We get a lot of questions when we tell folks about Hobkin from people curious and/or interested in getting a skunk as a pet. And we certainly had many questions ourselves when we first started thinking about adopting a skunk. So I’ve put together this FAQ (frequently asked questions) to address some of them.

Skunk looking up

Eau de skunk – don’t skunks stink?

Skunks have one of the most famous defensive mechanisms in the animal kingdom. They can spray a noxious musk which can be temporarily blinding and completely incapacitating.

Fortunately, the anal glands which perform this action can be removed and typically are in all pet skunks in the United States at about four weeks of age. Skunk owners may be eccentric, but we’re not insane. Having a skunk with intact anal glands in the house would be much like having a loaded gun inside.

So, no, pet skunks don’t stink. Hobkin usually smells like dryer sheet and cucumber, or bell pepper, or carrots. Of course, in order to keep him sweet-smelling, we need to make sure we clean his litter pan and bedding frequently.

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Aren’t skunks born with rabies/Don’t all skunks have rabies?

Of all the questions I see about skunks, this is the one that just completely perplexes me. Rabies is a disease. In order to have rabies, an animal has to be exposed to it. The same way that dogs and cats aren’t born with or perpetually infected with rabies, neither are skunks. As long as pet skunks are kept inside, away from sources that may infect them—other animals, eating infected carcasses, etc.—they are not a rabies risk.

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What do pet skunks eat?

One of the things which we really appreciate about Hobkin is that he’s a vegetarian, like us. In the wild, Mephitis mephitis are omnivores and scavengers. Their diet consists of insects, baby birds and mice, and fruits and vegetables. However, wild Mephitis mephitis only live about two to three years.

It’s been discovered that when domesticated Mephitis mephitis are fed a primarily vegetarian diet consisting of vegetables and grains, they can live on average ten to fifteen years, with some critters lasting into their twenties. Pretty good argument for living a vegetarian lifestyle, huh?

There are two main schools of thought on skunk diet on the Internet:

  • One says that their diet should consist of 50% raw veggies and fruits, and 40% of something called “Skunkie Delight.” Skunkie Delight is a blend of raw chicken/turkey, millet, and various vitamin and nutritional supplements.
  • The other says that their diet should consist of 90% raw veggies and fruits and some cooked chicken/turkey/other protein source.

When compared side-to-side, the diets are pretty close. Vegetables make up the majority of the diet, and the rest is protein. We have decided to feed Hobkin a purely vegetarian diet. We give him rice and beans with yogurt and cottage cheese for his protein needs, and we supplement his rice and beans with nutritional yeast, cold-pressed safflower oil, and various vitamin supplements (including taurine and D-3). We’re keeping a close eye on him to make sure he’s getting enough nutrients—having his blood tested annually by the vet—and so far, he’s doing great.

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Can skunks be litter pan trained?

In one word, “yes.”

Hobkin took to pan training in one day. We started him in a small area and then enlarged his roaming range gradually. We reward him when he goes in the right spot and watch him when he wakes up to make sure he goes in the proper place. We have heard of other people who aren’t as successful, but they also tend to use newspaper rather than kitty litter (the recycled newspaper pelleted variety) which we think makes a big difference. Praise and patience is the way to go.

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Plump skunkHow big do they get?

As with all animals, there’s quite a range in size. But, on average, skunks tend to be between eight and twelve pounds. We’ve heard of five-pound skunks as well as fifteen pounders.

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Do you have to spay/neuter a pet skunk?

If you don’t spay or neuter a skunk, they become aggressive and not at all fun to be around. An un-spayed/un-neutered skunk is not a good pet. It also endangers the health of female skunks to go into heat without being bred. We’ve heard of one case where a female skunk wasn’t spayed early enough and went into heat, and, despite heroic efforts to get her out of heat, she died within a year.

The recommended age is by three months of age for a male skunk and by four months for a female.

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Are they legal?

The legal issue with skunks is even more repressive than with ferrets. Before getting a pet skunk, check with your local rules and regulations to find out if they are legal where you are and whether you need a license or permit. Where we used to live, Illinois, they are illegal to own as pets. But where we live now, Georgia, they are legal without either a license or permit so long as they are not black and white patterned.

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What made you decide to get a skunk?

When we lived in Illinois, we kept ferrets, and we’re both rather enamored by the Mustilidae family. Unfortunately, wolverines don’t make good pets. But in all seriousness, skunks are affectionate, moreso than ferrets, and they’re larger. Larger was a big sell for us because we like big animals. However, Mephitis mephitis also seems to be smarter and less independent than Mustela putorious furo.

I also have allergies to both dogs and cats, but I continue not to have allergies to anything in the Mustilidae family. I’m not at all allergic to Hobkin, which is very important to me, as I spend a lot of time with him cuddled up against my face and kissing his tummy. Hobkin is loveable, loving, and endearing. Why wouldn’t someone want a skunk as a pet?

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What colors do they come in?

Most people are only aware of skunks as being black and white creatures, but domestic skunks come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. From mahogany to chocolate to apricot to blond to albino to lavender, with the “classic” pattern of broad white stripes down the back to chips and swirls with extra white bits thrown in, to shooting star markings, to black-eyed whites, they come in just about every color and pattern except for blue and green plaid.

Hobkin is a chocolate chip. Chocolate is the warm brown color of his fur. He’s got the “classic” stripe markings, but he’s a “chip” because of the white at his knees and on his face. He’s also got white swirls/chips on his tummy.

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