Squirrels are nature’s cute and fluffy, nut-loving creatures. But everyone seems to have varying opinions on these adorable rodents. While some are fighting the uphill battle of keeping them out of their gardens and preventing them from chewing on wood, others are feeding them nuts out of their hands and trying to coax them into their homes. So, what is the correct way to deal with a squirrel, and is it ever okay to attempt to domesticate one?
Squirrels as Pests
While it’s relatively simple to keep a squirrel out of your house, it can be quite challenging to keep them away from your garden. To a squirrel, your garden is a free all-you-can-eat buffet. One solution is to completely screen off your garden and put a steel fence around it. Another is to make an outdoor greenhouse. These solutions are costly and time-consuming, however, and can take up too much space in your yard.
You may also try deterring squirrels from eating from your garden by sprinkling coffee grounds or cayenne pepper powder on and around your plants. Most squirrels won’t like the smell of this and it will encourage them to stay away. One challenge with this method, however, is that you will have to reapply the deterrent each time it rains. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all squirrels are the same, and the smells may not bother some of them.
Another solution to keeping squirrels away from your home and garden is to set up several cage traps around your yard and relocate them. This method does not harm the animals and if you take them far enough, they won’t be able to find their way back to your home.
Squirrels as Pets
It is illegal in most states to keep a squirrel as a pet. Wildlife should never be taken out of its home as this is cruel and dangerous. Squirrels have razor-sharp claws that pierce tree bark to help them climb. Imagine what those claws could do to your skin. Moreover, squirrels require an immense amount of care and attention- much more than a domesticated cat or dog. Another thing to consider is that squirrels live for 10-20 years- a life-long commitment. Please do not attempt to take a healthy squirrel out of its natural home simply for your pleasure. You will likely regret it.
You may, however, leave food out for your tree-top dwelling friends. Squirrels eat unsalted nuts such as peanuts and pecans, sunflower seeds, and bite-size pieces of fruits and vegetables.
Of course, there are exceptions, giving us a few instances when caring for a squirrel in your home is legal, safe, and moral. For example, if you find an injured squirrel, you should care for it until you find a licensed squirrel rehabilitator. Other squirrels may be considered “unreleasable” due to illness or injuries. In this case, you may need to contact your local government to obtain a permit to keep your squirrel as a pet.
If you do find yourself caring for a squirrel in your home, there are several things you need to know in order to give it the best life possible. Your first step is to take it to a veterinarian and have it examined for diseases and parasites.
Squirrels are natural climbers. They need a vertical cage large enough for them to climb and jump around. It should be at least 3 feet tall. In the cage should be branches or wooden structures safe for the squirrel to climb and chew on. They also require a nesting box to help them feel cozy.
Squirrels can be trained to use a litter box relatively easy, which will require frequent cleaning.
“Squirrel food” you find at your local store is likely not a complete diet for a squirrel, but a supplement for outdoor squirrels who naturally know how to balance their diets. Indoor squirrels should be fed “rodent blocks” as their main diet with fruits and vegetables on the side and nuts and seeds as a treat or dessert.
Squirrels are social animals and will be happiest with a fellow squirrel or frequent interactions with its human. Take your squirrel out of its cage for at least 30 minutes per day. Play with it and provide it toys such as wheels and chew toys.
Squirrels also love to jump and climb, so be sure to provide your friend with the proper equipment so it will stay healthy.
Whether they’re pests or pets, squirrels are nature’s most adorable rodents. No matter your intentions, always respect wildlife.