Squirrels as Pets: A Really Bad Idea

Squirrels and other wild animals make lousy pets for numerous reasons.

Revised: November 07, 2016
Published: July 09, 2012

Photo courtesy of Coast & Canyon Wildlife Rehabilitation

Cute, isn't he? However, according to Coast & Canyon Wildlife Rehabilitation in Los Angeles, when infant ground squirrels feel threatened, they get into this defensive position. Look at this infant's nails. When this guy grows up, those nails will be tantamount to weapons as well as tools for the curious and energetic rodent.

Squirrels and other wild animals make lousy pets for numerous reasons. In many states it's illegal to keep them as pets, some states require licenses, and in other states people are required to have wildlife rehabilitator training. Some folks want to find a way around all this license nonsense, and while it’s hard to hide a deer, cute fluffy squirrels can fit in a cage.

Not so fast.

Wildlife rehabilitator and veterinarian Terri Sutherland (not her real name because she gets too many rehabilitation requests) cares for two diseased male squirrels who are unable to care for themselves; releasing them would be a death sentence. Terri shares her personal top 10 reasons not to have a squirrel as a pet, entertaining as they are.

  1. The squirrel owns you. If you want to go away, you will need to find a house sitter with a lot of patience and a high pain tolerance. Even overnight outings require a house sitter.
  2. Sharp squirrel nails. Those nails, which are designed to pierce bark and allow them to climb trees, completely rake skin. The boys can merely walk across her and leave wounds. Landings leave sores. Terri has a “squirrel garb suit" she wears when the squirrels are roaming the house.
  3. Sharp squirrel teeth Part 1. They do not possess the bite inhibition reflex of domestic pets. If the first thing that crosses their brain is to bite, there is no counter message to say that is a bad plan.
  4. Sharp squirrel teeth Part 2. They also do not possess the chew inhibition reflex of domestic pets. If it looks tasty, it will be tasted. This includes wall paper, dry wall, furniture, and anything else you might have handy. (Dog owners may be used to this, but dogs can’t jump nearly as far as squirrels.)
  5. Sharp squirrel teeth Part 3. Their teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. If you do not provide adequate chewing material to wear these teeth down, the squirrel is in for a serious illness. It is hard to do this for squirrels in a household setting.
  6. Squirrel diet. Squirrels require a balanced and natural diet that is time consuming, expensive, and difficult to provide. Hours are spent gathering food from the outdoors, cooking high-calcium diets, purchasing and preparing insects (big yuck factor for some mammal lovers). Much money must be spent on supplements and filling in the gaps.
  7. Squirrels are junk food addicts. They will beg, borrow, and plead for junk food, or if those plans fail they will just take it. Like children, what they like to eat is not what they need. People shouldn’t let their children eat Twinkies® for dinner, and squirrels are no different.
  8. Squirrel energy. This is the entertaining part of living with a squirrel, but it is also the frustrating part. They need a lot of space: huge cages, and a lot of outside-the-cage time every day, about 2 to 3 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is much like owning five young Labrador retrievers in a one-bedroom apartment.
  9. Squirrel messes. Squirrels like to keep their living areas clean and throw anything “dirty” onto the floor. This includes partially eaten bits of food, unliked food, wilted fruits and vegetables, nut shells, uneaten or partially eaten insects, and ‒ you guessed it ‒ OTHER wastes. Terri starts cleaning with a shop vac and says there are always insects crawling along the debris. If your inquiring mind wants to know, squirrels will hang on the side of their cages and aim the poop and pee onto the floor. They will poop as they run around the house (duh). They often sit down and eat their own poop. Squirrels only want their own area to be neat and clean. They don’t care about yours.
  10. The biggest reason not to own a squirrel is that they are wild animals, and if we truly love them, they deserve to be free. Rarely, a medical issue will render a squirrel unreleasable, but healthy squirrels are not meant to be house pets.

Terri lives with two squirrels named Oly and Quinn. Oly was found in the middle of a busy highway, where he was apparently dropped by his mother while crossing the road. He has an endocrine disorder. Oly is a territorial male squirrel who thinks Terri is his mate and, with all the testosterone he can muster, Hates Her Husband With A Passion.

Terri found Quinn near the end of a canoe race when she was portaging (carrying the canoe over land) and found the cold, dehydrated, and abandoned baby. She knew the infant would be crushed by the people behind her and there was no nest around. Plus, she was winning the race. What else was she going do? Leave a baby there to die? Not bloody likely.

She slipped the lice-covered rodent into her life vest.

That’s a Good Samaritan for you. Who else would throw lice and a cold poopy rodent down their shirt? She took him home and bottle fed him. He is diabetic, which is probably why his mother abandoned him. He eats a different diet than Oly. That increases the amount of time it takes her to prepare their meals.

The two rodents shred her house and skin, mangle her carpeting, stink up the place, and hoard her schedule.

Terri’s opinion of squirrels as house pets is much like that of other wildlife rehabbers who care for squirrels.

Marcia Ryback of Coast & Canyon Wildlife, a certified wildlife rehabilitation organization in Los Angeles, has seen what happens when people try to keep squirrels as pets: they are not doing the squirrel any favors. Once a squirrel came in that had been kept in a small cage for two years and had not been well treated. Marcia was trying to "wild him up" so he could be released.

Photo courtesy of Coast & Canyon Wildlife Rehabilitation

"Because the squirrel didn't like people and was habituated, the squirrel attacked me by jumping through the trees, running down and attacking me very deliberately," Marcia said. "After I got him off of me, I was wondering how I would ever catch him again."

Marcia got a long pole net and went back outside. The squirrel came at her again and she was able to capture him, but it was a memorable experience for some scary reasons. The squirrel chomped on her leg and started working his way up her body.

"Luckily my long hair prevented him from getting to my head as he couldn't hold on."

If you're still thinking squirrels would make a fun pet, examine this photo of Marcia's leg and emphasize to yourself that that's the leg of someone who knows what she's doing with squirrels. No novice, our Marcia.

What you don’t know about caring for a wild species could do far more harm than good to an animal.

If you find a wild creature in need of medical help, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator who will be knowledgeable about the wildlife and regulations in your area. Go to The Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory to find help and information.

If you love and respect wildlife, you know they deserve to remain wild.

Update 11/7/2016

Although we think it's a bad idea to keep squirrels or other wild animals as pets, we know that some people need to feed the babies before it's physically possible to get them to a wildlife rehabilitator, and that others will keep them as pets anyway. In the interest of keeping these babies as healthy as possible, we've asked the kind folks at the Wildlife Center of Virginia about the care and feeding of wee orphans.

As members of the rodent family, squirrels should be fed a specific animal milk replacement formula with the appropriate combined percentages of fat, protein, and carbohydrates found in squirrel milk. For eyes closed squirrels (under 4-5 weeks), an appropriate formula is Day One Fox Valley 32/40 formula for squirrels, opossums and rabbits. For eyes open squirrels (over 4 weeks of age), use Fox Valley 20/50 formula. Human baby formula nor cow’s milk should never be used since the nutritional make-up is not appropriate for rodents. All prepared formula should be thrown out after 24 hours. Use clean containers each time you mix formula. Warm just enough formula for each feeding; food that is warmed repeatedly will lose nutrients and become contaminated with bacteria.

Always test the formula temperature with a thermometer before feeding. The temperature should remain warm throughout the feeding. Stir thoroughly to avoid any hot spots. Formula can easily overheat and burn the animal if you are not careful. Refrigerate unused portions immediately following each feeding because the formula will spoil if it is left out.

While feeding the young animals, wrap them in a warm towel and hold them on their stomachs with their heads up (never on their backs or upright). This will help to prevent them from inhaling formula into the lungs. Using a 1-cc syringe, feed the animal very slowly and evenly so it does not inhale any formula. The syringe should be held firmly in the hand using a “hitchhiker” hand position (thumb on the plunger and all fingers wrapped around the plunger shaft and syringe barrel). The caregiver must be in control of the syringe plunger at all times. For very small mammals, the formula must be administered drop by drop. The maximum comfortable stomach capacity of most mammals is 5% - 7% of body weight, except rabbits, which is 10% - 12.5% of body weight, and should not be exceeded during each feeding.

Young mammals will not readily drink milk that has gotten cool, and cold formula can cause bloat. Test the temperature of the formula on the inside of your wrist and with a thermometer each time you refill the syringe and before you place it in the animal’s mouth. To keep the formula warm during multiple feedings, try floating the container in a mug of warm water. Maintain the formula temperature at about 100⁰F. If using a meat thermometer, the temperature will read slightly higher.

Avoid changing diets or formulas abruptly as this can cause problems. Always feed a rehydrating formula followed by a diluted milk replacer formula for at least two to three feedings before offering a milk replacer formula. Follow the recommended feeding schedule for your animal's species, age and weight. When you cut out a feeding, space the other feedings out.

For example:
4 X DAY = 8 am, noon, 4:30 pm, 9 pm
3 X DAY = 8 am, 2 pm, 8 pm
2 X DAY = 8 am and 8 pm
1 X DAY = 8 am

Weaning (5-8 weeks old)
Weigh the animal and follow the feeding schedule for the appropriate size and age. It is extremely important not to overfeed. Hand feed using appropriate formula for age. In addition, add a mush bowl by mixing a small amount of formula with baby cereal and several pieces of soaked puppy chow in a shallow dish. Make it fairly thick. Be careful not to let the formula mush crust on their fur. If they become covered with the formula, clean the squirrels with a damp sponge or cloth, dry immediately with a cloth, being careful not to let them get chilled. Offer this dish of formula throughout the day and remove after the last hand feeding. Monitor animals carefully for signs of fur loss. Sneezing, clicking or other abnormal respiratory sounds can indicate formula aspiration. If this happens, discontinue bowl feeding for several days, supplement with hand feedings and consult your veterinarian for a treatment plan.

Between formula feedings begin to offer the squirrel small amounts of soaked puppy chow, dry puppy chow, paw-sized chunks of apple, sweet potato, broccoli, green beans, corn on the cob (1" slice), a couple of nuts without shells, etc. Add only 1 new food to the diet per day. If diarrhea occurs, immediately discontinue the new food. Watch for dehydration, and then try the new food again in 2 or 3 days.

Young mammals require a balanced and varied diet, which includes all essential vitamins and minerals, especially calcium. Base diets should consist of: rodent biscuits and puppy chow for squirrels. Fruits, nuts, seeds, corn and grains are to be given in small amounts as treats only. NEVER USE beef organs, beef bones, chicken organs, hamburger, lunchmeats, hot dogs, iceberg lettuce, cow's milk, onions, bread and honey.

Good calcium sources include: broccoli, cabbage, puppy/kitten chow, canned dog/cat food, appropriate milk replacer formulas, spinach, Timothy hay, hard boiled eggs, cooked chicken necks, green beans, carrots, mealworms, kale or mustard greens. Young animals that are fed foods that are deficient in calcium or have skewed calcium to phosphorus ratio (more phosphorus than calcium) can develop nutritional problems within a few days. If not corrected immediately, severe non-reversible symptoms may arise including bowed legs, fractures, rubber jaw, spinal deformity, and hind leg paralysis, leading to the animal’s ultimate death. Many of the listed signs could be clinical signs of metabolic bone disease (MBD). Proper nutrition is essential to the healthy survival of an animal.

Gradually increase the amount of solid foods as you decrease the amount of formula given. Make sure the squirrels eat all foods presented and do not eat only their "favorite" food. For example, a small piece of apple per day is fine but a squirrel may choose apples to the exclusion of everything else if given the chance. Limit foods listed as treats. Try to offer foods that the squirrel may find in the wild such as acorns or maple tree twigs and buds. While it is improbable that they will find "wild broccoli", it is a good substitute for wild greens.

You may need to supplement with hand feeding one or more times daily if they are slow to wean. Make sure each animal is getting all the nutrition needed, as each animal is unique. Weigh each animal every 2-3 days to make sure that they are getting enough to eat. When animals are learning to eat solid foods it is difficult to tell if their nutritional needs are being met and weighing is a good guide. A small weight loss is acceptable during weaning as long as a downward trend is not noticed.

Once the teeth are well formed, add two to three native nuts per day. Too many seeds and nuts could lead to hypocalcemia (inadequate amount of calcium in diet), resulting in serious health problems and even death for the squirrel. You can help the squirrel crack its nuts when it is 5-7 weeks old. However, they need to learn to crack nuts themselves before they can be released, so don't open nuts for them after 8 weeks of age. Squirrels seem to always choose the “tasty” foods first. Be sure to add early on in their diet a few rodent blocks (rodent chow), which is nutritionally complete.

With thanks to the Wildlife Center of Virginia


November 17, 2023

They will chew on remote controls, wires, phones, anything wooden, and most plastics. You will see items being destroyed that you like and paid for. It only takes them 1 second in order to take a 1 inch long piece of wood out of your furniture or to separate a wire. You won't be able to prevent this. They basically need an entire room as a cage or they will be unhappy to a degree. Do you have a spare room? They are also moody. They can be all cute and cuddly at times, usually at night, but when they don't get what they want, they can become aggressive.

Most people who start out with a baby squirrel and the intention to keep them as a pet, give up after about a year, because they are simply overwhelmed by the destruction and energy level they face every day, and do a release that may be too late for the squirrel to survive in nature. I am a rehabber, raised / healed / released countless squirrels, and I have a non-releasable grey squirrel in care right now. He owns me and my house. I can't go on vacations.

Make a wise decision.


I believe it depends on the particular temperament of the individual squirrel, (like chihuahuas) I have raised and mostly released more eastern greys than I can count, since I was about 8, and now I’m in my 40’s. Also “spoiling “ can cause negative behaviors. Nutrition is definitely a factor in behavior as well, the healthier they are the happier they are. They have to be socialized and entertained constantly or they get depressed and aggressive. You have to expect scratches because they are meant to climb and you are a walking tree providing food,  shelter and entertainment. I feel they make wonderful pets if you know what to expect and spot negative behavior patterns immediately and redirect them. If you don’t have the time or place for them to free roam like any other house pet, then they are better off released slowly around one year of age. They are less likely to become aggressive if you watch them like a hawk and recognize the first sign of bad attitudes, they will throw temper tantrums like a toddler usually because they have a frustration they can’t communicate to you. One of those frustrations is being confined to a cage, unless it’s the size of your porch. And of course like baby proofing your home, you have to squirrel proof it. Most of them don’t like to be touched but they love to touch you (climb all over you) with a few exceptions depending on the squirrel. The 3 I have now like their chest scratched, but don’t touch the tummies lol. My friend has two 5 year old squirrels that love to be pet, scratched, picked up and cuddled, which is rare. All of the squirrels I knew I couldn’t release for medical issues or injuries were socialized with all family members and pets from the beginning and were never aggressive towards anyone. Another friend had one with a tiny door on the porch where she could come and go as she pleased but she decided she liked it there and stayed for 6 years. She was also friendly as ever. I just think you have to observe their habits from the beginning because they have their own strong little personalities, and know the first signs of frustration. If you can do that and provide everything they need, they make wonderful loving pets, but because they don’t have generations of captivity behind them, some personalities need to be released. Best advice for behavior is watch closely from the beginning.



I have had a couple squirrels and they were very friendly the first was a female I had her for about 6 years she would sleep on my chest and eat off my plate she was sweet and never but me. I now have a male I got both at a day or 2 old the male did bite me a couple times but I attributed that to him being a wild animal. I’ve had him for about 5 and a half years I let him run free in my bedroom he’s as tame as any kitty I’ve had he likes to put his nose between my fingers and have me pet him I take him with me just about everywhere I go he stays on my back or shoulder I take him out side and he never goes too far from me he gets very excited when I walk in my room and he loves candy

May 28, 2022

I don’t agree with this article at all.. I’ve had my eastern gray for a year now. She is my best friend. She has never bitten me or anyone in my family. As long as you aren’t naked claws aren’t going to hurt you. I can wear shorts and a tshirt and she never tried to go anywhere on my bare skin except my arms and doesn’t scratch or hurt me. She is the sweetest animal I’ve ever owned. We take naps together and cuddle together Atleast 2 hours a day. She has free roam of a huge patio and loves it. She lets me know when she wants to come in and will go right to her cage at bedtime. Her cage is never locked. Sleeps through the night. She is very happy and healthy. She is the best pet I’ve ever owned. The only thing I do agree on is they are messy eaters. She mostly eats outside but if she does eat inside I have a hand held vacuum and in 1 minute the mess is clean… I am aware not everyone has this same experience with squirrels but reading these comments it appears far more do have a good experience than realized.

Laura Edwards
May 19, 2022

Squirrels are amazing creatures. I raised a squirrel ‘son’ for a year. They are precious and loving beyond belief. I did the most difficult thing a squirrel ‘Mom’ can do and I let him be free. It was very difficult. I worries about him constantly. He lives free in my Mother’s neighborhood and she feeds him goodies daily. I’m sure the other squirrels in the neighborhood there appreciate Peep’s dowlry of which they too are benefited. I’m happy now I made the decision to let him go. He leads a real squirrel’s  life. Like others who’ve written in, I too believe that squirrels are amazing pets. I wouldn’t trade that year, despite my injured  skin, and ruined woodwork for anything in the world.

May 1, 2022

My boy most certainly knows how to control his bite. He will bite the living crap out of toys and my sleeve and things like that but as soon as his mouth touches skin he reduces the pressure to just a nibble. The nails are definitely a different story but he can’t help that and I make sure to wear pants and long sleeves when he’s out. But he definitely has no interest in hurting me by biting because he has had many opportunities to do so and always only nibbles! My boyfriend on the other hand, he is not a fan of him at all! He’s attacked him twice so far and both times I was not home and he let him out of his cage. He doesn’t attack him if I am home though. He didn’t have much to do with his care when he was being bottle fed though so I believe that is why he didn’t bond with him like he did with me. Either way, my baby boy is smart and knows not to bite hard when we are playing so saying they don’t know how to control it is ridiculous. He proves on a daily basis they know how to control it if they want to, maybe the ones you have just don’t care if they hurt you.

Shylaja Prem
May 5, 2021

Dear Sir/ Madam, Would like to narrate my incident and how i ended up keeping a squirrel many years ago.i didnt find it unpkeasant in any way. First and foremost being an animal lover i dont like keeping animals as pets and confined. I am 63 year old. When i was around 11 years old i happened to get hold of a baby squirrel just like a rat except that it had 3 lines which was identified by elders.the baby had fallen down from the attic and injured itself.blood was there on its feet.elders advised me to leave it there and that the mama squireel would come and fetch it.they advised me not to touch it.a day passed but the mama didnt turn up...nobody else was botheted. I went near it and found it was barely without anybodys knowledge took it to my room.cleaned its wound in whatever way i knew.i handled it with great care.brought a small filler nd fed it drops of milk secretly..i used to put in in my unform pocket and take it to friends were all lay in my pocket cosily for grew..i slwly fed it rice started making noise in class nd i wad caught and parents were called.thats how they came to know.well i was advisef yo leave it out by my parents. But even when i kept it out it would run vack to then i had named it grew and was able to run and scrambke up i left it out...nd went to school.mama woukd say that it cane to the kitchen asking for food bd she would give hi. Food.she too started aforing it.when i came back from school i used to call it tooty and would cone scurrying down the trees. At night it never slept on would cone to me and sleep with me.later it started bringing a mate too to visit me.tooty was my world. As time went by one day it never came back.i kept calling but it never cane back. I heard from othets that in neibhouring houses and plots that they had kept traps on coconut trees to avoid rats nd squirrels eating or munchibg away. Peopke say on hearsay that my tooty found its end world had toppked.well that was my sweet ecperience i wanted to share here.they are the sweetest cutest adorable friendly nd loving  little animal. I even named its mate fruity.tooty bd fruity were my chikdhood pkeadant memories.

December 21, 2020

If you look to history, in turn of the century 1900 America, Squirrels outnumbered dogs as family pets... especially among wealthy North East families. May not be so now, but it was quite a common thing at the time.

November 28, 2020

while squirrels in the wild live only 5 years tops,captive ones can live 10 years or more! My girl is going on 7 years. I got her when she was just hours old. she freely roams my house 24 hrs a day and prefers to sleep with me. she has her own space but only goes there when she eats or wants too. Now for anyone that plans on Owning one.. its is a 10 plus year commitment! I built a addition to my house to give her her own room when she wants to climb and play with the cats. they have trees and wall shelves and ropes. She has never bit me or anyone else. scratches come naturally when you own a pet that loves to climb. Her diet i either pick in the fall(black walnuts and acorns, or fruit. i have All her food source in my yard. And for anyone that owns one, coffee with creamer helps. yes it calms her down within minutes so she can take a nap with me lol.If you cannot supply a solid food source... do not get one as a pet! if you rehab one, handle as little as possible so releasing with be easier on them.

Lori, adopt a mom for Fred and Ginger
May 23, 2020

While some of these comments elicited a few giggles. Some,a few tears. A few others, for the Gods sake people, GOOGLE!!. First time stand in mom for squirrels. Opossums are in my blood. All raised and returned to good ol Mamma Nature. But,talk about a crash course! Squirrel babies are a double shot espresso, with a few tablespoons of sugar to even it out! Ergo, Fred and Ginger. They were dancing at week 3, and don't stop till milk comas! Welcome to week 8. After a bunch of around the clock feedings. My son is happy to say, "he really enjoys the mom with a good 7 hours sleep". Evidently I was a very large bear to live with. Emphasis on the capital B! I remembered why there are very few new mothers on the down side of 40. We know better! I'll happily leave those 3 am. feedings to the 20 something's. I love the idea of rehab and release. My Opossum "Bug" absolute love of my life. Came home for random visits occasionally, if only to tell me about the wife, and kids. Squirrel's? Whole new ball game! After a bumpy start with kitten formula, OMG'S! A small set back with weight loss and dehydration... Thank you Henry's! Pedialight, Goat milk, yogurt, concoction. (Not to bad, even if syringe inadvertently placed in mouth, to remove excess.) Until, (another thank you, insert here), Fox Valley Formula + Ultra Boost, arrived. And hello sqwishy beans! From a few days old,"pinkies",( still not sure of the name, skin color or size?) To, I'm pretty sure my all male household has hastened Fred's introduction to testosterone. Ginger and I are baffled. Even though he still insists on his face being cleaned thoroughly after meals. She could care less. Episode of banana and yogurt,  with resulting full bath. Still finding evidence on wall and drapes. Luckily she has forgiven me for the full dousing. Him? Does jumping into any nearby sink, with a steely gaze, signify again please? Anyway, I was well on my way to crazy cat lady. Amazing what 8 weeks and a bragging husband can accomplish. To, "Don't get her started on how to care for a squirrel" lady. Although,  squirrels do make way better listeners, then my adorable snoby, I'm only there to meet their every wish, furbabies. Whom have had a few lessons with a squirt of water.  Learned very quickly, mamma ain't sharing! Only my wonderful, Fuzzbutt thinks watching them is as much fun as mom does. The only reservation I'm having at this point, is imprinting. We're in the process of building a large encloser outside. Mainly for our Pitbull "Puddin" to watch over them. I dare anyone to try and open that door! He claimed them the first day home. He's the reason this breed was considered the "nanny" to small children, and I'm guessing anything under 2 lbs. once upon a time. Poor guy, he's still not quite recovered from being bullied by 2, very small, baby raccoons last night. Made their mamma proud! she waited by the ladder my husband placed against the tree."Because being pregnant and climbing a tree can't be good for her". Still haven't been able to ask the question,  "what have they done since the dawn of time"? Without giggling. Another problematic question. Why, in Texas, is it legal for me to kill, eat, and make toe warmers, out of squirrel hide. But, illegal for me to nurture, feed, and protect? I don't own these squirrels. I care for them. A few around the clock tummy kisses should be my payment for this privilege! Gods know Fox Valley, saviours that they are. Are not giving away formula. And, Henry's, Picky blocks, are not at all economical for them to be handed out like Walmart samples! I've read the ingredients. That man did his homework! Thank you for letting me ramble. Kudos to everyone that opens their hearts, homes, and wallets.  To making this scary world a little less scary, for the helpless, abandoned, or orphaned furbabies out there. Wish me luck, for a tearful,  hopeful, happy return to the "Out There". If not? A lot more happy dancing for the next 20 years?

Maple the Squirrel
May 14, 2020

I’ve been taking care of eight week old gray squirrel, and I would recommend using work gloves if you are worried about hands getting bit.

April 28, 2020

I have to challenge several things in this article.  Yes, squirrel toenails are like needles/razors, but you can cut them is they are inside only. You merely cut just the clear part.  The next problem I see with this woman is she has two intact males in the same small area; this is adding to the aggressive behaviors, not just their dislike of her male husband. The other problem with her calling them "pets" is she has two, intact males, again... if she had one male, she wouldn't have a lot of these problems, but with two males!  Geez! I have a female.  I raised her since birth; she sleeps in bed with me at night.  She loves me; I love her.  Squirrels are usually one person pets.  She doesn't bite, other than play biting that never breaks skin.  I trim her toenails; she fusses, but allows it. Having said all of this...I would NEVER allow her to run around the house unattended, for her own safety as well as everyone else.  Squirrels love to chew wires and cords; they are very fast.  They can bite through a lamp cord in a split second...fried fire....don't let your pet squirrel, pet rat, pet ferret or anything that is notorious for chewing, run loose unsupervised; it is a recipe for disaster.  If you love your babies, be a responsible parent. And I buy her Henry's Picky blocks to supplement her diet, just to make sure she gets her nutrients.

Kenneth Hine
April 16, 2020

My name is Ken and would like to tell you about the best pet I've ever had, my squirrel Peanut. He was found in an overhang of a house that I repaired. My wife fed him with a dropper every two hours for almost 2 months then I did for the next month. He spent most days on the job with me inside my shirt. He has grown over the past year and a half to be the smartest pet I've ever had. He spends every evening with me playing. He sleeps in our bedroom in his bed he made under the coffee table, when it's bedtime I turn out the light and he goes straight to bed. The at 6.30 every morning he wakes up and comes to me and wakes me up.During the day he stays in his cage and his little box inside the cage. He has never bitten me yet, he eats Henrys squirrel diet and fresh vegetables and a few pecans. I plan on being his dad untill one of us passes on. He is an absolute Blessing to our lives.

Lucy Mee
April 2, 2020

Thank you so much for this article, Phyllis, and for all your insights in the comments. You are doing really important work and I have tremendous respect for you. My question is, are there parts of the world that you know of where domesticating squirrels is more commonplace? Thank you again for your time. Best, Lucy

Andy Brown
February 24, 2020

My son came home with a small squirrel one day and said one of his friends ran over it with his bike. He didn't look like he was hurt but I kept him in the house for three weeks as it was in the middle of May and was too cold. I wanted to make sure he was healthy enough to release back in to the wild when I thought he was ready. I decided to release him in a tree in our back yard in the morning. I went out off and on throughout the day to check on him. He stayed in the same tree and just before night time, I went out to check on him and jumped on my shoulder and I walked back in the house with him(I guess he the warmth inside). I did that for about two weeks and after that he decided to stay outside, coming back in the house every now and again. The last time I saw him was at the end of September. I think the worst happened but I do have a video of us play fighting on the front porch. It is on youtube under psycho sammy squirrel. He liked to come down quite frequently and play like that.

January 12, 2020

I’m sorry but, this is the least researched article I’ve read. Many of the points are not accurate or are completely erroneous. 1. Absolutely not true. Like any pet, they’ll miss you but, if they have enough food and water provided for them, going away is fine. 2. True. I have to wear a thick robe when I take my squirrel out for social time. 3.4.5. Not even close. Every squirrel I’ve had has had three types of bites. Play bites, warning bites and threatened bites. The last type will break skin and will last until you put your hands in your pockets. Their lower teeth are the only ones that keep growing. They file themselves on the back of their upper teeth so, no need for chew blocks. 6. This is a bunch of malarkey. I can provide a squirrel with everything they need from the grocery and pet food store. No supplements necessary unless you’re dealing with kits. A bowl of kale, dandelion greens, butternut squash, chayote squash, carrots, mushrooms, cucumber a day. Should always have access to rat food pellets and water of course. Treats like fruit, meal or super worms and nuts should be kept to a minimum. They’re fattening and if the squirrel can’t finish them, it’ll create a stash that it will begin to defend. 7. Don’t eat in front of your squirrel. 8. It should be in it’s large cage at all times and never have free reign of the house. It needs to be let out for an hour twice a day minimum, supervised. They’ll taste everything, including electrical cords. You can relax. A night or two off here and there is fine. If you want to go away, have prepared meals that someone can feed it through the cage. 9. A squirrel will keep it’s nest clean which is not the entire cage. Their nest is a small wooden box within the cage. Also, Squirrels can’t shoot their poop out of the cage, this is ridiculous. They will mark their cage with urine though. 10. Agree with this completely. The picture of the bitten leg is real. However, in my experience as a rehabber, the term “wild up” describes a process that can be somewhat cruel at times and squirrels don’t respond the same way most other animals do. Going after a squirrel that’s not afraid of humans with a large net is threatening enough to warrant an attack. She may be experienced with other animals but, clearly not with squirrels. 

Deryk Lakatos
November 26, 2019

Since I became disabled from a worker's comp injury I am home all the time.  One day going out the door to get the newspaper I saw a black squirrel on the walkway, hadn't seen any black ones in my area in central NJ so I chittered at it and it chittered back to me.  I happened to be eating a pecan sandy cookie at the time so I split the cookie with "shadow".  That was in february, by june she was taking peanuts from my fingertips and nervously would eat next to me wile I sat there.  One day in June we had the "Squirrel Wars" They were fighting and running around like wilde creatures lol.  Shadow was gone, about a month later I saw her one day on my neighbors property, she came running to me and fed her and she went off on her way.  I hope she comes back around.  I tried to pet her once and she moved so fast and was on my hand  looking up at me.  She then hopped down and started eating I didn't try that again, only got a few light scratches.  I love squirrels, as "outside pets"  Hopefully more will get used to me feeding them and come for visits lol

Phyllis DeGioia
November 4, 2019

Hi Cynthia, Yes, that tends to happen. Most mammals are sweet as babies and not so much when we hit sexual maturity. I don't know the answer to your question because it depends on state and sometimes on local laws. I'm not sure a rehabilitator would take him, now, though, as he has nothing from which to recuperate - he is not sick or injured. For your health and safety, he has to live somewhere else. Squirrel nails are practically weapons and could do serious damage to your face or eyes, so if he's being this aggressive and refuses to go in his cage, he must now live somewhere else than inside with you. If you don't want to take the risk of a fine, the only thing I can think of is to let him outside despite his lack of knowledge about traffic. I'm sorry you are facing such a choice. Good luck to Rocky (great name!) and to you as well.

Cynthia Farmier
November 4, 2019

Ok so I have a 4 year old male fox squirrel named Rocky.  He was really sweet at first,  but now that he’s bigger, he has become quite aggressive. He fears nothing and my dogs and cats won’t mess with him. He chewed his way out of his cage now and jumps on me whenever he sees me. I would let him outside. The only aggressive cat I have is my indoor outdoor cat, who will hunt outside. He and Rocky are friends and will actually sleep together. The feral cats I feed never hunt. You have to be a rehabilitate in my state to keep a squirrel I would let him go but he’s not traffic savvy. I can’t get him in his cage now. Do you think I will be fined if I call a rehabilitator after 4 years. He was rescued as a baby from my neighbors cat. Help... I can’t keep getting attacked and I don’t want him to be put down.

October 27, 2019

We have a white squirrel in our back yard who is slower than his siblings and has fallen out of the trees due to their fighting him. His gait is uneven and his tail drags, which I'm thinking is a result of an injury. Today, we watched in horror as he fell from the backyard tree to the ground below after being attacked by another squirrel. We don't want to intervene, but we thought of getting a hav-a-hart trap to relocate  the other squirrels to another area so he can have the backyard to himself, and hopefully, to heal. Does anyone have any other ideas to help with this situation?

October 27, 2019

Our baby girl is about 11 weeks old, we found her at what seemed like 5 weeks. She loves people and still not quite brave enough to be on her own outside. She isn’t very ruff except with me but I’m her momma and she just likes to wrestle. I’m starting to tone it down with her since she is getting stronger. She doesn’t really bite us unless she is playing and even then we try to teach her not to do that, but as mentioned above she isn’t very good at remembering until the first bite... she is free roaming in the house and never in a cage which seems to help and she has a ton of wood logs and tree branches in the house to play on so she is very content. If we take her outside to play she always decides when we are done by running into the house. We are completely scratched up from head to toe some are really bad, but that is the price for loving them so much. I have to admit my house gets pretty messy and needs to be cleaned every 3 hours or so because of her. One day she will decide to leave probably but we are not pushing or forcing her until she is ready. She is over all a really good squirrel so far and I hope but don’t expect her to stay that way. She sleeps in my shirt or hides on me when she is scared and wants to constantly play chase. We are with her all the time almost thru out the day so that helps with the sweet personality. If we weren’t I think things would be different. That’s just our experience.

October 15, 2019

This past March, I was given two newborn eastern grey to care for. When I got the call that they'd been found, & mom hadn't come back, I went and got puppy milk, and read online the Pedialyte recipe. When they arrived, it was 2 females, umbilical cords still intact, ears and eyes sealed shut. It had been a very cold day.1 had a small open cut on its shoulder area, it's skin was so thin. I was told that the other, who was crying BEFORE feeding time,☺️, and trying to move ALOT, was a "fighter" & that if I could pull it off, shed be ok. I set the two of them up in a tiny canvas box, and placed a heating pad under. We had to keep them in a dresser cabinet at nite bc we have a cat. 1st morning, the hurt sister had passed. The "Fighter" whose name became Sandy, aka frm spbgbb, left my side willingly 3 saturdays ago. I had walked to my garden and around the outside of the home with her many times, but this one time, she wandered, this time stopping and looking back at me before running off @ app 8wks. This was a very difficult task, I'm a mother, and this was harder than an infant, alot of touch and go moments. I strongly do not recommend trying it. If you come in contact find a no kill habitat, or hmu shancharb08114@gmail. But it was rewarding. And I knew she'd always eventually have to be released. But I made it on her terms. And, I see her playing with a black squirrel every day on the outskirts of the forest around my house

Dr. Nathan Mueller
September 11, 2019

Hi Ginger, Thank you for your interest in the article.  After reading your comments, I would like to add that it is not possible for guinea pigs and squirrels to breed and have offspring.

Ginger Vitus
September 8, 2019

Everybody’s experience is different, bc no two squirrels are the same. We had Weezer for several years, he slept in bed with us, ate at the table with us and goes in the litter box. He actually bred with one of our Guinne pigs, and they had 3 pups. They look like Guinnes with long busy tails, and very friendly. 

August 28, 2019

I am really surprised to look at the dark picture painted about how bad it is to have a squirrel as a pet, but I would beg to differ from the opinion. Of course I didn't have them after I started living in US in the state of Virginia, but during my young years and until 25 years of my age I have tended and had close to 12 squirrels who have lived a ripe age and died of growing old to ones who died because of natural predators, all our squirrels were rescued ones from the stage where their eyes haven't opened to a month and half old ones as well. They are apprehensive and defensive as mentioned, but once when you start feeding them and build a relationship, they look at you as family, in all the time I had squirrels, I had 3 bites and that too the reason they got chased by predators and were holed up somewhere and when I went to get them there was a instinct like article due to fear and they bit, but they left the bite right away after getting my scent. We never had caged any of them, because they were free to roam around the house, but they always were playing outside in the wild as well. Come evening they return to their nest which is our home and they spent the rest of the evening spending time with us playing until we get the lights out, in which case many a times they will be cuddled up near me in my bed, yes there is a possibility I could have squashed them, but being with I got used to sleep cautiously. Yes their nails are sharp when they climb over you and leave marks, but for an animal lover it's really hard to consider that a problem, yes sometimes they will pee on you in the moment of playing, but for some reason all my squirrels somehow was trained a small tray we created for them to use as a bathroom, we used sawdust to keep the tray clean. They are the most interactive and most smart intelligent creature right in par with dog. They want you to play with them, they are not loners and they are very social.

Ryan Keith Worsham
July 21, 2019

You did not mention two very impotant things. Baby squirels do not produce there own heat. Thry must be kept on a heating pad or else they will die of hypothermia. And most importantly baby squirels cant poop on there own. A mother will lick there genitals to get them to poop and pee every thirty minutes to an hour. So as a human we must simulate this with a wet q-tip in order to keep them regular. If not they will die of toxic shock. I rehabed two boys and a girl once from two weeks old. Not a good idea but better than what my local shelter and state wildlife control said to do with them.  They said “Leave them outside and nature will take them” another shelter said to place them in a plastic ziplock style bag or grocery bag tightly closed for humane disposal. I said. NOPE! Now they are alive and well in a denver park.

July 8, 2019

I'm repulsed by your article, however I do understand why you would type it. My husband found 2 abandoned INFANTS umbilical cord still attached, back in March. One passed the 1st nite,which we expected due to a far fall. The other is thriving to this moment. I know that most people cannot keep a wild animal alive, however, she has overcome a calcium deficiency, which I realized immediately when she became inactive. It was easily treated immediately. That was back in May. Today she runs about like a household pet. Ourcat which we had a year before her gets along great. She does have nails, BUT she won't use them on our bare skin. She does have teeth BUT we buy chew toys for her to use for any pain caused by those ever growing teeth. She has never bitten us, only nibbled slightly. She uses the litter box. She does toss things out of the cage where she made her first nest (and retires to before dark until dawn) but it's nothing uninhabitable or nothing a daily cleaning doesn't fix. We've tried releasing her. THATS the only point which she becomes hurtful. She's happy. We love her. She loves us. Her nest/cage is always open. I don't agree with ALL your theories.

March 11, 2019

My squirrels were wonderful experience. Wood clearing ended up taking a nest. Of the 4, one was so dark she looked black, two were bunny colored but Jerimiah was white/cream. Not albino because his eyes were not pink. They went through a destructive stage but really they were not that much more destructive than the rats & rabbit my sister had. Cleaner too. When they were about 8 months old they went thru a super chew phase. Two were very 'tamed'.  To the females bad luck. While I was at work my stepdad let his niece hold one and she crushed her. I started outdoor training them after. Sootica and Tomas did pretty well. Jeremiah  was too tame. I had him 5 years. He was large, plump and plush. The dark one was silky and not as fluffy as the other 3. During the time I was in visiting my real dad 3 weeks, my parents split and my stepdad gave him to his  girlfriend, Jeremiah went beserk and got loose. I wouldnt go hunting a squirrel for a pet but I would not feel negative about adopting and training one again. Rodents are simply  a lot of work no matter their size.. Not sure what species, they were rather large (2+ lbs). They had bigger fat heads and and large ears , but not fox squirrels. *this was in 80s before handy internet

January 28, 2019

I raised an abandoned male squirrel for a little over a year. I agree wholeheartedly that they should be rehabbed and released. They are totally lovable, intelligent creatures. But destructive, you bet. Probably 3-4 thousand dollars worth of damage to woodwork, furniture, etc. And when they mature, very territorial. I disagree that they smell. This guy had no smell whatsoever. I kept his huge cage extremely clean. I finally released him in a very safe place where I see him pretty frequently. I think it’s always worth it to help any critter in need. Even though it was heartbreaking letting him go, I’d raise another in a heartbeat. But no, they’

Phyllis DeGioia
January 21, 2019

Ray, that is such a sweet story - thanks for sharing.

Ray Walker
January 20, 2019

Years ago a storm destroyed a tree with  two young squirrels, neighbor boy took the male. I got the female. built a large chicken wire cage with a 5 ft tree log, food and water bowl. as she got used to it we brought her in the house. she'd get in my shirt pocket. after 6 weeks i released her into the trees in the yard. come dusk she'd want in her cage. about 6 months later i called her and she stretched out on a tree limb just above me and chattered, a male squirrel stood behind her. she'd come to say good bye. back to nature but I really missed her and our playtime.

November 30, 2018

hi I like the aticle

Phyllis DeGioia
November 21, 2018

Geckos make lovely pets as long as they have proper husbandry. Most diseases that reptiles get are related to poor husbandry, so do your research and have a proper environment and you will have a happy, fun pet with a gecko!

November 20, 2018

How about a green gecko? I have had them before and remember them being pleasant to be around.

November 14, 2018

Very glad I came here before I let myself go find one as a pet we had a family (squirrels, duh) in a tree in our front yard, three of them chased a prowling neighbor cat barking at the retreating cat. wonderful to watch. why yes their is a squirrel show on KOPB right now and don't forget Jan. 21st 2019 National Squirrel Day!

October 24, 2018

I live 60 miles west of Las Vegas in the rural desert of Nevada.  We have ground squirrels here; I think they are "antelope" squirrels.  Early this year (2018), I started to feed the quail and dove around my home.  The ground squirrels helped themselves to the bird food.  I would sit on the porch and watch them all.  The squirrels started coming up near me.  I put peanuts down and they would take them.  I put the peanuts closer to me until I actually put them between my toes.  Then I started putting a trail of peanuts into my house.  Shortly, they were coming into my living room and taking the nuts from my toes.  I had up to 6 in my house at once, but only a couple would come to me.  As the summer progressed I had small raptors and the resident golden eagle pair prowling the area, and also snakes.  By late summer there were only a couple of squirrels left.  Now in October, there seems to be only one squirrel left.  This one has been coming into my living room and taking the peanuts I leave on the floor, and from my hand on the floor.  Now it will leap over a foot into my hand to take a nut.  Just in the last week, it has started jumping onto my my sofa to take the nuts.  It will grab a nut and hop down and scurry back out the door.  It will come back every couple of minutes for another.  It will also shell sunflower seeds right out of my hand.  If I am not paying attention and have not left it a nut, it will come and sniff my toes and take a tiny nibble.  It has never come close to breaking skin.  It is too small to inflict damage with its teeth and claws.  I jump startled, and it will scurry to the door, but will come right back, especially when I talk to it.  I am impressed with the courage, boldness, and brashness of this tiny creature.  I am sure it feels triumph at having taken a nut from "the monster" as it hops out the door.  I grew up on a farm in Texas.  We had cows, horses, pigs, dogs, and cats.  Animals have always been a joy to me, but I swear, no animal has ever given me such joy as this beautiful little thing.  They are less than half the size of the tree squirrels which this discussion is about.  I would not try to capture it and keep it restrained.  I hope the birds, snakes, dogs, and cats don't kill it.  Taking in an injured or orphaned squirrel is one thing.  But if you just want a pet, all you have to do is entice it with food and it will come to you when it wants, and it will leave when it is full.  You get the joy of its beauty without having to provide for all of its needs.  That is my story of my "wild pet" squirrels and I am sticking to it.

Phyllis DeGioia
September 26, 2018

Hi Nutz's momma, How wonderful of you to rehab so many squirrels and release them! Thank you for doing that. Unfortunately, he is not likely to figure out he shouldn't bite his favorite person (the hand that feeds him). As wildlife specialist Dr. Gentz said to another commenter who asked about aggression, "Now that your squirrel has started this behavior, it is unlikely to stop." Squirrel bites can be puncture wounds, which can become easily infected (see for when you get bitten again; the Mayo Clinic recommends seeking medical care for any puncture wound caused by an animal bite). I am concerned about how many times and how many people he has bitten.  I know this is hard to hear, but he would do better out in the wild skimming across trees and coming to you for visits, as do many of your other rehabbed squirrels. He too will know he can always come to you for food and attention, and I don't think you'll lose sight of him. My heart is with you.

Nutz's Momma
September 25, 2018

I have rehabbed baby squirrels rescued from storms, predators, fallen from nests and who have been abandoned. All have done very well and still come in the evenings for treats. Several will jump on shoulder to enjoy a nut or fruit. This year I was given a male baby that was rescued after his nest tree was cut down killing his mother and siblings. I’m not sure if his malocclusion was due to him falling or if he was born with the birth anomaly but at 7 months he is still with me. He has a 4ftx6ft cage that is left open in his own room. I also let him out of his room for about an hour or so each day. Since about 5 months he is only friendly to me. HATES and will bite my husband who has fed him many times in the past. He also will bite my sister and brother-in-law who have cared for him when I’ve gone out of town. In fact if anyone comes into a room where he and I are, he will bite ME. VERY HARD & DEEP. I’m not sure if he is just confused thinking he’s attacking the other person that he feels is a threat? He NEVER bites me hard when it’s just the two of us. I thought about having him neutered as it seems this behavior started once his testicles dropped. But reading that it may make him worse has me second guessing doing it. He’s still very young so I’m wondering if he will figure out that he shouldn’t bite me as he matures.

Phyllis DeGioia
May 15, 2018

Hi MlB, I'm glad to hear things are going well with your black squirrel (they are so lovely). Rabbits also like to bite through cables, by the way; it can help to cover the wires with PVC pipe or some other type of cover. Be aware, though, that sexual maturity in squirrels happens between the ages of 1 to 2, and temperaments tend to change then, and some become aggressive. He may or may not be as sweet afterwards.

May 13, 2018

I have had a black squirrel for about 7 months. It got pushed from its nest at about I would say three weeks old. It played with my hand and bit softly almost immediately. I keep him inside, no cage, he made a nest ontop of a cabinet close to the ceiling. He bit me hard a couple of times, but that was it. He is now about 7 months, great little guy, very playful with soft biting much like a trained dog. Does although bitebthrough many cables and wires which is the worst thing he does. Other than that he's kind of awesome. I keep a food tray stocked at his convenience, peanuts, corn cobs, spinach, avocado, mango seed, pine cones, branches and things from outside, also eats various other things, hazelnut, walnut, almonds,little bits of blueberry, whole grain bread. Want to get some rodent blocks might be a good idea. Thanks for this article

Sigrid Warren, licensed wildlife rehabilitator
February 5, 2018

Well, at last I read the truth from people who keep squirrels as pets. The aggression as the animal matures even when neutered, something Facebook users vehemently deny.  I have been warning people about keeping a squirrel for well over a dozen years  now.  What the article does not mention is that a squirrel on the attack will jump in your face and can easily destroy one or both our eyes with its razor sharp claws.  I really get upset when I see children in squirrel households. Someone wondered if the aggression has to do with their going into heat twice yearly.  A female will become a very dangerous animal while in heat, and I dread having to overwinter a mature female due to illness.  But the aggression stems from the animal being unhappy, plain and simple.  A squirrel wants ti race through the tree tops, not dangle from your drapes.  It wants to feel the excitement of the wind in its fur, the rush of chasing and being chased by others of its kind, it wants to be FREE.  Wildlife grows up and matures, whereas domestic dogs tend to retain their puppy-like behavior throughout their lives. In my many years of rehabilitating hundreds upon hundreds of squirrels I have learned one thing:  they rather be dead than spend their lives in a cage. It does not matter how attached we humans get to them, for their sake we must let them be free.  And those who cannot ever be released, sometimes we must make a tough decision.  A responsible wildlife rehabilitator knows to always keep the ANIMAL'S welfare in mind and do right by that.  Our feelings must always come secondary regardless how hard that may be.

Nancy Shappit
January 24, 2018

Maybe the squirrels become aggressive because they mate two times per year and it could be hormones especially with females.  Protecting the nest so to speak!

Phyllis DeGioia
January 3, 2018

Hi Nicole, I'm sorry to hear that your squirrel's temperament has taken such an unexpected turn. It was so kind of you to rehabilitate him. Have you spoken to the veterinarian who neutered him about the change? I have no idea why he would turn more aggressive after neutering than he was before it. Unfortunately, as wildlife specialist Dr. Gentz said to another commenter, "Now that your squirrel has started this behavior, it is unlikely to stop." Perhaps it might help if you moved his cage outdoors adjacent to your home with the cage door open so he can come and go (and not be a sitting duck),or on the balcony, perhaps he might not feel a need to attack either you or your boyfriend; and I do mean perhaps. Understand that he may choose not to stay around, or only return infrequently, but he is clearly unhappy. Escalating aggression in any species, whether it be squirrel, dog, or human, is potentially dangerous and your safety and health are primary.

January 3, 2018

Hello! I've had a boy squirrel named Willington for about a year and half now. He fell out of a tree and nearly at death because he was so young, he was a baby. I resucued him back to life and then I got really attached so I kept him. Ever since I got him he has always been attached to only me while my boyfriend always gets attacked by him. I took him to a vet nearby that takes care of squirrels and the doctor told me if you want him to be nice to get him neutered so I did just that and now he is even meaner then he was before. As of right now he is attacking me now and biting me and I don't know what to do, any suggestions. I really don't want to get rid of him but I feel like something has to be done. He has is well taken care of and has a big cage with lots of food and even a tree and is SPOILED!!! PLEASE HELPPP!

December 22, 2017

Not so fast, Charlie is 5.5 years old and a loving friend. Has she ever bitten me, yes, but then I yell at people sometimes too! Squirrels are difficult the first 1.5 years but calm down a lot afterwards

Squirrel lover
November 29, 2017

This entire article is COMPLETELY UNTRUE!!I have raised baby squirrels and have NEVER experienced ANY of these things. Although once old enough and capable of breaking nuts on their own as well as being weeded AND being able to drink water on their own...I do allow them to run free outside. They always come home though when they're needing comfort(they actually come down my chimney which I leave cracked open inside the house).When they get old enuf and start to socialize with other squirrels they only come visit once or twice per week, mainly to get easy food from my hands. I do believe one day in the trees is better than a lifetime in a cage for any wild animal unless it's special needs. Like I said TOTAL NONSENSE...IN MY OPINION.

November 18, 2017

I find this article to be just infuriating! My husband and I have 2 grey squirrels that we hand raised from around 3-4 weeks of age. They are now 2 and 3 years old. They are AMAZING pets the BEST pets I've ever had. And I've had just about any pet you can imagine. Our squirrels, Ipsy and Skipper, female and male, are the best of friends. They play together, sleep together, eat together and give us a good laugh every single day. They are healthy and well cared for. They are in cages when we are not home or when we have company. If we are home they are free to run around whatever room we are in. Theyare never left inattended, which is extremely irresponsible with a squirrel. It infuriates me when I see things like oh, my squirrel drowned in the toilet. REALLY, CLOSE THE TOILET LID!!! OMG, if you are going to take on the HUGE responsibility of raising a wild animal than for the love of God, PLEASE do the research and BE RESPONSIBLE!! To say squirrels make terrible pets is Ludacris and irresponsible. They make amazing pets and as someone stated above in other parts of the world, squirrels ARE domesticated animals! They make GREAT pets! They are incredibly smart! Mine are POTTY TRAINED, to the person above that said they poop and pee all over. Well, if you train them like you would a dog or cat you wont have that issue! Yes they chew! PRovide them with enough stuff to chew on and that isn't a problem either. And the most RIDICULOUSLY STUPID thing you wrote is that they STINK. That is just ridiculous! Did you DO any research before you wrote this irresponsible article? They DO NOT stink! They have absolutely ZERO odor! They clean themselves like a cat and I've never owned such clean animals! ine have NEVER had fleas or ANY bug . If they do when you take them in a very simple bath will take care of that issue never to be had again! Also, squirrels DO NOT carry rabies or any other disease. My squirrels are smart, funny, loving, cuddly, adorable and very HAPPY in their DOMESTIC home! PLEASE don't tell people that they make horrible pets so that they are left in the wild to DIE! Ours would be DEAD if we hadn't taken them in. The thought of that breaks my heart.

October 20, 2017

It's a wild critter. Why on earth would anyone rescue a squirrel and keep it? Let alone if it was lice ridden and had diabetes, etc. there's a reason nature selected for it to be on the side of the road. I really think it's like a psychological need for some people to have to take care of SOMETHING, anything! I worked in the wildlife dept at the spca in college and I will NEVER understand why anyone would want a wild animal- let alone a squirrel!  [Editor's note: Selected text from this post has been removed to comply with the VetzInsight comments policy.].

September 27, 2017

my brother had been keeping a squirrel for about 4 months, and he rescued it from the woods as a baby when its eyes were closed and it was abandoned on the path. What happened today has broken my heart. The squirrel chewed a hole through its regular caging, and since my brother is pretty busy, he put it in a cage that the squirrel could easily climb through while he left for work. He came home to find the squirrel dead, drowned its poor self in the toilet. Please take great care with these animals; if you find one please let an experienced rehabilitator return it to the wild, as with any other undomesticated animal. These cute creatures are too curious and driven to be kept in a busy household.

T Grady
July 23, 2017

I "have" a squirrel lives in the woods and comes "home" only to eat and climb around on me for 30 min to an hour.  She then goes back in the wild. She comes home EVERYDAY to eat and if I'm sittin in my chair she comes up steps I have To my window and "informs me" that it's time To eat.

Phyllis DeGioia
June19, 2017

Tim, that's a large and amazing set up for your squirrel! Most people won't go to that effort and will just stick it in a cage as they would a parakeet. The branches are a great idea. We didn't say squirrels shouldn't be kept under any circumstances; the two squirrels in the article has illnesses and could not be released. Their enclosures are smaller than yours, so they need far more time out of their enclosure. Thanks for telling us about it.

Tim OBrien
June 18, 2017

I had a pet squirrel fir many years. I raised it from very young, though after its eyes were open. The squirrel was not difficult to care for. Tge suggestion that under no circumstances should anyone try to keep a pet squirrel is ludicrous. Thus squirrel would have been dead if I hadn't cared for it. Or would have lived a relatively short life if somehow introduced to the wild. Of course you can' be stupid about it. It won't be a cat or dog. You have to take it fir what it is. You can't just stuff it in a small cage lije a parakeet. My squirrel had a huge enclosure on my patio(appx. 8x8x8 ft.) That enclosure connected with a 6x2x2 solud indoor enclosure. And it also had 2 15 foot parallel tunnels that led to a large kids playhouse that came with my house. All but the inside enclosure was covered with 1/4" mesh hardware cloth inside of wooden framing(so that the animal couldnt chew up the framing. I reinforced the playhouse internally with the same where necessary. I put large branches floor to ceiling in the large enclosure. So the squirrel had tons of space, didnt need endless out of cage house priveledges. Keep a squirrel if you like. Do give it lots of space. Do make sure you feed it well. Do start very young(ideally before the eyes open). Do gandle it a lot. My squirrel never bit me. Often hand wrestled with me and constantly play bit(never vaguely painful). He would tire himself out and stretch out on my leg like a cat. Obvously you need to wear a flannel shirt and long pants when having personal time or you will pick up scratches.  By the way, squirrel urine is very inoffensive.And even rhe turds are tiny and compact and easy to vac.If they leave any. Mine almost universally went to the bathroom outside and out of his enclosure(through the openings in the hardware cloth).

Phyllis DeGioia
June 12, 2017

Ray, You are correct, they are indeed claws rather than nails. Calling them nails is an example of anthropomorphism, I suppose.

Ray Dyck
June 12, 2017

Squirrels do not have nails, they have claws. Sharp claws, that's how they climb trees so readily.

May 7, 2017

This article is ridiculous. in parts of Asia they have been pets for centuries and domesticated. i myself am an american living in china and bought a squirrel some time ago and it is more tame and domesticated then my cat or some dogs I've owned. bottom line is western mentality and thoughts on whats wild and whats not can not be applied across borders.

April 28, 2017

As with most relationships, and YES, these are relationships you're cultivating, IT TAKES TRAINING.  My pet squirrel was also an abandoned baby, but it lived a normal house pet life.  It ate meals with me and snacked another two times daily.  It was potty trained as if it was the good dog of a family, meaning it never peed on my clothes.  It went with me to most places, including school, in my pocket.  It exercised in its rolling cage when the big dog exercised outside.  YES, we had a german shepard dog who understood that this was my pet, and the two looked at each other without bother.  Oh, by the way, I did all this as a 14-year old teenager.  AND DID JUST FINE!!!

Dave L
December 31, 2016

[Editor's Note: This post has been edited to remove mention of a commercial website in accordance with VetzInsight comment policy.]  Katryna, At 4 months you have probably imprinted on her where she can't be released. This is NOT a lecture, but people who have small kids, cats, dogs or do not have the resources or ability to deal with a 1/2 wild 1/2 family member should not attempt to keep squirrels. I had a squirrel for 9 years but it was just myself and my wife and we learned how to deal with her. We are also in Florida where owing a squirrel as a pet is legal. IMO you took on the responsibility for her and you should deal with the good and bad. My new 5 month old cuddles in the evening like a kitten but tears up the place during her "busy" time. VERY large QUALITY bird cage is a MUST and she must never be allowed outside. Playtime in the house must be supervised at all times. NO peanuts, treats or human food EVER!

December 6, 2016

I agree, squirrels are meant to stay wild. However, I admit I fostered a nest of baby squirrels whose nest was blown down by a storm. There were four brothers: Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Rafael. They stayed in a cage outside to keep them habituated to the outdoors, plus they had fleas! They were friendly to a point, loved to climb, and seemed to enjoy chasing my small daughters in the yard. We were amazed by their "sticky" feet- they could scale anything! They ate well, but three developed diarrhea (I apparently was ignorant about the correct diet) and eventually they died. The fourth did well until it fell into a small wading pool and drowned. A sad but sweet experience.

November 24, 2016

And yet another reason: Red squirrels carrying medieval strain of human leprosy as people warned to stay away

November 14, 2016

So I'm too far in for the "don't do it" speech. My squirrel Maple is about 4 months old. She's hyper and claws are sharp. I'm ok with this. She has a big custom enclosure that we built for her with lots of room to get around. She comes out to play and we'll take her outside to play also. She's definitely imprinted to me. Until 3 days ago, she only ever play bit. First she bit my step dad (which at first I just wondered if it I was because he's not around much). Then she bit my husband who has fed her every day during the day while I'm at work since we got her. Both were more than once and enough to bleed. Today she bit me. Not hard enough to bleed but enough to leave a mark. Now I'm honestly afraid to hold her. I have 2 young kids and don't want an animal that I'm going to leave confined to a cage. That's not why we got her. Do I try to find her a new home or can this be trained out of her?

Dr. Ned Gentz
November 1, 2016

Hi Kayla, You may have noticed that the title of this article is "Squirrels as Pets: A Really Bad Idea." Because squirrels as pets is a really bad idea, as you are now finding out. Some captive squirrels can become pretty tame, but many do not. Now that your squirrel has started this behavior, it is unlikely to stop.

October 31, 2016

Hi my name is Kayla I was wondering if you guys can give me some good advice. My friend found two baby squirrels in his attic and decided to rehabilitate them he has them in a huge cage in his room and they ended up having babies. So he asked me if I wanted one and I said absolutely I'd love to. I got her in June it's now the end of October and she's become really aggressive. She was never like this before she's aggressively biting me, stamping her feet attacking my hands biting my face. I don't know what to do I don't know what's wrong with her I've never done anything to ever hurt her or show any type of aggression towards her and sometimes she just gets angry and attacks. And when I try to get her off me she comes back and attacked me again. Can anybody give me some advice or has this ever happen to anybody?

October 12, 2016

I rescued a Baby Squirrel a few years ago.  I was Living in my Car, at the Time, and it was Winter...  So we were Pretty Much always in Close Proximity. While he was VERY small, I kept him in a Shirt Pocket, and wore a Shirt over That Shirt, so it would bond to my Scent and Rhythm. We slept together, Ate together, Worked together (so to speak)...  Went to Wal-Mart together.  Everything. He was AWESOME.  I got Nipped a few Times, because when he'd Play, he'd get pretty effin' Rambunctious.  But hey. Later, he would Ride on my Shoulder, and I'd pick Wild Strawberries and Hand them to him.  He'd Strip the Outside, and Toss the Core. I'd stand about 4 feet from a Tree, and Extend my Arm, and he'd Run down my Arm, jump to the Tree, and go Play in the Branches. When it was Time, I'd stand at the Base of whatever Tree he was in, and make some Clicking noises, and he'd Race down and jump back on me. It was the Greatest of times!! Once the next Autumn rolled around, something in him Changed.  I sent him into a Tree, and he started Chewing Fresh Leaves off the Branch, and stuffing them in a Hole in the Tree... He frantically Built a Nest, and started Staying in it.  One night there was a Terrible Rainstorm...  So I climbed up and Reached in to get him, but it was Dry and SUPER Warm inside...  So I left him to it. Gradually, he started Wilding Out, and became Less Responsive to me.  Over a Short Time, he just...  Became a Squirrel. I miss that Guy.  I saw him around for Years afterward.  I could pick him out of a Crowd!

Haley MP
October 9, 2016

Two family members of mine found a squirrel beside a sidewalk with flies on it and thought it dead. It was alive and they put it in a box. They thought it was a baby but after more research it's an American Red Squirrel. It's been left in my care. It's got trauma to it, no visible puncture wounds but there's small patches of fur missing which could resemble an animal or predator injury. The only visible symptoms is listlessness, bleeding from the eyes, mouth and nose and limited ability to move properly, like the equilibrium is off. Only food it has consumed is apple. It's in my bathroom which is dark and quiet, in a box that's on a heating pad set on low and it's got some fabric that won't catch on it's fine toenails. I've changed the cloth once for fresh because it's pooped but I believe it's soiling itself. It was found around 2pm and has survived until now, appx. 2am. The centers were closed because it's Sunday and the one closest to me may not take the animal in. In the meantime I'm desperate for sources of information on how to handle this situation as best as possible. I've identified it as an American red squirrel. I've monitored it every hour or more and if it survives the next 24 hours I'd like to give it more food to what their diet requires. Was concerned with dehydration but learned they rarely drink water and get water mainly from food sources so I've soaked the apple in water and removed the skin to allow easier consumption since it didn't eat the skin of the apple anyways. Any information would help.

October 5, 2016

I rescued a baby squirrel and had her for just over a month before I released her outside.  She never showed a single sign of aggression.  She would stay on me while I walked around outside and hardly ever left the property.  I think she became a little too friendly and curious because I came home from work one day to see a police car with an animal handling pole up against his car.  I believe she was climbing on the neighbors screen door and because she wasn't afraid of people, she didn't leave.  They "released her into the (nearby) woods."

October 5, 2016

Helping to rehab a couple orphan girls.  I am patient and have no problem with most things. However my biggest issue is them getting to wood and electrical cords.  I give them plenty of things to chew on.  Any advice?

Sunbury Buckeye
September 26, 2016

Squirrels are not for everyone, that's for sure.  But, most of the problems in this article can be avoided through proper nutrition, care, setup and behavior management.  I've had my male for NINE YEARS.  He was rescued before his eyes were open from the mouth of a dog - he would have died, no doubt.  It was late September in Ohio. I raised him and releasing him was not an option because he was imprinted by spring when he would have been releasable.  We also have way too many hawks here, in our rural setting.  So, he's a family member. I taught him bite inhibition when he was a baby, but still I am the only one who can "grasp" him and hold him still - though he likes to climb on everyone.  Biggest challenge was figuring out how to deal with the sharp nails, but we have figured out how to trim them, and we use a rough bird perch in his cage to help with blunting them a bit.  To date he's had 9 happy, healthy years.  He lives in a large cage and is out regularly.  He receives vitamin supplements and a variety of fresh fruit, veggies, and nuts with the occasional junk food snack.  He is playful, affectionate, and a blast to play with.  Yesterday, a female baby walked up to friend of mine in the inner city.  She was dehydrated, cold, and hungry.  She would not have survived. She is sitting on my shoulder, stronger and adjusting well as I type. One thing I would say to the would-be squirrel rescuer.  For small animals they are fairly expensive to feed right.  So, keep that in mind.  DO YOUR RESEARCH, especially on nutrition.

Phyllis DeGioia
September 20, 2016

Hi Sanjay, I'm sorry to hear they both died. Babies of any species need specific care, and it's possible that despite your best intentions they weren't getting what they needed nutritionally. Those nutritional needs are why it's usually best to get them to a wildlife rehabilitator, who can best duplicate their nutritional and housing needs. If they are younger than 5 weeks, they need to eat every two hours, even through the night. I know you tried, and I'm so sorry it turned out this way.

September 20, 2016

Even i got a two squrrel babies we took care as a pet to them everyday feeding them nicely after a week one of the squrrel was dead and the other one on the same day at night  i became very upset for 3 days and stumbling too and imaging them playing feeding with them and i have no idea how they died

Charlotte Simko
September 10, 2016

I found a baby squirrel this morning and seems to having everything in good shape except for some scratches on his belly. How I see it, when you raise a squirrel since it was a baby it should be able to respect you just like a kitten would. I've never heard, except in this article, that they will bite and scratch you.

Gael Gomez
August 22, 2016

I'm 12, I found this baby squirrel in front of my house two days ago and he was cold and we couldn't find his mom, I should have called a rehabilitator, He survived for 2 days but had a stroke this morning, and died, I've been crying so much today, because even though I had only had him for 2 days I got so attached to him, I'm crying as I write this, because I'm remembering his little paws climbing on me, and I remember giving him pedialyte out of a little bottle, we buried him this morning, I'm typing this because I'm looking into adopting a baby squirrel, a healthy one this time, so I can have something to care for, if anybody knows of an organization that can help me with this I would really appreciate it, thank you.

August 12, 2016

The fact about the nails yes they are sharp but it's not that bad I've rescued several infant squirrels and one I kept as a pet because he had a tail injury and poor balance. We successfully released all of the others. As far as biting I've had my pet squirrel for 6 years and he yes a boy played with me like a kitten would play bitting rolling on his back kicking his feet and he had the kindness to pull his nails in as not to hurt me also when he walked on me. Now as far as going on vacation yes you need someone who has been around there whole life because they are kinda like parrots they have one master or as we called it I was mom and dad all in one. I don't recommend it for everyone but in the case where they can't be released it can be rewarding mine just passed away this morning but we had a great 6 years he was very spoiled and out lived all his siblings I believe

July 20, 2016

As in most things you get what you put into it a I have caught young squriles the female is the eàsyest to accumulate to humans and I have had them lose in my room and after a 2 week time the squrile will eat out of your hand the last one should jump up on the bed crawl up on my chest and go to sleep it would not bite me when I moved it but after a while I began to really care for her and put her outside that is really the best place for them also I could sense that they are very aware and smart if they had thumbs they would rival monkeys in tricks they pull.

May 11, 2016

Well, for starters. I think the person that wrote this article either, doesn't know how to take care of squirrels (didn't raise them right), or just exaggerates. With proper training there shouldn't be a problem. But when they go in heat, there can be unexpected problems. I have read up on it myself, and plan to get one, and suit it by giving the proper requirements.

May 1, 2016

If you raise a squirrel from a baby and train it properly you will never have any of the problems described in this article or in the comments. It's VERY easy to go outside and find food, maybe five minutes of your time (in Ohio). Squirrels can learn their names and use a litterbox, never needing a cage. Never have my squirrels climbed on me and scratched or cut me, shes always gentle and slow. When I tell her not to do something or to put something down, she does. Ive also never caught her eating or playing with her own poop. Whoever wrote this article didnt raise these squirrels from babies, or simply didnt raise them correctly.

April 19, 2016

Would never have thought about nursing and raising a squirrel in need as something to NOT do until I got attacked by an outdoor "housepet" that got spooked when it climbed on me and then tore up my arm pretty bad.

Phyllis DeGioia
February 11, 2016

That's a good question. I suspect that most of them want the novelty of an unusual pet, and squirrels are absolutely adorable. A very few of them make fun pets, but that's the exception and not the rule because they are wild animals.

February 10, 2016

I have a question: why are people wanting to own these pets?

Matthew Smith
January 26, 2016

I have had a pet squirrel for 4 years now. She is a doll... She has her moments but she is 100% devoted to me. I've had her since she was a baby and her eyes were closed.. She is a big part of my life... But in general those who don't know how to handle or deal with squirrels shouldn't. It is a dedication that you MUST have if you plan on having one.. Mine is not releasable since one of her teeth grow wrong and I have to clip it every few months or it would kill her by growing into her palette in her mouth. But she is safe with me and lives the life of luxury!

December 12, 2015

Just a word of warning for those keeping squirrels, primarily males. My sister and her wildlife biologist husband rescued a group of young squirrels a few years ago. At first it was all good. The squirrels had a huge cage and had grown healthy and happy. The squirrels were extremely well behaved and played with the adults and children without incident. That was the case until they grew into their first heat cycle. The previously problem free males (two if I remember correctly) attacked my sister as she opened the enclosure to feed them. The males tore her up with no warning at all. You wouldn't think such small critters could do that much damage but they did and so fast she couldn't do a thing to protect herself. The squirrels literally ran up and down her cutting her to shreds and biting her countless times. The injuries were severe enough that they had to rush her to the ER. She had to be stitched up almost top to bottom. So if you keep male squirrels just keep in mind that like most wild creatures they can become very dangerous during their heat cycles.

December 7, 2015

I wanna know how squirrels are around other animals. I have bad allergies and itch twenty four seven, I kill my skin myself already itching it to death and my dogs wake me up hungry bighting my arm, so the squirrel can just add on in to the mix. How is it with dogs?

Jimmy Davis
December 7, 2015

I have a pet squirrel and he is the best. I've raised him since he was a pup. I've had alot of different critters.(even a ferret) I guess it's all in how you raise them. Love my squirrel. He is nothing like the horror stories I read about.

December 5, 2015

I have to say. Squirrels are the best part of my family! We talk to each other, we eat apples and nuts together. Even though they live in the cage and sometimes on the pan with olive oil. I would recommend to everyone to have at least one squirrel in the stomach preferably. Yours faithfully Squirrelord

November 23, 2015

@BrianSurrey, I am saving your post. Thank you for sharing! I just found a baby in the same condition. Your reassurance is much appreciated.

October 21, 2015

I'm writing this comment to thank Brant who posted the comment "I have several squirrels that live in the trees in my yard. I think of them as my pets. They are fun to watch playing in the yard. I get to talk to them and look at them whoever I want. We have a pecan tree and there are plenty of pecans for my pet squirrels to enjoy. I think they make great pets."

October 17, 2015

I have several squirrels that live in the trees in my yard. I think of them as my pets. They are fun to watch playing in the yard. I get to talk to them and look at them whoever I want. We have a pecan tree and there are plenty of pecans for my pet squirrels to enjoy. I think they make great pets.

Brian Surrey
September 28, 2015

We have a male Black/Grey squirrel. We found him in a nest that was cut through during brush and limb removal. He wasn't alone, there were 2 others but they were dead from dehydration and exposure. Marty is his name, and he was barely hanging onto life, we rehydrated him and followed some simple instructions on how to rehabilitate for a full recovery. He is over a year now and is very energetic, but not too much to where someone couldn't handle him. We have a very large cage for him but he rarely uses it because he does just fine wandering around the house with 2 cats, 2 male yellow labs, a female pit bull and a beagle. He had chewed quite a few things at first but when we figured out how to divert his attention to something OK to chew, which is nuts, deer antler, peach pits, sticks, it really took alot of stress away from him and us. Just like any other creature, you have to study thier habits. When we noticed he liked peeing in a certain area, we put down something that was similar and he started peeing there. We know when he is going to poop, so he goes to a different area that he likes to poop at. His nails are sharp, but over time and a few scratches, he has become more gentle with how he walks on you and doesn't run, when he runs is when it hurts. I am amazed and glad that he knows that your face is a no no to climb on or nibble. He knows when playing that he isn't suppose to bite hard and he doesn't, I know this because I have pissed him off and he did bite me hard, "didn't draw blood" but because of the way I pulled my finger away is the reason why it hurt more "pulling away causes most the damage from a bite". My cats have done Way more damage than this little squirrel ever thought of doing. I do understand that a squirrels love climbing trees jumping limb to limb, but this little guy didn't have a good enough start in life to be able to do that so we have made our home his home and it's not nearly as bad as people make it sound. I know alot of times people make things seem alot worse to try and keep others from doing something. If you love something and care for it's well-being, your gonna do what it takes.

Michael Whitely
September 26, 2015

Believe it or not I have gained the trust and friendship of a group of squirrels that live in the trees around my home. They come up to me and hop right onto my clothing and one of them honestly enjoys having its belly scratched! I don't know how I managed it but its very cool to have squirrels as friends, but I would never try to cage a wild animal or keep one as a "pet" it took me coaxing them offering them food for a few hours EVERY day for nearly an entire year. Only lonely old woodsmen like myself have the time it takes to gain a squirrels trust. I do however share my home with a raccoon but he comes and goes out the doggie door as he chooses. He is kind of like that buddy you had in college that would be in your dorm drinking your beer when you got back from class whether you wanted him around or not.

September 25, 2015

"the survival rate of babies being let go? It is less then 5%  so I will take my chances with the triplets do my best" This is not true! We have rehabbed 6 of these babies and let them all go with all of them doing well in the wide. We see them daily eating out of the feeders we have and the longer they are outside the less they come close to us!

Chris Woodcock
September 12, 2015

My wife and daughter found a 4 year old litter squirrel on the road, cold and dehydrated and close to death. They brought it home, fed it on goats milk and after 3 days it revived. I built a huge cage and Cyril, should have called her Cheryl! Lived with us for 4 years before I released her. After 5 months I went to give her a cuddle and she bit my hand badly although my wife could handle her daily, even did the house cleaning with Cheryl perched on her shoulder. When I had to look after the squirrel I had to wear my motorbike gear!!
Would I have another squirrel, No Way

Phyllis DeGioia
September 2, 2015

Hi Lucy, I checked with a small mammal specialist who said: Well first off, a wild squirrel being rehabbed should be nowhere near the domestic pets and the rest of the family in the main part of the house. Very stressful, such a squirrel should be kept somewhere nice and quiet. That said, other than perhaps fleas, there are few concerns about dogs and cats in such a situation.  Domestic rodents such as guinea pigs, on the other hand, might be susceptible to some diseases and parasites. But as stated before, contact between the animals should be somewhere between never and absolutely never. I hope that helps!

Abiral Regmi
August 26, 2015

Hi there! I have raising a wild squirrel for over a month now. I found it on the road to my dormitory, perhaps dropped by its mother. It hadnt even opened its eyes so i figured i would raise it until it will be able to feed on its own. Since it is big enough, i want to set it free. But the way I have been raising it I wonder if it can survive among other squirrels. I dont know the nature of squirrels, if they are okay with new members in their territory. What should i do?

August 26, 2015

If a squirrel is in the home being rehabilitated, what concerns should we have for our domesticated pets? What are the dangers and risks involved?

August 21, 2015

I have three squirrels as I write this & have had the before they could open their eyes. They are now in a huge cage my husband 7 I made and are very content. No biting, scratching nor do they seem angry at all.  they are about nine weeks now and very healthy look awesome and have all of the outdoors in my house we have created the natural habitat for them as much as we can. I suppose we could let them go but what is the survival rate of babies being let go? It is less then 5%  so I will take my chances with the triplets do my best and I still believe its better than any options you have given. I think maybe you should reconsider your profession if you are getting injured and such.

July 28, 2015

My mom told me she use to have two pet squirrels at 22 years old and she told me they never bitt her or any one else

Scott Kimble
July 6, 2015

I find much of this laughable of course they have sharp nails but they are very intelligent and learn the word no  and come and their name and can be taught not bite what is not theirs, if they have everything they need in their environment I have raised abandon squirrels as pets and found them to be delightful sure you will get a few scratches but if you teach them it will get less and less until it stops just like a puppy, I am truly sorry for your circumstance of being taught clinically instead of lovingly because just about any mammal is a product of its environment I was raised in a small town in oregon where I have seen just about every mammal available in the area domesticated and  really the only valid point you have is the nails are sharp!

Phyllis DeGioia 
May 26, 2015

Hi Tessa, I've checked with a small mammal expert, and he said that if you're asking if there is a way to change this squirrel's behavior, he would say no at this point. He feels the only answer is to keep the  squirrel out of the house, caged, or locked up in another room when there are any visitors. Zoonotic disease transmission is rare, but bites, which are typically on a person's hand, can also create severe infections in the bones or joints; lockjaw can result, too. (While these infections can occur with any animal bite, squirrels and cats tend to leave deep puncture wounds on hands that are difficult to clean properly and thus have a higher risk of becoming infected). Here's a link from The Squirrel Refuge about what to do if you've been bitten by a squirrel:  I am, however, far more concerned with why your brother continues to allow the squirrel in the house when you or your mother are there since the squirrel has attacked each of you repeatedly. This concern would be valid for any pet, wild or domestic. Would he allow a large aggressive dog to keep biting you repeatedly? This is simply appalling. How many times has he had to pry the squirrel off of your mother? She lives on the property and is presumably in the main house regularly if not frequently. At this point, it's much easier to change your brother's behavior than the squirrel's. If nothing else, before your next visit, talk to your physician about a tetanus shot and clearly point out to your brother than the squirrel must be placed safely away or left outside when you or your mother are there. Remember what Dr. Sutherland says: "They do not possess the bite inhibition reflex of domestic pets. If the first thing that crosses their brain is to bite, there is no counter message to say that is a bad plan."

Sis Baker 
May 25, 2015

I've raised an American red squirrel and 2 fox squirrels.  Though they keep you hopping and they can scratch, I've never had issues like you have.  I've had little scratches and lots of them but nothing as extreme as yours.  It's actually very easy to keep their teeth from over growing, a deer antler is perfect.  They love it and it helps them from chewing on other things you'd rather them not chew.  I loved all of my furry babies.  Too bad you haven't had better experiences with yours.

May 24, 2015

I have been really interested in reading all the comments in this site. My brother has a young squirrel that he 'acquired' and is absolutely besotted over it. The only thing is I live in South Africa so am not sure how close the characters are compared to the squirrels in America. My brother lives on a wildlife estate and his squirrel has access to the outdoors all day and has the option to rehabilitate into the wild if it wants, but it chooses to live with my brother and his family I their house. My mother also lives on the same property in a cottage and every time she visits the main house this squirrel goes absolutely crazy, attacking her and biting her drawing blood and leaving her with huge wounds. The squirrel will bite her as many times as he can before being pried off her by my brother. When I visited them in January this year, it did the same to me, biting and drawing blood. It would bite down and hang on with all its might. But it does not do that to everyone who visits, right now I am only aware of it biting my mom and myself.  The only thing I can put it down to is it sees my mother and myself as threats to its mate (my brother). It has also been interesting to see in all these comments just how many men have these little critters as pets. They are amazing and entertaining and a joy to have as long as you don't get bit.

Phyllis DeGioia 
May 11, 2015

Hi Chris, What a wonderful experience you had with these phenomenal rodents! I love them, but I don't think I'd be capable of their care. As you correctly point out, they are not a casual effort and owning them takes far more time than the average pet. I can't even imagine Rocky's vet bills. I congratulate you on your tremendous bond with them, and for saving them.  Perhaps some day another squirrel that cannot be send back to the wild will land in your lap.

Chris Rowe 
May 11, 2015

I carefully read your dissertation regarding squirrels as pets.  True indeed they are very intense in a household environment.  My wife and I had three, Rocky, Jesse & Daisy Belle all Eastern Gray Tree Squirrels that could not be released back to the wild.  Rocky was hit by a car in 2002 he had a fractured skull, fractured eye socket, two broken legs, incisors broken at the gum line and we didn't think he would survive another 10 minutes.  We brought him home to have a peaceful place to pass on.  We and the vets at UF estimated him to be approximately 3 years old.  He survived.  He taught us about an indomitable will to survive.  His affection for my wife and I was beyond anything we had experienced over a life time.  God called him home this last September 2014. A hawk had our baby Jesse and he squirmed out of its talons and dropped in the road in front of my car, I stopped in time and gathered him up with no sign of mom.  I brought him home and Rocky and he, (both males) became instant companions.  Daisy was an infant girl languishing all day on the side of a building in the Florida hot August sun after a hawk killed her mom she was incredibly dehydrated and on deaths doorstep.  She too became part of our 'mess of squirrels'.  All of what you have written about squirrels being highly intense is in fact so.  We were very fortunate to have the University of Florida Zoomed team on hand to attend to their health issues, there were a fair amount to consider and it was not inexpensive.  We have sadly had all three called home over the last two years, Rocky approx. 17, Jesse 10, and Daisy 8.  In the years they were in our care they were not just intense charges to care for they were wonderful companions and the love and affection they gave us was unlike any we had ever experienced.  We have had a broad spectrum of animal companions in our life time from dogs and cats on the small side to thoroughbred race horses in training and racing.  None compared to these beautiful rodents.  All that written I concur it takes a special love and incredible amount of time and effort to have these angels in ones life.  Losing them broke our hearts beyond belief.  They are not a casual effort and a cage life is definitely out of the question they need many hours of intense care daily to be a part of ones life. That written it is truly a rare person that can have a squirrel in their charge and render the care, love and effort required if they can not be restored to the wild.

Phyllis DeGioia 
May 7, 2015

Hi Dominique, What a good heart you have! Is he a baby or an adult? If he's a baby, here are some care and feeding instructions: (cow's milk can make them ill). Diet may change a bit depending on what type of squirrel he is, so I think the best way to find out about an appropriate diet and housing (ferret cages work better because of the height) is to contact a local wildlife rehabilitator and ask what is best.  Here's a list of rehabilitators by state:  Then set your plans based on the recommendations of someone who has experience housing and feeding squirrels.  More information is available here: I suggest you contact your veterinary clinic and make an appointment for him, if they accept squirrels as patients (if not, ask them who does). Squirrels are normally very active and while he may simply be malnourished and exhausted, there might be a medical cause that can be treated. Much easier to treat these things when they are caught early.

May 7, 2015

I found a blind squirrel yesterday, he was very weak and i took it home to feed him. he's sleeping most of the time, he is very calm and likes to cuddle in my neck while rolling himself up in my hair. if i decide to let him in the wild he'll die so i'm currently searching for a big rabbit cage so he can grow in it and i'll take him out when im home. he is the cutest thing ever. i'm just not aware about how im gonna feed him. i gave him raspberries and walnuts this morning and i have to make him drink water otherwise he wont find out how. can someone help me with the domestic squirrel diet?

April 2, 2015

I owned a squirrel once. He sold drugs, kept late hours, and listened to electronic music at high volumes. Terrible pet to own.

March 27, 2015

I agree that wild animals deserve to be wild and free. I was given an orphaned baby squirrel 5 years ago. Her mother and siblings had been crushed by a tree our friend had cut down. She was a lot of work. Feeding her every 2 hours, stimulating her to go to the bathroom like her mother would and just giving her what she needed in order to survive. My goal was to  release her as soon as she was independent enough so she could be wild and free. For over 5 years I have visited her in the woods almost every day. I have watched her build nests, hide her caches of food and even met her babies. I love her dearly, but she was never mine. I know she would have died without my intervention.  She was born wild and remains wild. It has been a gift that she has always come to me when I call her. Sometimes we just meet up in the woods when I walk. So as tempting as it is to keep a wild animal, please remember they are wild and deserve to be free. You can hopefully still enjoy them in their wild environment. That to me is much more rewarding than keeping a squirrel in a cage.

Shirley Bean 
March 20, 2015

I have a pet squirrel and I have had for 4 years and he is have to spend alot of time with THEM. ...he is well trained....I give him a bath I clip his nails.....I take great care of him I make sure he get wood to chew and lots of calcium.  He is never in a cage but he does have a room of his own he does have a house to sleep in lots of trees to play on.....and eats lots of fruits and veggies . No a squirrel is not for every one because you HAVE TO WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY LOVING..WE PLAY ALL THE TIME HE LOVES STUFFED ANIMALS. .you have to research alot....

Phyllis DeGioia 
February 20, 2015

Hi Lina, He sounds like a perfect pet (well, except for the mess, but that's part and parcel of having any pet). You have definitely lucked out, and I'm actually envious!

February 19, 2015

I have a pet squirrel that I have had for almost a year.  We had horrible tornadoes last spring in our area and a huge tree fell and crushed a nest.  There were 3 all together.  2 were already dead and then I found the 3rd.   He had a huge cut on his face and a bloody nose and broken off tooth.  He is a male and is the so loving. I honestly thinks he had head trauma because he is so friendly. He also goes outside with us all the time.  All we have to do is whistle and clap and he's right back on us.  Loves his huge cage, but he does like to get into things and likes to explore and make a mess.  My husband and I love him just like one of our own children.

February 13, 2015

I found an injured young squirrel  and would like to find a place, but am having no luck! his front paw is deformed and I don't think he could survive in the wild. it would be very hard for him to climb or escape a dog ect.  what the heck am i supposed to do with him? I have him in a cage but that is no life for him. he is pretty friendly. never tries to bite me.

January 11, 2015

I also agree with the idea that squirrels vary in domesticabity based on genetic background.  I currently attend  moderately old university,  and an immature un-domesticated gray squirrel came right up to me and let me pet it, on the sidewalk of a busy street outside my dorm.

Phyllis DeGioia 
December 10, 2014

Mike - I'm glad to hear your experience was so good! It's not that way for everyone.

December 9, 2014

I highly disagree with this article. I found a baby squirrel in a park and took it home. It was so small and it didn't even have its eyes open. I fed it goat milk and apples. Long story short, Sandy was the coolest pet ever.

Joe Bogan 
November 23, 2014

I found a baby gray squirrel in a parking lot hanging on a car tire. We watched for about 20min.and no momma . Being in florida in August  20 min. In the sun was enough. I put him in my pocket and took him home. To me, the bottle feeding 5times a day ,the little b-b s I clean up , the hunting foods and expense  are small price to pay for the love and entertainment I get in return from Froto my  year and a half old squirrel. Buts that's me.

November 10, 2014

I had 2 babies I found on the ground. One survived to become to most loved pet we had. She was social when she wanted to be, and loved to be cuddled when she wanted to be. She was always glad to see me first thing in the morning and when I came home from work and we would hang out all night on the couch as she jumped cushion to cushion and cuddled at the end of the night. As I cooked she would sit and watch everything I did. My husband and I miss her very much. I do agree it is on the age and environment that makes the animal. I never had issues with her chewing biting or anything. She passed due to tumor in her stomach and I held her as she died. During seizures she never bit me but was more calm in my hands than laying in her blanket. Not all animals are the same but she was a gift.

November 9, 2014

I found this article while researching squirrels as pets. Well, it's definitely done it's job. Because I no longer want to squirrel after reading this. Thank you. And I mean that sincerely. I would have definitely been in over my head.

October 10, 2014

Most of this article is true, but I have to say that the lack of bite inhibition is false. I have been raising two orphaned Eastern Greys from just a week or two old, they are now 1 year & 2 months old. I have a boy and a girl... The girl has always been what I'd call "Nippy" which is quick sharp bites, it causes bleeding but isn't anywhere near as damaging as a squirrel can be. She has her moods where she's more nippy than usual, and as of lately has taken to "biting" so gently she doesn't even break the skin slightly. My little boy, on the other hand, has been the most gentle "biter" since day one. I can tickle his belly, with him laying back on my other hand while he "bites" my finger tips as well as the webs between my fingers & 99.8% of the time I barely feel his teeth there. He doesn't draw blood and doesn't leave scratch marks.  He did however, go through a phase where I avoided handling him because he'd chatter his teeth and dig his teeth into my hands, some times chipping bone.  That IS what they are capable of. In an instant they can grind their teeth straight through the flesh to chip bone. Again, this was just a phase my sweet boy went through and shortly went right back to his gentle self.... I'm in agreement that squirrels should not be kept as pets. They ARE too easily capable of SEVERE damage.  I simply wanted to state my experience of "bite inhibition" of squirrels. These are squirrels that have been cared for by my hand since before they had any fur, ears and eyes were closed, you could still see their organs beneath their flesh. I have no doubt a wild would lack any inhibition,  I wouldn't try it myself. It's been an amazing opportunity caring for these babies, but I would never seek to purchase a squirrel for a pet. They do belong in the wild. Visit them at parks, bring them some wild bites from You can experience their cuteness from a distance.  Some may become used to your visits, wait for your arrival with treats and may even approach you while keeping a distance.  Those can be great experiences too.

JoAnne Brown 
September 30, 2014

Ok, so I have a pet squirrel that is a bit over 1 year. I need to know how long mating season will last as it seems he gets a bit more agressive during that time only.

September 27, 2014

This is funny because my experience with my pet eastern grey was pretty much the opposite!

Carla Kelly 
August 12, 2014

One chilly, rainy night my cat brought in a new squirrel, eyes barely open.   He brought in another later that night who died, but I saved the boy.  Named Cluster, he was a hoot!  Bottle fed every two hours.  He lived in my shirt pocket.   Later we fixed up an empty room and put his open aquarium on the floor.   Cut saplings, tied them together and he learned to run and jump.   Later we built him a box nest on a tree by the deck.  He came to us for food for a while and then became scarcer and scarcer.   One day he appeared with a lady squirrel.   They lurked but didn't come to us.   He was rehabilitated.  To this day I cringe when I see a car-killed squirrel

August 4, 2014

I have raised and kept squirrels as pets since I was a boy. I am now 49. I've never had one tear up carpet, chew furniture, or do any other damage to my home. Cleaning up after them is less than a cat or dog, and they are a lot of fun. My latest one, rides with me to town (he loves to drive), and he sits on my shoulder or in my shirt pocket and he loves the attention he gets from people. He's very friendly and loves to play.

May 11, 2014

I want me a squirrel but I'm hearing all these mixed reviews about them. I don't even know where to get one from

May 3, 2014

I think it depends on the environment. In college we rescued a baby squirrel from the road and raised it. It never climbed on our bare skin and would sit on our shoulders. But these squirrels have been used to humans since the late 1800s. It was pretty easy to domesticate. We used to take him to campus so we could climb the trees and he always came back when he was ready. It helped we gave him full range of the apartment and lived on the ground floor so we could let him out to do his squirrel thing. He would come back to the screen door when he was ready. It was a killer with girls.

April 21, 2014

An adorable baby squirrel climbed on my son  and will not let go! We are going to take him to a nearby wildlife rescue facility tomorrow as he seems to have imprinted on our son! Thanks for informative info as we did consider keeping this adorable creature!!!

April 16, 2014

I respect the opinion in this article however biased it may be. I have a pet squirrel, got him as a baby, with some time working with him he has become as much a part of this family as our dog and two cats. As is with any pet there is maintenance such as clean up. Food for him has not been a problem and less expensive that the food for our dog and cats. We don't have any gnawing of drywall or furniture. A pet squirrel is not for everybody, however neither are goldfish. I believe this article greatly misrepresents pet squirrels.

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM 
March 3, 2014

Hi Donna.  As a rule, lice tend to be specific to their host species, so lice that would infest a squirrel aren't likely to take up residence on a dog.  Fleas are a different story, however, but hopefully your brother has already worked with his veterinarian and has his dog on a good flea prevention program.

February 26, 2014

My brother had a squirrel in his basement. I worried about lice staying in his basement and getting on his dogs. Should he spray his basement?

November 27, 2013

I feed squirrels in my yard and most of the females get used to me and come right up to me.  I have one that has cataracts in both eyes and she is blind, runs in to items and falls often.  She will follow my voice and come right up to me and eat....sitting there comfortable.  I've thought that I should take her in as a pet but figure that as sad as it's not my place to interfere with the animal kingdom.  I will, however, continue to feed and enjoy their company.

November 21, 2013

I see what you're saying. But after reading this, it seems like they are cats.......
This article made me want to raise one more. Sounds rewarding.

August 2, 2013

I had a pet squirrel. I found it as a baby, palm of the hand size, in a warehouse I was working at. This little girl followed me everywhere one day. The following day, same thing but it was weak and hungry. So I picked it up, put it in my hoodie pouch pocket, and worked gently all day. The next day her brother came out, and I did the same; found another dead that day too. The male only made it a few days, he was starved and congested. But the female (first one), was hysterical. I nursed her to a healthy weight because I was able to take her to work, ran the offsite overstock building. She knew my voice, scent, clicks to call, as well as her name. She was liter box trained, would sleep on my shoulder, climb up my leg, sit, fetch, and sometimes lay down when her energy wore out. They are energetic and high maintenance, need something to chew, but with proper care, are awesome pets!

June 26, 2013

All animals are wild. They are animals such as we are.  This being said I encountered the most loving tame squirrel I have ever had the pleasure to come into contact with.  I was at work and she kept trying to come into my store. The moment I came outside and sat down she sat in my lap and just laid there wanting to be petted. I ended up taking her to a wildlife conservatory and they said she must of been someone's pet because she was the most people oriented squirrel they have ever seen. This being said like any animal I wanted her to go to a good home and couldn't keep her like they wanted (I have a cat) so they took her in. God bless them. All I'm saying is it doesn't matter what kind of animal it is they are ALL WILD dogs, cats, horses, lizards, whatever all wild and capable of hurting someone

October 25, 2012

Holly, so true. A point of major frustration for me coming from a country that does not have that problem (exceptions of course anywhere) Also I think 'Terri's husband should get an award.

July 26, 2012

Most people don't even handle/train their domestic cats and dogs. In what universe would they EVER think that a wild animal would be a good idea?

July 21, 2012

Interesting, I had an opposite experience. When I was a child, we raised an orphaned squirrel. We did persuade it to live in the wild as he grew up, although he came for nuts and sat with/on us outside for several years. He was extremely gentle with us, and never hurt anyone. I'd imagine we were just lucky though, I'm not recommending wild animals as pets.

July 17, 2012

A chipmunk I rescued , who is WAY lighter than a squirrel, decided to launch itself at me and grab my eyeball, with all ten claws. I dont know about my reflexes but I could not open my eye for some hours,and I think only one claw had grazed it, the point had been to actually LATCH ON, since chippy does not really perceive this as an eye and thus important. Cats are way safer and dogs are way tamer!!

Shirley Yuen
July 17, 2012

Great article!! I have 2 keepers squirrels and wish I didn't! Both came to me as babies. Peter is totally blind and Julie has very limited use of her back legs! Rather than put them down I have chosen to keep them. It is a lot of hard work. They are wild, even being raised by me!! Like the article says, wild animals do not make good pets!!!!

Jean T.
July 17, 2012

Marcia deserves a star in her crown for her dedicated devotion to caring for and rehabilitating wild animals. I should know; many have been released in my yard.

Joyce Marshall-Lipka
July 17, 2012

Very good article. I wish all people would realize that wild animals belong in the wild.

Ned Gentz
July 13, 2012

Excellent article. Well written and extremely informative. Well done!

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