It’s claimed that snakes smell like cat pee (urine) or rotten eggs, but is it true? If so, how often does it happen? Nobody wants a snake smell in the house. That’s why you need to find out if snakes smell bad long before surprising everyone with a new pet snake.
Provided that your snake is relaxed and happy and their terrarium is clean, snakes have a neutral smell. When afraid or stressed, they will release a strong smell as a defense mechanism. For example, a garter snake may release a foul musk from its cloacal scent gland.
You can tell a lot about a snake by its odor. We will explore the different smells produced by snakes, and what they mean. If you follow this advice, your snake will rarely create a bad odor. But if you want to keep bad smells away in any situation, then you may wish to use Zoo Med ReptiFresh Odor Eliminating Substrate to neutralize bad odors.
Do Pet Snakes Smell Bad?
A happy and contented snake will smell neutral while in their terrarium. Your snake will not emit an aroma unless they have released waste, which should be cleaned up immediately. This typically happens once or twice per week, depending on how often they eat.
When a snake is stressed, they will emit very strong smells. This is known as ‘musking.’ Very occasionally, these aromas are designed to announce a snake’s presence and attract a mate.
More often, they are a defense mechanism designed to repel a snake’s natural predators. These scents are anathema to the nose and suggest that the snake will taste foul. Acting on instinct, most predatory animals will leave the snake alone as a result.
If your snake is releasing these smells while being handled, the message is clear. The snake is uncomfortable and afraid. They hope that the smell will abhor you, and you’ll put them down.
In such a scenario, be sure to abide by your snake’s wishes. The sooner you return the reptile to their terrarium, the sooner they will calm down.
Being handled by humans is not natural for snakes. They will be scared of you, and it will take them some time to adapt. Patience and understanding of your snake’s thought processes are essential.
My Snake Smells Like Rotten Eggs
Different breeds of snake release various scents. For example, a ball python will smell completely different to a corn snake. Any ambient smells may also depend on your snake’s diet.
Ordinarily, the scent of a musking snake will be very strong and sulfurous. If you smell rotten eggs while handling your snake, the chances are you have encountered their musk. Return them to their habitat immediately, and see if the aroma calms down.
My Snake Smells Like Urine
Snakes do not urinate conventionally. Their body contains a unique flap close to their tail, called the cloaca. Once or twice per week, this flap will open, and feces and urinary waste will be released.
This waste will create a strong scent, and it should always be cleaned up as soon as you notice it. It’s not unheard of for a snake’s skin to be ‘stained’ by the smell if left long enough. This is especially likely if your snake’s terrarium is lined with carpet as a substrate.
If the smell of their urine marks your snake, bathing is the only option. Clean your snake and replace the bedding in their tank.
This means they will potentially find the scent of their habitat rubbing off their scales. If you put your snake back into a marked terrarium, the smell will soon return.
My Snake’s Terrarium Smells Bad
If your pet snake tends to smell strongly within their terrarium, you may need to look a little deeper into the reason why.
It could be that your snake’s tank needs to be cleaned, or are they are uncomfortable. Ensure that temperature and humidity levels are appropriate, and there isn’t too much ambient light or noise.
You can also get substrates, such as Zoo Med ReptiFresh Odor Eliminating Substrate, that mask a snake’s natural musking. If a snake is releasing a scent, it means something. Ignoring the behavior could lead to further stress and health complications.
Do Snakes Smell When They Shed Their Skin?
This depends on the condition of your snake when they are shedding. If your snake is outgrowing their skin, it may itch but will not be painful. As a result, your snake should be comfortable and not musk during the experience.
Sometimes, snakes shed for other reasons. If they have mites biting their scales, or their skin is damaged, for example. In these instances, your snake may be in physical discomfort before shedding. In such a situation they will, of course, release their trademark musking scent.
Should I Wash My Snake?
It can be mutually beneficial to wash your pet snake from time to time. Soaking in warm water aids digestion kills parasites and encourages shedding if your snake is struggling. The beginning of the shedding schedule is the best time to bathe your snake.
There are many regulations that you should follow to bathe your snake safely:
- Use clean water. This should either be bottled or purified. Don’t use chlorinated water, as this will irritate sensitive scales.
- Heat the water to 37-40O. It’s important to be accurate here, as snakes are very sensitive to temperature. Use a thermometer to ensure that you are not hurting your snake.
- Fill a bathtub to around four inches deep with this warm water. This is deep enough to safely allow your snake to swim and stretch, which they’ll enjoy. If you don’t have a bathtub and your snake is small enough, a sink should so.
- Leave the snake to their own devices for 10 to 15 minutes so they can swim. Keep an eye on them though, in case they grow distressed or tired. If this is the case, remove them from the water as quickly as possible. Remember that a snake can escape in the blink of an eye.
- Pick your snake up, and dry them off with a soft towel.
- If you have a second terrarium, place your snake here for a while. This is because a bath typically encourages a snake to eliminate. This needs to be cleaned up immediately, which may be easier if it’s not their terrarium.
If your snake is an escapologist, you could place a container filled with warm water in their terrarium. Some snakes enjoy basking in water within their terrarium too. This does not apply to many pet breeds, however. It’s more applicable to a large species, such as the anaconda.
A snake will always have fun with more space in which to experience their bath. Just don’t place them somewhere too large that will become overwhelming. Snakes are fearful of large, open spaces as such environments leave them exposed to flying predators.
How Often Should I Clean My Snake’s Cage?
Cleaning your snake’s terrarium is an integral part of their maintenance. Many different things need to be done regularly:
- Change your snake’s water every day.
- Remove any uneaten food as soon as it may be safe to do so.
- Immediately remove any waste that your snake leaves behind.
- Spot clean the walls of the terrarium daily to ensure it does not grow dirty. This can be done using a solution of 5% bleach diluted with water.
- Completely change the substrate roughly once per month.
These are just guidelines as every snake is different. You will need to use your discretion and act accordingly.
Do Snakes Have a Keen Sense of Smell?
Snakes have an excellent sense of smell, making up for their limited vision and hearing. This is how a snake comes to recognize their owner, and learns to tolerate being handled.
Snakes are also easily confused, though. If your snake picks up their own scent, they may confuse it for another snake. This is why snakes sometimes attack themselves, biting their tails. They are solitary animals by nature and fiercely protect their territory.
Are Snakes Comforted by Familiar Smells?
Snakes certainly recognize familiar smells, and they can be frightened by the smell of a predator. However, they do not necessarily draw comfort from familiar smells, such as that of their owner. Their brains are not wired that way.
A snake will be largely indifferent to your scent unless you are bringing them food. Even then, it will be the scent of the snack that is capturing their imagination.
You should be vigilant about noticing any smells from your snake’s terrarium. If you can detect a distinct scent from your snake, something is usually wrong.
Be sure to clean up your pet’s habitat, and keep them content. Additionally, seek the advice of a vet if your snake is starting to smell strong. There will be a reason for this problem.