I was born to be free! Don't make a pet of me!
Logan, named after the handsome Wolverine character of The X-Men. This 4 week old orphan was allowed to nurse on a mama cat for 2 weeks before surrender. He was quite chubby, weighing as much as a 6 wk old!
A domestic skunk is not a wild skunk who has been made a pet out of and lives in the house. Domestic skunks are breeder raised on a farm for generations of genetic alterations. These breeders have a USDA license for this purpose. There is no possibility of these skunks having rabies. These skunks have been bred as house pets for many generations therefore they are very different from the wild skunk. Much the same as the pet ferret market. Their diets, behaviors, and their colorations vary. They are almost a different species. So if you are determined to have a skunk as a pet then explore the domestic skunk market. Adopt a discarded pet. Breeder raised skunks make better pets than their wild cousins do. However, you need to research if it is legal in the state where you live. It is also important to have a vet who will care for your skunk. Many vets will not see skunks, even descented ones. Before taking on a pet skunk ask yourself what is the longest you have ever kept a pet. A well kept skunk can live over ten years.
It is illegal in Texas and most other states to keep a wild skunk as a pet, or to even raise an orphan without a wildlife rehabilitation permit. As such it is also unethical, if not also illegal, for a veterinarian to descent and neuter a wild skunk, or care for its long term needs. It is also illegal to transport wild skunks across state lines. If caught, you will be fined and the skunk will be confiscated and in most cases euthanised.
Most people who rescue orphan skunks have no idea how to take care of them, or know much about their behaviors or diet. Yet because someone they once knew used to have a pet skunk they think it would be neat to do the same. This is not fair to the skunks. Trying to care for them from bits and pieces of information found online is not the best care for the orphans. Especially considering much of that information is incorrect. Many people follow domestic skunk diets when wild skunks need and prefer different foods than domestic skunks. Domestic skunks eat more vegetables and fruits than wild skunks do. Wild skunks need more meats, eggs, and bugs, among other things. Trying to keep a species of animal that you do not know much about is not fair to that animal. Trying to raise them as you would kittens or bunnies or a ferret is not appropriate. Skunks have special needs different from any other species, as any wildlife species does. I would not raise skunks the same way I would care for a raccoon. Nor should you raise a skunk the way you would a kitten.
It is not uncommon for me to take in a litter of orphans from someone who has already been caring for them for weeks or longer. Often the rescuer has ideas of descenting the orphans then selling them as pets, or keeping one as a pet themself, until they cannot find a vet to do the surgery. Only then do they decide to surrender the orphans. In most cases these orphans come to me with health issues such as diarrhea, bloating, infected genitals, urinary infections, galded skin from being kept on unclean and improper bedding, parasites, rectal prolapse or minor injuries due to the improper care and feeding they have been given. And in most cases the rescuer does not even recognize these conditions, or realize they even have a problem. Yet they were wanting to keep them as pets. This is just not fair to the skunks! And it is down right inhumane!
If you are considering keeping a wild skunk as a pet and do not heed any advice I give here, then at least consider this before having that orphan descented. Skunks do not spray simply because we expect them to. Skunks spray to defend themselves. So in an ideal environment a skunk would never have need to spray. If you cannot provide that skunk with a home where it is safe enough to never have need to spray then it does not belong there! Try keeping your orphan without having it descented. At least that way when it does not work out for whatever reason then he has half a chance at going back into the wild where it belongs if given to a wildlife rehabilitator for reconditioning. Never release a pet skunk into the wild yourself, it will not survive long!
If you are going to descent a wild skunk to make it into a pet then you need to be willing to make a lifetime commitment to that animal, no matter what problems it may cause, just as you would a dog or cat. Finding another suitable home for a descented wild skunk is very difficult. Don't change its life to suit yours. Let it be free.
HOUSING FOR SKUNKS
Another issue when considering a pet skunk is housing. Many people think they can put it in a rabbit or ferret cage and keep it that way. Skunks are not like rabbits or ferrets, they will NOT like being confined like this. Even if you take it out to play regularly, this will not satisfy the skunk. It will only tease and aggravate it. Wild skunks are free roamers and do not like to be confined. If you keep a skunk as a pet then it needs run of the house just as a cat or dog would. If you cannot properly keep a skunk, especially a wild one, then you should not have it!
MAKING PETS IS NOT A FAVOR, ITS A PROBLEM
Many people who have rescued an orphaned baby skunk fall in love with it because they are so adorable when they are little. Nearly everyone has known someone who had a pet skunk "and it was the neatest thing!" I hear it all the time. Let me tell you a few of my pet skunk stories.
Every year someone who has raised an orphan skunk as a pet reaches a point where they can no longer keep it as a pet. This is typically sooner rather than later. Most people don't make it six months with their pet. Either it is tearing up the house, the carpet, the furniture, or it is biting toes and fingers. Or maybe the landlord has caught on and orders it gone. Maybe there is a new baby in the house so the skunk is no longer welcome. Maybe they have to move and can't take it with them. The reasons are endless. It just wasn't as much fun as they had always heard it would be to have a pet skunk. No one tells you about the destruction they can do. No one tells you how sharp their teeth and claws are. (And it is absolutely inhumane to declaw and detooth a skunk!) No one tells you that when your skunk reaches sexual maturity it will become aggressive and instinctively want to be with its' own kind. I am here to tell you all of these things. I know because I get these calls frequently. People who are desperate to find someone to take their pet skunk. I have taken in some of these discarded pets, some who were descented and some who weren't. So I can tell you from experience that making a wild skunk into a pet sooner or later fails, and the skunk is the loser in the situation. Skunks do not transfer as pets the way other domestic pets do. A skunk can become habituated to a family, a home, but remove it from that familiar environment and it becomes anxious, scared, aggressive. He may have been all cuddly with you but he won't be that way with me or anyone else. I've seen it over and over again. It is incredible to watch a skunk who had been kept inside a house around pets and kids and carpet to suddenly be outside in a natural setting with dirt and logs and other skunks. I can almost see a switch being flipped in them where they are realizing that this is what they have been missing all along. Some enjoy it and blossom with curiosity. Most are anxious and frightened and hide under logs all day and night, barely coming out to eat. Or they will pace the cage walls constantly stressed, desperately wanting out. It takes time for them to adjust and adapt, if they do at all. They may be frightened by the introduction of other skunks because they had never seen another skunk before now. It all breaks my heart because it was senseless for the skunk to be made a pet in the first place.
Many people don't care if it is illegal to have the animal, they don't realize there are very good reasons why it is illegal. It's called rabies. If their pet bites the neighbor kid who was pulling its tail, the pet skunk then has to be euthanised and tested for rabies. And the person who was bitten will need rabies vaccinations. Never put a persons life at risk over a skunks. Then how will you or your children feel after your pet has to have its head cut off. Don't put the skunk or your family in danger of this common scenario. There are no good choices for discarded pet skunks. Most of the time the only solution is euthanasia because there is no where else for the pet skunk to go. Respect that cute furry orphan enough to allow it to live the life it was meant to live! Turn it over to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
Stinker, my beloved, was not able to live a normal life due to the delay of critical care. He died young at 5 months old. Read his story in my blog entry.
NOT "SO NEAT" PET SKUNK STORIES
The first pet skunk I ever adopted was in my early years of rehabbing skunks. I was naive at the time of the perils of pet skunks. I just wanted to help. This woman who had managed to get this orphan descented, soon had to give up her pet because she suddenly had to move out of her apartment and could not take it with her. The skunk was not even 5 mos old yet, and already its' fate was sealed by the cruel act of removing its scent glands. The skunk had health problems that were not disclosed to me upon surrender. One day she started having seizures and I didn't know what was happening. My vet was out of town, his partner said it was probably rabies and suggested euthanasia yet refused to see the animal for examination. I called the vet who had descented her and learned that she had a history of hypoglycemia and that was causing the seizures. Their suggestion of giving it Karo syrup was not effective. Before I was able to get to this other vet my new pet died in the truck on the way there.
Another descented pet I took in was surrendered because the husband hated it. The skunk was so anxious after the transfer that she escaped from 3 different cages that held other animals just fine. When wildlife are stressed and anxious they WILL find a way to escape even the most secure of cages. I was never able to catch her after that third escape. Even though she was descented and could not protect herself, she was certainly happier being free than being caged.
Then there was the pet who bit my hand four times rapid fire in the first minute of having her. Lucky for her that I have my rabies vaccinations.
Another pair of descented sisters came to me last year. After making some phone calls I found an educational organization willing to take them on, but the day before the transfer they backed out. These girls were also very stressed, constantly pacing the cage front wall that looked out on the pasture. They had gone from their loving home, people who wanted to keep them so badly that they had them descented - an act that signifies you are committed to keeping those skunks until they die - to being passed around from the animal shelter to a rescue group to me. Once these skunks were put into outside caging they wanted nothing more than to be free! A freedom they deserved, a freedom they had a natural born right to! These girls also escaped a perfectly decent cage. Whether they lived long or not is irrelevant. They were happy to be free.
Connor, one of Meggie's big brothers 5 mos. old.
Here is another website with good information on skunks as pets. They are referring to domestic skunks, but it applies to wild skunks as well. They address all of the major issues you must consider BEFORE getting a domestic skunk or making a pet of a wild one. Take a few minutes to read their page before changing the life of an innocent skunk.