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Four Ways to Keep Cats Safe From Skunks

And because even the best strategy can fail, we include a plan for skunk smell removal.

 |  Jul 14th 2014  |   2 Contributions


Skunks and cats are definitely not friends, despite the long-standing unrequited love affair between the Looney Tunes cartoon skunk Pepé le Pew and Penelope the cat. Here are some tips to protect your cat from skunks and some advice about how to clean the stink off your cat. 

1. Keep your cat indoors

This is a no-brainer. But cats can escape and some people do allow their cats to go outdoors, for better or for worse. If you have an enclosed outdoor area in your yard, your cat may encounter skunks there, too. Skunks usually move around at night, so if you do let your cats out, keep them in after dusk and before dawn.

2. Keep your yard clean

Skunks like to den in piles of brush, logs, lumber, or even cement rubble. If you clean your yard after construction of landscaping projects, you’ll make it a much less skunk-friendly place.

Skunks like to make their homes in logs, shrubs and construction debris, so keep your yard clean to keep skunks away. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Remove access to areas under buildings

Skunks also set up housekeeping under porches and decks, mobile homes, elevated sheds, and even in holes under concrete slabs. Close off any holes a skunk can use as an access point. Chicken wire or hardware cloth mesh can be used to cover openings that cannot be easily sealed.

4. Remove pet food

Skunks are scavengers, and they will gladly eat pet food. If you must feed your cat outside, either place the food on a table or other elevated surface -- skunks can’t climb and jump like cats can -- or bring it indoors as soon as kitty has finished eating.

To keep skunks away, seal off access to areas under sheds and porches, and keep pet food off the ground. Photo CC-BY-SA Leonora Enking

What do you do if your cat does get skunk-bombed? There are lots of folk remedies out there, most of which are useless. Don’t make an emergency run to the grocery store for 15 gallons of tomato juice or buy out the drugstore’s supply of douches, because those won’t do you any good. Do this instead:

1. Don’t get your pet wet yet

If you put water on your skunked cat’s fur, you’re going to make the odor a thousand times worse and spread the oily residue all over him.

2. Mix up a tried-and-true skunk odor-removal solution

Mix one teaspoon of degreasing dishwashing liquid with one cup of baking soda and one quart of three-percent strength hydrogen peroxide. All three of these ingredients can be found at the grocery store.

3. Rub the mixture in, then rinse

Wearing rubber gloves and clothes that aren’t precious to you, work the solution deep into your cat’s fur and over his skin. Be sure to avoid the eyes and ears. After five minutes, rinse the solution out of the fur. If needed, repeat the procedure once your cat is dry again. The solution is very volatile, so rinse any unused stuff down the drain.

Rinse the odor removal solution after it's been in your cat's fur for about five minutes. Photo CC-BY-ND Felicity Rainnie

If your cat has long hair, the odor may linger in his fur no matter how often you use the odor-removal solution, and you might need to break down and have his fur shaved. He’ll thank you, and hey, it’s just hair ... it’ll grow back!

Has your cat ever gotten skunked? If so, what did you do to cut the odor? Share your stinky stories in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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