A Baby Squirrel and a Little White Lie

14 08 2009

Please read the text before scrolling down.

Something I’m about to tell is you not true. Read the next paragraph, look at the next two photos and try to figure it out.

I rescued a dear little squirrel this week. AJ found him, separated from his mother, emaciated and inches from death. Although we were working, I scooped the little baby up and fed him some half & half. Once he got a few drops of liquid in and got warmed up (he was cold to the touch), he began to move around and look for a place to hide.

I brought him home, and inside (despite AJ’s directive that he remain outdoors). He was so cute and helpless that I couldn’t imagine letting him fall prey to cats or fire ants.

Isn’t he adorable? Although I didn’t give him an official name I did call him “Little Sweetie”.


He stayed with us for two days, as I arranged placement with a person who does small animal rescue and rehabilitation. Although I would have loved to raise this cute little squirrel and release him in our yard, I knew this was impossible with my schedule, and the fact that we live in an RV. Not to mention that the cats would make short work of a tame squirrel.

He is quite smart and quickly learned the routine. I taught him to drink baby formula from a dish. Although he was very shy and preferred to stay tucked away in his washcloth nest, he would wax brave and assertive when it was time to eat. When rousted, he would run around in my hands, sniffing and nuzzling in an attempt to nurse. Once I got him used to drinking from the dish, he would go straight to it and excitedly lap up the formula. As soon as he was finished, he would try to snuggle up in my hand or his washcloth, where he would begin bathing himself until he was all clean. How adorable it was to watch him rub his tiny little paws over his face, pushing his ears forward and fluffing up his fur.

Next, I had to help him go to the bathroom with a damp piece of tissue. He was still so young that he hadn’t learned to go on his own, yet. What a way to start a life! After this routine he always went to sleep. Many times I watched him doze off in my palm as I marveled at how tiny, soft and delicate he was.


OK, I hope you don’t hate me for the fib I have told you. Just like “Little Sweetie” washed up after every meal, it’s time for me to come clean.

AJ did discover this baby rodent on the brink of starvation. I did rescue the helpless creature and nurse it back to health. And the description is accurate, except for one detail:

Little Sweetie has a secret…


He’s a baby rat!


Does the fact that he has a bald tail make him any less endearing? I don’t think so. After all, a squirrel is just a bushy tailed rat with good PR.

When AJ told me he had found a “mouse” trapped in a bus tub in the stock room of one of our accounts I knew that I would be the one to rescue it. I truly expected to find a healthy mouse and release it out by the dumpster. Although I worked in pest control, and am responsible for putting contracts on the lives of many rodents, I still don’t have the heart to take their lives. My philosophy is to make your place impenetrable to creatures and deny them the opportunity to enter. AJ’s philosophy is “It’s a frickin rat!”, only he didn’t use the nice version of the word. He has since vowed to stop bringing creatures to my attention. This is one promise I hope he breaks.

When I found this little guy stretched out in the bottom of a bus tub I knew there was no way I could sentence him to death. He must have been trapped for days and seemed to have given up all hope of escaping. He put up no resistance when I picked him up and actually looked at me with such pathetic eyes that I had no choice but to help him. Although he was the size of a mouse, I knew that he was actually a baby rat. I’m fairly certain that he is a Roof Rat (Rattus rattus), also know as Tree Rat, Ship Rat, Brown Rat or Black Rat.

The sleek agile Roof Rats and their chunky, slower cousins the Norway Rats are both commensal rodents; meaning that they have evolved to live alongside humans. Although they can carry disease, smell bad and can be quite destructive, I can’t help but admire them for their intelligence and ingenuity. Lab rats or “Fancy Rats” (bred as pets) are actually the same species as the Norway Rats which cause such a nuisance when they make their way into your home uninvited.  But rats also serve a valuable purpose to the human race. Think of the millions of lives saved by these creatures and their service in medical testing. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Roof Rats are quite capable of surviving in nature, and since they are well established and are not going away any time soon, I plan to release Little Sweetie once he is big enough to live on his own. Perhaps he will make it, perhaps he won’t, but at least I can sleep easy knowing that he didn’t die a long and miserable death trapped in a plastic tub.

“Little Sweetie” washing up.


For now, he is staying with Jessica at Angel Rats Rescue in Palm Bay. I was fortunate to find her nearby and willing to take responsibility for him until he grows up.

Jessica Botts (founder of Angel Rats Rescue) is devoted to rescuing rats and other creatures. She provides them with clean, ample accommodations where they get plenty of socialization and handling. I am certain that my tiny friend is in good hands and look forward to the day when I can pick him up and release him with more of his own kind. Don’t worry…I won’t let him go near your house:)

Follow Up:

I have been in contact with Jessica, and she has decided to keep him as a permanent resident. She has named him “Jack”.  I’ve since heard some good news that roof rats can make very fine pets. I look forward to watching his progress.

Also, if you are a fan of domestic rats or have a rat question check out RatFanClub at yahoo groups.

Follow Up #2:

Jack is a girl!