Penelope, the Squirrel Cat

By Kristi VanBenschoten

Penelope, the Squirrel Cat

Penelope the Squirrel

The story of how Penelope came to stay with us started around the end of September. Early one morning I was sitting out back on the porch and I heard a high pitch screeching. As I am looking everywhere for this sound, and what is making the sound, I see a small little squirrel baby poke it’s head from between my house and my roof...

Now I am not the only one who heard and saw this baby. There were two little sets of cat eyes standing beside me who were also intrigued but for a very different reason than I was...

As the squirrel started very clumsily down the side wall, I thought to myself she is a bit to small to be on her own yet and there is no way these cats are going to leave her alone. At this point I shooed her back into her spot between the house and waited for her mother to come back to get her. Unfortunately, the mom never came back and later that afternoon Jamie and I found her scurrying around the back porch. As Jamie bent down to grab her, the little squirrel quickly jumped into Jamie’s hands and cuddled up into a ball.

This is how we became pet squirrel owners. It was never intended for Penelope to stay for long, however the more we bottle feed her and interacted with her the more attached she became to us.

Every time she saw us, she would purr! That’s right, squirrels do purr, just like cats! They also play just like cats. Penelope loves to play attack your hands and thinks we are human jungle gyms. She was never taught how to find her own food or make a nest safe in the trees. So, at this point we had to make the decision to keep her as a pet.

Penelope now lives very happily in her 4’x4’x6’ squirrel penthouse outside during the day, and comes inside at night to keep her safe from other animals. This size cage is pretty equal to a 10,000 square foot house for one person.

While we absolutely love having Penelope around, it is important to understand that having a pet squirrel is not always a great idea for most people. First, in most states it is illegal. So don’t go running out to find yourself a pet squirrel. Where we live is not one of those states. But it is also a major commitment! Squirrels live up to 20 years. That’s 20 years with a two-year-old toddler. Squirrels chew EVERYTHING, including you at times...

In captivity squirrels have a very specific diet, most of the time Penelope's dinner plate looks better than ours!

Penelope's dinner: squash, tomatoes, red bell pepper, blueberry, almonds, meal worms, carrots and squirrel blocks

All that being said, we are happy to have her as part of the family, and she gives us endless laughs with all her off the wall antics...