With their unique markings and odor deterrent abilities, skunks are intriguing creatures that some people consider keeping as pets. However, laws in California heavily restrict possessing skunks as pets or relocating them from the wild. If you’re interested in having a pet skunk in California, here’s a look at the regulations, care requirements, and risks involved.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: It is illegal to keep wild skunks as pets in California. The only option is adopting a descented captive-bred skunk from an approved facility, and you must obtain a restricted species permit.

California Laws on Keeping Skunks as Pets

Permit Required for Captive-Bred Skunks

Under California law, it is possible to have a skunk as a pet, but there are specific regulations that must be followed. One of the key requirements is obtaining a permit for keeping a skunk as a pet. This permit is necessary regardless of whether the skunk is wild or captive-bred.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is responsible for issuing these permits. They require individuals to demonstrate their ability to provide proper care and housing for the skunk. Additionally, the skunks must come from a licensed breeder, and the permit must be renewed annually.

For more information on obtaining a permit for a skunk as a pet in California, visit the official CDFW website here.

Penalties for Possessing Wild Skunks

While it is possible to have a captive-bred skunk as a pet in California with the proper permit, it is important to note that possessing a wild skunk without a permit is illegal. The state of California strictly regulates the possession of wildlife, including skunks.

If caught with a wild skunk without a permit, individuals may face severe penalties. These penalties can include fines, confiscation of the skunk, and even criminal charges. It is always best to ensure compliance with the law and obtain the necessary permits before keeping a skunk as a pet.

For more information on the penalties for possessing wild skunks in California, refer to the California Fish and Game Code Section 2000.

Descented vs Intact Skunks as Pets

When considering having a skunk as a pet in California, one important factor to consider is whether to have a descented or intact skunk. Let’s explore the differences between the two options.

Surgical Removal of Scent Glands

Descented skunks have had their scent glands surgically removed, which significantly reduces their ability to spray. This procedure is often done when the skunk is very young, typically within the first few weeks of their life.

The surgery is performed by a licensed veterinarian and is considered safe for the skunk.

It is important to note that descenting a skunk does not completely eliminate the possibility of them spraying. While the majority of the skunk’s ability to spray is removed, there is still a small chance that they may produce a faint odor or a minimal amount of spray.

Risks of Descents and Alternatives

Although descenting a skunk may seem like a convenient option for pet owners, it is important to consider the risks and alternatives. The surgical procedure carries some risks, similar to any other surgical procedure.

Skunks can also experience complications post-surgery, such as infections or changes in behavior.

One alternative to descenting a skunk is to choose an intact skunk and focus on proper training and socialization. With consistent training and positive reinforcement, skunks can be taught not to spray and to behave well in a home environment.

This approach allows the skunk to retain their natural scent glands, preserving their ability to communicate with other skunks and potentially reducing the risk of complications.

If you are considering having a pet skunk in California, it is important to research and understand the regulations and requirements set by the state and local authorities. Additionally, consulting with a veterinarian and experienced skunk owners can provide valuable insights and guidance in making an informed decision.

Housing and Feeding Pet Skunks

Cage Requirements

When it comes to housing pet skunks, it’s important to provide them with a comfortable and secure environment. Skunks are known for their digging abilities, so it’s essential to have a sturdy cage that is escape-proof.

A wire cage with a solid floor is recommended, as it allows for proper ventilation while preventing skunks from burrowing out. The ideal cage size for a pet skunk should be at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 4 feet, providing ample space for them to move around and engage in natural behaviors.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it is required by law to have a permit to keep a skunk as a pet in California. This permit ensures that skunks are kept in appropriate conditions and that their welfare is taken care of.

Inside the cage, it’s important to provide various enrichment items to keep your pet skunk mentally stimulated. This can include toys, tunnels, and platforms for climbing. Additionally, make sure to include a comfortable bedding material, such as shredded newspaper or hay, for your skunk to burrow and sleep in.

Dietary Needs

A proper diet is crucial for the health and well-being of pet skunks. In the wild, skunks are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they eat both plant matter and small animals. When kept as pets, their diet should reflect their natural feeding habits.

It’s recommended to feed pet skunks a balanced diet consisting of high-quality commercial skunk food, supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. Commercial skunk food can be found at pet stores or online and is specially formulated to meet their nutritional needs.

Make sure to check the ingredients and choose a brand that contains a good balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

In addition to commercial skunk food, fresh fruits and vegetables should make up a significant portion of their diet. Some suitable options include apples, berries, carrots, and leafy greens. It’s important to avoid feeding skunks foods that are toxic to them, such as chocolate, onions, and grapes.

It’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian who has experience with skunks to ensure you are providing the right diet for your pet. They can provide guidance on portion sizes and any necessary supplements to keep your skunk healthy.

Remember, owning a skunk as a pet requires a great deal of responsibility and commitment. It’s important to research and understand the specific needs of skunks before considering them as pets. By providing a suitable habitat and a balanced diet, you can create a safe and fulfilling environment for your pet skunk.

Health and Other Care Requirements

Vet Checkups

Just like any other pet, skunks require regular vet checkups to ensure their overall health and well-being. It is recommended to find a veterinarian who specializes in exotic animals or has experience with skunks.

Regular checkups can help detect any potential health issues early on and ensure your skunk receives the necessary vaccinations and treatments.

During these checkups, the vet will examine your skunk’s overall health, check for any signs of illness or parasites, and discuss any necessary preventive measures. They may also provide advice on nutrition, exercise, and other aspects of skunk care.

Remember that skunks, like any animal, can get sick or injured. It is important to be prepared for unexpected medical expenses that may arise when owning a skunk. Consider getting pet insurance or setting aside an emergency fund to cover any unforeseen veterinary costs.

Cleaning and Grooming Needs

Skunks are generally clean animals, but they still require regular cleaning and grooming to keep them healthy and odor-free. Here are a few important aspects to consider:

  • Bathing: Skunks have scent glands that can produce a strong odor when they feel threatened. Regular baths can help minimize the smell. Use a gentle, skunk-specific shampoo and warm water to bathe your pet. Be sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards.
  • Nail Trimming: Skunks have sharp claws that can cause injury, so it’s important to keep their nails trimmed. If you are unsure how to do this yourself, seek assistance from a veterinarian or a professional groomer.
  • Dental Care: Skunks, like other pets, can develop dental issues if their teeth are not properly cared for. Consult your vet for advice on dental care and consider providing dental treats or toys to help keep their teeth clean.
  • Ear Cleaning: Regularly check and clean your skunk’s ears to prevent infections. Use a damp cotton ball or a pet-specific ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.

It’s important to establish a regular grooming routine with your skunk from an early age. This will help them become accustomed to the process and make it easier for both of you in the long run.

For more in-depth information on skunk care, you can visit reputable sources such as the ASPCA or consult with a knowledgeable exotic pet owner or breeder.

Key Considerations Before Adopting

Costs and Time Commitment

Before deciding to adopt a skunk as a pet in California, it’s important to consider the costs and time commitment involved. Skunks, like any other pets, require proper care, which includes feeding, grooming, and regular veterinary check-ups.

Additionally, skunks have specific dietary needs, requiring a balanced diet that includes both meat and vegetables. This means that you will need to allocate time and resources to ensure your skunk receives the appropriate nutrition.

Moreover, skunks are known to be intelligent and curious creatures, which means they require mental stimulation and regular exercise. This means dedicating time to engage with your skunk through playtime and providing enrichment activities.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet owners in the United States spent an estimated $99 billion on their pets in 2020, with expenses including food, veterinary care, grooming, and supplies. So, be sure to consider the financial implications of owning a skunk, as these costs can add up over time.

Zoning Restrictions on Exotic Pets

Another important consideration before adopting a skunk as a pet in California is to be aware of the zoning restrictions on exotic pets. Each city and county in California may have its own regulations regarding the ownership of exotic animals, including skunks.

Therefore, it is essential to research and understand the local laws and regulations in your specific area.

Some cities may have outright bans on owning skunks as pets, while others may require permits or have specific restrictions in place. Violating these regulations can result in fines or even the confiscation of your pet.

Therefore, it’s crucial to consult your local government or animal control agency to ensure you are in compliance with the law.

For more information on the specific regulations in your area, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or contact your local animal control office.


While it may seem fun to keep a skunk as an unusual pet, the realities of properly caring for them and complying with California exotic animal laws make it challenging. Thoroughly research all permitting requirements, costs, housing needs, veterinary care, and your local zoning laws before considering adopting a descented captive-bred skunk from an authorized source. Never remove wild skunks from their habitat to keep as pets.

If you’re up for the commitment required, a descented pet skunk can be an interesting companion in California. But be prepared to invest significant time and resources to meet its needs while following the law.

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