Does Descenting a Ferret Work? (+ The Cruel Factor)

Does Descenting a Ferret Work

Ferrets are some of the most adorable creatures on the planet. However, before you decide to bring one into your home, it is important to know about the basics of ferret care. One of the most common questions people have about ferrets is whether they should be descented.

Ferrets have a strong musky scent and can stink your house out. Descenting a ferret is said to work help reduce the smell. But does descenting a ferret work, and eliminate the stink? The short answer is below, but it’s not that simple so read the entire guide. 

Does descenting a ferret work? Descenting a ferret can work to get rid of some of their smells, but not all. Descented ferrets can still stink, so it’s important to understand how descenting ferrets works and what to expect, which is outlined below.

And before you read on… I believe descending ferrets is cruel. But more on that and why lower down the page.

What does descenting a ferret do?

Before I dive into the topic of whether descenting a ferret works, it is important to have a basic understanding of what the surgical process involves. Descenting a ferret means removing the animal’s anal glands. 

The ferret’s anal glands produce very strong scents. To descent a ferret, the glands must be surgically removed. This can be a very painful procedure that requires anesthesia, stitches, and rest time for your pet to recover properly.

Do descented ferrets still smell?

Why would someone want to descent a ferret? And does it work for every ferret? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Do descented ferrets still smell? Yes, ferrets that are descented may still have some smelly scent left in their body that isn’t stopped by the surgery. 

There are many factors that contribute to how much of a reduction you’ll see in your pet’s scent after they have been descented. It all depends on the individual ferret! Some ferrets produce a lot of scent, while others don’t release much at all. 

Descenting ferrets
Descenting ferrets is not guarantee the stink will go (

The anal glands are not always the reason for the smell, but other sebaceous glands and apocrine sweat glands can also produce an odor in ferrets. The truth is the only way to reduce the musky scent of a ferret is through proper grooming and bathing. 

Handy Hint: I’ve previously written a guide on how often you should wash or bathe your pet ferret, with some cleaning tips added too.

How to reduce your ferret’s smell?

The best way to reduce the smell of a ferret’s anal gland is to groom your pet using specific products designed for ferrets especially. 

Regular baths with anti-bacterial soap & special shampoos can help reduce the scent. It is also important to keep ferrets clean and dry to prevent them from becoming smelly in the first place!

Descenting a ferret to train them for litter boxes

Another common misconception about descenting a ferret is that it makes litter training easier. This is not necessarily true. If you want to use litter boxes with your pet, you can train them to do so at any age by placing the box in an area where they frequently go to the bathroom. 

After a while, your ferret will become comfortable using the litter box, and you can place it in their favorite area of your home.

Is descenting a ferret cruel?

Yes. Descenting a ferret is cruel. In fact, the American Ferret Association say this on the matter:

The American Ferret Association strongly opposes the practice of descenting of ferrets. Surgical removal of the anal scent gland should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian in cases where the failure to do so threatens the ferret’s health or survival of the ferret.

Descenting a ferret can be very cruel and traumatic so should only be performed if necessary by trained professionals under strict guidelines to ensure their safety and well-being. There are many risks involved with descenting a ferret which includes, but are not limited to:

  • Seroma formation (a pocket of fluid that forms in the surgical site or cavity surrounding where an organ used to be).
  • Incisional hernia (muscles bulging through the surgical incision).
  • Anal gland leakage (a small amount of fluid may be seen draining from the surgical site).
  • Wound infections (should be treated immediately with antibiotics).

As you can see, descenting a ferret should only ever be performed by licensed veterinarians under strict guidelines. I still believe descenting a ferret is cruel though, particular because if it means that you as a human don’t like the smell… if that’s the case, ferrets won’t make a good pet for you.

If you are interested in getting a new ferret or thinking about owning one for the first time, there are a few things that you need to know about ferrets. 

They have unique personalities, and they can be a lot of work! However, if you take care of your pet properly, they will be a wonderful addition to your family.

Related questions on descenting ferrets

Is it cruel to remove the ferret’s scent glands? 

Ferrets are social animals and need to be around other ferrets in order to groom and scent mark. If their scent glands are removed, they will not be able to properly identify or socialize with other ferrets, which can lead to behavioral problems.

It is also important to note that removing the ferret’s scent glands can lead to anxiety, which makes the ferret fearful and agitated when it smells or sees another ferret. This can be very stressful for the ferret and may cause them to develop health problems such as depression or digestive issues.

Is descenting a ferret cruel
Descenting a ferret is cruel and will hurt them (

Is descenting a ferret illegal in the UK?

Yes, descenting a ferret is illegal in the UK. It would also be illegal to sell or give away a ferret without the consent of its owner. 

Descenting a ferret can cause physical and emotional harm to the animal, which is why it is generally discouraged. 

This includes things like restraining the ferret tightly while lowering it into a small enclosure, exposing the ferret to loud noises and sudden changes in temperature, and using cruel methods such as electric shock or burning.

Most veterinarians agree that ferrets do not require any surgeries if they are physically healthy, and some will refuse to neuter or spay a ferret for ethical reasons.

How much does descenting a ferret cost?

The cost of Descenting, a ferret, can vary depending on where you live and the ferret’s age, weight, and health. It may cost anywhere from $150 to $300.

How do I stop my ferret cage from smelling?

The best way to keep your ferret’s cage from smelling is by cleaning it regularly. You should clean the cage with a mixture of vinegar and water. 

You can then use baking soda or another odor absorbing product to get rid of the vinegar smell. This will also help prevent any mold or bacteria from developing in the cage, which would cause the cage to begin smelling after a while.

When should I descent my ferret?

It is generally recommended that you descent your ferrets when they are between 6 and 10 weeks of age. However, if it will be an optimal experience for them, some vets recommend waiting until the ferrets are around 8 months old. This allows the ferret to learn ways of communicating with other ferrets that are not through scent.

Do male ferrets smell worse than females?

Ferrets are known for having very distinct smells. The odor often comes from their urine, which they will use to mark their territory. 

Male ferrets are more likely to use their scent glands than female ferrets, but both males and females tend to have a musky smell. However, male ferrets that are not descented may smell worse than female ferrets.

Is it better to own a female or male ferret?

Female ferrets tend to be calmer than male ferrets when it comes to behavior. However, males are more likely to play with you and bond with you. 

Females are generally easier to train than male ferrets. Males tend to be less affectionate and more aloof. They also tend to mark their territory with urine, making it difficult if you live in an apartment or small space. 

However, they are generally less likely to bite than female ferrets.

That’s not to say I don’t recommend you owning more than one ferret, I do… but perhaps go for the same gender


Given that descented ferrets still stink and more importantly, it’s cruel, I don’t recommend descenting ferrets. If you don’t think you can handle the ferret smell, then please just don’t consider buying one.

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Image in header of a descented ferret via

Categorized as Ferrets