Before purchasing a pet chipmunk, you need to check your state and local ordinances about owning wild animals. You should have a cage or enclosure ready for the little beauty before you bring him home. And you should be committed to providing a safe, healthy environment for your chipmunk for several years, as you would with any pet.
Chipmunks are burrowing rodents, and they're the smallest members of the squirrel family. They can be found in temperate, subtropical and tropical environments worldwide. Those sold as pets are most often Asian or North American breeds.
Chipmunks grow to an average of 10 inches in length. They have dark and light stripes down the length of their back. They are very active, but they adapt well to captivity. If given a lot of attention when they are young, they can become very friendly pets. Just don’t expect to hold them or cuddle them. They prefer to use their people as perches.
Chipmunks are diurnal. So they are up at the crack of dawn and they bed down as soon as the sun sets. They need a quiet routine during winter because they have the instinct to hibernate.
Chipmunks are also self-cleaning; they groom themselves thoroughly. When given a large enough living area, they limit their potty breaks to one corner of their cage. Though they are clean critters, they instinctively stockpile by burying dry food anywhere they can.
One of the most delightful characteristics of chipmunks is their acrobatic skill. So they need plenty of room and exercise equipment such as shelves, branches, rocks, tubes and an exercise wheel. Chipmunks don’t mind being alone, but they also can be kept in pairs, or in groups of three with one male and two females.
Because chipmunks are so active, they need cages that are at least 4 feet by 3 feet by 4 feet to make sure that they are comfortable in captivity.
As an alternative, they can be housed in an outdoor enclosure. Outside enclosures should have one or two solid walls, with the remaining walls made of hardware wire. A solid roof and a solid floor will provide shelter from the elements and prevent escape.
Chipmunks need abundant bedding to satisfy their need to burrow. At least one wooden nesting box is essential, but two or three are preferable, because chipmunks like to change sleeping quarters from time to time. Their cage should have at least one vertical branch to climb on. Chipmunks need water in a pet bottle on the side of their cage, instead of in a dish that they could pollute or overturn.
Chipmunks are omnivores. Seventy-five percent of their diet should be seeds and grains. You can buy them hamster food or rodent blocks at pet stores.
Twenty percent of their diet should be chopped veggies such as broccoli, lettuce, carrots and turnip greens. Five percent of their diet should be wild foods such as acorns, pine cones, dandelion greens and wildflowers.
They should also be given a few insects such as mealworms, crickets or grubs several times a week. Give them non-toxic tree branches, sea shells, antlers or walnut-size rocks to gnaw on to keep their teeth in good shape and to provide essential trace minerals. One percent of the chipmunk's diet can be healthful treats such as fruits and nuts.
chipmunk image by Reinhard Marscha from Fotolia.com
Jenny Newberry, a former teacher with 25 years of experience, is a professional writer and photographer and holds a B.S. and a M.Ed. in elementary and special education from the University of South Alabama. She is also a history buff, praise and worship pianist, pet enthusiast, avid crafter and hobby gardener.