There are many unconventional pets out there that people choose to keep. From exotic animals that have some amount of domestication in their history such as foxes, falcons, and reptiles to animals that are unable to be returned to the wild and need a home as an alternative to being euthanized, there are countless animals that people choose to adopt.
One unexpected animal that people choose is a squirrel. Squirrels are interesting rodents, with captive lifespans equating to that of a housecat, they can be a welcome addition to any family as long as you have the resources, time, and space to dedicate to it.
Should You Keep a Squirrel as a Pet?
If you are considering the idea of keeping a squirrel as a pet, there are a handful of things to think about. For one, squirrels are not domesticated animals. They will never be domesticated. This means that they will act like wild animals because this is what they are. It takes a special kind of patience to handle this, and this kind of care simply isn’t for everyone.
Squirrels, being unique rodents, need special types of care that other rodents do not require. If you plan on adopting a squirrel and expect it to have the same level of needs as a hamster or rat, you are sorely mistaken.
First, consider the fact that owning a squirrel is not legal everywhere, which means veterinary care may be impossible. Second, squirrels need special enclosures, may need to be weaned off diets and onto commercial food, need dedicated outside time, and most importantly, need many months’ worth of bonding time to get used to you.
It should not be taken as a fault if you feel that you cannot provide these resources, time, and energy to caring for a squirrel. Squirrels are unlike most rodents in this regard, and this comes from the fact that they are undomesticated. If you feel confident that you can provide these resources, you will want to consider the next steps of caring for a squirrel.
Naming a Domestic Squirrel
Like many rodents, squirrels are fairly intelligent animals. As such, they can be trained quite a bit. They can be taught to perform tricks, sort various nuts, and follow basic commands such as “stay,” “go over there,” and “return.” As anyone who has trained an animal will know, it is important to give that animal a name that it can respond to.
If you are interested in training your squirrel rather than just keeping it as a pet, you will want to make sure that the name is short, simple, and sweet. Squirrels are intelligent, but they will not be able to differentiate a complex, multisyllabic name from the rest of your speech. As such, you should consider squirrel names that are simple yet affectionate.
You can think of names that reflect their natural environment, such as Twig, Acorn, or Autumn. You could name your squirrel based on its species or color, particularly if it is an albino squirrel (which usually cannot be returned to the wild due to their inability to camouflage). You can even consider giving it a human name, as many people do with their pets. The possibilities for names are endless.
Themed Names for Squirrels
If you are having trouble thinking of names for your squirrel, you may want to turn your attention to the various types of themed names that people come up with. For example, squirrels often come out around autumn to bury acorns for the winter, so people enjoy giving squirrels autumn-based names. These can include: pumpkin, pumpernickel, acorn, maple, autumn, chestnut, and so on.
People also enjoy giving names to squirrels that are based on their characteristics. These could be their cheeks, their tails, the way they act skittish around others, or simply calling your squirrel Buck for the iconic front teeth that all rodents sport.
Another idea you can think of is relying on the most well-known foods that squirrels enjoy: nuts and seeds. These names can be of common nuts or seeds, even if they aren’t native to you or what squirrels would (or should) eat, including: peanut, chestnut, acorn, pecan, walnut, sunflower, saffron, bean, or pistachio.
What Does Caring for a Squirrel Involve?
Now that you have a good sense of some names that you can choose for your squirrel, you will want to direct your attention toward making sure that you are able to provide a fulfilling life to your brand-new companion. Some of the most important notes to consider are the fact that some squirrels will need an adjustment period for their food, some squirrels may need special care if they cannot be returned to the wild, and that squirrels need quite a bit of space.
To expand on the idea of special needs squirrels, most places that will allow for the adoption of squirrels do so because the squirrel cannot be safely returned to the wild. While this can be due to being too accustomed to people, this is often due to a defect. The defect can be as minor as albinism, or it could be as attention-demanding as neurological deficits. You must be able to give the time and resources that a special needs, undomesticated, exotic pet requires before you adopt one.
Another area to think about is that, depending on the condition of your squirrel, you will need to dedicate the time to helping it get used to commercial rodent food. Weaning a baby squirrel from milk to this food is much easier than helping a squirrel that is accustomed to nuts and seeds switch to pellets and blocks.
Ways to Keep Domestic Squirrels Happy and Healthy
In addition to providing and caring for its basic needs, it is important to make sure that your squirrel has enough enrichment to keep it happy. This includes providing toys that it can play with, items it can chew on to keep its teeth trimmed, and providing areas within its cage to climb on, resembling trees that it would enjoy in the wild. This is part of the reason why squirrel cages are so large.
You will also want to be able to provide designated outdoor time for the squirrel. This is integral to keeping a domesticated squirrel happy and healthy, both mentally and physically. This will require you to bond with the squirrel enough that you have either successfully trained it to obey your command or that you can get a harness and leash on it, neither of which are simple tasks.
Squirrels are, without a doubt, beloved animals to watch as you observe your birdfeeder and backyard friends. However, when they are brought in as pets, everything changes. While they are lovable and can be taught to trust and even be trained to some complexity, caring for squirrels is a lot of work, time, and energy and should not be undertaken unless you are prepared to commit.
With that in mind, squirrels can live up to 20 years and can learn to be affectionate, playful animals that have as strong of a personality as a dog or cat would. As long as you are ready to take on this commitment, you can begin thinking of all the possible names you can offer your brand-new fluffy friend.