Why do Snakes Smell Like Urine or Rotten Eggs?

Red-tailed Racer Snake in a Cage 

Every pet has their highs and lows and for snakes it can sometimes be their smell. Why is it that snakes smell like rotten eggs sometimes?

Why do snakes smell like urine or rotten eggs? Certain snakes have a skunk-like natural defense which causes them to when threatened, release a stinky musk. This musk serves to tell predators that they smell bad so they are going to taste bad too.

Unfortunately, while you are likely not a predator to a snake, if scared the snake will still secrete the same foul-smelling musk. I’ve explained why below.

Why Snakes Use Smell

Snakes are known for their ability to pick up on chemical trials. This sense is most closely related to our human sense of smell and as such often gets roped into the concept of a snake’s sense of smell. However, this ability to sense chemical trails is much more like an additional sense.

Snakes use organs at the roof of their mouth to detect these chemical trails and they will wave the chemical trails into their mouths with their forked tongues. As such, a snake’s sense of smell often guides a lot of its body’s other adaptations such as the cloacal glands at the end of the snakes body.

Cloacal glands are used by females to release a chemical trail signaling that they are ready to mate. However, males also have these cloacal glands. And it is from these glands that the snakes, both male and female, will produce the stench of snake musk.

While this smell is incredibly annoying it is generally avoidable and often easy to clean. Keep reading to find out what else could be causing snake stink, how to clean off snake musk, and how to properly clean your snake. 

Other Causes of Smelly Snakes

Most people that are searching for why snakes smell like rotten eggs are dealing with a snake’s signature musk. The smell of Urine however is a whole other story.

The biggest cause of a urine smell is urine.

Snakes have to pee too and since they don’t have any form of litter or a door to do their business outside, they are stuck peeing in their homes. This means you have to clean it out. Whenever you see feces or urine in your snake’s cage, you’ll need to clean it up. How you clean it depends on the type of bedding you have for your snake.

The simplest bedding that you can give your snake is newspaper. Newspaper is really easy to clean as well, all you have to do is remove the yellow parts of the paper when you see them and then replace each sheet. Similarly, excrement can be removed whenever it appears, but newspaper isn’t always the bedding that you will have.

With other bedding, the simplest thing to do is wipe up any urine that you can see and switch out the bedding every month. If your snake’s cage is smelling because of this excrement in the cage, then you will want to change out their bedding more frequently.

This may be more expensive so you may want to change your bedding type depending on the smell of your snake. Generally though, if you clean the bedding once a month you shouldn’t have a problem with a snake’s smell.

Some other things that you will want to take care of frequently are as follows:

  • Exchanging their water bowl
  • Removing uneaten food
  • Remove any waste that your snake leaves behind
  • Clean any dirt or grime off the walls of the tank

You’ll want to exchange the water bowl every day. Your snake often bathes in that water to hydrate itself so not only will it get rather stinky but it will also be beneficial to your snake’s health to have that water clean every time it goes to take a soak. 

Snakes will rarely waste their food but if the snake hasn’t finished part of their food, or any of their food, then they aren’t going to eat it. So remove it before you get the smell of their dead food stinking up the cage. Make sure when you go to remove the food that your snake is truly not interested as you don’t want your snake attempting to bite you as you grab their unfinished meal.

Removing waste is pretty simple. Wear a glove while doing it and be careful that you aren’t disturbing your snake, but remove any refuse that you can find. Wipe up urine and remove poop from the cage. All things considered, it is pretty simple, but you will have to search your cage to find it sometimes. It is better to remove it as fast as you can though, as you don’t want your snake slithering through anything.

Finally, you will want to search the sides of your terrarium or cage that your snake is being kept in. As your snake slithers around, it will leave behind whatever it has picked up so you’ll see marks on your tank’s walls and such of grime or other dirt based left behinds that you’ll want to clean up as soon as you can. Keep your snake’s house clean and you shouldn’t have a problem with smell.

How to Clean Snake Musk?

If you’re trying to get that musky smell off of your hands, there are a large variety of home brewed solutions that you can use.

The first candidate is the oh so famous tomato sauce/ juice. This does not get rid of the smell. It masks it. If that’s all you want, then great, use it, but the tomato juice myths of the past are not the only solution.

Peroxide and baking soda. This combination is the best way to get it off of your body. Wet your hands and then cake them in baking soda. Then pour some hydrogen peroxide onto them and rub them up and down. It’s an easy solution that should actually eliminate the musky smell. This also is a good way to clean out carpet that has this smell.

How to Clean Your Snake

It is beneficial for your snake to bathe in some warm water from time to time.

You likely have a water bowl within the snake’s cage but this isn’t exactly bathing him. Bathing the snake in warm water will allow for easier digestion, shedding, and cleaning. Overall, that’s a plus for both you and your snake.

Use clean water to bathe your snake. Keep the temperature to about 98 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That is 37 to 40 degrees Celsius. Fill your bathtub with about four inches of water at this temperature. If a bathtub isn’t available and your snake will fit, you can use a sink. Then leave the snake alone for about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll be able to relax as it takes care of itself mainly.

You will want to keep a watchful eye out though, as some snakes will escape at any given chance. When those 10 to 15 minutes are up, go ahead and clean them off by drying them with a towel. Then return them to a hopefully clean terrarium.

Related Questions

Will a snake stink up your home? Generally, a snake will not stink up your home. Besides the natural defense of a snake to release its musk, you will not have to deal with the smell of a snake. In fact, compared to most pets, snakes have very little smell as snakes have no hair or fur to catch bad smelling things on. Additionally, they are confined to their cage which means they don’t really have much opportunity to get all that dirty. So generally, a safe and not smelly pet.

I didn’t scare my snake, so why did it still musk me? Snakes capable of releasing musk will do so when they feel threatened, but they will also do so when they are hurt by any means. Sometimes this can be caused by natural processes such as a rough shedding. So try to make your snake as comfortable as possible, but sometimes you can’t help that your snake feels scared.

Which snakes stink? So the largest culprits of using musk as a natural defense are garter snakes. After garter snakes, king snakes, ribbon snakes, water snakes, corn snakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads all have the potential to musk up a room. So avoid those snakes as they are the primary culprits, but to avoid this completely, you’ll want to look into the snake that you want before you get it to ensure that it doesn’t release bad smells as a natural defense.

Connor

Connor is a nerd to the highest degree. Having grown up on comic, StarWars, and Lord of the Rings he found that stories were his passion. Throughout his life, he has softened life's falls with the hardcover of a book. Writing has become a passion for Connor, no matter the subject, as he loves how words can be used in so many different and persuasive combinations.

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