Groundhogs can be extremely cuddly adorable little creatures to look at, but do they make good pets? This PetPonder article has got the lowdown on whether it is wise to keep groundhogs as pets.
Groundhog Day is celebrated on the 2nd of February every year. According to folklore, if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day; it signifies the arrival of spring. If, however, the groundhog retreats back to its burrow; it signifies the delay of spring by another six weeks.
Who can resist those large black expressive eyes looking at you? We know, we can’t! Groundhogs are fury, absolutely cuddly little beings that are just cuteness overload. They are also known as woodchucks or whistling pigs. They are the largest members of the squirrel family and live for 9-14 years. While their cousins usually dwell in rocky mountain areas, these prefer to live in low lying regions. They are widely distributed in America and can be found all the way from Alaska to Georgia.
Ideally, they live in burrows and hibernate during the winter season. They reproduce once a year, usually from March to April. Don’t let the appearance of these fat little fur balls fool you; they are active swimmers and can climb trees very well.
Can You have a Groundhog as a Pet?
We know they are utterly adorable but, before you choose to adopt a groundhog as a pet, there are a few things that you should seriously consider. Groundhogs belong to the wild, getting them home means that you remove them from their natural surroundings. Taking care of these busy animals can be a very demanding task, and once a groundhog becomes dependent on its owners, it cannot survive on its own in the wild.
If you’re pondering upon getting one of these home, here are some points that you should take into account.
Should you consider keeping them outdoors?
✦ They are the largest member of the squirrel family. Males are usually larger than females. They are about 40-65 cm in length and can weigh up to 9 lb, with their tail being only about one-fourth the size of their body.
✦ You cannot keep them confined to a small cage. It is essential for their survival that you provide them with enough space to move around and explore.
✦ Groundhogs love to chew on everything! So if they are in your house, you can say goodbye to you furniture and carpets. If that wasn’t enough, they sometimes can chew through dry wall! This can not only a cause an unnecessary ruckus, but is also unsafe for the animal as it may chew on a wire and get electrocuted.
✦ Their nails grow continuously and at a much greater speed than ours; in order to keep them trimmed, groundhogs have to keep digging and scratching on things.
✦ So, you will need a large and secure open space to house these animals.
What are their feeding habits?
✦ They are voracious eaters. All they do is eat, dig, and eat some more. These are mostly herbaceous animals and happily munch on nuts, grass, fruits, and vegetables. They also eat small insects and other small animals occasionally.
✦ You can also feed them rabbit food, if it makes your life any easy!
✦ If you have a garden that you love very much, it is probably advisable that you place your pet enclosure away from it.
How is their temperament?
✦ Groundhogs will attack if they feel threatened. If you have had hamsters in the past, you’re probably used to them biting you fingers (not really, it hurts every time!). Groundhogs are no exceptions; if they’re scared, they bite. It is therefore important for you to provide a safe and secure environment for them.
✦ They may not be very friendly to children but, then again, it depends on how well you train your pet.
How are groundhogs with other pets?
✦ Usually, groundhogs are not threatened by pet cats and can live with each other in harmony.
✦ The story is quite different when it comes to dogs. It can be safe to say that they don’t like each others company very much. A dog and adult groundhog can attack each other and may cause some serious injury in the process. However, if you have a very gentle dog and are raising a baby groundhog, they just might get along.
What other things should you consider?
✦ In most states, it is illegal to domesticate, sell, or barter a groundhog. In order to have a pet groundhog, special permits and licenses are required.
✦ You may find it difficult to find a veterinarian for your pet as most of them have no knowledge about treating groundhogs. It will also need a rabies shot every year.
✦ Groundhogs hibernate during winter, from November to March. During this period, you need to provide them with a hibernating cage in a cool and quiet place.
Only if you are absolutely willing to adopt a groundhog, have prior experience with many other animals, and have the proper infrastructure to house the animal, should you get it home. Just like other animals, if groundhogs are trained well, they can turn out to be extremely affectionate and playful little companions.