Do Pet Snakes Make Your House Smell Bad?

Snakes are nearly odorless animals. Their low odor and little waste make them great pets to have in the house. Their natural smells and odors from waste like urates and feces have a smell that doesn’t travel very far. 

A snake’s smell is preventable by cleaning their enclosure regularly.  

Although a pet snake won’t have enough odor to make your entire house smell bad, they have the ability to let out a foul-smelling odor as a defense mechanism when they’re frightened or feel threatened. 

Snakes aren’t always completely odorless so there are ways to get rid of odor like cleaning your snake’s enclosure or giving them a soak.

How to clean your snake’s tank

Snakes have very few odors and the odors they have can be eliminated by regularly cleaning out their enclosure. 

Each type of setup has different requirements for cleaning, but they are generally simple. 

Urates and feces should be removed as soon as you see them by removing that and the surrounding substrate. Luckily, most snake-safe substrates will absorb liquids and odors so removing the surrounding substrate will get rid of foul smells. 

We recommend changing out the substrate every 1-2 months if you’re using a non-bioactive snake enclosure setup. 

The enclosure also needs to be wiped down during these monthly substrate changes which will help prevent any odors from sticking. 

You can use a cleaning solution made for reptile cages or you can create your own. 


Smell from substrate

Most snake substrates have a smell of their own which is the most odor you’ll get from having a pet snake. Most safe substrates for snakes like coconut coir, aspen, and cypress mulch have natural odors that you can’t avoid. 

To reduce odors from these substrates you can opt for paper bedding such as unprinted newspaper or paper towels. They aren’t as aesthetic to use especially if you want your setup to look natural, but they don’t produce any odors. 

They also lack the absorbing powers that a natural substrate has so the smell from any excrement will travel further around your house. 

Most odors that come from the substrate dissipate within a week and only come back if you mist the enclosure for humidity. 

A snake’s natural odors

All snakes have natural odors as most animals do. 

These are some causes of a snake that smells bad. 

  • Musk
  • Waste
  • Regurgitating
  • Skin

How to prevent or lessen natural snake odors

bad smell

To prevent musking: 

  • Musking is a defense mechanism snakes use to deter predators. They only use this when they feel threatened so keeping your snake calm and relaxed is the best way to stop them from musking. 
  • I’ve only experienced a snake musking once and it was when someone was trying to sex the snake by popping its hemipenes. 
  • In other words, don’t squeeze them tightly or it might trigger their reflex to musk. 

To prevent odors from excrement

  • Unfortunately, waste is unavoidable when you have a pet snake. The smells from waste like urates and feces can be controlled with a substrate with absorbing powers like aspen or other snake-safe wood chips. 
  • Coconut husk is another substrate that absorbs well and it’s sold at most pet stores. 

To prevent regurgitating:

  • Snakes can regurgitate their food on command, but they’ll only do so if they feel they need to. 
  • They will regurgitate their meal when the meal is too large or if they feel threatened after or while eating.
  • To prevent a snake from regurgitating its meal it’s best to feed them an appropriate-sized rodent that’s not too large and won’t make them immobile. 
  • Large rodents will weigh down the snake making them feel defenseless. When they’re threatened, they’ll regurgitate the food to become more agile and move quickly. 
  • Also, make sure your snake’s husbandry closely mimics their natural environment so they can digest their food properly. 

Prevent odors on snake’s skin

snake skin
  • As you know, snakes shed their skin in layers. Their outermost layer of skin eventually gets shed off, usually in 1 piece. 
  • Their skin sometimes absorbs the odors around them so they end up smelling like their waste. 
  • To prevent them from absorbing any odors clean their enclosure regularly. 
  • You can also give them a soak in warm water for about 10 minutes to remove any odors they may have on their skin. 

Do snakes smell with their tongue?

Although snakes have nostrils, they don’t have a very strong sense of smell. 

Instead, snakes have a Jacobson’s organ which processes chemicals from the air that they get from flicking their tongue. 

As their tongue flicks out it gathers particles in the air. When their tongue goes back in, the Jacobson’s organ process information from those particles. 

In a way, this is a snake’s sense of smell since it works similar to the way we inhale through our nose and process odors.

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