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Choosing a Skunk

By: Jane Bone

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So you want a skunk in your life? 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.

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 5 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 4 to 5 weeks of age, to go around.

Behavior

When the baby arrives, hold him as much as possible. The more you hold a baby skunk the nicer he will be later on. A mama skunk had four legs and fur. You are a strange looking skunk to this new baby, but he will readily bond if given the proper attention. When your skunk is grown you can pretty much give him the run of the house. Until then, find a place that you can keep the baby when you are not with him. 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 it is established fill the box with plain, clay litter or newspaper, whichever is easier for you. Skunks will not use scent-control or clumping litter.

Appearance

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. All, however, have their distinctive and charming white stripes or swirls.

Housing

Skunks are born only once a year, in late April or early May. The babies are not 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 his bed out of, especially your socks.

Feeding

Skunks are omnivores and are no longer classified in the weasel (Mustelid) family. Do not feed them cat food or ferret food, which is too high in protein and fat for their digestive system. Skunks require 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 2 months old. Then twice a day until they are 6 months old. Then once a day. An 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.

Special Concerns

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 3 to 4 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 require all dog and cat shots and must be also be wormed regularly with pyrantel pamoate. They can get both canine and feline distemper. Be aware that it may be difficult to find a veterinarian willing to treat skunks.

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. If 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, he never forgets and never forgives.

Skunks can get along with other family pets if introduced properly. They are not recommended for families with small children since skunks are not overly tolerant of children's antics.

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. They can live up to 20 years plus – a long-term commitment. So if you decide to share your life with a skunk, be prepared to have your pet around for a long time.

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