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What It’s Really Like Owning a Pet Squirrel — OK Whatever

What It’s Really Like Owning a Pet Squirrel — OK Whatever
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Andersen called a local veterinarian to get advice, and was told to cut old socks into T-shirts for Tintin and to protect the open wound. Because the squirrel was so young, he had to be fed kitten milk through a baby bottle.

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It took five months for Tintin’s wound to heal, but even though he was recovered, Andersen knew he couldn’t release the squirrel back into the wild. Tintin had become too domesticated and desensitized to the dangers of the outside world, and was almost an adult. Were he to be released back into nature, he’d never survive.

“He doesn’t react to hawks or birds flying around, and he doesn’t understand the warning signs that there is danger nearby,” Andersen said. “While all the other squirrels are fleeing for their lives, he’s just sitting there not paying any attention to it.”

And it seemed as if Tintin didn’t want to return to the wild either.

“I tried to release him multiple times, and he never left. He kept coming back to scratch on my door.”

Fortunately, Andersen was able to procure special authorization from the local wildlife preservation branch to keep the squirrel, given his domesticated status. “Now he’s my son,” the squirrel’s owner said.  

But keeping a wild animal as a pet is no easy task. It requires living alone — which fortunately was already the case for Andersen who is retired — as well as constant attention toward the rodent. Guests are difficult to have over, as squirrels can become easily stressed and territorial, and Andersen can’t leave Tintin alone for more than a few hours.

“It’s like having a toddler and a puppy,” he said. “It’s a lot of work.”

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In fact, if Tintin hadn’t literally fallen into Anderson’s lap that fateful day in 2013, he probably would never have owned such an exotic pet. A staunch proponent of keeping wild animals wild, he believes they deserve their freedom and, in most circumstances, should never be domesticated.

He makes sure to communicate this to Tintin’s legion of online fans, many of whom have fallen victim to wanting a squirrel after seeing his photos. Anderson created a website for Tintin, and right smack-dab-in-the-middle of the homepage he wrote, “Squirrels are NOT good pets.”

To further dissuade potential squirrel owners, he added:

“Tintin is a extremely rare and unique case and character! Tintin cannot and should not be replicated!”

Although he doesn’t follow “those accounts,” Anderson has noticed an uptick in squirrel profiles on social media. “I think more people are getting squirrels and many of them are getting them for selfish reasons,” he said. “And I don’t support that. …I only follow special-needs or rescue squirrels, like ones that have lost a leg or have brain damage.”

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On a recent weekday, while Tintin took an afternoon nap, OK Whatever spoke with Andersen about the pros and cons of keeping a squirrel as a pet. If you ever wondered how a squirrel gives kisses — or what its pee smells like — now’s your chance to find out.



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