I personally only feed the squirrels in my backyard, but I’ve seen so many videos about people raising a squirrel as a pet. I know that a lot of people are always looking for pets, me I have a dog. But if you’ve been wondering can a squirrel be a pet, I’ve put everything you need to know in one place.
Can A Squirrel Be A Pet?
Squirrels are wild animals and there are laws and regulations that make it illegal to keep a squirrel as a pet. However, this hasn’t stopped people from domesticating wild squirrels and raising them as their own pet.
We all know that some people love exotic animals. I suggest before you get a pet squirrel, you research the laws in your area. Make sure that you know what the laws are and if you’ll need a permit, to avoid fines.
Once you have done your due diligence and want to pursue getting one as a pet, follow the tips below to ensure you do it correctly.
But first, let’s take a look at a time when they made popular pets.
A Little Bit of History on Squirrels as Pets
In 1722, there was a popular pet squirrel named Mungo, who belonged to Benjamin Franklin. He passed away after he met his fate at the teeth of a dog. You can read this story here.
Back in the day, Americans kept many types of wild animals as pets. In the 18th and 19th century, squirrels were the most popular type of pets.
They were a fixture in American homes and made great family pets, especially for kids.
By the 1700’s they become extremely popular and they were sold in markets and found in wealthy urban homes. Some were trained well enough to walk on a leash.
The most common types of squirrels that were adopted or bought as pets were:
- Grey Squirrels
- Red Squirrels
- Flying Squirrels
Though the gray squirrel was the most common type to see as a pet. In the 1970s many states started adopting wildlife conservation and exotic pet laws, which prevented people from keeping them as pets.
Today, experts and enthusiasts say that they don’t make ideal pets, because of their diet, sharp claws, and space requirements.
However, if you look on YouTube or anywhere online, more and more people are rescuing them and raising them as pets.
11 Tips for Owning A Squirrel As A Pet
The tips below will help you take the steps towards getting baby pet squirrel. Of course, I personally don’t believe a squirrel should keep gray squirrels as pets. (or any other type of squirrel)
They are wild animals and should be left alone in the wilderness. However, I know that a lot of people rescue them as babies and end up keeping them because they become domesticated to where they cannot survive in the wild.
So let’s look at everything you need to know about owning a squirrel. Trust me, it’s NOT the same as owning a dog or cat.
#1 Look for A Veterinarian
Unlike a dog or cat that can be taken to any local veterinarian. It’s important to find a veterinarian that works with wildlife and exotic animals. You may also want to contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice on how to treat your squirrel in case of a medical emergency.
#2 Adopting A Squirrel
I don’t personally think you can go into a pet store and buy one as a pet, at least not where I live. Most people who have raised one usually found it as a baby and rescued it.
You’ll do much better training a squirrel that is still a baby. Once they reach 9 weeks of age, it becomes harder to train a squirrel. At that point, they are skittish of humans and it will be hard to gain their trust.
#3 Respect Wildlife
If you find a baby squirrel that is on its own and is not injured, leave it alone for a few hours. This will give the mother enough time to find it and carry it back to the nest. Continue to monitor the squirrel to keep it safe from predators.
If it has been a couple of hours then the mother isn’t coming back. At that point, you’ll want to put it in a box and keep it as warm as possible. I’d recommend contacting a wildlife rehabilitation center, instead of keeping it as a pet.
The momma will usually come back and rescue squirrels that have fallen out of a tree. However, they will NOT come back to a squirrel that has been injured.
The number one rule when you find a baby squirrel is to leave it alone. You should NEVER take any wild animal into your house with the intention of keeping it as a pet.
#4 Feed Them The Right Milk
If you’ve found a baby squirrel, always give them Pedialyte before giving them any type of milk. Choose the unflavored type of Pedialyte, if you can find it. Once they have been rehydrated, then you can start feeding them Ebsilac formula for squirrels.
It’s important to give them the right type of milk to ensure that they receive all the nutrients they need to grow up healthy. If you feed them the wrong type of milk, they can suffer from some devastating illnesses.
#5 Switch to Rodent Blocks
Once they get old enough to eat solids, you will want to consider feeding them rodent blocks. This type of diet will help ensure that they receive complete nutrition.
You can buy rodent blocks at your local pet store or online. If your squirrel pet doesn’t want to eat the rodent block, try coating it with a thin layer of unsalted peanut butter. (squirrels love peanut butter)
Feed them 3-4 blocks per day and throw away any of the uneaten blocks. They won’t eat a block that is not fresh.
#6 Don’t Forget The Nuts and Seeds
Squirrels diets should consist of a variety of different foods. The rodent blocks should make up at least 80% of their diet, but it’s important to supplement their diet with other foods they could find out in the wild.
This could be fruits, nuts, insects, and seeds. Try to supplement food sources that will help boost their calcium intake, which is vital for strong bones and teeth.
It’s okay to feed them fruits like bananas, just make sure that it’s done so in moderation. Avoid feeding them chocolate or any sugary treats that could harm them.
These critters are opportunists and they will eat anything they can get their paws on.
#7 Provide A Fresh Supply of Water
Just like your other family pet, squirrels need access to clean, fresh water. Squirrels drink a lot of water. According to the Squirrel Board, they can drink about 2-3 tablespoons per day, depending on the squirrel.
Make sure that you’re replenishing the water every day, to ensure she has a fresh supply of water.
#8 Learn About Your Pet’s Diet
As you know, these critters are opportunistic feeders, that is how they survive out in the wild. If you’re keeping one as a pet, you need to know as much as you can about their diet.
It’s okay to give them some human food, just make sure that you’re not feeding the foods that can harm them.
#9 Buy a Suitable Pet Cage
They need a large enclosure to create a suitable living environment. You’ll want to get a cage that is at least two feet wide and two feet wide. Basically, you want to create a large aviary or large enclosure.
Don’t use the fine mesh that you would use for birds. You need something strong that a squirrel can’t chew through. You may want to opt for a metal cage over wood or plastic.
They are active animals that love jumping and hiding. Having their own enclosed cage will allow them to hide in covered spots and bury their food.
Ideally, you’d want to create an outdoor enclosure for them where they can get plenty of sunlight. You can use dog kennels, as long as they are reinforced.
You can check out these cages that will make a perfect environment for your wild pet.
#10 Allow Them to Climb
Put branches and other natural things they would normally climb out in the wild. Squirrels love climbing and the more you can mimic its natural environment will be better.
You can use pieces of wood or find a sturdy branch in your yard. You can also hang some toys that they can play with inside the cage.
#11 Don’t Forget Their Chew Habits
These critters have a natural tendency to chew things, so it’s important to provide them with things to chew. Your dog’s chew bones will help wear down their incisors so they don’t destroy all the things in your home, plus they may get some calcium to their diet.
#12 Give Them A Squirrel Box
In nature, they build nests that they sleep in and hide their foods. A squirrel box will give them a secure and cozy place to sleep in during the night.
You can buy a squirrel box or make one out of a cardboard box. However, just know that they will most likely chew it and will tear up the cardboard box.
Make sure that you get a nesting box that has a large enough hole for her to climb through easily, like this one.
#13 Don’t Forget The Bedding
Squirrels need to stay warm, especially as a baby. The normal body temperature for a gray squirrel is between 99℉ and 101℉.
In nature, they will hibernate or sleep for long periods of time because they don’t like being out in the cold elements. They also are known to line their nests with leaves, grass, and moss to provide insulation.
It won’t hurt to by squirrel bedding to help keep them warm during the night. Don’t use an old towel or terry cloth as the squirrel can get caught in fabric loops.
It’s okay to use an old t-shirt or fleece blanket. Make sure that you wash the bedding at least once a week to keep it clean.
#14 Protect Them From Other Pets
Most domesticated cats and dogs will want to hurt or chase the squirrel. If they have NEVER seen the baby squirrel, they won’t know what it is.
Make sure that you avoid leaving the baby around them until they become familiar with it. After they start seeing the squirrel on a daily basis, they will eventually get used to it being a part if the family.
However, you will need to keep a watchful eye on it to ensure that your pets do not harm or kill it.
If you have children, you’ll want to keep them away. Squirrels are prone to biting and playing rough and can hurt a child.
#15 Keep Training and Socializing Your Pet
Make sure you get your squirrel accustomed to human contact at a young age. As they grow, they will learn to trust you.
However, at that point, you won’t be able to release them into the wild if they become trusting of humans. Wild squirrels have a natural fear of humans and run away, this is what keeps them safe from predators.
They are very playful and will require a lot of attention. In fact, I’ve heard some people say that you don’t own the squirrel, they own you.
#16 They Need Regular Checkups
Just like dogs and cats, it’s important to take your squirrel to the vet for yearly checkups. They will be able to provide you with directions for proper care, treatment, and diet.
If you still haven’t found wildlife veterinary care, this site will help you get the emergency care your little critter requires.
#17 They Won’t Listen To Their Name
Most everyone gives their squirrels a name, especially, if you’re keeping it as a pet. However, don’t expect them to listen to commands like sit, stay, come as a dog does.
I’ve put together a huge list of adorable squirrel names that will help you name your pet or your backyard squirrels.
Do They Make Good Pets?
Well, this answer will vary according to what you consider a good pet. As I mentioned, you can’t take them on daily walks or hiking like you can a dog. I’ll let you decide, I prefer to stick to my dog as a family pet.
It’s NOT hard to see YouTube videos an Instagram accounts with people who have a pet gray squirrel, that is standing on their shoulder or running around in the house.
Related: Do Squirrels Bite?
However, I prefer to just let them eat from my backyard feeders and sleep in the nest boxes. I’ll stick with my dog instead.
If you are still considering getting one, don’t forget to check out some of the essentials that you’ll need.
Do you have or have you ever wondered where to get a pet squirrel? If so, did you get one? Let me know in the comments below on whether or not you have raised one.
Can Squirrels Be Tamed?
Many people have tamed baby squirrels, however, it’s important to know they will NEVER be fully domesticated like a cat or dog. They can be tamed, but they will always be a wild animal.
If you can’t stand being bitten or scratched, then you shouldn’t consider raising a squirrel as a pet. They love jumping and you’ll find them jumping on you from high places, plus they will climb all over you.
Their claws are designed to hook into tree bark. The claws are very sharp and they will dig into your flesh like it’s tree bark.
References and Further Reading
Atlas Obscura – When Squirrels Were One of America’s Most Popular Pets
The Washington Post – Benjamin Franklin’s Squirrel Died in England In 1772