Keeping a Flying Squirrel As a Pet
While they're not as common as other pet rodents, flying squirrels can be kept as a pet in most states although some will require you to get a permit. There are definite pros and cons about these cute little gliding rodents you should consider before bringing one home.
The Pros of Flying Squirrels As Pets
There are several wonderful aspects of owning a pet flying squirrel.
- They are very intelligent and can make engaging small companions.
- Captive-bred flying squirrels are known to bond well to their humans and can be very affectionate, provided you spend time with them as they are growing up.
- While they can bite if nervous, they are not known for biting as much as other small pets.
The Cons of Flying Squirrels As Pets
There are clear disadvantages to owning a flying squirrel that make them a pet suitable for only certain types of people.
- They have specific care requirements that may be difficult to provide, including a large living area compared to other small pets.
- Their cage needs to be tall enough for them to move around and to glide, but with small enough openings to keep them from getting out or hurting themselves.
- They are relentless chewers and can be destructive if not given enough appropriate items to chew.
- While they're smart enough to be trained to do some things, they cannot be housetrained.
- The downside to their ability to connect emotionally with their owners is that they can become fixated on you and become stressed if they cannot be with you.
- You may have difficulty finding a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about their medical care.
- Depending on where you live, you may not be able to have one. They are illegal to own in:
- Only Southern flying squirrels are illegal in Utah
- You can have one in these states with a permit:
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Utah requires a permit for Northern flying squirrels
- They are nocturnal, so you may need to spend time with them at a time of the day when they're awake but you may be wanting to wind down and end your day.
- If not raised as babies and tamed, they can be nervous about handling and can bite if they feel stressed.
- If you have other pets in the home, they are not likely to cohabitate well with them and may even be in danger from cats, dogs and even ferrets and large birds.
What Are Flying Squirrels Like?
Although their name implies that they fly, they actually glide using their patagium, a membrane that stretches out when their limbs are extended, giving them the appearance of wearing a wingsuit. There are two types of flying squirrels: the Northern and Southern. The Northern version have bodies that are shades of gray and brown with gray abdomens and are about 10 to 12 inches in length. The Southern flying squirrels are about eight to 10 inches long and have a brownish gray body with a white abdomen.
Flying Squirrel Health
Flying squirrels can live approximately six years in their native environment. In captivity, they have been known to live as much as 15 years. They aren't known for too many diseases but if they don't get enough calcium they can suffer health problems like arthritis, paralysis and easily broken bones. Giving them oranges weekly, calcium or bonemeal powder, powdered eggshells and bird cuttlebones are all good options to keep their calcium levels adequate.
Flying Squirrel Care
You will need a cage that is taller than longer so they can climb and glide freely. Provide them with lots of branches and perches and an area to nest. Make sure you buy your branches from a pet store which have been cleaned and are free of any harmful pesticides or parasites. Some owners use large parrot cages which can work if the bars aren't too far apart so that the squirrel can push his way through them. Another good option are cages designed for sugar gliders. While they enjoy time out of their cages, particularly riding in your shirt pocket, they cannot move about your house unsupervised. There is a risk of them getting hurt as well as damaging your property because of their need to chew.
Flying Squirrel Diet
For infant flying squirrels, you can feed them Esbilac or Goat's Milk Esbliac but never give them any type of dairy from cow's or infant formula as this is toxic. They will also enjoy cut up apples and oranges and a seed and pellet mix made specifically for flying squirrels. When they reach adulthood, their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, insects and seeds. Insects can be mealworms, waxworms, crickets and canned insects purchased from a pet store. Common vegetable choices are sweet potatoes, corn and mushrooms while good fruits are apples, grapes, peaches, pears, plums and oranges in particular are important. They also can have an occasional hard-boiled egg and a handful of pecans or walnuts.
Flying Squirrel Behavior
They can be very affectionate and fixated on their owners, but this requires you to get them when they are about six to eight weeks old and taming them. You will need to commit to being close to them three hours a day or more for at least three weeks to get them to bond to you. The most common way owners do this is by placing them in a shirt pocket where they can snuggle up against you. You can also gently handle them and feed them so they associate you with good things.
Getting a Flying Squirrel
A flying squirrel can be purchased from specialized breeders and the average cost is around $150 to $200. It's important to buy them at six to eight weeks of age to make sure you can bond to them. It's possible to also adopt them from shelters but acclimating an adult can be harder.
Do Flying Squirrels Make Good Pets?
Flying squirrels can be good companions for people able to put in the time to tame them when they first bring them home. They are intelligent pets who are most deifinitely snuggly and fiercely bond to their owners. They can do well with older children as their small, delicate bodies and a tendency to be skittish may not be a good fit for smaller kids. If you decide to get a flying squirrel, make sure they are legal in your state and you have any required paperwork.