Some years ago while visiting a cousin in Michigan; I toured a large pet store the likes of which I have never seen before. We saw some amazing things; they had a (not for sale) real nearly 1 ½ meter long oceanic shark in large aquarium that on certain days of the week they do a public feeding of. That particular day was not feeding day so I didn't get to see this potentially morbid feast.
We did see African Hedge Hogs of all sizes, Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes which I adored. I'd loved to have had one of thosewhat with their "red-next-to-black friend-to-Jack" stripped patterns. I used to have a ball python that I named Julias Squeezer.
We saw marine fishes that I never knew existed. They offered various species of tarantulas and scorpions too. There was even an American Alligator! Or perhaps it was a South American Spectacled Caiman. I have to admit I was not really sure which it was. -I did not see any skunks.
Image via Wikipedia
A year earlier when I was in Denver, Colorado at a large strip Mall there and also in another pet shop I saw de-scented skunks! This was a first for me. I have never considered a skunk for a pet!
From sites that offer advice about skunks as pets I have learned that as expected, they are curious and gregarious and require slightly more care than most other small mammal pets. Often stubborn and full of personal will (okay, -this reminds me of ferrets of which I have had experience with,) they are also tempered with a loving playfulness. A skunk is not like a cat which often enough prefers to be left alone, a skunk is similar to a ferret. They are into everything; nothing is out of bounds to them. They will open bags and investigate any container or box, cupboards, often removing its contents in the process. The ferret I had used to do this. I had hired a pet sitter to come feed and entertain her in my absence and now back home with my suitcases, I let her loose. She had been saving-up her most intensive play sessions for my return and would actually get into my closed suitcase, exploring. She was fervently unzipping pockets and investigating every chamber of the travel case, removing items one at a time, pushing them off the bed and onto the floor. Meeting with her satisfaction, she would return to the suitcase for the next item to be voted-off the bed! I can easily see a skunk doing the same thing.
A pet skunk would have to be acquired through upfront and legal means, of course. Permits would be mandated. States where it is illegal to own skunks may have programs that allow you to adopt rescued or orphaned skunks that are too tame to release back into the wild. Mother skunks killed by automobiles but the babies which survived and rescued may end up in an animal shelter or rehabilitation center. They too might end up being de-scented and available under special permits to own. Domestic skunks have their scent glands removed when still very young, usually around 4-weeks of age. I have heard of de-clawing skunks as an option but I think that is as cruel as declawing a house cat.
Skunks can be litter trained too, -just like cats. That is a major factor to pet ownership in my opinion. Like ferrets, play with a skunk should be gentle. They will hold a grudge and will be mean if abused or played with roughly. Any teasing play should be done with a stuffed object or other toy according to skunk-care web sites. Skunks do have sharp teeth and like a ferret, will use doubtlessly use them if provoked even playfully.
Skunks are generally considered to be a carrier of several common diseases and thus should be vaccinated the same as cats and dogs. Special considerations would have to be noted in regards to rabies. Skunks are not born with rabies, but can contract the disease fromintimate contact with objects or feral animals if permitted outdoors in an area such as a fenced-in backyard. A domestic skunk would be entirely an indoor pet.
Do not feed them any carrion meat procured from outside lest it contain the rabies disease. If you donï¿½t know how the meal died, assume that it is dangerous for your pet to eat any portion thereof. While this advice may sound like completely obvious, know there are people that find road kill rabbits or birds and present them to their larger reptiles (snakes like pythons, constrictors, agamid lizards and so on) as a free meal.
The exact dietary needs of skunks are still highly debatable but some vets are recommending a standard pelletized ferret diet with supplemental raw vegetables and the occasional hard-boiled egg. Variety is probably still the first, best and healthiest choice no matter what else is offered. In time, a scientifically proven diet that maintains the health will be resolved. This is a paramount step towards their eventually being more common choice in the pet trade, the ability to maintain their health and longevity through reliable commercial diet.
Skunk Fur Used to be Fashionable
At one time, skunk pelts were used as clothing and it is reported that in the 1950s skunk pelts were sold under the name of American Sable (not to be confused with the chinchilla-rabbit crossbreeds) or also called Alaska Sable. Reform led to an end to this deceptive practice and the trade in skunk pelts collapsed. Skunks are illegal to own in most states stemming from the effort to stop the spread of rabies, an effort which is being challenged and fans of these curious animals are even seeking to have this legislation overturned. This seems to be the biggest obstacle to having skunks as a regular offer in the pet trade, the fear of rabies and the long-standing stigma of this unusual pet.
Around the turn of the century, farmers used these domesticated creatures around the home and barn for effective rodent control. They caught and ate mice and rats. Here again is a vector for rabies transmission into feral and outdoors privileged pets skunks. A domestic skunk should not be fed these things nor be in a situation whereby tempted to capture their own. Besides, these days, a found dead or weak mouse may just as easily been poisoned from rodent poison. This is something that would surely make your pet sick or even cause it to die.
Skunk agencies that cater to educating people of their worth and keeping these curious animals as pets have many good things to say about them and of how affectionate they are. I have to admit that now I am interested in someday having a pet skunk. Having had a ferret for over 12 years, I know about the commitment and specificity of care that goes along with pet ownership.
I'd like to meet a few more domestic skunks first though, -just to be sure.