Neutering & De-scenting
It is strongly recommended that ferrets are neutered
Male ferrets can have a definite smell about them, and non-neutered males will often fight. Castrating a male ferret is just the same operation as carried out on tom-cats. It greatley reduces the smell and allows two or more males to live peacefully together once they have got used to each other.
Female ferrets come into season each spring and stay in season until mated. If allowed to stay in season, they develop a form of anaemia (aplastic anaemia) and can become very ill or even die. For this reason it is important to have a female ferret neutered. They can be spayed in the same way as female cats and dogs. However, most vets advise that female ferrets are spayed at a time when they are not in season, such as in late autumn or winter. It is easy to tell if a jill is in season as the entrance to the vagina swells very noticeably until it is the size of a small hazel nut. It will stay this way until the end of her season or until she is mated. The increased swelling can make her more prone to infection and this is another reason to have her spayed.
There are two alternatives to spaying, at least in the short term. The first is to ask your vet to give your ferret a 'jill-jab', which is an injection of a hormone to stop her season. This is a good short-term measure, especially if your jill is already in season, but little is known of the effects of continued use of hormones so it is unwise to rely on this method for more than one season. A jill-jab given in spring or early summer may wear off before autumn and need repeating, so try to make arrangements for spaying before this happens.
A second alternative is to mate your jill to a vasectomised hob. A few ferret keepers keep one male who has had a vasectomy (not a castration) and who will still mate with jills. This stops the jill's season but will not result in her becoming pregnant. Occasionally a jill will have a 'phantom pregnancy' afterwards but this is not always the case. However, there can be problems in finding someone with a vasectomised hob. Also some ferret owners are reluctant to let unknown ferrets be introduced to their own animals for fear of introducing illness. From a jill's point of view, mating is a rough business and few jills escape without being bitten on their necks and backs. It is easier and safer to have your jill spayed.
Please do not consider breeding unless you can be sure to find responsible homes for all the kits, and there may be up to a dozen in a litter. It is a sad fact that there are too many ferrets and too few caring homes so do not add to the problem by allowing your jill to breed.
All ferrets have a number of small scent glands all over their body. These do not produce powerful or offensive odours. At most they have a slightly musky smell. This is even less noticeable in neutered ferrets. However, ferrets do have larger scent-producing anal glands and these can produce a very unpleasant smell if the ferret is very frightened or is attacked. In America ferrets are routinely de-scented by removing the anal glands but this is not an operation British vets are willing to perform. De-scenting is a difficult operation and is rightly regarded as undesirable since it removes the only way in which a stray or working ferret can deter an attack from predators. Since it is only a very occasional occurrence for a ferret to be alarmed enough to make a bad smell (which quickly passes anyway), most ferret owners agree that de-scenting is unnecessary mutilation.