If the past of America is to be considered, then in colonial America, squirrels were the favored wild animal category pets. Squirrels are tiny charismatic mammals under the rodent category. Their physical appearance is appealing with bushy tails and bouncy movements. They are very conspicuous in urban and big cities of the USA in parks and backyards. Despite being mischievous they are very popular among the population. Two hundred squirrel species exist worldwide. Among them is the tree squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, etc. They are sociable and love to live with other squirrels.
Tree squirrels were almost wiped out in several cities of the USA towards the mid-19th century. This was remedied by building more parks and planting trees and adding this species of squirrels. The situation revived and squirrels thrived. All tree squirrels are classified as genus Sciurus, it’s a Greek word. Skia means shadow and oura tail. Tree squirrels have the habit of concealing themselves in the shadow of its elongated bushy tail.
Distinctive Features of Squirrel
|Scientific name||Family Sciuridae|
|Color||Varies by species; can be brown, gray, red, or black|
|Size (inches)||8-20 inches|
|Unique trait||Ability to climb trees and jump long distances|
|Famous for||Its bushy tail and tree-climbing abilities|
|Temperament||Generally wary of humans, but may become accustomed to them with frequent contact|
|Adaptability||High; can adapt to a variety of environments|
|Behavior||Generally good, but may bite if frightened or threatened|
|Personality||Diurnal and active|
|Social||Lives in loose groups, but may also be solitary|
Squirrels are small to medium-sized rodents that are recognized for their bushy tails, sharp claws, and prominent front teeth. They have slender bodies covered in soft, dense fur that can be different colors, including gray, brown, red, or black. Some species have stripes or patterns on their fur, while others have white or cream-colored bellies. Squirrels also have large, expressive eyes and small, rounded ears that can rotate independently to detect sounds from different directions. One of the most distinctive features of squirrels is their long, fluffy tails, which they use for balance and communication.
Squirrel’s front four teeth grow continuously at the speed of six inches annually. It assists the incisors to gnaw. In the USA, squirrel caused several power interruptions in the past by gnawing electrical lines. High pitched chirping and tail movement is their way to communicate. The other younger squirrels learn through watching. They also learn how to steal food. The lifespan of different varieties of squirrels is different. Pet squirrel live longer say up till 24 years because of the safety of the home. In the wild, squirrels perish within a year because of dangers through predators. If they survive the threats, they go on to live for 6-10 years.
On the basis of their habitat squirrels can be classified as
Tree squirrels reside in burrows of trees or else erect nests in the crooks of the branches. Ground squirrels dig out burrows and stay there. Among flying squirrels, the habitat may vary from holes in trees to building nests, and at times they change places every night to avoid being killed. They use their wings to glide from tree to tree. The single leap varies from 150 feet to 300 feet.
Is it Legal to Own a Pet Squirrel?
In case you choose a squirrel as a pet that is legally permitted in your state you can keep it at home. In most states in America, one species of squirrel is legally allowed. However, Hawaii as well as California debarring. Most species of squirrels need space which is calculated relative to their dimensions. Tree bound species require a lot of vertical space. Earthly species will need space to imitate the natural surroundings so it can play. If the owner can provide a huge enclosure its best suited otherwise outdoors outing every day will be a routine. Some owners prefer to keep pet squirrel in the huge aviaries outside their homes.
Most states in the USA forbids exotic animals but there is no specific notification on squirrels. It should not be mistaken as legally allowed. The country classifies them under game animals and regulations laid down. Native creatures no matter where they were born are mostly illegal in several states and the rule is applicable to squirrels. In some states, the captive-bred squirrel is allowed but a ban is imposed on wild species. In case you acquire a wild squirrel, for guidance get in touch with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
To keep pet squirrel legally, a permit is required from the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Squirrels come under the category of wild animals and are not available in pet shops. Pet squirrel is illegal in every municipality. A permit is required to keep them in the homes.
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Different Types of Pet Squirrel
The types of squirrels found in the USA are:
- Grey squirrel: It is a common sight. People commonly keep them as pets. These squirrels with sharp claws bit very often. Many owners tolerate their habit of biting and handle them with care. They will associate with a single person well and others will not be welcomed. That is why they come in the category of poor pet. They are avid climbers. The same is applicable to native fox squirrel found in North America.
- American Red Squirrel: These are found in North America and northeast of the country. The lifespan is 8 years but in the wild, they perish within two years in the wild. Males survive longer than females
- Fox Squirrel: Commonly found in North America. It looks very appealing in chestnut brown color. Their life span is up to 18 years. Females live longer than males.
- Chipmunk: They look like tiny rodents. It a rare species now in the United States. However, Siberian Chipmunk is commonly feasible and is legally allowed as it falls into the category of exotic animals. Because of its size, its space requirement in the homes is a practical option. They will enjoy climbing the interior of the cage and on ledges. These are social animals and bestow love on the owner. They communicate well.
- Rock Squirrel: These social burrows digging the largest species are not commonly kept as pets. The presence is in American Southwest and Mexico. Here they live in colonies. As pets, their strong social needs will not be met. The diet is herbivorous
- Flying Squirrel: These natives of the United States survive best as pets because of their affectionate nature. The bond with the caretaker and others is strong. They glide from branch to branch. Owners can keep them in the well-tended aviary bounded area. It need not be huge.
How to Take Care of Pet Squirrel?
Baby squirrel should preferably be kept with mothers till the age of 15 weeks. In open, they live with their mother until the next set of litters arrive or are old enough to manage their life. If you pick a squirrel from the wild, get it checked by a veterinarian for disease and parasitic conditions. Help the squirrel to get accustomed to new surroundings and human contact. Give it positive experiences so it is less fearful. Make sure it does not get attached to one person.
Know Your Pet Squirrel Behavior
Squirrels are social by nature. So be prepared to spend much time with them or else add a couple of squirrels more to the squad. You may accommodate the squirrel in a cage but give it time away from the habitat to move around and play. Sunlight will keep its bones strong through vitamin D. The squirrels relieve themselves in one spot. Be prepared they may ease themselves on you.
What to Know Before Setting up Habitat For Your Pet Squirrel?
The pet squirrel will require a huge cage measuring two feet wide and two feet in depth and many feet in height. Aviary cage should be fine as these have a good height. The squirrel as its natural behavior will climb as well as the need to chew. Foe bedding a cluster of hay or nesting box should be enough. Wooden framework with branches will do the needful. Give it the material and it will build its own nest which is cozy.
What to Feed Your Pet Squirrel?
Feeding of pet squirrel is rodent blocks available at pet stores. This will suffice nutritional needs along with fresh foods such as fruits, seeds, nuts, grubs, insects, worms routinely. Keep a shallow container for freshwater. Supplement of calcium is necessary for ever-growing incisors teeth and bones. Chew bone is also a good alternative.
In The Wild
Eastern Grays are commonly found in the USA. They thrive on nuts, fruits, seeds and are considered omnivores. They live on insects, bird eggs, animal carcasses, etc when food is on low supply. On average an adult squirrel requires almost a pound of food every week. Tree squirrels do not hibernate in the cold season and survive on acorns as well as other nuts buried the previous year. They enjoy eating fungi, seeds, fruits, insects, small snakes apart from nuts.
Twenty to eighty percent of the catches are located by them later. The remaining grow into trees. These squirrels have good spatial memory and a powerful sense of smell. They can steal stored food from other squirrels. There is a long past of consuming squirrels in the USA. Dishes like Kentucky burgoo as well as Brunswick stew prepared with their meat are delicacies. The population hunts and consumes Eastern Grays. Predators like coyotes, owls, hawks, and snakes eat squirrels.
What's it's Like to Have a Pet Squirrel?
It is not unusual for a squirrel to bite even during play and they may hurt badly with razor-sharp incisors. Pet squirrel enjoys a climb on the caretaker and others. However, the sharp claws leave injury behind.
Squirrels become moody at mating season. At this period, they are likely to bite. Tree squirrels are adults within eleven months. They have two breeding seasons in a year. This period is ending winters to beginning spring and the second during middle summers. However, they refrain from reproduction in captivity.
The adaptability of the squirrel to new people and the environment is restricted. Moreover, they are very destructive in homes because of lengthy sharp nails and chewing habits. Despite the best efforts humans have not been able to tame squirrel.