If you take a walk down to your local coffee shop and ask what pets people have the responses will include several cats, a dog or two, a couple of hamsters and maybe a goldfish. While you could easily go down to your local pet shop and be in the same boat, having an interesting pet at home is a definite conversation starter. Possibly not at the same coffee shop… if you keep walking in and talking to people solely about animals people may start to give you odd looks.
A chipmunk is a common sight in some parts of the world. More commonly seen in parts of America and Canada but can also be found around Europe and Russia. Chipmunks are considered ‘ground living squirrels.’ While they do spend most of their time on the ground they are apt climbers and also dig complicated tunnel structures below ground.
They exist in a variety of species with varying colours and markings and are generally around 20-25cm long, almost a half of which is its tail.
A chipmunk will never become truly ‘tame’ such as a dog will. It will not respond to its name and will generally dislike being picked up. It is not by nature an aggressive animal and will not bite unless threatened. I myself have had a female albino chipmunk for over six months now and have not once been bitten.
They require fresh water and food to be available and ideally a fair amount of space. For a chipmunk to be happy it requires as much space as possible. They enjoy running at high speeds and will spend most of their time doing so. Some people build outdoor enclosures for them or devote entire rooms to them. This is ideal but not entirely necessary. As long as you give them a cage large enough they can be happy to live within it. You can of course let them out of the cage, just be sure to seal off escape paths such as windows and open doorways. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on them especially if there are wires around.
Chipmunks are solitary animals. They need their own space and will stress out if they do not have it. Given enough space they are able to live with other chipmunks. They will most likely ignore one another for the most part but it is ill advised to keep them with any other animals. If you have another animal, such as a gerbil or hamster, you need to keep them separately.
While they do not answer to your name they are highly curious and entertaining animals. After they initially get used to you they will happily climb or sit on you. I let my chipmunk wander around my living room most days and she spends a portion of that time perched on my shoulder or head enjoying the view.
They will poke, sniff and explore everything in their surroundings. From rolling an empty bottle across the floor to perching on top of the curtain frame, they really will get into everything and can be very entertaining while doing so.
The initial cost of a chipmunk is lower than that of a dog but higher than that of a hamster. Their cages need to be slightly larger and since the animal itself is rarer in some parts of the world they are usually more expensive. The food, bedding and occasional toy are incredibly cheap so their upkeep cost is pretty negligible.
Chipmunks take a lot of time to clean themselves and are considered a lot cleaner than most other rodent pets. Opinion does seem to be divided on whether they make good pets for children however. On one hand they are relatively low maintenance and rarely bite, on the other hand they are the kind of pet a child can easily want one moment and forget the next. They are also not keen on being picked up and to most children the ability to touch seems paramount. If you are sure your child is responsible enough and you are willing to take over the work then they might make an ideal pet. Remember that training a chipmunk is not like learning how to potty train a puppy.
Like any pet, a chipmunk happily munching a nut on your desktop while you work can be a bit of company on a quiet night. With the economic problems we are facing the low cost and relatively low maintenance make them ideal if you’re looking to get the most from a pet with the least exertion.
As with any pet, I strongly advise you to do more research before heading for the pet shop. They are highly rewarding animals to have but only if you have the time to care for them. There is an abundance of online resources and printed books you can read. There are internet forums and possibly friends you can talk to about their experiences with keeping a chipmunk.
With a chipmunk for a pet you are less likely to be a hands on owner and more likely to end up a friendly climbing frame. To be connected with these wonderful animals though? I’m happy with that.