From the Desk     



So You Wanna Own a Skunk?
by: Jane Bone                                                                

Do not go to the wild and bring a skunk home!                                               

The first thing to do is check your dog and cat mentality at the door! Skunks are not puppies or kittens. Highly intelligent animals, they are some of the best problem solvers I have ever seen. 

The second thing you need to do is to check with your local wildlife or animal control department to see if you can keep a skunk as a pet. Some states require permits. Some states will not allow you to keep them as pets at all. 

Next, find a reputable breeder that has been in business for at least five years. Do not go to the wild and bring one home. Let wildlife be just that - WILD. Skunks have been bred domestically for more than 200 years. There are enough of them, all with their scent glands removed at four to five weeks of age, to go around. 

The most important thing to do now is to find a veterinarian who will treat your skunk. Ask what will happen if my skunk bites someone? If the answer is "test for rabies, remember that you can test for rabies only by examining a skunk's brain, which means that your skunk will be put down. 

What Color Skunk Do You Want?  

Now comes the most difficult, but most enjoyable part: What color skunk do you want? You thought that all skunks are black and white? Not so. Skunks now come in brown, white, gray, blonde, lavender, black and any and all shades in between. Skunks come in all colors but blue and green and even that may not hold true next week. They all, however, have their distinctive and charming white stripes or swirls. 

Skunks are born only once a year, in late April or early May. The babies will not be ready for homes until the first or second week in June. So you now have time to get ready for the new addition. Skunk proof your home. Put childproof locks on all cabinet doors, place pot plants up high out of a skunk's way. Learn to be neat or your baby will have great stuff to make its bed out of, especially your socks. 

Read as much as you can about skunks. Know what you are getting into before you get one! Skunks must be spayed or neutered before they are three to four months old. It is sometimes a battle with vets to have this done before they are six months old. Skunks have an internal clock that is set if not altered early. This means that they can become quite vicious if allowed to go into heat. Skunks are very savage breeders. They are induced ovulators and the females have to be "beaten up" by the males before they are ready to breed. Your feelings, toes or fingers could get hurt. 

Skunks require all dog and cat shots. Skunks can get both canine and feline distemper. Skunks must be also be wormed regularly with pyrantel pamoate. Any other type of wormer could be fatal. 

   What to Do When the Baby Arrives                                                

When the baby arrives, hold it as much as possible. I have cleaned, cooked, gone shopping and out to dinner with a skunk in my shirt or purse. The more you hold a baby skunk the nicer it will be later on. A mama skunk had four legs and fur. You are a strange looking skunk to this new baby, but it will readily bond if given the proper attention. When your skunk is grown you can pretty much give it the run of the house. Until then, find a place that you can keep the baby when you are not with it. Skunks are very curious by nature: they go exploring. Baby skunks can get lost and hurt very easily. 

You will find that skunks are easier to litter train than most animals. They will use a litter box in a corner of their own choosing. It may not be the corner you want but once its established fill the box with plain, clay litter or newspaper, whichever is easier for you. Skunks will not use scent-control or clumping litter. Considering the day¡¯s headlines, I use newspaper. 

Skunks are omnivores and no longer classified in the weasel (Mustelid) family. Thanks in large part to biologist Dr. Jerry Dragoo of the University of New Mexico, they are now classified as Mephitidae, a family of their own. What does this mean? Do not feed them cat food or ferret food. Those foods can kill a skunk. They are too high in protein and fat for their digestive system. They are formulated for active, running, jumping, climbing, hunting, pouncing animals ¡ª not placid, slow moving, snoozing skunks. Rather, skunks require, in their daily diet, low protein, fiber, vegetables, small amounts of fruit, carbohydrates and a few drops of olive oil. Feed them four times a day until they are about two months old. Then twice a day until they are six months old. Then once a day. And adult diet should be no more than 150 calories a day. A supplement of 250mg daily of the amino acid. Taurine is suggested for a healthy skunk. Never feed your animal raw meat. Skunks, because of their slow metabolic rate, cannot digest it properly. 

If you start early your skunk will appreciate being brushed and groomed. Play with your skunk¡¯s feet from the day it arrives in order to make it possible to clip their nails when they get older. 

Hold Onto Your Socks!                                                             

You cannot train or correct a skunk like any other animal. These cute little baby bundles of fluff and fur do grow up. They will dig in your carpet, open the fridge door, pull the blankets off your bed while you are sleeping or take all of your clothes into the closet or under the bed to sleep with. Your wardrobe appears to dwindle. Check under the bed, in the closet or at the sleeping place of your skunk. Surprise! It's your missing wardrobe. They will also turn over the garbage, dig in your plants, pull stuff off the coffee table, make you laugh and make your heart sing. Discipline comes down to a matter of love and patience. If you hit a skunk, it never forgets nor forgives. 

Do skunks get along with other pets and children? This depends upon the skunk, the other pets and the children. Dogs, cats and kids do well if all are introduced properly. You know your pets and children. You are the judge. I do not recommend small children handling skunks. Kids are kids and skunks are skunks. A small child does not know if it is holding too tightly. Any animal's reaction is to get away! This could end up being a very bad bite . . . and very angry parents. 

By this time you might think you have to be crazy to live with a skunk. The truth is, well, skunks are not for everyone. Skunks can live up to 20 years plus. This is a long-term commitment. So be prepared to have your skunk around for a long time. My Cleo and Bitsy lived to be 23 years old! 

Copyright: Jane Bone 
June 2000



The Next Page Please!

someone you love
becomes a memory.
The memory
becomes a
 Jane was like a species unto her own, and now extinct.  
It is sad to see something so unique be gone.

 Frank Brumbeloe