Flying Squirrels as Pets

The small Southern flying squirrel has been growing in popularity among small animal lovers, but there are important things to consider before bringing one home.
Just one look at an adorable Southern flying squirrel, Glaucomys volans, will have many people declaring love at first site, and with their large dark eyes, soft silky gray fur and amazing ability to bond with an owner, it’s no wonder they’re becoming so popular in the pet trade. But before rushing out to buy one, take note: Southern flying squirrels require a commitment to care and in some states may be illegal to own.

The Southern flying squirrel, or SFS, is the smallest of the North American flying squirrels weighing in at only 4 oz. They grow to be about 8-10 inches in length, live upwards of thirteen years and are nocturnal. Their nocturnal nature is just one thing to consider before choosing a SFS as a pet as they will be awake when most people are sleeping, and in the case of the SFS it is very important to spend time with them in order to keep them properly socialized and prevent melancholy.

What do Flying Squirrels Eat ?

Like many rodents, flying squirrels eat a variety of foods. Nuts, seeds, parrot biscuits, fruits, vegetables, mealworms, lichens, fungi, and other treats are given together along with the extremely important calcium supplement to create a complete diet for a squirrel. Many owners feed a base diet of a parrot seed mixture which has different sunflower seeds, pellets, pumpkin seeds and other sources of protein. An assortment of fruits and vegetables in moderation, healthy cereals, and parrot or monkey biscuits rounds out the nutritional requirements of a squirrel with the calcium addition. Brisky Pet Products also makes a nice formulated diet.

Bonding with Flyers

Perhaps the most unique feature of Flying Squirrels is their ability to strongly bond to humans. The Southern Flying Squirrel has absolutely no problem bonding with its owners if the proper steps are taken at a young age. If this creature is pulled by the breeder before ten weeks, and carried around in the shirt pocket or kept in a bonding pouch or shirt for a few hours a day for several weeks, an indestructible bond will assuredly form. This bond will transfer to the new owner. Most hobby breeders pull pups at 5 or 6 weeks to begin working with them. With time and patience, even an older flyer can develop a bond to its owner, once a mutual trust has been established.

They absolutely love to travel in one’s pocket, bra or bonding pouch for hours … all day if you’d let them. During this crucial time of the bonding period, the squirrel will learn the voice, heartbeat, body odor, and warmth of its owner and will look for these things in later years as a sense of security. It is also important to pet them during this time. Many people prefer skin-to-skin contact by placing the pup inside the shirt rather than using a pouch.

Once these creatures have sufficiently bonded, they become quite sociable and will often want to play on or very near their owner, even going as far as racing through the clothes of their owners, dodging through shirts, shirt pockets, leaping from shoulder to shoulder, and sometimes scrambling onto their heads to play with and inevitably mess up the hair.

Housing Flying Squirrels

For housing, the minimum size wire habitat for one Flying Squirrel should be 18″ x 18″ x 24″ tall with a wire spacing maximum of 1/2.” Bigger and taller is better. A nest box measuring 5″ x 5″ x 5″ with a removable or hinged top, should be provided to give it a dark place to sleep. A wren box does well. The nest box should be furnished with cotton, wood shavings (NOT cedar), or grass hay for bedding.
The cage should have a cuttlebone or calcium block, brown salt/mineral spool, mineral block (an excellent source is Hagen Mineral Beak Block which comes in the shape of an acorn), water bottle, running wheel, some perches are needed, tree branches are best for climbing and gnawing.

(Cleaning logs, branches and wooden items: Soak in 1/2 tsp. dawn added to 1/2 cup bleach and 5 gal. hot water. Then rinse under water for 5 minutes and let them air dry outside.)

More nest boxes than squirrels. One nest box up at the top of the cage and one at the bottom. A couple of shelves or places to sit at different levels is a good idea, also. Any natural fiber rope makes a good toy as does a dry corn cob. Sweat shirt sleeves hung up or some toddler size bib overalls seem to be liked.

Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomysvolans)
Total length: 198-255 mm (7.7-10”)
Weight: 46-85 g
Dorsal color: grayish-buff, may have some golden tint
Underparts: white to skin
Often have two litters per year, breeding season varies with latitude. Average litter size 3, ranging from 1-6
Gestation: 40 days
Babies born blind, mostly hairless except for the vibrissae and short hairs on snout and chin, ears sealed shut.
Birth weight: 4 g
Born with patagium
Ears become erect between 2 and 6 days of age.
Hair visible over most of body at 7 days
Eyes open: 24-30 days
Weaning: 5-7 weeks, approximate weight 43g. Resemble miniature adults.
Young begin to molt to first adult pledge at 12 weeks
At 12 weeks still usually with mother and may stay with her until she has another litter.
Life span in the wild: 5-6 years