With the right care, a chipmunk can give you many years of companionship and entertainment. His basic needs are similar to that of any other pet -- a safe place to live, nutritious food and plenty of exercise. In addition, he needs toys that he can chew on to maintain his dental health.
A large wire cage is the safest place for your chipmunk, where he has plenty of space to climb and play. An adult chipmunk needs a cage or enclosure that is at least four feet wide and deep by two feet high; however, bigger is always better. His home should include a nest box that's at least 12 inches long and 12 inches wide -- he'll use it to stash food, and he'll hide there when he needs some alone time. Use shredded paper or wood chips as bedding on the bottom of the cage and add branches that he can use for climbing and hiding.
Since your chipmunk is an omnivore, you can feed him a wide variety of foods, but you need to make sure he's getting a balanced diet. Commercial rodent diets should be blended with other food items, including nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables. An ideal mixture is approximately 50 percent nuts and seeds, 35 percent vegetables and fruits, and 15 percent commercial rodent food. Suitable nuts and seeds include peanuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts and pecans. Crack open hard nuts, but leave the shells in the mix since your chipmunk will enjoy chewing on them. Vegetable and fruit choices might include broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, spinach, apples, peaches, grapes, oranges, bananas and plums.
Baby chipmunks should be fed puppy milk replacement for the first five weeks and then gradually transitioned to adult food between five and eight weeks.
Your chipmunk is a naturally active animal and needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Adding and rearranging branches in his cage frequently encourage him to climb and explore, but toys can also help satisfy his need for activity. Pine cones make excellent toys that he can also chew on, and bird toys designed to stand up to the tough beaks of large birds can provide your chipmunk hours of safe entertainment. Some chipmunks may enjoy large exercise wheels, such as those designed for rats or guinea pigs.
Throughout his entire life your chipmunk's teeth will keep growing, which means that his desire to chew isn't just for entertainment, but also for his health. In addition to branches, give him pine cones, mineral or cuttle stones, wooden bird toys or dried corn cobs. You can also purchase a piece of untreated lumber and cut it into small blocks to give to your chipmunk as needed. Make sure that anything you give him that you collected from the outdoors was not been sprayed with pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals.
Owning a chipmunk is a different experience than having a pet that has been completely domesticated. In some places it's illegal to own a chipmunk, in others a permit is required. Also, some regulations make a distinction between keeping a chipmunk captured from the wild and one that was bred in captivity. Check with your local animal control office if you are unsure about the laws in your area.
A chipmunk is not a suitable pet for young children or if you want an animal you can hold and cuddle. Most chipmunks do not like to be handled and don't form close bonds with humans. A chipmunk outside of his cage or enclosure can be very destructive, chewing on cords, furniture and other valuable items. Also, veterinary care can be expensive and difficult to find.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images