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Squirrels Used to Be One of the Most Popular Pets in America

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Believe it or not, there was a period in American history when squirrels were more than friendly, furry creatures to fawn over.

In fact, Americans had a much closer relationship with squirrels than they do today.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

In fact, at one point, squirrels were one of the most popular pets in America. Of course, this took place hundreds of years ago long before dogs and cats took over the Internet and social media.

Photo Credit: Internet Archive

Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, squirrels were common household pets that even Benjamin Franklin once referenced.

Because of how easy they were to manage, squirrels rose in popularity during the 1700s. You could easily have walked by a market and purchased one right there.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Surprisingly, wealthier families loved gifting them to their children. While we take #selfies with our furry friends today, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find a portrait in a family home of a child with his or her squirrel.

While most pet squirrels were of the American Grey variety, both Red Squirrels and Flying Squirrels also became popular.

Raising these typically wild critters as pets involved many different ideas about the best practices. Jane Loudon advised that squirrels be provided “a tin-lined cage that has a running wheel.” Leisure Hour Monthly featured some advice in 1859 that suggested feeding your squirrel “a fig our a date now and then.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The pet shop business also took off due in large part to squirrels. Though it still had a long way to go, the industry generates about $70 billion today.

Of course, people eventually realized that squirrels simply do better in the wild. By the 20th century, states started adopting exotic pet laws that prohibited keeping squirrels at home. I guess dogs and cats really are meant to be our best friends after all.

Have you ever had a pet squirrel? If so, what was that experience like? Tell us about all your pets and their funniest moments in the comments below.