7 Tips for Caring for Squirrels
Watching the squirrels scampering around tree trunks or hopping around on the ground is adorable, to say the least. Although many people want to own one of these animals as a pet, caring for squirrels in captivity is extremely complicated, so it’s discouraged in almost all cases. So what happens when we find one of these rodents injured or orphaned in the wild? The specimen should be taken to a wildlife recovery center, but it may require care until it gets there. In this article, we’ll provide 7 tips for caring for squirrels in this situation, so keep reading.
7 tips for caring for squirrels
In the special case that you find a baby squirrel and not an adult, you should try to find its mother before taking it. To do this, get yourself a hot seed sack (or a cloth bag filled with rice) and put the little one on top of it, on a high branch from which it can’t fall.
If its mother doesn’t appear in a few hours or if it’s an adult, then it is best to take the animal to a wildlife recovery center where it will be looked after until it can survive again in the wild. Until you get there, you should know how to care for a squirrel in order to keep it in good shape.
1. Keep it warm
Whether it’s a baby or a sick or injured adult, you shouldn’t let its body get cold. You can use electric blankets, seed sacks, bags filled with rice, or heat lamps. The animal should be warm to the touch, as the average body temperature of a squirrel is 100.4 to 102.2°F (the figure varies slightly between species).
If you’re caring for a baby squirrel, you should never feed it until its body temperature has stabilized. Otherwise, it won’t be able to digest the and you could cause digestive problems or fatal choking.
2. Keep an eye on its hydration level
If the animal has been in the wild for a while without being able to eat or drink, it’s very likely to be dehydrated. To check this, you can pinch its skin: If it stays in the same shape as the pinch for a few seconds, then the animal is dehydrated. You may also notice that the squirrel’s eyes are sunken in and its face looks haggard.
Again, it’s most important to hydrate the rodent before feeding it. This can be done by inserting a syringe of water into the mouth of the squirrel, never directly into the throat as you may cause choking. Another option is to use a sports drink or whey containing sugar and electrolytes until the squirrel has regained its strength.
3. Prepare suitable housing
If it’s an unweaned hatchling, it won’t yet be able to move on its own, so a cardboard box may do the trick. Equip it with blankets to keep the animal warm, but don’t include food or water, as you’ll have to feed the baby yourself.
If it’s cold, it’s best to put a heat lamp or an electric blanket under half of the box, so that the squirrel can choose between cold and warmth.
If you’re dealing with an adult squirrel that has limited mobility, you should provide a small cage that prevents it from moving too much so that it doesn’t injure itself. If it’s able to move, the installation has to be higher than it is wide and have a shelter and branches so the animal can move at ease.
Cow’s milk causes diarrhea in baby squirrels, so it’s not suitable. A homemade solution for a day or two is to dilute the milk with water and add vitamin E, calcium, and coconut oil. An unweaned squirrel needs to eat about every 3 hours.
Adults can be given a mixture of seeds, nuts, leafy greens, and vegetables (such as broccoli or cucumber). Never give them sugar, salt, caffeine, chocolate, or human-prepared foods. Also, don’t feed them animal protein unless directed by a veterinarian.
If the rodent isn’t able to eat on its own, you can grind the food into a mush and give it to the squirrel little by little with the help of a syringe.
For those animals that don’t have problems feeding and drinking on their own, you can leave food available for them. They should also always have fresh, clean water available.
5. Special care for young squirrels
Squirrels that are too young to fend for themselves may be able to move around, but their eyes will be closed and they won’t be able to defecate and urinate without assistance. If you want to mimic the mother’s care in this regard, rub a cotton swab over their genitals to stimulate urination and gently massage their belly in circles to make them defecate.
You should be especially gentle with injured and unweaned squirrels so as not to cause them harm. Always do this in an enclosed room where you’ve covered all the nooks and crannies. This is necessary to prevent escape, as they’re very elusive.
They’re also likely to bite, even if they’re young. Equip yourself with thick gloves to handle the squirrel, but make sure you have the ability to handle it well. You may get a bite and it will hurt, but the important thing is that the animal doesn’t cause an open wound.
7. Other considerations regarding caring for squirrels
If it’s going to be more than a day before you can take the squirrel to a wildlife center, go to a vet for a general check-up. Of course, this is imperative if the animal has open wounds or a life-threatening health condition.
Both the vet and the call you make to the recovery center will be able to guide you as to the specific care required by the species of squirrel you’re caring for. In this article, you have general guidelines, but the rodent will have different needs depending on the situation in which it finds itself.
If you’re considering having one of these rodents in your home, you must first make sure that their possession is allowed in your country, as in some places, it’s prohibited. Before attempting to domesticate a squirrel, keep in mind that squirrels aren’t domesticated animals and that captivity is terrible for their mental and physical health.