If you have a baby squirrel, whether a pet or an orphaned wild animal that you plan to release at maturity, the care required is basically the same. It’s not uncommon to find yourself the surrogate parent to a tiny pink baby who barely resembles a squirrel yet, and nurturing him through his growth stages is very rewarding.
Newborn baby squirrels get chilled very easily. Even if you have more than one, they need a heat source. A heating pad on low heat works well, or a hot water bottle that you refresh before it cools off. Place the heat source under a smooth cloth or old shirt in one half of a box, so the squirrel or squirrels can choose an optimal level of heat. Check often to be sure the babies feel warm to the touch but not hot.
An older baby squirrel does well in a large vertical cage that contains natural elements, such as branches, for climbing. Include a small shelter, like a wooden box or pet house, and line it with tissue or cloth -- avoid plastic housing and dishes that can be chewed. Also give your squirrel a rodent block, mineral stone and hanging water bottle.
A newborn squirrel can become dehydrated quickly, so the first thing to do is hydrate it by feeding it Pedialyte from an eye dropper or small syringe. Then introduce Esbilac or another powdered puppy milk replacer. Get the squirrel slowly used to the milk replacement by starting with 75 percent Pedialyte and 25 percent Esbilac, then half and half, then 25 percent Pedialyte and 75 percent Esbilac, and finally Esbilac alone, advises Mary Cummins, president of Animal Advocates. Baby squirrels need to be fed 1cc to 4cc of the formula every two hours until they’re 2 weeks old, then every three to four hours until 6 weeks old.
Squirrels open their eyes at 5 weeks old. At 6 weeks of age, offer them small cubes of bread soaked in Esbilac. They will get messy when eating, so clean them off afterward or the milk will dry on their fur and cause hair to fall out. The next step is to spread peanut butter between the bread before cutting it up, like little peanut butter sandwiches soaked in milk.
When the baby squirrel can stand up and hold food in its paws, feed the squirrel the peanut butter sandwiches without Esbilac. This can be the squirrel's lifetime dietary staple, supplemented by a quality seed mixture such as hamster ration.
Have a vet look over baby squirrels when you first get them to ensure they are healthy. The subsequent regular care will be up to you, and you shouldn’t need to see a vet unless the squirrels get sick or injured.
After every feeding, a blind baby squirrel needs help eliminating waste. Use a warm wet cloth or tissue and slowly stroke the baby’s genitals and anus until he releases waste, liquid or solid. If the urine is dark or thick, the baby squirrel is dehydrated and needs Pedialyte again. Once the squirrel’s eyes have opened, and you begin seeing solid waste in the cage, you can stop stimulating the bowels manually.
Training and Handling
Baby squirrels need to be handled so they can bond to another living being, especially if you only have one baby and not a whole litter. Besides holding him while feeding, cuddle him whenever you can. It’s best if only one person handles the baby squirrel to replicate baby-mother bonding.
When he opens his eyes and starts climbing, his claws and teeth are very sharp. Wear leather gloves while handling the animal at this stage, since bites can be sudden and extremely painful, and inadvertent scratches are common. The more you handle him when he’s small, however, the more he will get used to you, and eventually the gloves may not be necessary.
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Heather Vale is a writer, interviewer and seasoned journalist. She has authored news, entertainment and informational programming in TV, radio, print and online media. She is also a certified childhood fitness and nutrition specialist with a background in mind-body-spirit health, self-help, business, technology and pet breeding. Vale holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual arts from York University.