasing a malodorous musk when they’re threatened or stressed.
The objective of musking in snakes is for them to smell less appealing as a meal to deadly predators. If a snake smells dead, the animal is more likely to leave it alone. The Journal of Chemical Ecology stated that scent gland secretions from snakes inhibit predatorial instincts in animals.
Snake musk is made up of a group of volatile compounds, such as phenols and acids that give it its powerful and incredibly unpleasant odor, according to the journal, Natural Product Report. Most animals heavily rely on their sense of smell over their sight to judge the taste of their meals before consuming them. So, not surprisingly, it works effectively.
Snakes secrete foul-smelling odors from their cloacal glands located on the bottom of their tails. These secretions may be accompanied by intestinal matter, most likely excrement and urine. A snake may toss its body around in these secretions, thus suppressing a would-be predator’s appetite.
Do All Snakes Musk?
While all snake species are capable of musking to warn predators, not all of them musk to the same extent. Musking is prevalent in certain species, but each snake has its own unique temperament.
For example, garter snakes, known for being unpredictable and skittish are more likely to musk more than some other species of snakes. They’re also quite small, which makes them feel more threatened in the wild.
Ball pythons, boa constrictors, and hognose snakes are less likely to emit musk. Therefore, if they smell bad and aren’t threatened, there’s a high chance the odor is coming from their feces or urates.
How to Reduce Musking in Pet Snakes
If your snake smells bad as a result of musking, there are some things that you can take to reduce this type of behavior. These include:
- Avoid looking like a threat. If your snake musks, place it gently back in its cage instead of throwing it back down in disgust.
- Learn how to handle your snake. Hold your snake with confidence without grabbing it. Avoid quick, vigorous movements.
- Leave a hungry or full snake alone. Avoid handling when your snake is hungry or digesting a meal as this can agitate your snake.
- More hiding places. Include plenty of hiding places so that your snake feels less threatened in its home environment.
- Allow your snake to grow bigger. Young and small snakes are more likely to musk than larger, older snakes. As your snake gets used to you, it will stop seeing you as a threat.
When you first get a pet snake, it takes you a while to understand your responsibilities as an owner. It also takes your snake time to feel safe in your company. This is just instinctive behavior. After a few weeks, defensive behaviors will start to diminish. Regular spot cleaning, after the snake goes to the toilet, will keep your home smelling fresh and clean.