Can You Have a Pet Squirrel?

Updated


Pet Squirrel and Boy Nose to Nose

There has been much debate concerning the legalization of domesticating squirrels. It is illegal to own a pet squirrel throughout most of the United States; you will need to check your state’s specific laws before acquiring one. A general rule is that if the animal is considered wildlife, than it is illegal to keep one as a pet. Wildlife in this instance is defined as any undomesticated, native animal living in the wild, including those hunted for food, sport or profit. So, if you can look out your window and see one running around, it probably isn't legal, and since squirrels are native to such a huge part of the U.S. it would be difficult to find a place where they are not considered wildlife. As stated, this is a general rule, and certain states allow for exceptions, if your state does not allow for pet squirrels you may be able to apply for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

That being said, there are some countries in Europe and Asia where it is legal to own a squirrel. While squirrels appear cute and snuggly, they may not make the ideal pet. Most wildlife activists and rehabilitators feel strongly that squirrels should remain wild and free in their natural habitat. However, there may be instances where a squirrel is injured or abandoned and may need human care. Some of these squirrels are unable to be returned to the wild, because they are unable to care for themselves, hunt for food, or protect themselves from predators.

Why Squirrels May Not be Suitable Pets

There have been plenty of instances where squirrels have become friendly with humans that they come in contact with on a regular basis, especially if that human continually provides them with snacks. However, squirrels typically do not solely depend on humans for their dietary and socialization needs like dogs and cats do. Even if they do learn to become comfortable around you and your family, those feelings will not transfer to visitors or house guests. Squirrels do not adapt well to new people and new environmental elements.

Squirrels can also be very destructive to your home. Squirrels have long, sharp nails that serve them well when climbing trees, grasping food or digging tunnels. In your home, these same sharp nails can wreak havoc on your furniture and can even cause personal harm or injury, whether intentional or not. They also have sharp teeth that continually grow. In order to wear their teeth down, they chew on tree bark and other items found in their natural environment. At your home, they will chew on anything and everything, including expensive furniture, baseboards, and harmful electrical wiring.

It is also unfair to remove a squirrel from the great outdoors. They require a large space and plenty of trees, which they can climb and jump on. No matter how much space you may have, it is not the same as the surroundings and freedom they are used to. Baby squirrels also need to be around other squirrels to learn the skills necessary to survive. If they become too friendly with humans, it could endanger them when they are released back into the wild.

Proper Care for Pet Squirrels

If you do find an injured or abandoned squirrel, it is important that they receive proper care and nourishment to survive . Your local wildlife rehabilitator can be a great resource. If one is not available in your area, find a reputable veterinarian that has expertise in treating squirrels, rabbits or rats. The type of care needed will vary greatly depending on the age of the squirrel. Baby squirrels obviously require more care than a juvenile or adult squirrel.

Providing a Proper Environment for a Squirrel

A baby squirrel younger than four weeks old needs to be placed in a small environment, where they cannot fall or be injured. A small box lined with a newspaper makes a great temporary home. Their most important initial needs include staying warm and fully hydrated. You can place a warm water bottle under the newspaper to help regulate their temperature. If the squirrel is older than four weeks, they will need a larger area where they can move around and climb. The best option is a small wire cage – a bird cage works perfectly. Include wooden perches for them to climb on and small pieces of natural wood to chew on. Try to keep their environment as natural as possible.

Fully grown squirrels will need a much larger space to roam. A large outdoor metal cage that is at least eight feet tall is necessary for your pet squirrel to remain active. It is important that the top of the cage is enclosed to protect the squirrel. Include items that give them the opportunity to climb and jump, like they would in the wild. Secure large wooden perches and branches to the side of the cage. Provide plenty of platforms at a variety of heights and raised walkways. Add natural bedding materials for them to build nests, such as grass, leaves and wooden mulch. Include plenty of sticks and pine cones to chew on. You want your squirrel’s cage to feel like home.

Providing a Proper Diet for a Squirrel

Providing proper nutrients and hydration for your pet squirrel is essential for them to survive. This is especially true for baby squirrels. If you find an abandoned baby squirrel, it is very important to hydrate them sufficiently. The best thing to use for proper hydration is a saline solution, such as Ringer's lactate solution, which can be purchased online or from your veterinarian. The first day you will want to give the baby squirrel only the saline solution, after that you can add the saline solution to their formula. Most squirrel rehabilitators suggest feeding your baby squirrel a puppy supplemental formula that can be purchased at your local pet store. PetAg Esbilac Milk Replacer is the most recommended brand. Use a syringe to slowly squirt the formula inside the squirrel’s mouth. When initiating feeding for the first time, give the squirrel one tiny drop, allowing them to taste it and stimulate eating. It is better to place the syringe in the side of their mouth, where there is a gap between their teeth. Squirrels that are four weeks old or younger should receive six to eight feedings per day. Those four to eight weeks old should receive four to five feedings daily, and those nine weeks or older only need to be fed once per day. The squirrel should eat five percent of their body weight (in grams) at each feeding. At five to six weeks old, you can offer regular food along with the formula. At this time, you also need to feed your squirrel rodent block . This will ensure that your squirrel has enough calcium in their diet, preventing Metabolic Bone Disease. After each feeding, you will need to stimulate the baby to urinate by gently rubbing a warm Q-tip on their genitals.

Adult squirrels should be fed fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that they would find in their natural habitat. During warmer months, you can obtain pine cones, acorns and other natural food sources from a nearby wooded area or local park. Rodent block should still be a major source of the adult squirrel’s diet. You can add fruits and vegetables, such as grapes, apples, oranges, broccoli, spinach, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, figs, dates, and apricots. Make sure to incorporate plenty of nutrients that are rich in calcium. Nuts and seeds should also be a major part of their diet, including pine cones, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds. It is important to clean your pet squirrel’s cage out daily, and always offer fresh food. Proper hydration continues to be essential. Make sure that your squirrel’s water bottle has a metal tip, because he could easily chew up a plastic one.


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