As a pet lover, it’s inevitable to fall in love with your backyard squirrels. But the problem is, what do you do when you find a baby squirrel helpless in your backyard? Do you turn a blind eye to the squirrel’s cry for help? “How To Care For Baby Squirrels” is an ultimate baby-squirrel-care-guide you need, to learn everything you need to know about caring for an orphaned baby squirrel.
Squirrels are known to be playful and active animals, making them one of the most entertaining animals that you can watch. Baby squirrels are adorable creatures, and you may find a baby squirrel making a high-pitched squeaking sound around your home.
You can care for a baby squirrel only when you are sure that its mother is nowhere to be found and you cannot find a wildlife rehabilitator around you. However, you should only care for baby squirrels with a plan to release them to the wild at maturity.
In this article, we will help break down everything you need to know about caring for baby squirrels, from things you should do when you find a baby squirrel to common problems that can affect a baby squirrel.
- how to care for baby squirrels: What Should You Do If You Find A Baby Squirrel?
- Basic Steps To Care For Baby Squirrels
- Step 1: Check The Baby Squirrel’s Condition?
- Step 2: Slowly Warm the Baby Squirrel
- Step 3: Determining The Baby Squirrels Age
- Step 4: Rehydrating
- Step 5: Make A Small Squirrel Cage
- Step 6: Feed A Baby Squirrel
- Step 7: Waste Elimination Of Baby Squirrel
- Step 8: Ongoing Care To Feed The Older Baby
- Step 9: Release Or Contact Your Local Wildlife Service
- Common Problems Of The Baby Squirrels
- Some Notes When Taking Care Of Baby Squirrels
how to care for baby squirrels: What Should You Do If You Find A Baby Squirrel?
It is a common thing to find wildlife animals, especially baby animals, during the spring season. This means you might find a baby squirrel if your house is surrounded by forests and trees.
Once you find a baby squirrel, the first thing to do is to check if its mother is around and in need of assistance. If you cannot find the mother, then the next thing to do is to find a wildlife rehabilitator to help care for the squirrel.
However, if the two options are not available, you can then try to take care of the baby squirrel yourself.
Note: Ensure the little squirrel is a baby before you take it home. This is because a squirrel can look tiny, but it does not mean that it is a baby. If the squirrel that you find has a fluffed-out tail or its body is longer than six inches, then it is probably fine on its own.
Some of the things that you can do if you find a baby squirrel are stated below.
First, Look For The Baby’s Mother
When you see a baby squirrel that does not have a visible wound, the main goal is to get it warm and reunite it with its mom. Most baby squirrels usually fall from the nest, and you can check your surroundings if you see a fallen nest nearby for other squirrels.
Avoid leaving baby squirrels in the yard if you are unsure where the nest fell or the mother is not in sight. This is because the baby will get cold quickly, and many animals will see them as prey.
However, if you believe that the mother is nearby, you can just create a nest box to help keep the baby squirrel warm until the mother comes to retrieve it. You can make a nest box with a small plastic container and a fleece blanket.
You can then put the baby squirrel in the nest box using a glove or a soft cloth.
Note: Avoid using a cardboard box for the nest box because it dehydrates the baby. You should also avoid using towels because they can catch on the nails of the baby squirrel and injure it.
Furthermore, baby squirrels cannot generate their heat, and it is best to have a temporary heat source nearby.
If The Squirrel Is Abandoned, Temporarily Take Care Of Baby Squirrel
Keeping an abandoned squirrel can be a rewarding experience, and you may even fall in love with a baby squirrel after rescuing them. However, you should keep in mind that it is illegal to keep the baby squirrel as a pet in many states.
You should first contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator before you temporarily keep a baby squirrel as a pet. This is because keeping a wild animal is usually more tricky and hazardous than keeping an animal already domesticated from birth.
Baby squirrels can thrive well in your home if you give them suitable shelter, food, and diligent care. However, you should be ready to allow them to go back to the wild after they are ready.
Basic Steps To Care For Baby Squirrels
Here are some of the steps you need to take before taking care of baby squirrels.
Step 1: Check The Baby Squirrel’s Condition?
Before deciding to bring a baby squirrel home, the first thing to do before deciding to bring a baby squirrel home is whether the squirrel is injured or not. You can check if it is bleeding, has broken bones, or suffering from a disease.
This is because baby squirrels are susceptible to different diseases that can affect their survival.
Furthermore, this will help you to know the type of care to give the baby squirrel and to determine if you should take the baby squirrel to your local wildlife emergency center as soon as possible.
Is The Baby Squirrel’s Skinny?
The first thing to check is if the baby squirrel is skinny. The first thing that will come to mind when you see a skinny squirrel is not eating well or suffering from a disease. Furthermore, a skinny baby squirrel is usually lethargic and weak.
If you are sure that the baby squirrel is eating but is still skinny, it may be suffering from a health problem, and you can contact your local wildlife emergency for help.
Is The Baby Squirrel Dehydrated?
Another thing that you need to know is if the baby squirrel is dehydrated. You can know if the baby squirrel is dehydrated by pinching the skin on the back of its neck and the belly and then count how many seconds it will take for the skin to go back down.
If the skin goes back down within 1-2 seconds, the baby squirrel has moderate dehydration. However, if it takes 4 seconds or more, then it can be a life-threatening issue.
Note: you cannot use this test for a hairless or emaciated baby squirrel. Another thing is just to assume that baby squirrels are dehydrated whenever you first see them.
Is The Baby Squirrel Injured?
One of the major causes of injury in baby squirrels is when they fall from trees. The first thing you can do is search your squirrel’s body for any injury like cuts, scratches, bites, etc. You can then clean the injury with saline solution or contact your local wildlife emergency for help.
Check And Remove Fly Eggs
Fly eggs are one of the things that can easily kill a baby squirrel. Fly eggs are similar to small grains of rice and usually hatch quickly into a maggot. The maggots can then easily crawl into a baby squirrel’s eyes, mouths, ears, or anus and eat it alive.
Once you find any fly eggs on your squirrel, you should remove them immediately and check the orifices.
Step 2: Slowly Warm the Baby Squirrel
One of the crucial things to do after discovering that a baby squirrel is not with its mother is to get it close to a heat source. This is because the baby squirrel may have been separated for a long time.
Furthermore, baby squirrels cannot generate their own heat, and providing warmth will help to reduce stress on their system.
Some of the instruments that you can use to slowly warm baby squirrels are stated below.
- Electric blanket
- A hot water bottle
- A plastic bottle from the recycling bin filled with hot tap water
- An electric heat pad
- A hand warmer
- A liquid heating pad that recirculates water
Note: Ensure the temperature of the heating apparatus that you choose is at low to medium temperature. You can easily create the right environment suitable for your baby squirrel’s health using a thermometer.
Step 3: Determining The Baby Squirrels Age
Juvenile squirrels are just like miniature adult squirrels, and you may find it hard to determine the age of a baby squirrel. However, you need to know the age of your baby squirrel to help determine the appropriate care to give.
Here is a breakdown of squirrels according to their age and their appearance.
Less than 4 Weeks
A squirrel doesn’t usually have hair for the first few weeks of life. After the first two weeks, they will start to grow soft hair around their nose and mouth. They will then begin to grow light hair all over the back and lower front teeth after a month.
Some white hair will also start to grow on their belly and legs.
4 -7 Weeks
You will start to notice as their head gets thicker, including on the belly and legs. A squirrel that is 4-7 weeks old has short tail hair, and its tail will start to curl over its back. Furthermore, they will become fully furred, and they start to sleep less.
You can keep baby squirrels in a box until seven weeks and then start to plan for a cage.
7 – 9 Weeks
They are usually half their full size, and they will have fluffy tails. You can place them in a cage with plenty of room where they can play.
At eight weeks, they will look like miniature squirrels. They will be very active and can also shred fabrics.
9 – 12 Weeks
They are more muscular at this age and will soon reach full maturity. You can release squirrels to the wild at 12 weeks.
Step 4: Rehydrating
Generally, baby squirrels get dehydrated very quickly, and you should be ready to rehydrate them as quickly as possible.
You can hydrate the squirrel with a Pedialyte. You need to ensure the squirrel is hydrated before you give the squirrel the formula. You will then need to heat the Pedialyte to 98 degrees and feed the squirrel with the liquid slowly with a needleless syringe.
Note: avoid feeding your squirrel too fast because a baby squirrel can suffocate and die if it inhales the liquid too fast. Pedialyte usually has high salt content, and you should try to dilute it with water.
You may also decide to use a homemade rehydration fluid instead of using a Pedialyte to rehydrate the baby squirrel. Here are the ingredients needed for making a homemade rehydration fluid.
- A cup of warm water
- A tablespoon of honey, syrup, molasses, or sugar
You can then use a needleless syringe to feed the squirrel with the liquid very slowly.
Step 5: Make A Small Squirrel Cage
The first thing to do is measure the available space in your house to be certain the cage will fit. Squirrels need a taller cage than a wide one. This means the cage can be 4 feet tall, 2 feet wide, and 18 inches deep.
Materials needed: Nail gun, nails, plywood, wire mesh, saw, 2×2, power screwdriver, wood screws.
- Measure out the plywood pieces. You will need a rectangular piece of plywood (4×4 feet), the second piece of plywood (18×6 inches), and two pieces of plywood (2 feet by 18 inches).
- Measure out your 2x2s. You will need six 14 inches pieces, six 20 inches pieces, and four 4foot pieces. You will also need two small pieces that are 7 inches in length.
- Use a circular saw to cut all your pieces.
- Construct two large rectangular frame pieces with two 4-foot 2x2s and two of the 14-inch 2×2 for each piece. You can then attach them with a nail gun and nails.
- Attach the frame pieces to the largest cut of plywood. The large plywood piece will then serve as the cage’s back.
- Attach the bottom and top plywood pieces (2ft x 18inch pieces) using a power screwdriver and wood screws.
- Attach 14inch 2×2 wood into the right side of the frame and 6 inches wood above the bottom. You will use this for attaching a small door for removing waste.
- Attach a 20inch 2×2 wood into the cage’s front at the bottom flush with plywood bottom. You can use a power screwdriver and wood screws to attach the wood with plywood bottom and a nail gun and nails to attach it to the side frame.
- Attach a 20inch 2×2 wood into the front of the cage at the top flush with plywood top following the same method as the one above.
- Attach a 20-inch 2×2 wood in the cage’s front at the center point between the bottom and top of the cage. You can attach it to the side frame with a nail gun and nails.
- Attach a 20-inch 2×2 wood into the front of the cage vertically. You should center this piece and attack it using a nail gun and nails to the frame.
- Attach wire mesh to the sides and front of the cage with a staple gun and staples. Ensure the staples are few inches apart to ensure the mesh is adequately secured.
- Leave a 6-inch opening at the right side for a waste-removal drop door and an opening in the front on the upper left side as another door.
Step 6: Feed A Baby Squirrel
Here are steps that you can use to feed a baby squirrel
How Do You Feed The Baby Squirrel?
There are two ways that you can use to feed a baby squirrel, and they are stated below.
You can use an oral syringe that does not have a needle for feeding your squirrel. The best oral syringe that you can use is a 1cc syringe. However, you can use a syringe larger than 1 cc but should not be larger than a 5cc syringe.
You can get oral syringes from your local pharmacy.
Feeding Bottle With Elongated Nipples
Once your baby squirrel is doing well with a syringe, you can then use a feeding bottle with elongated nipples. However, you may need to poke some holes in these nipples. You can do that by piercing the nipple with a needle and then boiling it while the needle is still in the hole.
You will then remove the nipple from the boiling water and cool it before removing the piercing instrument. This will help to ensure the holes are permanently formed.
What To Feed A Baby Squirrel?
Baby squirrels have a sensitive digestive system and feeding them with the wrong food can lead to dehydration, diarrhea, and even send a shock to their body.
You need to avoid feeding baby squirrels with human formula, cow’s milk, etc. However, if you don’t know what baby squirrels eat, the best thing is to feed them with puppy milk. You can easily get Esbilac and other products from vet offices and pet food stores.
You should opt for a powdered version of the food and introduce the solution to the baby squirrel using the following stages.
- Mix one part powdered puppy milk into three parts Pedialyte and sugar water
- Mix two parts of powdered puppy milk in two parts liquid.
- Increase the powdered puppy milk to three parts with a part rehydration solution.
- Feed your squirrel with undiluted puppy milk.
How Often Should I Feed Baby Squirrels
Stay at each stage stated above for two feedings and ensure you give baby squirrels the solution every two and a half hours. You can also wake up once at night for additional feeding of your baby squirrel.
Note: Ensure you follow the directions on the puppy milk packaging for the powder to dissolve fully. You can then warm the mixture at room temperature to help make the food palatable to the squirrel.
Step 7: Waste Elimination Of Baby Squirrel
You don’t need to burp baby squirrels as baby humans do. However, you will need to help your baby squirrel remove waste after every feeding while his eyes are closed. In the wild, baby squirrels usually remove waste after their mother gently licks their genitals.
This means you will need to replicate this process with a damp cloth or tissue to help stimulate your baby squirrel.
After feeding the baby squirrel, you can use the damp cloth or tissue to stroking his genitals and anal area toward his tail. Baby squirrels should urinate after this and may even defecate. Baby squirrel stools are usually soft and yellow.
You can then stop this practice after every feeding after the baby squirrel’s eyes are open. However, you can still do it once or twice a day until you are sure it can remove waste by itself.
Step 8: Ongoing Care To Feed The Older Baby
Once the baby squirrel is five weeks old, it should start to open its fur and eyes. You can then start to add solid food to your diet.
One of the best squirrel foods you can offer is the Zupreem Monkey Biscuits, as it has the necessary nutrients that your squirrel needs for proper growth.
You can get this biscuit at most pet shops, and you can leave some in your squirrel’s cage at all times. Although they will first make a big mess of the biscuit, they will get the hang of it.
Once they can eat the biscuit well, you can now add other food items like grape halves, broccoli, peas, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cauliflower, etc.
Note: Avoid putting all the foods in their cage at once. You can give small pieces until the squirrel is eating them very well. You can then vary their diet from one day to another while you can use a half piece of pecan as a treat.
You can then provide them with fresh water daily using a water dish or water bottle. You should also feed them with the formula you use from the syringe until the squirrel does not want it again.
You should keep in mind that the amount of food that you can feed a baby squirrel during a period usually depends on its age and species. Furthermore, a malnourished squirrel may not have the ability to take full feeding until it regains its strength.
The table below shows the feeding regimen suitable for baby squirrels at each age.
|Baby Squirrel Age||Feeding Regimen|
|Easter Greys Squirrel||American Reds Squirrel|
|Newborns to 1 Week||75cc-1.25cc every 2.5 hours||.5cc every 2.5 hours|
|Two Weeks||2.5-3cc every 3 hours||1-1.5cc every 3 hours|
|Three weeks||4-5.5cc every 3 hours||1.75-2cc every 3 hours|
|Four weeks||6-9cc every 3.5 hours||2-2.5cc every 3.5 hours|
|Five weeks||10-12cc every 4 hours||3-4cc every 4 hours|
|Six weeks||12-14cc every 4 hours||4-6cc every 4 hours|
|7 weeks||14-16cc every 8 hours||7-8cc every 8 hours|
|8-12 weeks||16-18cc every 12 hours||9-10cc every 12 hours|
Note: American red squirrels are smaller than eastern greys and require less food to stay healthy.
Handling/Training or Play With It
Just like humans, you will need to stimulate, handle, and play with baby squirrels to help them learn how to use their muscles. Furthermore, you can place lots of toys in their cage or box for them to play with.
The best thing is that baby squirrels are not picky and will play with anything you give them. However, for their own good, you should try to include natural items.
You can place sticks, woodchips, bark, nuts, grass clippings, leaves, dirt, feathers in their box once they have fur for physical protection against abrasions. This will help them to be familiar with natural items once you release them back into the wild.
Step 9: Release Or Contact Your Local Wildlife Service
A healthy baby squirrel can be released to the wild once it is 12 weeks old. You can put the nesting box that you created and nail it to the tree crook.
Furthermore, it is best to do this when the weather is warm and dry for a couple of days, and you can stock the box with towels where the squirrel can hide or nestle in. You can also take the cage outside and open the door close to the tree.
You can then move away and wait for the squirrel to come out. Squirrels have different behavior as some are more adventurous while some are cautious. However, they will eventually leave the cage and climb the tree.
They will see their nest box and even use it as their new home. You can then remove the cage and start to monitor them whenever you want. You can also place a food and water bowl close to the nesting tree.
This will help to attract other animals to the food and also to the nesting box. Furthermore, you can also use a squirrel feed to help ensure that the squirrel gets enough nutrition. You will later lose track of your squirrel friend after a while.
However, they may even visit you once in a while in the yard.
Common Problems Of The Baby Squirrels
Here are some of the common problems that affect baby squirrels and how you can treat or avoid them.
This is a common health problem that can happen to squirrels that have been orphaned for a day or two. You can detect if a baby squirrel is emaciated if it is very thin and weak.
When you notice this, the first thing to do is to feed the squirrel with Pedialyte every 15 minutes for the first hour.You can then transition slowly to Ensure (a human supplement). This is because they are very easy for baby squirrels to digest.
After that, you can gradually introduce the baby squirrel to Esbilac Puppy milk.
Note: you should avoid rushing this process. Furthermore, you should ensure the emaciated animal is taken to a vet and a very experienced wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
This is normally not a sickness that affects baby squirrels on arrival. However, this can occur if you feed your baby squirrel with an improper formula or are overfed. Baby squirrels will not have this issue if you follow the feeding instructions closely.
However, if you have a bloated squirrel, avoid feeding or offering water until you resolve it. You can then offer a few drops of human baby gas drops for easing your squirrel’s gas. Furthermore, you can soak the baby’s lower half in a warm water bath while you then massage the tummy.
The main goal of this treatment is to make the baby pass stool, urine, or gas to help relieve the bloat.
Note: try this for 5 minutes and then dry the baby. You can then allow the squirrel to rest in a warm spot for 15 minutes and then try again.
This health condition usually occurs when an inexperienced person feeds a squirrel and then aspirates the animal. It occurs when a squirrel drinks very fast, and the fluid goes into its nose and lungs. This will then lead to pneumonia if it gets into the lungs.
You will find a bubble coming out of the squirrel’s nose if the baby aspirates the liquid. When this happens, the first thing to do is to tip the baby forward so that the head is down and then allow the fluid to drain from the nose.
Once the baby is calm and the nose is clear, you can resume feeding the squirrel. There are times when baby squirrels will have pneumonia despite your efforts.
Some of the symptoms of pneumonia in baby squirrels are open mouth breathing, clicking sound in the throat area, congested or runny nose. Once your squirrel shows these symptoms, you should contact the vet or an experienced wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
The baby squirrel may suffer from hypoglycemic seizure if arching his head back and acting very weak. This usually occurs because of the lack of glucose in the system. You can treat this by putting a small amount of honey, all-fruit jelly, or Karo syrup on the tongue.
You can find fleas on the body of a baby squirrel. However, you can easily treat fleas using most kitten flea powders. You can also use Advantage Top Spot for treating fleas. You can just use a flea powder to treat this if the squirrel has a light flea load.
However, you will need to pick off and destroy all the fleas you can if the squirrel is infested with fleas. You will then wipe the powder with a tissue onto the squirrel’s skin carefully.
Bitten By A Cat
Cats are natural predators and can even bite a baby squirrel. The first thing to do is clean the wounds thoroughly with an antiseptic wash and then rinse the wounds thoroughly.
Even if you don’t find any wound, you will need to give the squirrel an antibiotic as soon as possible to help prevent infection from cat bites.
Some Notes When Taking Care Of Baby Squirrels
Here are some of the ideas that you can use to take care of baby squirrels.
- You should avoid placing a baby squirrel out for the mom if you find them just before dark because of predators.
- Ensure you wear a glove when handling wild babies
- It is best to feed baby squirrels with a 1cc syringe and not be larger than a 3cc syringe.
- The temperature of the liquid that you should give your baby squirrel should be lukewarm.
- Ensure you keep the baby squirrel away from noise, pets, odors, and children because this can adversely affect their respiratory and nervous systems.
How much time does it take to open its eyes?
It usually takes baby squirrels about four weeks before they open their eyes. Baby squirrels will then start to explore their nest once they are six weeks of age.
Can I feed a baby squirrel, squirrel’s food’?
You should avoid feeding baby squirrels with squirrel food. You will need to feed them with Pedialyte and puppy milk to help them grow very well.
You can also provide them with a bottle and allow them to bond with you. However, you can start feeding baby squirrels with seeds, fruit, and nuts when they are six weeks old.
Can You Keep Wild Squirrels As Pets?
Generally, it is inhumane to keep the squirrel as a pet because wild squirrels are not domestic animals and should be in the wild that they belong to.
This is because they need their space and freedom, and it is usually stressful to domesticate a squirrel. Furthermore, it is illegal to keep squirrels as pets in some states.
Baby squirrels are adorable creatures that are fascinating to keep. Although they have a specific requirement, you can easily care for them even as a beginner pet owner. However, you should be ready to release them into the wild after they grow old.