Animal-World > Small Animal Pets > Pet Squirrels > Eastern Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel ~ Cat Squirrel

Family: SciuridaePicture of "Rocky", a Gray Squirrel"Rocky"Sciurus carolinensisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Jerry Donaldson
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Hi, I've been raising Velcro since he was 4 1/2 weeks old. Eyes were not even open yet. He is so sweet. He loves me and my son, and has changed toward others. He... (more)  Velcro

   The Gray Squirrel is perhaps the most familiar of all squirrels!

   Gray Squirrels are primarily forest dwellers, but have adapted to the encroachment of humans by becoming part of large city parks. You can often see them scurrying about, foraging for seeds, buds, and nuts.

Dr. Jungle says..."Rocky sure likes his pizza!"

"This is Rocky. He's a 1 year old Western Grey Squirrel, rescued as a baby from a cat, he was bottle fed and given full run of the house. The best pet by far!"... Jerry Donaldson

For more information about the care of Gray Squirrel see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Squirrel


Geographic Distribution
Sciurus carolinensis
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Data provided by GBIF.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Sciuridae
  • Genus: Sciurus
  • Species: carolinensis
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Scientific name: Sciurus carolinensis

Background:
   Gray Squirrels are native to North America, found mostly in the Eastern United States. They were also introduced to other areas of the world, such as Ireland, South Africa, and Great Britain.
   Their homes are in tree cavities or in bulky water-proof twig and leaf nests built in tree branches. They also dig burrows in the ground, but these are for food storage.
   They are generally a quiet little creature, but if alarmed will emit a harsh guttural "bark", flipping its tail with each squawk.
   Gray Squirrels eat acorns and hickory nuts throughout the year, though they may eat buds, tender twigs, seeds, and insects when the weather permits. Unlike their very active smaller cousin the American Red Squirrel, which needs large amounts of seeds and nuts to see it through the winter, the Gray Squirrel can subsist on a rather small quantity of buds and nuts, and will often sleep soundly through periods of stormy weather.
   They are not quite as fearless as the American Red Squirrel in the presence of humans, but will soon overcome their caution and come out to visit if you sit quietly.

Description:    Eastern Gray Squirrels are 17"-20" long, and 8 1/2" - 9 1/2" of this length is their bushy tail! There are marked color variations in this squirrel, so at one time they were described as four different species, but today they are all contained in one valid species.

Interesting Facts:    - Gray squirrels are so plentiful that they often have to regulate their
      populations by shooting them for sport, or poisoning and trapping them.
   - They are not nocturnal, and are most active at dawn and at dusk gathering
      food. They will generally spend the late morning and noon hours in the nest,
      coming out in mid afternoon, and then retiring for the rest of the night an
      hour or so before sunset.

Author: Jasmine Brough
Lastest Animal Stories on Eastern Gray Squirrel

Velcro - 2013-04-29
Hi, I've been raising Velcro since he was 4 1/2 weeks old. Eyes were not even open yet. He is so sweet. He loves me and my son, and has changed toward others. He doesn't like anyone else around like he used to, but my son and I, he loves. He's never bitten anyone tho. He just makes the noises at others letting them know to leave him alone. Ha! He was 4 1/2 months old during the winter and knew I couldn't release him then. He is now 10 months old, and has actually been outside to play all day 4 times now. And comes back to me. I then put him back in his cage. He seems to be wanting out more, but really worried about how to go about it. He don't know how to build his own nest, etc. Anyone have any suggestions on what to do if I'd let him stay out now. I actually built him a nest house, and was thinking of nailing it up in the tree, but just hoping he uses it when it's there. Just don't want to do wrong with him. Just seems so happy when he's out running tho, and he seems sad now when caged. Please, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • Cindy - 2014-01-08
    Hi. The 2 squirrels we raised took to the nest box immediately on release. My husband fed them almost every day by climbing the ladder to their box. However as of day b4 yesterday they were gone. There 1 night and gone the next. Do you know if they might return? They r now about 5 months old. They had stayed in the nest box for over a month. I am so sad.
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ToTodunderer - 2010-04-15
I found a baby squirrel and raised her to be a pet. When she was large enough I let her play with my four cats. At first the cats looked at her as a meal ticket due to their natural predatory instincts. The siamese, who is a naturally good hunter, was the first to attack. She leaped on the little squirrel and went for the throat. Her attack was fast and furious. They went round and round like the well known cartoon skirmishes where only parts stick out of the small tornado for maybe three seconds then there was this awful cry and the siamese stopped cold, the squirrel upside down and still between her feet.

The siamese limped away, nursing a bitten toe. The squirrel rolled over, walked over to one of the other cats, but that cat was a bit shy, so the squirrel found another to play with. That single fight was the beginning and end of the squirrel-cat battles in our house.

That was about a year ago, Now the cats all know better than to pick on a full grown squirrel. There have been a few other fights, usually cat-to-cat, but seldom is the squirrel involved. Squirrels are faster, with better reaction time and they fight back well. They can out jump a cat and can hide (if necessary) in much smaller places. Usually the squirrel ignores the cats, except at play time--then she is right in there having as much romping fun at the cats. Where the cats climb the trees in the yard, the squirrel absolutely runs up them, leaping vertically from each piece of bark. They are lightening unleashed.

The interesting thing about cats and squirrels, is where teeth are concerned, the cats actually bite with caution. They know that a broken tooth or a wound means death. A squirrel can break a tooth and it will grow out, and injury may mean death due to a slow escape, but it is not so certain.

So, when a squirrel and cat fight, the cat will be slow to bite. When it does, the sharp fangs, unless they penetrate something vital, both hurt less than a squirrel bite and are far less damaging. Cats kill by suffocating larger species, not biting to kill. Squirrels, when they bite, put the pressure of four forward facing teeth that are built to strip bark, crush nuts, and and can chew metal pieces off. Those bites are extremely painful. A predator will not attack a species it cannot use as food. When they learn that a species is dangerous, they leave it alone.

I watched a new squirrel in the neighborhood actually not get concerned when my four cats approached. It hopped along looking for nuts, surrounded by cats. When one of the cats popped out a test swat, the squirrel, a large Eastern Gray, turned instantly and assumed a defensive posture, standing a bit tall. The cats backed up. It was not bothered and is still here. I saw this before I allowed my squirrel to be with them.

While the cats bring home the occasional animal, it's never a squirrel.

  • Animal Kingdom - 2010-12-16
    I don't believe this... plain and simple...
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Catherine Garriga - 2013-12-07
Ooooh! Let me see! What is it? It’s so little. What is it? It’s so cold! What is it? Go get me a scrap of flannel from the sewing room. What is it? Get the brooder plugged in. What is it? We need a bottle of Pedialite and a can of puppy formula so we can rehydrate and get him fed. What is it? This, almost a conversation, was the heralding of the newest member of our family. While my daughter sped off to Wal-mart for the puppy formula and Pedialite, my up to now, ignored, grand daughter was answered. She was not only answered, she was allowed to see and touch the tiny creature. He was naked, pink, cold, blind and had a tail like a piece of string. It was a very young baby boy squirrel.

I held him and his scrap of flannel against my chest to warm until the brooder had gotten warm, then put him in to warm up until we could get him rehydrated. I had rounded up an assortment of small bottles and nipples we keep to feed orphaned puppies and kittens and whatever other creatures come along. As it turned out, he never used one. He was too small and weak and had to be fed with a 1ml syringe.

For the first couple hours we gave him only the Pedialite for hydration, then we started the formula. We added an extra spoon of water and about half a spoon of cream to increase the fat content. He had no trouble with the syringe, at all. This may have been due to great hunger. I don’t know. We had no idea how old he was, so we just had to wait until he opened his eyes, and count backwards. Squirrels open their eyes at 5 weeks. Puppies, kittens, large parrots and things I am familiar with all open their eyes, pretty much on schedule,so I had no reason to think he would not do the same. He was about a week and a half old when we got him. My daughter was in the back yard with the dogs, and one of the dogs wouldn’t come back, so she went to see what was so interesting, and he had found what she thought was a dead mouse. We had put out rat poison the week before, and did not want the dog to mess with it, so she ran back in the house to get the “grabber” to pick it up and throw it over the fence. When she picked it up, it moved and did not look right to her, so she brought it in for me to see. 

After he opened his eyes, it was only a few days until he was doing loop-de-loops in the brooder. It has a fan and switches and stuff in the top and we did not want him hurt, so we knew he had to be moved. A cage was selected and outfitted just for him. It had all the requirements a young squirrel would need. We put in manzanita limbs,a heating pad, a thick layer of towels, several small stuffed animals, a water dish and best of all, his most loved “thingy”. It was a Christmas stocking, we turned inside out and turned the fake fur cuff back over a ring ,about 1 inch wide,cut from a 2 liter soda bottle. The thin plastic was not very stiff, but it was enough to hold the stocking open wide enough for a door. He was crazy about it. You could go in, play games, have a snack, find treasure or just fall over and take a nap. Unlike myself, my daughter is a whiz on the computer and spent a couple hours a day looking up the things we should be doing for our baby. This was not my first squirrel, but she wanted to be sure we did it right. We knew it was time for him to start getting used to the taste of food, so we got small jars of baby food in flavors we thought a squirrel would like. We got applesauce, peaches, peas,sweet potatoes, etc. When we made his formula, we added about half a teaspoon of one of these. He ate them all, but he really loved the sweet potato. Every time he ate he got bathed off with a wash cloth. First, his hands and face were washed, then his head and back and right around to his belly. He always enjoyed this. For some reason, it soothed him. He groomed his tail himself. From the very first, we had decided not to name him , because we knew he had to be raised to live wild. I’m not sure ,exactly, when we lost this, but I think it must have been about the time he was opening his eyes, because he has been called Peep Eye all his life. Via the internet, we were told many things, among them was a warning to watch for diarrhea. He did not get it. He also, must have small pieces of dry dog food, a rodent block, and a piece of antler or sterilized bone. Our stores were all fresh out of antler so Peep Eye got bone. He did bite the dog food, and immediately dropped it. As far as I could tell, the bone was never bitten and the rodent block doesn’t have a scratch on it. He grew fast and his jumping and running out grew his cage in just a few weeks. It was time to move, again. 
We selected a cage a bit larger in perimeter and more than twice as tall. All his belongings were moved and a coconut shell with 3 holes in the side, hanging from a chain, and a pinata for birds, made from cane or raffia of some kind, were added. We also added a pink velour, printed with red hearts, hammock. This became his big boy bed immediately. We had been told he should have acorns and pinecones. All our acorns had been eaten and the pinecones were dry and open. We gave him a couple, anyway, and he was a bit puzzled. He studied them a minute, walked all around them and sniffed at them, then sat up and gave us a strange look. It was as if we were brain damaged and he was obliged to be kind to us. We started giving him more grown up food at this time. He got pieces of sweet potato,apple,string beans,kale, and whatever fresh produce was available. We strung cheerios on a string and made a big loop. They are great training food for large parrots, so why not squirrels? He played with them, wrestled and climbed them and they frenquently whipped his little squirrel behind, but eventually he got the best of them and actually ate a few and broke a few. He was introduced to the wonderous world of nuts and seeds shortly after this. Peanuts were not a problem, neither were sunflower seeds. At first, we cracked the harder shelled nuts, like walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and filberts, just to give him a head start. The almonds he could handle himself. He proved to be a real southern gentleman, just like I had thought. Pecans were his favorites!! 

We were all smitten with him by this time, especially my daughter. She had taken over 90% of his care long before this time. She was totally enamored by him and the feeling was totally mutual. When she left the room, he hopped down the hall behind her. He was so adorable it’s hard to describe. He ran around jumping from chair to chair and person to person faster than your eyes could track him. He would nuzzle your cheek and play with your hair and perch on your shoulder and make a low, strange, snuffling kind of noise I can only describe as a sort of purring. He did not do this very often and it seemed to be a kind of contented noise. He was growing so fast and there was a lot for him to learn before he could make it on his own.

He had to have a nesting box to use until he could build his own, so we got busy and gathered up the wood needed for this little project. We made it the suggested size and put both an entrance and an exit door, just the way we knew he liked because he had eaten two in every basket and such we had given him. I have a large greeenwing macaw who has a very large wrought iron cage she only uses for sleeping. This leaves the cage empty all day, and it makes a wonderful play ground for a squirrel. We had been wondering exactly how a person would teach a squirrel to build a nest. We soon had an answer. We placed the nest box in the large iron cage, along with a bundle of nesting stuff and some fo his favorite toys, one of which,was a tiny stuffed dog. When we put him in the cage, he was a bit leery at first. After a minute or two curiosity got the better of him and he sneaked around behind the box, climbed up the bars and pounced on top of it. He froze. After a minute it had done nothing, so he decided it was safe and proceeded to examine it completely, inside and out. He went in and out both doors, then started hauling in the nesting material. Boy! Did we feel stupid, or what? He liked the nesting box and played in it all the time, but would not sleep in it.

We started putting him out side, on the porch during the day, in another larger cage we had. I know most people don’t have all these cages and a brooder just sitting around, but we have raised macaws, silkies,and Rhode Island reds for many years and do, and we chose to use them instead of the Tupper wear tubs recommended. We also felt that life with no playmates would be rather boring, so we chose to provide PeepEye with toys and as much entertainment as feasable. The first day he was outside, a young female came to visit. They rubbed noses and patted hands and she squeezed between the bars and he allowed her to share his food. She came to visit every day. After 3 days it was obvious that he wanted out, so we opened the cage. He ran off, but came back that night, freezing and starving. He came in and ate for hours, then went to sleep and slept like the dead. This happened twice and then he stayed gone overnight. Again, he was starved and frozen. This time he slept and ate alternately all night and the next day. He stayed gone all night, while we worried ourselves sick, and then it was over. He came home and was sitting on the porch rail, so my daughter went out to take him a pecan. He jumped on her shoulder and nuzzled her cheek a minute, then he jumped down and ran off into the trees. That was the last time any one touched him. Both PeepEye and his little girl friend and another slightly larger friend come everyday. They look for a treasure and we make sure there is always one to find.

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Elaine - 2008-12-11
"Pet" squirrels MUST have Full Spectrum Lighting, and a healthy diet, which includes green, leafy, high calcium veggies...endive, kale, escarole, dandelions, and LITTLE fruit. Too much natural sugars in them. Also 70-80% of your squirrels daily diet should be Rodent Block. We have a specially made formula of rodent Block just for squirrels, that has been approved by Dr. Christopher Calvert, of the Animal Science Department at the University of California, Davis, and coauthor of the "Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, Fourth Revised Edition, 1995", and several of his colleagues as well, who are in the field of zoo diets.

If you want EXPERT advice from MANY rehabbers, and very knowledgeable people with pet squirrels, please come to www.thesquirrelboard.com.


Thank You!










  • Andrea in Ontario - 2010-11-27
    Hi Elaine! I have referenced the squirrel board as well. The many experienced rehabbers there helped me tremendously with my 2, who have now been released. They come back daily for food... a lovely variety of veggies, nuts and squirrel block. It disturbs me to read about so many raising the infants on liquid kitten formula... :/
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Jessica Jean - 2006-04-12
I have an eastern gray squirrel that we have had for almost 6 months. She came to us fully furred with only the top or bottom teeth - can't remember now. She couldn't have eaten for days. She and two other squirrels finally fell out of a palm tree after their mother had died in the round 5-7 days prior. I gave her sugar water when I first took her in. She slept for the next 22 hours. This gave me time to research and buy esbilac, karo syrup, electrolyte water and whipping cream. She liked everyone, at first, but now, she only likes myself and my son. She will bite anyone else! We love her and spoil her rotten. She eats everything that she should - avocado, squash, apple, pear, grapes, spinach, brussels, carrots, sweet/potato, snow/snap pea, kiwi, celery, corn, oranges, strawberry, banana and nuts of course! She takes a nap in the middle of the day and sleeps at night. I would not recommend this animal as a pet for everyone, but it has worked out just fine for us. We have a lot of time on our hands!

  • DONNA - 2013-03-28
    I ALSO HAVE RAISED A 2 DAY OLD BABY SQUIRREL. HE IS NOW ALMOST 8 MONTHS OLD. I CAN HANDLE HIM WITH NO PROBLEM BUT, HE ATTACKS MY HUSBAND. I AM TRYING TO TRANSITION HIM TO OUTSIDE LIFE SO I CAN EVENTUALLY RELEASE HIM. ANY SUGGESTIONS??? I HAVE ALSO NOTICED HIM SUCKING HIMSELF IS THIS NORMAL???
  • Becky - 2013-04-02
    @Donna--while doing research on squirrels I remember reading that sometimes squirrels will suck on each other or themselves. I tried going through some of the websites I'd saved for reference but must not have saved that one. But apparently it's a normal thing. OK I just looked up if it was normal for a squirrel to suck himself & there are some fun responses on the squirrelboard.com. They say it's normal; he's just getting his jollies off LOL But seriously, they say at that age they do that and will be humping their toys/stuffed animals. So now you know! (Must be a teenage squirrel);)
  • Mr. Bill - 2013-12-26
    My 2 squirrels do this too. It seems disturbing but is normal. Although it seems that this repetative action is elongating their genitals. I have twin boys about 15 weeks old and they do this just after feeding for the most part. I want to release them but feel I should wait till spring as not to cause any undo hardship by kicking them out during winter. They spend time outside daily but always come in at night when its freezing. Is this OK or am I just being too protective?
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Susan E. - 2008-04-29
In Sept. 2007 I was having quiet time on the porch when I heard a plop and a screech. My cat investigated and was as bewildered as I was over the screeching naked "thing" that dropped out of a tree. The night before I told my girlfriend that there is nothing so satisfying as connecting with nature. I was thinking of a baby fawn. After my husband identified this naked "thing" as a squirrel, I rushed to the drug store and purchased an eye-dropper and fed the baby soy milk mixed with rice crispies. After six weeks, we left the cage open by the tree it fell out of and it returned to it's home nest. Husband said it was male. I disagreed but didn't argue. Every morning and around dusk he comes to the porch for his nuts or popcorn. We keep a water bottle secured to his oak tree. Since we live in a very rural area, we hope to have him around for a good while. Today, to my husband's embarrassment, he discovered our "Rocky-boy" is Mrs. Rockette and is feeding her young. We are hoping she will introduce us to her babies soon.

This has been so much fun having Rockette come when we call, scampering up and down our trouser legs to perch on our shoulders. The cat knows she is part of the family and we don't have too many confrontations. Our visitors and grandchildren just love to brag about this crazy old couple that can call the squirrels down from the tree!

Susan and David
Greensboro, Georgia

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