The Importance of Socialising Skunks

When we got our first Skunk, Rogue, she was 6 months old and had come from a supplier rather than a breeder. She had been raised in an outdoor pen. She had no human interaction for this time, so by the time we got her via a friend’s exotic pet shop, she was a fairly scared little girl.

On the day we got her home, we put her down on the sofa, and Jasper (one of our Springer Spaniels) promptly jumped up to see who this new friend was! (he loves furry animals of all kinds!). She was not impressed by this, and went to hide between the sofa cushions! Mason went to get her out, and she sprayed him! It went all over the sofa, and over him. It only lingered for a couple of days, and that was only on the cushion that she sprayed on. A surface wash got the rest off, but it was on the inner cushion itself. It does not smell as bad as imagined, it is like the smell of strong burnt garlic, with a bit burning rubber thrown in for good measure! It is not a pleasant smell by any means, but it is nowhere near as bad as the movies make out! It is designed as a defence mechanism against other animals, so I’m sure Jasper with his sensitive nose wouldn’t have liked it too much!

We worked hard with her, hand feeding her, giving her plenty of cuddles on the sofa, and gradually introducing her to our other animals, Jasper and Poppy the Springers, and our cats (Mimo, Morgan and Marley – and now Mojo).
She was housed in a large indoor rabbit cage when we were not home, so she had somewhere safe to hide, and not get in to mischief while we didn’t know how she would get on with the other animals while unattended.

At first she bit us quite badly whenever we picked her up, but we persevered. Then she started having a poo whenever we picked her up, but that did not stop us either. We worked through these issues with her, trying to take her out with us, on a harness so we didn’t lose her, and trying to get her to trust us.

After 9 months, she still was not happy. She was fine in her cage, she used to wave her arms out, between the bars at the dogs, and was always out of the hide. Whenever we got her out (holding her to the side, so the poo went back in her cage, and not on us!), and cuddled her on our laps, she was tense, and wanted to get down. Whenever we let her down on the floor, she ran to the fish tank, or behind the tv or sofa and hid there until we got her out to put her away when we went to bed.

She just didn’t settle down with the dogs, and after all this time, we decided it wasn’t fair on her to constantly be running away, it was no life for her. So she was rehomed. She is now happily living in a home with other skunks, but no Springer Spaniels! and is much happier for it.

So we got Alice. We got her at 11 weeks old, from the same shop. She had been bred by someone who had dogs, and was raised in the home. She was friendly when we chose her, and was in a group of other young skunks, so was well socialised already. We took her home, and she wasn’t scared of Jasper at all! She seemed to quite enjoy the Spaniel Spit Baths she was being exposed to! We took her everywhere we could with us for the first few months. She came to friends houses, went out in the car with us, even went on a trip to Blackpool when we delivered a snake to someone, and went for a run on the beach! (on a lead of course!). We made sure she was handed to friends to cuddle, and everyone that met her, to make sure that she was used to being passed from person to person, and did not get scared. She took all of it in her stride.

Within a couple of weeks, she was no longer put in the cage when we were out, she slept where she wanted to – normally on top of the sofa, on pet fleeces. After around a month, the rabbit cage was put away in the Garage, and not used for her again. (It now houses an African Pygmy Hedgehog called Powdered Toast Man, but that is another story!)

We have used her for talks on various animals and she has been passed from person to person, having a cuddle with each one. She didn’t bat an eyelid! She will settle down with most people, but is now very food orientated! She won’t always want to stay for a cuddle when you want one, but between 2-3am, she will often climb up the side of the bed, and snuggle down with you. Some nights she is more restless, and will move from person to person, and climbs in and out of bed. She often settles down with Jasper in his bed too.

She is now two years old, and in the two years we have had her, she has never sprayed and never bitten. We worked really hard making sure that she would be a happy, well socialised pet that would be happy to be passed to strangers for cuddles, and so far, this has worked really well! We are planning on getting her a skunky friend in the near future, or even breeding her and keeping one of her daughters, as we already have a waiting list for babies from people who have met her! She has her own facebook page (www.facebook.com/alicetheskunk) and twitter account (@alicetheskunk), and has many friends and followers! We know now that what we have done has worked for Alice, so would do the same again if we did have another skunk to raise.

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