Yes, I have a pet chipmunk. And here’s a little info about him, because when I search on line there is very little information about chipmunks as pets. There’s probably a lot of reasons for this, and I’ll get into that later.
Artie and Petunia (named after characters from The Adventures of Pete & Pete) were two little baby chipmunks my mother found in a nest in her shed. While cleaning, she accidentally disturbed the nest and more or less made the mother chipmunk frightened about returning to retrieve her little ones. She called me up, not knowing what to do about them, and asked me to take care of them. I was putting on my shoes as soon as she said the words “baby chipmunk.”
Artie and Petunia were about three weeks old when we got them, no eyes or ears opened, just cute little stripped babies who needed puppy milk formula every few hours. At the age of 24 my “mommy instincts” are developing in my senses and I was delighted to have them to take care of.
Our first intention was to raise them to release them, but anyone who’s spent any time with these little guys would quickly see why we’re so enamored with our little chipmunks. After probably a week of raising them, I was set on keeping them. Keeping a chipmunk is illegal in most states. If you want a chipmunk for a pet, make sure you understand your local laws, even if you plan on being like Mr. Thoreau and playing civil disobedience, you have to understand that if animal control catches you, you could get into serious legal trouble, not to mention they could confiscate and euthenize your precious chippy, so beware!
That being said, I can see some logic behind having even chipmunks classified as “illegal” wild animal pets because of the care involved in them. If you think it’s like having a hamster, you better get a hamster. Chipmunks have so much energy that they need a huge cage, Chris built us one that’s about 4X3X2. This is the absolute minimum you should have for a chipmunk, and even still, we take Artie out for hours a day, every day.
In a lot of ways though, chipmunks are a fantastic pet, and the only reason there is any “illegal” classification for them is because they’re wild and people in general don’t know how to take care of wild animals. When we got Artie and Petunia, we noticed that Petunia was smaller, but we just thought that was because she was a girl. Over maybe two weeks of having her, she barely grew at all. While Artie’s eyes were opening, she was barely growing. One day she got away from the heater in their cage and was so cold she wouldn’t eat and later she died. I always blame myself for this, that if I knew what she needed better maybe we could have nursed her enough to survive. This is a good reason why the general public should be discouraged from caring for wild animals, whether they need help or not, it’s hard to say what’s best for them if you’re not an expert.
I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “gee, I feel really guilty for all the chipmunks I ran over with my car!” As well you should! Tsk, tsk! But killing chipmunks with your car or even with a bb gun like my mom’s creepy neighbor, is that any different to the government agencies looking over wildlife? Yeah, it is. In the eyes of the law, having a chipmunk for a pet is mysteriously illegal. I mostly say mysteriously because searches on relevant laws are difficult, and in my opinion at least, not reasonably available for most of the public.
Artie is a California Chipmunk, a species which has disappointingly little information available. Chipmunks in general seem to have very little information on them, and with this blog I intend to provide what information I can about this species just from my observation with Artie. The most noticeable difference between California Chipmunks and the more prevalent Eastern Chipmunk is the coloration patterns. Artie definitely blends in better with Wrightwood’s pelona schist (which composes this mountain range, and also has little information floating around on the web). He’s a pretty grey with brown and burnt sienna, with dark brown and white stripes.
Artie is without a doubt, the coolest pet I have ever had.
Cats are nice and independent, and a lot of fun as kittens, and Artie plays exactly like a kitten does. You make little sounds and wiggle your fingers and he knows it means “play time” and comes and gently attacks your fingers! And just like a greedy puppy, you can play tug-of-war with his treats! You can even call him and he will come. When I walk around the room when he’s out with me, he follows me, and climbs up my pants to perch on my shoulder! If you’re too rough, he makes a cute little chirp like a little bird to warn you, he never bites to hurt you, only when he’s playing, and only very gently. He even understands the concept of not climbing on faces, and I’ve seen him do some clever mid-air acrobatics to avoid landing on my face when he was playing with me.
I have no idea why chipmunks weren’t domesticated over hamsters. They are far superior. They’re also very smart, and I know when Artie’s running around that he won’t do anything terribly stupid.
I have a lot of videos of him, too, I’ll have to sort through and edit, but hopefully you liked my little chipmunk gallery and my rants about chipmunk laws and their suitability as pets.
Of course, as I was writing this blog, I let my little Artie run around, and something terrible happened! He got caught somehow and broke off almost half his pretty little tail! I’m so upset I can’t even finish this post how I wanted to. Just a good example of how hard it is to take good care of these little guys! They’re so delicate and get themselves into trouble before you can even see what’s happening to help! My poor little Artie…
And here’s another disadvantage, most vets won’t care for anything but cats & dogs more or less. Birds, lizards, small mammals are all considered “exotic” and need a special vet. Don’t even bother trying to come up with excuses if you take a chipmunk to a vet, I don’t even know what they would say. As long as Artie keeps acting like his usual self, I suppose I don’t have to take him to the vet, but I might have to find somebody who will understand a chipmunk’s needs!