If you’ve never had a squirrel as a pet before and suddenly come across a young orphaned squirrel, you may wonder if squirrels do breastfeed their young.
When we talk of squirrels breastfeeding their young, what does it mean? For animals such as goats, cows and even humans, breastfeeding is a well understood activity.
What about other animals such as squirrels whose mammalian glands aren’t well pronounced? You may ask ‘do squirrels breastfeed’?
For other species of animals, breastfeeding not only mean to give breastmilk (breastfeed) their young ones but also refers to parental care and nursing. Having this in mind, do squirrels breastfeed (nurse or care) for their young?
The facts you’ll find in this article will interest you. Squirrels are one of the animals that provide parental care for their young ones. This is because they are mammals.
This care usually span between the first 4-6 weeks of the kittens’ life and it is what is referred to as ‘breastfeeding’. This care usually includes, cleaning the baby immediately after birth and feeding the baby with breastmilk till it is fit eat solid foods or go foraging on its own.
Should you come across an orphaned squirrel in your backyard, what should you do? This article seeks to address all questions revolving around if squirrels do breastfeed their young.
Apart from this, you’ll also learn what type of care adult squirrels usually give to their young ones and what to do (how to care for baby squirrels) if you come across an orphaned baby squirrel. Keep reading.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Linda. Read more about our knowledge control process here.
- Do Squirrels Breastfeed?
- How Long Do Squirrels Feed Their Young?
- Squirrels and Their Babies Myths
- Wrapping Up
Do Squirrels Breastfeed?
Yes, being mammals, squirrels do breastfeed their young. They care for their young by first cleaning the baby with their tongue and breastfeeding it for some weeks before the kitten develops some teeth to eat solid foods.
When an adult female squirrel gives birth and is nursing the baby, her nipples elongate, and the skin around the nipples loses its fur. It is at this point that a female squirrel can easily be identified even from far away.
As stated earlier, the presence of mammary glands is what makes breastfeeding in mammals possible. Squirrels are, therefore, no exception. Once kittens are born by a squirrel, they are very helpless. Kittens have no fur, and their eyes are closed after birth.
That goes to show that baby squirrels are very delicate and will rely on their mother for everything. Breastfeeding is essential as a squirrel gets the right nutrients to promote quick and healthy growth.
Since the baby squirrel has no teeth or ability to eat solid food, milk will ensure the baby has enough nutrients. The growth of a squirrel is highly dependent on the kind of care given to it.
A squirrel will grow faster if its mother has good nurturing skills. Squirrels with good skills to nature their young ensure the process is quick. However, squirrels without good naturing skills slow down the development of the baby squirrel.
How Long Do Squirrels Feed Their Young?
Now that it’s clear squirrels breastfeed their young ones, knowing the breastfeeding period will also be important. How long do you suppose a squirrel can take to breastfeed its young before it is ready to start weaning?
The period is going to depend on the type of squirrel in question. Tree squirrels, for example, will stop breastfeeding after about ten weeks. At ten weeks, the kittens will start weaning for the transition from liquid to solid food.
Flying squirrels, on the other hand, may take more than ten weeks. Flying squirrels will wean their kittens after twelve weeks. The delay comes because the flying squirrels need to learn how to glide first before stopping breastfeeding.
Once the kittens know how to glide, they are considered ready to start weaning. Also, remember that breastfeeding can take more or less time depending on how good the mother squirrel is at nursing them.
Once a squirrel weans its young ones, they will be ready after a month. The weaning period will take about four weeks, after which the baby squirrel will leave the den to look after itself. Nursing takes about three months.
Squirrels and Their Babies Myths
You may have heard something about a squirrel that left you confused. Was it a fact or a myth that your friend told you about squirrels? Any myth or fact you have heard needs clarification.
There are plenty of myths that most people believe to be true. Squirrels are just ordinary animals, yet they have proven themselves to be very intelligent. Other facts can be quite shocking that most people presume untrue.
Let us examine some of the common myths and facts so that everything is clear. Once you read through here, you will have a clear idea of what to believe and ignore regarding the lifestyle of squirrels.
Squirrels Produce Milk
Is it true that squirrels produce milk? Yes, this is certainly a fact. There is no doubt that squirrels, being mammals, do produce milk. Due to the presence of mammary glands, a squirrel produces milk after giving birth to kittens.
Maybe this might be a surprise to some who have always perceived squirrels differently. The milk produced by a squirrel will be present until the kitten is weaned. That will take about eight weeks before a squirrel stops breastfeeding.
The next time you see that cute animal passing by, remember that it also breastfeeds its young just like we humans do. The only difference may be that they take a shorter period nursing their young ones, about three months.
Baby Squirrels Make Fewer Noises Than Baby Dogs
A three-day-old squirrel will begin to squeak. Once the squirrel is about four weeks old, it can make short screams meant to call out their mothers when hungry. Through the screams, the squirrel can communicate effectively.
Unlike baby dogs, baby squirrels are not as loud. Puppies tend to bark when afraid, being territorial, lonely, or wanting something. Also, the volume produced when puppies bark is much louder when compared to squirrels which squeak.
The sound produced by baby squirrels is much quieter than that of a baby dog. Baby squirrels produce a high-pitched chirping sound similar to that of a bird. It is, therefore, true that baby squirrels make fewer noises than puppies.
Squirrels Rarely Eat Their Young
Do squirrels eat their young? It might shock many people, but they do. Not so cute after all, right? While that may heavily ponder your mind, remember that it is rare for squirrels to eat their young.
What exactly would make a squirrel eat its young? The answer is quite simple. If a male squirrel discovers that some of the pups are not his, it will kill all the pups.
The killing happens if the female mated with more than one male while on heat. If the male squirrel is murderous, it will proceed to eat the dead pups. This action, though rare, is referred to as infanticide.
It Takes Four Weeks for Baby Squirrels to Open Their Eyes
It is indeed a fact. Once a squirrel is born, the eyes are normally shut. Apart from the eyes being shut, the baby squirrel comes out with a pink body with no fur.
Fur will begin developing after about two weeks though the underside will remain bare. In the third week, the front lower teeth begin to appear, with fur still growing longer. It is during the fourth week that eyes begin opening.
Once fully opened, a squirrel can see its environment. It is interesting to learn such a fact and know when to expect such an event to care for an orphaned squirrel.
Baby Squirrels Require A Lot of Care
Baby squirrels require a lot of care, and that is a fact. Once born, baby squirrels are delicate, making it necessary to provide care for development into adults. If caring for an orphaned baby squirrel, use special care.
Begin by identifying the squirrel’s age through obvious signs, such as if the eyes are opened or closed. Squirrels open their eyes after four weeks of birth. At six weeks, expect a squirrel to sit down and hold food.
Once you know the actual age of a squirrel, give it the right nutrition. Remember to keep the baby squirrel warm always. Once given the right care, a squirrel should be able to fend for itself.
After reading my article, you should agree that baby squirrels need lots of care. Any orphaned squirrel requires the best care if it is to grow into a healthy adult fully. Apart from giving care, preparation for adulthood is crucial.
Also, the overall growth of a baby squirrel will be determined by how it is nursed. A squirrel’s growth can either be fast or slow. The difference is determined by the quality of care it gets.
Good squirrel care leads to better growth of a squirrel. The growth and development are much quicker if the baby squirrel gets all the right nutrients. Squirrels feed their young for about three months before they become self-reliant.