Squirrels are such cute animals to have around. They are colorful, playful and intelligent. It does not come as a surprise that many people these days decide that squirrels are the right pet choice for them. Have you ever wondered if squirrels sweat? Why winter squirrels look bulky? There are many things about squirrels that are amazing and fascinating, so here are some that will make you love them even more.
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Squirrels use different ways to communicate. Most of the squirrel species make sounds, depending on their age, gender and situations they encounter. Flying squirrels communicate ultrasonically, using frequencies that are above the limit audible to humans. When they feel scared squirrels make loud shrieking sounds. Since squirrels are territorial, they use their scent glands and spray urine as ways of marking their territory. Some squirrels live in groups, but others, such as the grey squirrel, are solitary animals. Body language is a very important part of their communication. For example, they make various tail gestures or stamp their feet. When they feel aggressive they chatter their teeth.
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Squirrels are rodents. There are more than 250 species. Squirrels are divided into tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels. They are native to Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia, whereas being introduced species in Australia. The smallest species are African pygmy squirrels, at about 7 cm long, while the largest are the Indian Giant squirrels, measuring to almost 1 meter.
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Tree squirrels breed twice a year while ground squirrels breed once in a year. Each tree squirrel litter may contain two to four babies, whereas ground squirrels can have five to eight younglings. Newborn babies are only around 2 cm long, without fur, teeth and blind. Babies completely depend on their mothers for two or three months.
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They do “tail dances” as a part of their courting. During breeding time, squirrel tries to get female’s attention by making enticing tail movements. If female liked this “tail dance” she may decide to choose him as a breeding partner. Beside using their tails to communicate, squirrel’s furry tail is useful to keep them warm in winter and cool during summer as it shades their heads. Long tails help tree squirrels with their balance when they run from tree to tree. And speaking of their tails, the name “squirrel” originates from the ancient Greek word Skiouros, which means “shadow-tailed”.
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Most of the squirrels are active during daytime and sleeping in the nighttime. But some are crepuscular, like Eastern Gray squirrels, which means they are mostly active at dawn and dusk. Sleeping habits differ between the tree and ground squirrels. Tree squirrels require creating dens in the sides of the trees so they can sleep. Unlike them, ground squirrels hibernate in their underground dens. This hibernation period lasts for about five months.
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As omnivores, beside nuts they also eat plants and meat, such as small animals and young snakes. They can’t digest cellulose. When they are kept as pets, their diet should consist of around 25% of fresh foods: seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, low carbohydrate vegetables, edible flowers and eggs. Foods that should be avoided are processed human food, corn, potatoes, onions, garlic. Rodent blocks, which are premade food made for guinea pigs, hamsters and squirrels, should make 75% of their daily diet.
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Have you noticed some fatty squirrels during winter? Increasing their body weight and storing fat is one of the ways for squirrels to stay warm during the cold winter.
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They have four sharp teeth in the front of their mouth that are constantly growing. Their teeth can grow to around 15 cm per year. Squirrels spend teeth and keep them short by gnawing constantly on various tough things. They also grind their teeth in their sleep.
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They make fake burials. This means that they pretend to bury their food in the ground to deceive the potential food thieves, such as other squirrels or birds. While onlookers focus on the false burial place, squirrels can hide their food in some other, safe place.
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Squirrels have “sweaty feet”. Since their sweat glands are located between the foot pads and in between the toes, they actually sweat through their feet. By sweating, they are able to cool off.
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They are the culprits behind the plantation of the oak trees. Why? Because they can forget where they have buried their acorns. These forgotten acorns, tucked in the ground, may give growth to the new oak trees.
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They come in all colors. Beside the red, gray, brown and black squirrels, there are also the purple ones. It is still unknown why they have the purple coloration and they are rare to be seen. Throughout the years there have been occasional sightings in the U.S. and in the U.K., in Hampshire, where the purple squirrel named Pete was spotted. It is said that Pete’s fur was originally blue before it shifted to purple.
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January 21st is the Squirrel Appreciation Day. The purpose of this day is to show the respect and acknowledge the importance of squirrels in nature. People celebrate it by leaving the nutritious and safe foods in their yards or parks for squirrels to pick them. Some even change their social media pictures to the images of the squirrel, so don’t be surprised if you happen to see their photos as the profile pictures on some of your friends’ accounts.
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Squirrels make funny pets. They are fond of doing antics around the house which makes them very interesting to watch. Have you ever seen a snoozing squirrel on his back? That is just too cute to watch. Beside being playful, they can be affectionate and very cuddly with their owners. Being social animals, squirrels like to spend a lot of time each day with their owners. If you decide to take a squirrel as a pet, make sure he has a specialized care, proper accommodation and healthy diet.
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