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Can You Keep a Skunk as a Pet? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Believe it or not, skunks can make great family pets in the right conditions. They may not be like dogs and cats, but they are smart animals that enjoy spending time with humans if they are handled from a young age. But before running off to get a pet skunk of your very own, it is a good idea to learn about keeping a skunk as a pet. We broke down the most important skunk pet care topics to help you better understand whether you should keep a skunk as a pet and how to care for one should you decide to do so.

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Never Capture a Wild Skunk to Raise

skunk ll
Image Credit: Leif Hellmann, pixy.org

One should never capture a wild skunk and try to make it a pet. Domestic skunks have been bred for more than 60 years now, and they are very different animals than wild skunks. In the wild, skunks have scent glands that can scare even the most terrifying predators away. Humans hate the smell, as do cats, dogs, goats, chickens, and other farm animals and pets.

However, domestic skunks are de-scented when they are still babies, typically between 3 and 8 weeks of age. Therefore, there is no need to worry about your pet skunk spraying you, family members, or pets when you buy a domesticated one. Another difference between wild and domestic skunks is their temperament. Wild skunks do not want anything to do with humans if they can help it.

Domestic skunks are used to being around humans from the time they are born, and they tend to enjoy the company. These two differences alone are enough reason to let wild skunks remain wild and to seek a legitimate domestic breeder if you want to adopt a skunk as a pet.

Skunk Ownership Is Not Legal Everywhere

Not every state in the U.S.A. permits the ownership of skunks. Only 17 states have laws on the books that make it legal to own a skunk as a pet, and many of these states have regulations that you must follow, such as where you must buy a pet skunk and how you must register them. The following states allow the ownership of skunks:

map
Image Credit: Andrew c, Wikimedia
  • Wyoming
  • Wisconsin
  • West Virginia
  • South Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oregon
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio
  • New Mexico
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • Michigan
  • Massachusetts
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Florida
  • Alabama

If you live in a state that allows for the ownership of skunks, contact your local government agency to request law and ordinance guidance. They should be able to provide you with the exact statutes for your local area so you know exactly what is expected of you.

Here Is What a Pet Skunk Should Eat

In the wild, skunks are scavengers and will eat anything from bugs to fruit. Many can live out of a household’s garbage can just fine. But your pet skunk should not be subjected to that for sustenance. They should be offered daily meals consisting of chicken, fish, and beans for protein. Skunks should also be offered a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as:

skunk eating_Delovely Pics_ Shutterstock
Image Credit; Delovely Pics_ Shutterstock
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Leafy Greens
  • Zucchini
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Apples

It is important to feed your pet skunk different things every day so they do not get bored with their diet and to ensure that they get all the nutrients that they need to thrive throughout their life.

You Must Protect Your Pet Skunk

skunk in cage
Image Credit: Mathieu MD, Wikimedia

Domestic skunks cannot survive on their own outdoors. They do not know how to scavenge for food like wild skunks because they have never had to do so. Also, domestic skunks do not have scent glands, which means that they lack their only true natural defense toward would-be predators. This puts domestic skunks at high risk when they get free outside. Skunks travel quickly, and unlike dogs that can find their way back home, skunks do not typically wander back to their homes and instead move farther away.

Therefore, your pet skunk should be housed in a securely enclosed habitat if they are living outdoors. They should never be let out of their enclosed habitat because they could quickly run away and attract the attention of neighborhood dogs. If they live inside, a cage for sleeping and hanging out when you are not home will do the trick. You should never let them go outside without a leash on and without human supervision.

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In Conclusion

The biggest takeaway from all this should be that wild and domestic skunks are very different, and wild skunks should never be captured and kept in captivity. Skunks bred in captivity are friendly, interactive, and easy to take care of, which makes them a suitable pet option for some families. That said, know that many people believe that breeding skunks in captivity is cruel because it takes away their natural ability to live and defend themselves.

If you live in one of the 17 states that allow skunk ownership, you get to decide for yourself whether keeping a pet skunk is ethical. What are your thoughts about keeping skunks as pets? Chime in to the discussion by leaving a comment.

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Featured Image Credit: Tomfriedel, Wikimedia

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. As a vegan, Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. Animals also happen to be her favorite topic to write about! She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens.