During The Time When Squirrels Were Found As Pets In Most American Homes

Benjamin Franklin even wrote an ode to a fallen one.

squirrels-were-america’s-popular-petsPete the squirrel, who was a pet of President Harding. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

A pet squirrel with the name Mungo died in the year 1722. It was a tragic death when Mungo escaped its confines and was killed by a dog. A friend of the owner, Benjamin Franklin decided to immortalize the squirrel with a tribute.

“Only a few squirrels were better accomplished, because he had a good education, and had traveled around to see the world at large.” Franklin also wrote, adding that, “Thou art has fallen by the fang of uncontrollable death, cruel Ranger!”

It is a rare event to mourn the death of a squirrel as you would rightly think when Franklin wrote Mungo’s eulogy; during the 18th and 19th centuries, squirrels were found in the homes of many Americans most especially for children. Although many animals are kept as a pet by the colonial Americans, however, squirrels were the most popular as reported by Katherine Grier’s Pets in America, because it is very easy to keep.

squirrels-were-america’s-popular-petsJohn Singleton Copley’s A Boy with a Flying Squirrel. MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

In the 1700s (Golden era of a squirrel), most of the owners were in full swing. Squirrels can be found in the market where they were sold and in the homes of wealthy people, and the portrait of children from rich families, polite squirrels were attached to a gold chain so as to display them (some of these can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Most of the squirrel’s species used as a pet are the American Grey Squirrels, although Flying Squirrels and Red Squirrels were also around, appealing the country with their fluffy bodies and attitudes.

There was an emergence of squirrel-care literature for the enthusiast during the 19th century. In the 1851 book (Domestic pets: their habit and management), Jane Loudon wrote a lot about squirrels being a pet than rabbits, and devote a whole chapter to the “lovely little creature, very agile and graceful in its movement.” “Because squirrels usually jump from one hand to the other in the search of hidden nuts, it knows the name and person that feed it.” Loudon also emphasized on their habits like jumping around the room and looking out of the window, writing that “there was a scenario whereby about seventeen lumps of sugar was found in the corner of a drawing-room where the squirrel was kept, apart from several nuts and pieces of biscuit.” Loudon however, advised that it is good to provide a tin-lined cage with a running wheel whenever your squirrel is not running within the room.

squirrels-were-america’s-popular-petsA girl with a pet squirrel – and parrot, cat and pigeon. INTERNET ARCHIVE

It is advised to feed them during the Leisure Hour Monthly, “a fig or a date every now and then,” and you should likewise start the adventure of your squirrel-raising with those ones that are gotten “directly from the nest, if possible.” The anonymous author’s pet squirrel, Peter, and Dick have access to his bedroom and can store lots of nuts away. “The author also wrote that it is good to allow your squirrel to crack their own nuts.”

Although most people in the 1800s capture their pet squirrel from the wild, they were likewise sold in most of the pet shops, a then growing industry that constitute about $70 billion business today. For instance, it was explained in one of the home manuals that any squirrel could be bought from the local bird breeder. However, it is different from some shops today because some pet stores have a dark side; Grier also writes that shop owners are faced with the challenges of selling animals to customers that would abuse them or the selling of a particular species can endanger their availability in the wild years to come.

squirrels-were-america’s-popular-petsPortrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, Hans Holbein PUBLIC DOMAIN

There is a shortcoming to keeping squirrels for humans, and this is crystal clear: despite all the effort geared to taming them by their owner, they are still wild animals. With time, people see squirrels as pests; they, however, became so despised in California in the 1910s that the state had no other option other than to issue a widespread public attack on the creature which was adored before. From the 1920s to 1970s, most states gradually adopt wildlife conservation and exotic pet laws, which kick against keeping squirrels at home. Nowadays, enthusiasts, as well as experts, warn that squirrels are not an ideal pet because they require a lot of space, their finicky diet as well as scratchy claws.

None of these would discourage squirrel owners that are very determined. Fans of Bob Ross might remember Peapod (his squirrel pet), and some other squirrel owners are reviving this obsession by making their pet famous on Instagram. However, because they are still wild animals, it would be great to leave them in the forest.

via atlasobscura