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Skunks as Pets

Friendly SkunkThough most people try to avoid encounters with skunks, there are those who actually seek out these black and white mayhem-makers as companion pets, comparing them in personality to cats, dogs, and ferrets. Skunks are rising in popularity due to their intelligence, carefree personalities, and (believe it or not) cleanliness. Pennsylvania and most other states require a permit to keep a captive skunk as a pet. Before deciding to bring a skunk into your family, do your research and be sure you can handle their requirements.

History of Skunk Domestication

While the date and method of first domestication is unknown, it is thought that the first pet striped skunks were living with people as long as 100 years ago. Some Native Americans kept pet skunks raised from infancy, so skunk domestication may have begun even earlier. What we know is that skunks, when raised and socialized by humans at a young age, are friendly and playful towards people. For generations, breeders have been developing interesting patterns and colors other than the typical black and white striped pattern. Pet skunks today can be solid white with no striping at all, or various stripe and spot markings of black, silver, gray, cream, tan, and brown. This variety in color is a true sign of selective breeding and domestication. Animals born in the wild with abnormal coloring often fall victim to predators early in life. Skunks sold in the pet trade today are 100% domesticated and raised in captivity.

Considerations

Skunks are illegal to keep as pets in some states. In Pennsylvania, a person must obtain a permit from the state and obtain the skunk from a breeder, who should require the permit be obtained before purchase. Since skunks are relatively new to the pet trade and highly regulated, it can be difficult to find a breeder and you may need to be put on a waiting list for babies. Pet stores are not allowed to carry skunks in Pennsylvania because there is no rabies vaccination approved for them. This is very important to remember. It is not a good idea to take your skunk out in public on a regular basis; if your skunk bites a person or another animal, it may be seized by authorities.

Pet SkunksFind a good skunk vet before taking your pet home, not after. Most reputable breeders can recommend vet in your area who will take a skunk as a patient, and some may even require that you take your skunk in for a check up after taking him home. You should also spay or neuter your skunk and have the scent glands removed relatively young. Most of the time, this is done by the breeder before the skunk even comes home. If not, A responsible breeder will make you sign paperwork stating that you will spay or neuter your skunk and/or have the scent glands removed at an appropriate time.

Lifestyle

Like their close relatives, ferrets, skunks are intelligent and can be trained to use a litter box. And, like ferrets, they cannot be locked in a cage all day like a hamster or a guinea pig. A skunk that is caged for more than 4-8 hours a day will probably become restless and aggressive. If not supervised, they can be extremely mischievous, digging holes in carpet, chewing on furniture, stealing things, and generally behaving like curious toddlers, if not kept mentally and physically stimulated. For this reason it is recommend that skunks be provided with lots of toys like dog chewies, cat trees, beds, tunnels, and other toys keep them occupied. A skunk is naturally keen on seeking out his food, so hiding treats in toys like kong balls, or hiding them around the house is a good way to keep a skunk occupied. Normally nocturnal, skunks can adjust to the sleeping schedule of their owners, but they have been known to wander the house at night making trouble if not crated or confined to a room.

Skunks prefer to roam the house or at least a room that is outfitted for them. Keeping a skunk proof room is a good idea so they can’t wreck your house when you are not home! Skunks are also social, so having another is beneficial, or at least a buddy for them like a ferret or a very gentle cat or dog, unless someone is home all day to keep them entertained. Skunks must be socialized and handled a lot the first several weeks of ownership. You should be willing to spend a great deal of time with your new pet to assure he grows up friendly and unafraid of people.

Diet

There is a lot of debate amongst keepers over what constitutes a healthy diet for skunks. Skunks can live for well over 10 years, if given a varied healthy diet. In the wild, skunks are opportunistic omnivores. They will eat insects, Skunk Eatingworms, snails, rodents, frogs, crayfish, bird eggs, berries, grain, nuts, and even human garbage, depending on what is available in their area. A pet skunk’s diet should consist of about 50% vegetable matter, 10% commercial or homemade skunk food, and 40% other foods such as meat, eggs, and yogurt. Because of their voracious appetites and their willingness to take almost any new food, skunks often have a problem with obesity, so it is important to monitor what and how much you feed your pet skunk. Breeders of pet skunks usually have their own regimen of feeding, so ask your pet’s breeder what he/she recommends. Skunks appreciate treats like cat food, but it should not be the main part of their diet. It is a mistake a lot of first time skunk owners make and can lead to health issues if it is the only food offered.

Thanks for reading,

Jess

Friendly Skunk image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Gary J. Wood
Skunks as Pets image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Paul M. Walsh
Skunk eating image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by outdoorcat75455

7 comments

  1. avatar

    Gods help me. In an ideal world, I would have the perfect situation in which to adopt a skunk or two, but alas, that’s not the case.

    I would, however, jump at a chance to spend time with domesticated skunks! What a special opportunity it would be to play with them, and study their behavior! I wonder if there are any places (or breeders) in Lancaster County who would allow that. Any ideas?

  2. avatar

    We don’t have contact info for any local skunk breeders. You may be able to search via google for contact info.

  3. avatar

    Now having a skunk as a pet would be an instant conversation starter at any dinner party :>)

  4. avatar

    A friend of mine has 2 pet skunks, both are males and are from the same litter. I would caution every one that even litter mates will grow tired of each other later in life and now they need to be separated most of the time to prevent them from fighting.

  5. avatar
    Diane Henault-Tosi

    Babies roaming my yard.less than eight weeks. Ok to o k one by the scruff today back to his hideaway. Who will Dr Sam him and neither if I decide to include him with my six orientals? My cats are very user friendly.

  6. avatar

    Anyone have similar issues? I have a 7 yr old female Siamese – she’s just the sweetest, shy, has some issues with seperation and I wonder about crohn’s disease? or something similar? For the first couple years she loved “fish” wet food – (only purchased quality foods) then began howling with pain – went thru bouts of urinary tract infections, urinating blood, eventually even her kidneys shut down, had an apt to put her down… she miraculously had a turn around – (she’s been to several vets searching a reason/cure) In surgery they found the lining of her bladder was filled with stones… they could not remove all as they were deeply embedded – results, no foods with fish – she does not metabolise magnesium and it turns into glass shards in her… Ok, she has not had anything with fish (I read labels) she’s been on Blue Buffalo simple dry food and wet food for cats with food sensitivities & few ingredients… but occasionally will still have bouts with horrible pain and run away howling – it’s terrible when this happens and no one seems to know what is wrong. She’s begun to pull her hair out on her belly and inside her legs… compulsive licking… any ideas or similar issues that anyone has experienced and offer me help for her? Other than these jags – she is shy, hides when people or grandkids come over… is a one house, one family cat for sure, she likes to play… chase a laser till she’s out of breath, she is lean – no weight issues – reacts to stress… I hate to see her in pain, but don’t know what this could be and how to help her.

  7. avatar

    Check out the children’s book I wrote about having a skunk as a member of the family.
    I Think, I Thunk, I Love My Skunk
    On Lulu.com

    Thanks,
    Elizabeth

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Jess has been an employee at That Fish Place/That Pet Place since 2005, stationed in both the Reptile and Small Animal rooms. She specializes in small animal care, and focuses particularly on rats, giving her the nickname of “The Rat Girl” by her customers and fellow employees. She has an Associate degree in Liberal Arts from Penn State York and is currently attending English courses online at University of Maryland University College. Her passion has always been animals and she has owned just about every variety of them, including cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, and even millipedes! She also loves writing and is working on publishing a series of young adult fantasy novels.

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