We’re Getting a Skunk!
Written by: C.J. Wilson
After watching an old episode of “Nature” on PBS the other day, my budding zoologist daughter unequivocally announced that we are getting a skunk for a pet.
A consummate animal activist, she’s always been categorically engaged in the protection of all living creatures, carefully containing and releasing errant spiders when the other kids reel away in an arachnophobic panic. She has big plans to maintain an exotic animal sanctuary someday, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when she settled on Mephitis mephitis (the striped skunk) for the newest addition to our growing animal family. I’m always willing to embark on a wild adventure with her, so we quickly launched into our skunk intelligence gathering.
Skunks have a bad rap for obvious malodorous reasons and, apart from the dread of the stink from their anal scent glands, many people needlessly fear contracting rabies from them. Receiving rabies from skunks is in fact extremely rare, and they only spray as a last resort when threatened or defending their young kits. Very few humans are directly targeted from the skunk’s spray. Even so, all but 18 states in the US have banned skunks as pets.
Skunks are naturally very clean, instinctively “corner (potty) trained” and actually have a fairly pleasant natural body odor. They are benign, intelligent and playfully curious animals and most certainly make more affectionate companions than our grumpy and aloof rescue attack cat, Becky (aka Bitch Kitty).
Even though they mostly roam about solitary at night in the wild, skunks can be social creatures and generally get along well with other adapted pets. But they are special needs pets and require a lot of care and attention in domesticity, especially in their first eight weeks to adulthood. They must be disciplined with patience and can’t be contained in cages. They love to climb, especially as young kits, and can open cabinets and even refrigerator doors, so it’s absolutely necessary to skunk-proof the home. Skunks have a keen sense of hearing and smell but they have poor eyesight and lack a homing instinct, so it’s best to housebreak them and keep them indoors. One could build a relatively inexpensive electric fence around the perimeter of the property or garden as skunks love to dig and forage for food and have varied diets and voracious appetites but, much like our lively English Lab Molly, they are rarely satiated.
The American Domestic Skunk Association and Skunk Haven are good informational resources, but many websites give out conflicting advice on skunk care facts. All agree that dealing with veterinary treatment is particularly challenging due to the lack of specific knowledge about skunk health that most vets have access to. It is crucial to purchase a skunk from a reputable and knowledgeable breeder and ensure that a vet is secured with more than adequate experience treating skunks. Most skunks are descented as baby kits, but more and more vets and skunk owners are recommending against it. That’s not really for us. Our family is going to side squarely with the descenting group!
The 14th annual Skunk Fest is held a short distance from Cleveland, Ohio this September. Ohio has a large striped skunk population and accompanying skunk enthusiasts, so this is where we plan to start our search for our new omnivorous pal. We’ve decided on a name (Napoleon) and have a trusted vet in place. We are spending this summer child-proofing locks and installing an electric fence. I’m not sure how Becky and Molly will adjust to the new addition, and I’m betting there will be a few raised eyebrows in the neighborhood, but our family could not be more excited to begin our fun and funky skunk quest. We are determined to bring about a heightened awareness for our striking and misunderstood furry friends.
Yes, we are getting a skunk!
Guest Writer Bio : Clinton (C.J.) Wilson has written for Just Out Newsmagazine and Black Lamb in Portland, Oregon, PragueOne in the Czech Republic, and for Penguin Group in New York City. You can find Clinton on Facebook and Twitter.
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