Squirrel House-guest

Last night, I picked up an orphaned squirrel baby who had lost her mum and litter mate to a cat. She was a bit dehydrated, so I was up a couple of times through the night to rehydrate her, and now I'm starting her on a hydration/formula mix. Tomorrow I'll make the usual relay run to the causeway and leave her with another Hope for Wildlife volunteer, but for now, I thought I'd offer my customary blog entry on orphaned animal care, this time for squirrel babies:

➫ Squirrel babies have trouble regulating their own body temperature. Hot water bottles or heating pads (on a low setting) wrapped in a towel are great for this. Make sure the squirrel has a place to go if she gets too warm. I like keeping a towel and hot water bottle in half of the squirrel's space and a towel without a hot water bottle in the other half.

➫ If a squirrel baby has been without her mum for a while, she might be dehydrated. You can know for certain by gently pinching the skin behind her head. If it springs back, she's eaten recently. However, if it's slow to spring back, she's in need of hydration.

➫ In either case, it's best to start by feeding her 1 ml of unflavored Pedialyte in a small syringe (I use a 1 ml syringe) every two hours for the first two feedings and every four hours after that. If she's dehydrated, use Pedialyte by itself until the pinch of skin starts to spring back. Once hydrated and/or after the first two feedings, you can feed her a 50/50 mix of unflavored Pedialyte and Kitten Milk, which can be found at most grocery stores in the Pet aisle. After a few 50/50 feedings, you can go to straight Kitten Milk.

➫ Here are a few important things to remember about feeding baby squirrels:

➫➫ Warm Baby, Warm Food: Make sure any animal baby you feed is warm when you feed her, and make certain any food you offer is also warm, just above human body temperature, right about the same as an infant's milk bottle.

➫➫ Feed Her Upright: It might seem intuitive to feed a squirrel baby on her back, but they aspirate food easily, so feed them upright.

➫➫ Go Slow: A 1 ml syringe tip will fit into a baby squirrel's mouth (which is why I like them), and many squirrel babies will intuitively suck on it. So push the plunger down slowly, slower than you think you ought to.

➫➫ Stop When She Wants To: Baby sqirrels will stop eating when they're full, so stop trying to feed them when they stop eating.

And as always, reunite the squirel baby with her mum if possible. If not, get her to a wildlife rehabilitator as quickly as you can. Wild animal babies deserve to grow up wild and forget we ever helped them.