New Skunk Owner Information
CHOOSING YOUR DOMESTIC SKUNK: You must buy your skunk from a licensed breeder or rescue. There are several in Florida. You may also buy your skunk from any USDA breeder and bring it into the state. Check your state laws, because some states require that you only buy within your state. Wild skunks are illegal to own as a pet in Florida. The laws are so different from state to state it would be impossible to list them all in this section. Contact your State's Fish and Wildlife Division (FWC) or Division of Natural Resources (DNR)
Domestic skunks come in a wide variety of colors. Most people presume all skunks are black and white, they also come in albino, chocolate, lavender, apricot, champagne, blonde, confetti, and smoke with a wide variety of patterns.
Skunk kits are available from late May to August. You will want to find a breeder and get on their waiting list. Skunk kits are NOT available year round.
BRINGING HOME YOUR SKUNK: You have your permit; your skunk is ready to come home. Now what? We hope that you will time your skunk’s pick up so you will have plenty of time to spend with him or her for a day or two. Follow him/her as they explore the house, let them get used to one room at a time so they don't get overwhelmed. The skunk will quickly show you what isn’t skunk proofed. Baby skunks have a natural inclination to follow their mother and as it gets older, you may find your little one following you around. There is a lot you can do to be comforting. Give them time to get use to you. Hold them constantly, take a nap together, carry them around with you while you do chores and gently play with them. It will help you bond and keep him/her from being hard to manage later on. NEVER play rough with your baby skunk especially with your hands. This only teaches them bad habits that will be hard to break later, most skunks love blankets or something to curl up under, and giving them crickets is great fun and will get those pouncing instincts going. Putting the crickets and your skunk in a bath tub or large plastic container will help keep the crickets from getting all over the house. If your skunk is an adult, you will probably find out more quickly. Whether adult or baby, your skunk will most likely be scared at first and possibly miss the comfort of another skunk. He or she will need time to adjust to you and their new surroundings. If it’s a baby make sure it has a stuffed animal (without any chewable eyes or other parts) to snuggle with when you cannot hold them. Short, frequent, interactions during the day are better and will give your skunk time to rest. Many skunks, mostly babies, go through a nippy period similar to a puppy. How you handle their nippy phase may determine how long this lasts. Skunks nip at each other over food and in play and need to learn it is not acceptable to nip people. When they nip you can tell them NO! and move them to time out. You can use a small stuffed animal to have them bite or a spray bottle of water helps with the nipping, followed by a time out. Time outs should only be 5-10 minutes at a time. People who have skunks will tell you it will take almost a year to socialize your skunk properly. Some even longer. Having a realistic expectation of what to expect from your skunk will ensure a successful outcome. They are a long-term commitment like any pet.
We have a group of experienced skunk owners who will be glad to share their information including stories about their skunks. We realize there is a good deal of information on the web about skunk care and everyone has their own opinion on the proper care of their skunk. For a new skunk owner this can be very confusing and daunting. Just ask us any questions you have, we will not think they are stupid as we have all been there at one time or another. It will certainly make your first experience as a skunk owner more pleasurable and less intimidating.
Once you own a pet skunk, you will never want to be without one again. They are a very unusual and interesting pet. They are full of love, will make you smile, and get you actively involved in their play. Skunks are a house pet similar to an indoor house cat in that they will use a litter box. They do like to potty in a corner, so several litter boxes should be placed around you home until the skunk determines which corner he/she wants to use. You can use regular cat litter boxes, high backed ferret/rabbit litter boxes, or a disposable aluminum baking pan lined with a puppy pad or old newspaper. Skunks like to wipe their bottoms after they potty. You will have to let the skunk pick his/her preferred corner.
If for any reason (due to your health or theirs) you decide you cannot keep your skunk, please do not turn it loose in the wild. They are not wild animals and have never been out of the wild and they have no wild instincts. In addition, being descented, it can no longer defend itself against predators. Please call us immediately if you come into a situation where you cannot keep your skunk and we will be glad to come pick it up.
The more you handle your skunk, the more it will bond with you. Skunks love to play with you, sleep with you (if you let them) and love to go for car rides with you. Just make sure to never leave a pet in a car on even a warm day as cars can overheat very fast and that could be fatal to your pet. Make sure to play with their feet and rub their gums. This will get the skunk used to you touching their feet for nail trims or checking their mouth for a tooth problem. Also brush your skunk, they enjoy being brushed and it will help rid them of excess hair when they go through their shedding period. Skunks shed only twice a year – once in the spring and once in the fall.
Skunks love house plants but many can be dangerous or even fatal to pets. Even if the house plant is non-toxic, skunks do love to dig, so hang the plant out of reach or up on a counter out of their reach. If you walk your skunk outside on a leash, be vigilant of what plants your skunk digs around or chews on. Purses, backpacks, school bags and shopping bags are irresistible to skunks. All are fun things to skunks to climb inside of, explore, eat what they decide is edible, and strew the contents everywhere. This can be dangerous to your skunk if he eats the medication you have tucked away in your purse, etc. Tylenol (Acetaminophen) is fatal to your skunks. If you take Tylenol (acetaminophen) make sure you wash your hands before touching your skunk. Also, just like with dogs, chocolate can be deadly to a skunk.
Sugar free gum and candy contain Xylitol. If ingested by any pet it may cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and in severe cases, liver failure. Be careful to keep these items away from skunks and your other pets. Cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco and their filters can make a skunk very sick. Skunks are also susceptible to the ill effects of second-hand smoke.
Recliners, sofa beds, and adjustable beds are also very dangerous to your skunks. Skunks like to crawl inside and go to sleep and can be injured or even killed when their owners adjust the position of the furniture. Always check on the whereabouts of your skunk before you adjust the chair, sofa or bed. Better yet, don’t have these items in your home with a skunk.
Loved and fed correctly your skunk will provide you with many years of love, companionship, and entertainment. Skunks live for an average of 8 to 12 years and sometimes longer.
PREPARATIONS FOR BABY/ADULT SKUNK: If you are outside the State of Florida, check the laws regarding skunk ownership. There are approximately 17 States that allow skunks as pets. The laws vary from State to State. Please do not take a skunk to a State without checking their laws first. Even if skunks are legal in that State, you may have to purchase the skunk from a breeder in that State or obtain a permit first. One example of laws from our neighboring state of Kentucky, you must apply for a permit to have your pet domestic skunk in your vehicle if you plan on driving through their state! Failure to comply with the proper laws of each state could mean the confiscation of your skunk and most likely death.
In Florida, you are required to obtain a Class III Captive Wild Life Pet permit which is free to obtain and is good for 2 years. You apply for the permit at www.myfwc.com. There is also a Class III Captive Wildlife Exhibition permit you can get to take your skunk out in public. It costs $50 annually. We recommend the free pet permit first in case it takes you a while to get your skunk. You can change to the $50 permit later if you want.
Research what kind of diet you are going to feed your skunk. The proper diet is very important to your skunk’s health and longevity. Skunks will eat just about anything especially things that may not be good for them. They are omnivores meaning they can eat foods from plant and animal origin. In the wild, their diet would change according to the seasons and what they can find to eat such as insects, earthworms, grubs, bees, grasshoppers, rodents, lizards, frogs, salamanders, snakes, birds, moles and eggs. They would also eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi and nuts. As pets, we try to incorporate as much of the natural diet as we can by feeding nuts, fruits, mealworms, super worms, crickets, raw chicken necks, eggs and vegetables. Diet will be discussed in detail later.
VET CARE: Choose your Veterinarian more carefully than you would your primary doctor. Not all vets that treat exotics and say they know how to treat a skunk truly do. A lot of them try to treat them as a cat or ferret and some of the medications they would use on them could be either harmful or even fatal to your skunk. We will discuss medications in more detail later. Make a list of emergency phone numbers of experienced skunk owners, your Veterinarian, and an emergency clinic that will treat a skunk if you cannot reach your vet after hours. Calling a skunk owner first may be helpful in deciding if you need to seek medical attention or if there is something, you can do for your skunk yourself.
PROVIDING A SAFE AREA: You will need a space to keep your skunk at first where it will feel safe and protected. If you are bringing home a skunk, they are too small to be left to run loose in the house unsupervised and will not get used to you interacting with them. We recommend a small dog crate raised up to about waist level large enough to hold your skunks bed, litter box, toys and room to move around. This way you are not towering over your skunk to interact with him/her and they will get used to your being in their space. In addition, it saves your skunk from being traumatized by you having to chase it down to hold it or feed it, etc. If you are purchasing the crate for a baby skunk make sure the spacing at the bottom and the bars are as narrow as possible so that the skunk cannot escape - sometimes a ferret cage will work better as it has smaller bar spacing. They are very adept at squeezing through spaces you might think are too small. When you are home, let the skunk out in a small space like a small bathroom or room where you can shut the doors to keep the skunk from running all over the house. If you have other pets, the crate gives your other pets time to get used to the skunk and your skunk to get use to them without being overwhelmed by a face-to-face confrontation. The crate is not necessary forever, just until your skunk gets used to its new home or your baby skunk gets bigger. Of course, if you have other animals you may still want to crate your skunk when you are not home to prevent any problems such as arguments over food, toys, etc. If you do not like the idea of the crate then you can use a small bathroom with a baby gate across the door. You will have to make sure the baby gate fits snuggly against the doorframe without any gaps where a skunk could squeeze its head and get it stuck with no one to help get it unstuck. In addition, some baby skunks like to climb (this usually last for a short period) so we recommend a baby gate with the Plexiglas front or one with the wire mesh modified by you with Plexiglas so they cannot climb out. Do not put a skunk in a room with the door shut, skunks hate that, as they are very curious and always want to see what is on the other side of a shut door so they will be digging at the door to get out. While skunks caged 24/7 without any interaction will not make a good pet, it does not hurt them to be caged for their safety while you are away from home as long as you give them ample attention and interaction when you are home. Once your skunk is used to you, you can put the cage on the floor so that the skunk can come and go as they want and many of them will still return to the crate to sleep as they view it as a place of safety and security.
Skunks are very curious animals and love to explore. You will want to invest in some magnetic childproof locks for your kitchen and bathroom cabinets where you do not want them to go or may store chemicals or other items that could be harmful to your skunk. Many of us have lost a kitchen cabinet or bathroom cabinet to our skunk that decided it makes a great skunk cave. They are not opposed to pushing all your things out and dragging one of your bath towels in for a bed. If you have a double door refrigerator, you may need to purchase one of the long plastic child-proof door lock for it until they get bored with the fun of opening the refrigerator or freezer door. Be especially cautious if you have a refrigerator with the bottom freezer. While we have not come across any skunk that can open these, they are curious enough to crawl behind the drawer while you have it open. One person did lose their skunk because no one realized the skunk was back there and it froze to death. As a precaution, get into the habit of looking behind the freezer drawer before you shut it. If you have large gaps around or under your appliances you should block these so your skunk does not go under there and use it as a potty or worse yet, get stuck. With babies, make sure you keep an eye on them around dishwashers as some have a gap in the front panel for insulation and it is possible for a baby skunk to squeeze up inside. If you have floor vents, make sure they are secure so that skunks cannot remove them and crawl out. Watch laundry areas where dryers are vented outside, as this is another popular area for curious skunks. As mentioned earlier some skunks, especially babies, like to try their hand at climbing for a while. If you have a kitchen cabinets a row drawers from floor to counter, and your skunk tries to climb these, you may need to figure a way to keep the skunk from climbing them. Depending on how they are climbing them, you may need to put some kind of lock on them such as a hook and eye, or some other modification. You do not want the skunk getting on the counter and into things they should not or jumping down and injuring themselves.
SKUNK PROOFING: Skunks are very curious animals and, just like a human toddler, they will be compelled to explore their entire environment. This means you will need to secure all low drawers and cabinets. The conventional baby locks leave a gap large enough for a determined skunk to get open so it is recommended you invest in magnetic child proof locks. Amazon usually has the best deal on them vs. Home Depot or Lowes.. You’ll be surprised where this little ball of fur can go. Not only will he/she climb on all of the furniture, he/she may try to climb into the refrigerator or dishwasher when you open them, so be prepared. Try to find a way to keep her from getting behind the fridge, stove or washing machine. Block up any holes or crawl spaces as well as your dryer hose. Potted plants are sure to be dug in and may be eaten. Many plants are poisonous to pets. Get anything that might be harmful off the floor and out of reach. If you have floor vents, they must be screwed down tightly. Skunks can and will tear through a window screen. Recliners can crush a small animal like a skunk. Any food for other animals or people should not be left out where the baby skunk can get to it.
The following tips may save you some headaches. You may want to protect the underside of your bed box spring and your sofa or block off access. Skunks love to tear at the cloth and climb in and nest and sometimes potty in there. If you have a fireplace, make sure to secure it so your skunk can not get to it. Make your garbage can inaccessible either by putting it in a cabinet with a lock or getting one with a lid and a pedal to open it - just make sure it is a tall one. Be extremely careful with doors leading to outside. A skunk can easily sneak out without you being aware. Once a skunk gets outside, if it is not found immediately, chances of getting it back become slim. Skunks are not like cats and dogs that find their way home eventually.
LITTER BOX TRAINING: Skunks will naturally use a corner of a room/rooms to go potty. The easiest way to train your skunk to use a litterbox is to set the litterbox in the corner. They may choose more than one corner in your home. Put a litter box in all the corners they choose. There are several different types of litter, i.e. conventional cat litter box, high back ferret or rabbit box - regular or corner box. We have found that Next Day News kitty litter, puppy pads, paper towel, or old newspaper in a litter box works the best with our skunks. If your skunk is refusing to use a litter box it could be the litter you are using, try different ones until you find the one he/she likes. For the most part they are very clean animals.