This story is one of the sweetest that we have ever had. A man wanted to try out his green thumb so he bought a shovel, some gloves, and a large bag of mulch. When he opened the bag of mulch, something unexpected tumbled out: a baby. More specifically, a squirrel baby.
The man named the little orphan “Zip.” Barely still alive, the man decided to adopt the little pipsqueak and raise him.
Two weeks later, the little guy had begun to look much more like a squirrel. But Zip was still very weak and had to be picked up very carefully.
Wildlife rehabilitator and veterinarian Terri Sutherland (not her real name because she gets too many rehabilitation requests) cares for two diseased male squirrels who are unable to care for themselves; releasing them would be a death sentence. Terri shares her personal top 10 reasons not to have a squirrel as a pet, entertaining as they are.
- The squirrel owns you. If you want to go away, you will need to find a house sitter with a lot of patience and a high pain tolerance. Even overnight outings require a house sitter.
- Sharp squirrel nails. Those nails, which are designed to pierce bark and allow them to climb trees, completely rake skin. The boys can merely walk across her and leave wounds. Landings leave sores. Terri has a “squirrel garb suit” she wears when the squirrels are roaming the house.
- Sharp squirrel teeth Part 1. They do not possess the bite inhibition reflex of domestic pets. If the first thing that crosses their brain is to bite, there is no counter message to say that is a bad plan.
- Sharp squirrel teeth Part 2. They also do not possess the chew inhibition reflex of domestic pets. If it looks tasty, it will be tasted. This includes wall paper, dry wall, furniture, and anything else you might have handy. (Dog owners may be used to this, but dogs can’t jump nearly as far as squirrels.)
- Sharp squirrel teeth Part 3. Their teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. If you do not provide adequate chewing material to wear these teeth down, the squirrel is in for a serious illness. It is hard to do this for squirrels in a household setting.
- Squirrel diet. Squirrels require a balanced and natural diet that is time consuming, expensive, and difficult to provide. Hours are spent gathering food from the outdoors, cooking high-calcium diets, purchasing and preparing insects (big yuck factor for some mammal lovers). Much money must be spent on supplements and filling in the gaps.
Squirrels are junk food addicts. They will beg, borrow, and plead for junk food, or if those plans fail they will just take it. Like children, what they like to eat is not what they need. People shouldn’t let their children eat Twinkies® for dinner, and squirrels are no different.
- Squirrel energy. This is the entertaining part of living with a squirrel, but it is also the frustrating part. They need a lot of space: huge cages, and a lot of outside-the-cage time every day, about 2 to 3 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is much like owning five young Labrador retrievers in a one-bedroom apartment.
- Squirrel messes. Squirrels like to keep their living areas clean and throw anything “dirty” onto the floor. This includes partially eaten bits of food, unliked food, wilted fruits and vegetables, nut shells, uneaten or partially eaten insects, and ‒ you guessed it ‒ OTHER wastes. Terri starts cleaning with a shop vac and says there are always insects crawling along the debris. If your inquiring mind wants to know, squirrels will hang on the side of their cages and aim the poop and pee onto the floor. They will poop as they run around the house (duh). They often sit down and eat their own poop. Squirrels only want their own area to be neat and clean. They don’t care about yours.
- The biggest reason not to own a squirrel is that they are wild animals, and if we truly love them, they deserve to be free. Rarely, a medical issue will render a squirrel unreleasable, but healthy squirrels are not meant to be house pets.
Read more on having these little buggers as pets HERE