Can Squirrels be Domesticated as Pets?

What similarities can be found between squirrels and hippos? At first glance, not much! Hippos are much larger, while squirrels are skilled climbers. However, upon closer examination, one may discover that squirrels and hippos share more similarities than expected. They are both mammals and primarily consume plants. Interestingly, both have been kept as pets!

Which would make a better pet? President Calvin Coolidge would argue that his pet hippo, Billy, was a great companion! However, many may consider a pet squirrel to be easier to care for. After all, squirrels are related to mice, which are commonly kept as pets by many people.

However, bringing a squirrel into your home may lead to challenges! Like any pet, you would need to train your squirrel and establish boundaries. How would you teach your squirrel not to chew on the remote control? What if they damage the curtains? Can you convince your pet squirrel to avoid eating the dining room furniture? Furthermore, how would you handle it if your squirrel has an accident on the kitchen floor?

Nevertheless, squirrels are undeniably adorable when seen up close. Their small size and furry appearance may still tempt some individuals to consider them as pets. Squirrels in cartoons are often portrayed as intelligent creatures. Many of us would love to explore the underwater world with Sandy Cheeks or embark on adventures with Rocky the Flying Squirrel. If you believe that squirrels can make great pets, you are not alone. In fact, squirrels were popular pets in the past.

Early American colonists frequently kept wild animals as pets, including badgers, raccoons, and even buffalo. However, squirrels were the most favored. In 1722, Benjamin Franklin even wrote a tribute to a friend’s pet squirrel named Mungo after its passing.

By the mid-18th century, squirrels were commonly sold as pets. It was not uncommon for families to include pet squirrels in their family portraits, with some of these paintings now displayed in renowned museums. However, over time, people realized that squirrels are wild animals and not easily cared for. Squirrels are energetic creatures that require ample space and exercise. While a forest provides an ideal playground for them, the inside of a house is far from suitable.

In addition, squirrels possess sharp teeth and claws that can easily tear through clothing, curtains, and even human skin. Their teeth continuously grow, leading them to chew on hard objects to wear them down. Consequently, they may chew on anything within sight. Take a moment to look around your home and consider what items a squirrel could potentially chew on. It becomes evident how this behavior can cause problems.

To prevent your squirrel from damaging your furniture, regular feeding is necessary. However, you won’t find bags of “squirrel chow” at pet stores. Instead, you will have to prepare your squirrel’s meals yourself. Squirrels consume a mixture of nuts, insects, and fruits. While nuts and fruits may be readily available, the same cannot be said for insects. Do you even own a butterfly net? Keeping a squirrel well-fed and healthy is certainly no simple task.

From the early 20th century onwards, squirrels were considered to be pests rather than pets. They were protected by wildlife conservation and exotic pet laws. Nowadays, keeping a squirrel as a pet is illegal in many states. Animal experts support this prohibition, as squirrels are wild animals that, despite their cuteness, should remain in their natural habitat.

Give it a Try

Are you interested in learning more about squirrels? Make sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Why would someone want a pet squirrel? If you haven’t seen any adorable squirrel pictures, you might not understand. Do any of these pictures make you want to have a squirrel as a pet? Explain your reasons to a friend or family member.
  • What are your thoughts on keeping squirrels as pets? Take some time today to go outside and observe squirrels in their natural environment. If you don’t have any squirrels in your backyard, you can probably find some in a nearby park. Take note of their typical behavior. Which of these behaviors do you think could be problematic if you were to keep a squirrel inside your house? Use your observations to create a list of pros and cons of keeping squirrels as pets.
  • Based on what you’ve learned about keeping squirrels as pets, create a schedule for a typical day of owning a squirrel. Include time for napping, playing, cleaning up, searching for food, and preparing food. Discuss your schedule with a friend or family member. Do you think having a squirrel as a pet would be worth the time and money investment? Explain your reasons.

Sources of Wonder

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