Pet Skunk Expectations

Skunk standing alongside wall, close-up
Skunk Tail with a yellow striped wallpaper background. Jan Stromme/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Pet skunks aren't as strange as you may think they are. Most skunk owners will tell you that skunks are wonderful pets and are very intelligent. Of course, this is partly because pet skunks are "disarmed," usually having their musk or scent glands removed surgically at an early age, so they can't spray you. But, as with any exotic pet, appropriate expectations are vital to the enjoyment of having a skunk as a pet.

Pet Skunk Behavior

Some of a skunk's personality traits can make them a challenge to live with. They are active, curious, and will get into everything. They are also prone to stealing items to make their beds softer and can be stubborn and headstrong therefore they are not low maintenance pets that will tolerate being housed in a cage for extended periods of time. Fortunately, though, pet skunks are also friendly, loving, very entertaining, and playful. 

Skunks can be potty trained with persistence using litter or papers but it can be quite a challenge to do initially. Your home will also need to be escape-proof to keep your skunk safe and contained. 

Pet Skunk Health

Skunks require a variety of foods in their diet in order to maintain good health. Typically they will eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, cereals, dog kibble, yogurt, and other items to create a balanced diet. 

As for medical care, they should be spayed or neutered at a young age and also vaccinated (against common dog and cat diseases).

Before getting a skunk, it is recommended that you find a veterinarian who is willing to comfortably treat one as a patient in case your pet requires medical attention.

Do Pet Skunks Have Rabies?

There are a lot of misconceptions about skunks and rabies. Although skunks are relatively common carriers of rabies in the wild in some areas, it is a myth that all skunks carry rabies (they need to be exposed to a rabid animal to become infected themselves).

However, there is no approved rabies vaccine for skunks, so if a skunk bites someone and it is reported, authorities will inevitably require rabies testing on the skunk (i.e. the skunk will be euthanized). The same is true for many other species for which no accepted vaccine exists. Some veterinarians vaccinate skunks with an unapproved vaccine meant for ferrets, dogs, and cats but authorities will not recognize this vaccine as coverage against rabies and it is unknown whether or not it will protect your skunk from infection.

Are Skunks Legal to Own as Pets?

Skunks are illegal to keep as pets in some areas so check with your local authorities to see if you can keep one in your home. If they are illegal where you live, don't be tempted to get one anyway since the first time anyone complains about your pet it may be confiscated or euthanized. You should never take a skunk from the wild to keep as a pet.

State laws vary and some places will consider a skunk native wildlife while others consider them to be an exotic animal. Permits, special insurance, or other requirements may be needed in order to legally obtain and care for a pet skunk where you live so make sure you do your research.

Do A Lot of People Have Pet Skunks?

You may be surprised to learn that people all over the world have pet skunks.

There is even an international gathering of skunk lovers in North Ridgeville, Ohio each year called Skunk Fest. A conformation show, music, food, and people dressed up like skunks can all be found at this festival filled with pet skunk owners.

Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT