You may see these adorable creatures in your garden or in the wild, but their tiny structure can bring up some confusion. So, what are squirrels? Are squirrels rodents?
What are Squirrels?
Despite looking a lot bigger than most rodents, squirrels are actually rodents themselves. The family of squirrels includes many different squirrel species, and they are all rodents.
Squirrels are seen by some as pests due to their habit of stealing bird food and disrupting your garden whilst to some they are just adorable, fuzzy rodents that you may see in a tree.
Are Rodents Mammals?
It is more common than you might think for people to separate rodents and mammals. But actually, rodents are a family in the class of mammals. This means that squirrels are both rodents and mammals.
In fact, in the mammalian class, about 40% of the classified species are rodents. Many of these rodents include beloved pets such as Guinea pigs and hamsters.
Can You Keep Squirrels as a Pet?
There are many areas in which keeping a squirrel as a pet is illegal and even in the small number of areas where it is legal, it is not a good idea. Squirrels can survive for up to ten years in captivity and have done so if they are unable to be released into the wild.
However, keeping a squirrel means that you require it to have constant supervision and its claws and teeth are very sharp.
They cannot be tamed like other pets as they have not been domesticated and you will have to find a vet who is specialised in exotic or wild animals. So, no, you should not keep one as a pet.
Are All Species of Squirrel Rodents?
There are many different branches of squirrels spanning throughout the world, over 200 species in fact. And every single one of them is a rodent.
Most people may only be thinking about the tree squirrels with big bushy tails that try to steal your bird feed, but this includes ground squirrels as well.
Ground squirrels are much more closely related to prairie dogs than fluffy rodents like hamsters. But even these ground squirrel species are classified as rodents.
What is a Rodent?
There are certain elements of an animal that makes them classified as a rodent and squirrels have all of these defining features. The main feature of a rodent is their teeth.
They are distinct in that they have a set of incisors at the front of both their upper and lower jaws which continually grow throughout their life. These teeth are used for different things, some rodents use them for food whilst others used their sharp teeth to excavate burrows or hiding space.
But regardless of their use, all rodents have them.
Whilst this is not a universal characteristic of rodents, most species have a similar body structure. This body structure is one of short limbs, a stocky body and a long tail, all of which are characteristics that squirrels have.
Do Squirrels Do Anything Positive?
Despite the problems that may occur due to squirrels, there are benefits to them.
Squirrels eat seeds, which may seem problematic, but it can actually be quite helpful. They eat the seeds off of large trees and prevent them from being planted and growing.
This means that there will be no saplings to compete with the growing plants in your garden, meaning that the plants you want to grow will do so more successfully. It also prevents you from having to uproot any of these unwanted saplings in the future.
To summarise what we’ve learnt about squirrels, they are in fact rodents. All rodent species are part of the mammal classification and all squirrel species are rodents.
Rodents are categorised by their two sets of continually growing incisors. These incisors can be used for food or for excavating habitats. Squirrels and other rodents can cause damage in your garden by digging up your lawn and eating fruits and seeds that you grow.
However, they do eat tree seeds and can prevent unwanted saplings from growing throughout your garden.