Squirrels, the tiny sized, smooth furred and cute looking mammals, make wonderful household pets. It is comparably easy to care for them. Unlike pets like mice or snakes, squirrels could be tamed with ease. Squirrels are small rodents varying form 6-12 inches in body length and 4-10 inches in tail length. Squirrels can generally live upto 10 years in optimum conditions. How cute it would be to see squirrels running all around your house with richly furred long tails and marvelous designs on back? Even though pet squirrels are illegal in few countries, most of the countries allow people to have pet squirrels at home. Squirrels can make great pets and are extremely affectionate.
Choosing a squirrel
When choosing a squirrel always prefer a young and captive bred squirrel. Wild squirrels may not be adaptive to the living conditions you provide for them. Select either one that has been hand-raised or separated from it's mother right at weaning time. This way, you'll get one that will easily adapt to you and become readily tame. If you plan to have different breeds of squirrels, it is probably best to house them in separate cages. Breeds like flying squirrels like to be in their own group because they are mostly solitary and like their own space.
In the wild, all squirrels have the same basic diet. Depending on the season, squirrels have different diets. Mostly they eat nuts, buds, fruit, grain, fledglings, and birds' eggs. Red Squirrels especially love pine seeds. In the winter fungi and tree bark are a common food. Many squirrels will also gather food to store for the winter - such as nuts and mushrooms. When you have squirrels at home they need to be provided with a variety of foods to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition. Good mixtures to feed your squirrel include vegetables such as celery, carrots, green beans etc.. Fruits are of course the favourite to squirrels. Calcium is essential for the health of squirrels, so you should include a calcium supplement for squirrels kept as pets. There are many types of tablets and powders available at pet stores that can be used. Make sure there is a constant supply of water for your squirrel. Put water in a heavy dish or in a water bottle attached to the side of the cage. Also make sure to thoroughly clean food and water dishes daily with hot water.
Handling and Training
When handling your squirrel, make sure to support it's whole body, and don't don't just grab it by it's tail, as this could cause discomfort and injury. Squirrels can even learn to come when their names are called. You can train them not to destroy household materials or not to make house dirty. They are very delicate animals thus should be handled with much care for preventing broken bones and body injuries.
In the wild, there are 2 basic breeding periods for squirrels. They are from February to March, and June to July. For most of the different types, several males will go after a female in season, but only one of them will end up mating with her. All baby squirrels are born blind and naked. Their eyes start opening usually when they are a few weeks old, and their fur starts growing within a week. The young usually stay with their mothers for at least a month after they are weaned to learn how to find food before they become completely independent.
Squirrels need tall cages with room to climb around. But keep baby squirrels in small cages so they don't fall and hurt themselves. Most of the squirrels like to be off of the ground, therefore make sure that the cage is elevated on something sturdy. Provide a flat surface at the bottom of the cage for your squirrels to walk properly. The doors should be tight enough to prevent squirrels from jumping out of the cage. In the cage squirrels should be protected from sun, rain, wind and natural enemies like snakes.
Things to chew on
Squirrels teeth grow 6 inches a year so they need things to chew on. Give them flavored wood chews made for rabbits, sterilized bone chew for rabbits, pieces of hard wood, sterilized deer antlers, sterilized cow hoofs, cuttlebone for birds etc... They also like to chew on fruit tree branches, pine tree branches and other branches.