Animals are not known for always making good choices in food and drink items – much like humans! However, dogs will eat chocolates if given a chance, and squirrels seem to enjoy tea and coffee. People who own pet squirrels will wish to know if squirrels can drink tea and coffee or if it is toxic to them.
Coffee contains caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine which are not good for squirrels. Tea contains tannins, caffeine, and a small amount of theobromine, making it an unsuitable beverage for squirrels. The effect of these ingredients can make the squirrel sick and lead to death.
Squirrels do not naturally have access to coffee and tea. They are small animals that can easily be negatively affected by some ingredients in tea and coffee,
Is It Safe For Squirrels To Drink Tea And Coffee?
Squirrels are small animals. They generally weigh around one to one and a half pounds. The largest squirrels are Indian giant squirrels that weigh four pounds. Human women weigh around 170 pounds, and men weigh considerably more.
Considering the size discrepancies between people and squirrels, you will understand why squirrels may have adverse effects when drinking coffee and tea. Therefore, it is unsafe for squirrels to drink coffee and tea, and they should not be offered these brews.
What Makes Coffee And Tea Unsafe For Squirrels?
Coffee and tea both contain varying levels of caffeine which has certain effects on the body. Caffeine is a stimulant resulting in the following:
- Caffeine increases the heart rate, which can put a strain on the heart. In some cases, the heart may develop arrhythmias and stop altogether. Interestingly large doses of caffeine can result in a fatally slow heart rate, and the squirrel could die within minutes.
- Caffeine affects the nervous system, resulting in unusual behaviors and an inability for animals to orient themselves in space. Falling and an inability to carry out tasks the animal could normally do are noted. This could prove devastating to a squirrel who must climb high in trees or escape predators quickly.
- The reproductive systems of animals are impacted by caffeine. If squirrels are in an area and are fed coffee and tea, there may be a population decline.
- The digestive system of squirrels will not cope with caffeine, and kidney and liver damage are seen in animals exposed to caffeine regularly.
Coffee contains a substance known as theophylline. If you read the labels on medicine bottles, you may be familiar with this ingredient as it is commonly found in cough medicines.
Theophylline is a bronchodilator. Resulting in vasodilation and improving the ability to breathe in asthmatics and people suffering from respiratory distress.
It affects the heart and can speed it up to dangerous levels if too much theophylline is taken.
Bearing in mind a squirrel’s small size, it would be easy for a squirrel to overdose on theophylline. The squirrel would show distress due to tachycardia (fast heartbeat) and respiratory malfunction. Theophylline could lead to the death of the squirrel.
Another side effect of theophylline is nervous system excitation and seizures. Gastrointestinal symptoms may also be seen with vomiting and diarrhea.
Theobromine is a substance usually associated with chocolate and cocoa products. However, coffee and tea contain small quantities.
If you own dogs, you should know that feeding them anything with theobromine is off-limits. The same should be the case for squirrels.
Squirrels can develop fatal toxicity from consuming theobromine. Symptoms include;
- Neurological abnormalities
- Stress on the heart from an increased heart rate
Is The Tannin In Tea Bad For Squirrels?
Black tea contains tannin. Tannin is a substance found in acorns, a typical food of squirrels. When scientists observed squirrels, they found that they had a preference for low tannin acorns, such as white acorns. These would be eaten immediately.
Red acorns have a much higher tannin content. Researchers noted that squirrels seldom consume red acorns straight away. Instead, the acorns are usually buried in the earth and left for several weeks or months.
The soil leaches the tannins out of the acorns, making them more palatable.
Tannins are very bitter, and scientists have found that they reduce the digestibility of proteins. When squirrels eat food high in tannins, they eat a much more varied diet. Researchers believe this is to dilute the effects of tannic acid on their digestion.
Is Milk In Tea Bad For Squirrels?
If someone were giving squirrels tea, they would often include cow’s milk. Cow’s milk has a different composition than squirrel milk. It is lower in fats and proteins and higher in carbohydrates.
The protein in cow’s milk requires a specific enzyme for digestion. Squirrels are not designed to digest cow’s milk.
Squirrels may develop diarrhea and gastrointestinal disturbances from drinking cow’s milk. However, cow’s milk is probably the most innocuous component of allowing a squirrel to drink tea or coffee.
Can Squirrels Drink Herbal Teas Or Infusions?
Herbal teas and infusions should pose no harm to squirrels. If you want to offer a squirrel herbal tea, ensure the brew has cooled down sufficiently. Squirrels’ lips and tongues are not used to dealing with warm liquids. The liquid should be room temperature or at the most body temperature.
Keep sugar in the tea to a minimum. Squirrels can eat sugar, but in excess, it is not suitable for them regularly.
The best option for squirrels is to drink plain water. They will probably enjoy some fruit juice, but this is best diluted as concentrated fruit juice may cause diarrhea.
Squirrels should not drink tea or coffee as they contain components that are detrimental to the health of squirrels.
Water is natural and the most suitable drink for squirrels. Cooled herbal teas, infusions, and diluted fruit juices are occasionally acceptable occassionally.
If you have a pet squirrel, supply them with food and drink as close to their natural diet as possible. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian, as they will be able to tell you what is safe and unsafe for your squirrel to consume.