Skunks as Pets

What to Expect from a Pet Skunk

Skunk standing alongside wall, close-up
Jan Stromme/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Skunks as pets - an unusual choice? Most skunk owners will tell you that skunks are wonderful pets and are very intelligent. Of course, pet skunks are "disarmed," usually having their musk or scent glands removed surgically at an early age. As with any exotic pet, appropriate expectations are vital to the enjoyment of a skunk as a 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. They can be stubborn and headstrong. Fortunately they are also friendly, loving, and very entertaining and playful. Skunks are certainly not low maintenance pets. They will demand attention and play from their owners, sometimes very persistently.

Skunk Health

Skunks require a variety of healthy foods in their diet. They can be potty trained with persistence using litter or papers. The home will need to be thoroughly escape proof, too. As for medical care, they should be spayed or neutered at a young age, and should be vaccinated as well (against common dog and cat diseases). Before getting a skunk, it is recommended that you find a veterinarian who is willing to comfortably treat a skunk.

Do 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 killed). 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?

Skunks are also illegal in some areas, so check with your local authorities. If they are illegal where you live, don't be tempted to get one anyway - the first time anyone complains about your pet it may be confiscated or worse.

The following sites contain more thorough care information, although different sources can be contradictory. I'd suggest joining a skunk email list (The Owners of Pet Skunks site maintains a list of such groups) and do lots of research so you can make the best decisions about getting and caring for a skunk.

  • Owners of Pet Skunks (OOPS)
  • Lots of information on skunks and their care, including a discussion of approaches to diet, as well as skunk rescues, lists, rabies information, fun stuff, and more.
  • Skunks as Pets - Information on skunks as pets including Jane Bone's skunk care information, FAQs, show information and more.
  • Skunk Haven - a domestic skunk rescue. In addition to their rescue work this Skunk Haven provides domestic skunk care information online (care, diet, first aid and more), does educational work, and funds skunk health research.
  • Skunk Lists - some email groups for skunk owners, compiled by OOPS.

Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT