Some people are fascinated by the idea of having unusual pets in their homes. While squirrels were indeed one of America’s top pets before, their popularity decreased over time. In the 19th century, squirrels were sold at a considerably high price and could only be found in the homes of wealthy families. Old photographs and portraits would often feature a child posing and holding a pet squirrel on their hands. Even early literature carries the topics of how squirrels could be taught some tricks.
Squirrels, while they are the most popular to be wildlife animals now, still have with them their personalities as pets. In fact, they are one of the most energetic and most affectionate pets that you can own. You can quickly form a bond with them the moment you pick them up gently.
At a loss as to whether or not you should welcome a bushy-tailed friend in your home? We have answers to some of your questions—from the first step of preparing yourself, to petting your possibly new pet squirrel.
1. Am I Ready For A Pet Squirrel?
Perhaps you have already spent hours and days, thinking whether or not you should get a pet squirrel. Those cute pictures and videos that you may have encountered on your Instagram feed and YouTube playlists have influenced you to get one. While squirrels are indeed cute in their physical nature, do you have what it takes to take care not just of their cuteness but also their overall wellbeing?
The first step to knowing if you deserve a pet squirrel is to check your personality traits. You should at least have the following:
Sense of Responsibility
A sense of responsibility is the first and foremost trait that you should have as a pet owner. You have to be responsible as if your pet is your child. Keep in mind the food that you give, the new habitat that you provide to your pet, and even the temperature of your home. Take note of these, or your pet’s life will be miserable with you. If you will only end up entrusting these tasks to somebody else, then it’s better not to get a pet.
With the influence of YouTube and Instagram videos and photos, you may already be excited to share pictures and clips of your squirrel being cute and doing little tricks. Remind yourself that this is not always an instant event! It takes time to find the perfect and cute pose of a squirrel, and it takes an effort to teach them tricks. Tony Johnson, DVM, DACVECC reminds, “In order to live with pets, just as with children, you need to flex your ‘keep cool’ muscles and develop the ability to rise above the furballs and scratches on the couch.” Get a pet squirrel because there is something more than its cuteness that triggers you to buy one.
There is no ‘backing out’ once you take home a pet squirrel. You should be mature enough and know that animals are something more than a toy and entertainment. You cannot just let them out in the wild when they stop being cute and funny. Do not entrust them to other people once you grow tired of it.
If you think you are half-hearted to have any of the above, then do not buy a pet yet.
2. How to Make Your House Squirrel-Ready
Your pet squirrel is tiny, and you cannot have it roam around the house once you get one. Get a cage, and this is a must! It is not like a dog or a cat that you can just let it in the house and act as they own it. Squirrels are comparatively small that they might hit a large object which might fall over them and cause injuries and a mess.
There are several reasons why you just can’t let your squirrel run around the house. First and foremost, they are the most curious animals as pets. They would explore things and get into places a typical cat and dog would not go into. Second, there is no difference in what they do outside and inside your residence. They would jump, run, squirm, and climb everywhere. Third, squirrels chew anything. “Pet owners shouldn’t assume an animal will know what to do and where to go in a new place. Limiting access to certain areas of the house and offering plentiful outlets for behavior, such as toys, chews and scratching posts,” Mikkel Becker, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, CDBC, CTC adds.
If you have trouble thinking why your pet squirrel should be in a small cage, then you may give him a spare room in your house. This room, however, needs to be squirrel-proofed. Be sure that it does not have any open sockets and hanging electrical cords. There should be no heavy furniture that may topple on them. Moreover, there shouldn’t be anything toxic or sharp that they can chew once you are not around.
3. What Should a Proper Cage Look Like?
A squirrel cage should not be likened to a birdcage. A squirrel cage should be at least 4 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and at least several feet tall. It should be made with heavy-duty iron to keep up with your pet squirrel’s activities and needs. Put some branches and mini tree-houses your pet could climb on. Also, give your squirrel some toys it can chew.
Prepare some sticks (without their sharp points), twigs, and pine straw to put inside the cage. Place cloth scraps and strips so that your pet squirrel can make them into nice bedding. Large sticks are also a must for their exercise. A litter box and water bowls are also essentials and necessities.
Cages and other necessary things (like this cute Picnic Table Feeder) for your pet squirrel are available online if your local or nearest pet stores do not have specifically-designed cages for squirrels. This Exotic Nutrition Oriental Cage from Amazon is an excellent example of how a squirrel cage should be.
4. Choosing a Pet Squirrel
If you are finally sure that you and your home are indeed suitable to accommodate a pet squirrel, then you are now ready for the next step. That is, choosing the pet squirrel that you will take home with you.
Find an excellent squirrel breeder near you. Whether you will buy a male or female squirrel is entirely up to you. Select your very own pet from the range of available squirrels. Check its appearance and compare it with the others. Check the signs for good health: lustrous coat, no fleas or ticks, weight is average (not too fat, heavy, or light), clean-looking nose, bright eyes, and tamed behavior. You may get a good hold of a squirrel and see if it goes limp. If it does, then he’s not in proper health or behavior.
Take note that you should only buy from an experienced and legal breeder. You may get additional tips from them and keep them as a contact should your squirrel have problems or issues in the future.
5. Meeting Your First Pet Squirrel
After choosing your ideal squirrel, you can pick it up nicely and gently from the cage. Be as gentle as possible, as this will be your first contact with it as well as your pet’s first impression of you. Give him a name right away if you want! Also, do not ever pick a squirrel from the tail as it hurts them physically the most. Surely, you do not want to bring home a pet that is scared of you.
6. Feeding Your Squirrel
Now that you have brought your pet squirrel home, it’s time to feed him, arrange a schedule, and get to know what he likes to eat.
Squirrels are omnivores. They eat plants, meat, and a combination of both. Your little bushy-tailed rodent would love fresh food, specifically low-carb vegetables, sugary fruits, seeds, nuts, and eggs. Just like what squirrels would eat in the wild, the most beneficial food for them would be pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and even edible flowers. Experiment on the diet that he prefers for the first month.
Make sure that your pet squirrel gets the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients in its diet. Don’t forget your pet’s calcium intake because it is one of the essential nutrients it needs. Calcium is known for keeping your pet’s nails, teeth, coat, and bones healthy. Animal grade bonemeal powder and eggshell powder, commonly found in pet stores, can be mixed with your pet’s food.
7. Playtime With Your Squirrel
Squirrels are babies and inevitably can be likened to a toddler. They like chewing on things, so do not buy your pet any small toy that it can choke on or swallow. Unlike typical pets, you do not really need to walk your pet squirrel outside the house for exercise. It’s really unusual to let your pet squirrel stroll with you outside because it might run away.
You can play with your pet squirrel anytime you want in simple ways. Let it out of the cage, climb on you, and jump anywhere in an area under your supervision. Your pet squirrel will surely climb on your arms, shoulders, and even make it on top of your head. According to Shermaine Wilson Cox, DVM “Play helps to stop pets from getting bored, [getting] frustrated and developing behavior problems.” When it grows tired, it would like to rest on your chest or your lap, demanding some petting time from you.
8. Your Everyday Life With a Pet Squirrel
Note that your pet squirrel does not really have an aggressive nature. Do not attempt to declaw him ever. Since it is a squirrel’s nature to climb trees, your pet will now see you as something that he could climb on when he pleases. Get ready to have friendly scratches and bites. Your pet squirrel, at times, may see your finger as a nut that he could eat. Play bites, however, are not bites that could draw blood.
9. Tricks You Can Teach Your Pet Squirrel
The first trick that you can teach your pet squirrel is to come when you call its name. Give them berries or nuts as a reward for responding to your call. Repeat and practice this until they get used to it. Positive motivation is the key.
You can also train your pet squirrel to play outside on leashes. Make sure that your leash is long to let your pet squirrel climb a real tree. Most importantly, do not let it out of your sight. This practice of allowing your squirrel to enjoy the natural environment has been proven to make your pet happier, sweeter, and healthier than other domesticated squirrels.
Squirrels are affectionate animals when tamed and trained. Most people may see them as a normal backyard trespasser, but they can be fun and loving as a part of the family! A squirrel’s life lasts for 20 years, so get ready to be entertained and be loved by a little friend for that long.
Here at The Furry Companion, we will provide you with information, materials, and tips to make your new life with your little chubby rodent friend as exciting as ever. Your new pet may be smaller than the usual home pets, but that does not mean that they deserve less attention and care. We value pets of all sizes and make your bond even stronger and more beautiful every day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a squirrel be a pet?
Squirrels can be kept as pets but require licenses. In some states, it is illegal to keep squirrels as pets because they are protected by wildlife laws. There are some types of squirrels that are domesticated with proper training.
Are pet squirrels legal in the UK?
It is illegal to keep squirrels as a pet in the UK. To be able to keep one, you need to obtain a license. The license allows an individual to keep an animal for a period of time and re-apply when it expires.
Where can I get a pet squirrel?
Look for dealers of exotic pets or breeders of a pet squirrel. It is recommended to get a pet squirrel from experienced breeders because those that they sell are domesticated which makes them easier to manage as compared to the wild ones.
Can you domesticate a baby squirrel?
Baby squirrels can be tamed by owners but not domesticated. The process of domestication takes up more time and it is keeping generations of a wild animal in captivity until its behavior change from the original.
Do squirrels get attached to humans?
Squirrels as pets are affectionate and playful and it is common for them to get attached to their owner. Squirrels pick and stick to one person.
Do squirrels remember humans?
Various instances prove that squirrels remember humans. Squirrels that were nurtured by humans while growing up can remember and visit their foster parents. Wild squirrels, on the other hand, know who to trust for a food source.
Are Squirrels affectionate?
Yes, especially the baby squirrels like to cuddle and play. They are social animals and can be friendly to humans that they often see and bond with.
Do squirrels have feelings?
Squirrels feel emotions like humans. As mammals, they also feel angry, frustrated, happy, and curious. But unlike humans, their feelings are not seen in their facial expressions.
Why do squirrels bury nuts?
Squirrels bury nuts in preparation for the cold weather. These bushy-tailed creatures begin scavenging for food sources as the winter begins. Depending on the type of nut and their species, squirrels can retrieve their reserved food most of the time. They were able to know the location of their hidden treasures through their sense of smell.
At the age of 10, Nica Tuvera has owned all colors of lovebirds before she was diagnosed with asthma. After her law school duties for the day, you will find her either reading humor comic books or saving cute photos of baby animals from her Facebook feed.