Nocturnal Pets: Do They Have a Special Need for Vitamins and Calcium Supplements?

Flying squirrels and ground squirrels belong to the same family, Sciuridae.

Yes, they look the same except for the patagium of the flying squirrel — the furry membrane or loose flap of skin that’s attached at this animal’s forelimb down to its ankle. These patagia enable a flying squirrel to glide from 150 to 500 feet, seeming to fly from tree to tree at night.

Photo: YouTube/Nat Geo WILD

What’s more, a flying squirrel can make a 180-degree turn in a single flight by twisting its limbs and using its tail as a rudder. These abilities help the flying squirrel to avoid predators and to travel great distances.

But it was also this special feature of the flying squirrels that was why these nocturnal animals became popular pets during the era of Colonial America. Although 90% of flying squirrel species are found in Asia, there are three flying squirrel species native to the Americas: northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans), and Humboldt’s flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis).

Photo: YouTube/Nat Geo WILD

People would steal young flying squirrels from their nests, tame them, then sell them as pets. These animals were treated like dogs with collars and leashes as their owners took them for walks.

But today, people who keep flying squirrels as pets provide them with appropriate care. In fact, this woman who wrote about her pet in PetHelpful’s Ask a Vet section wants to find out how to keep her flying squirrel in good health.

Barbie provided the following details: “I have a flying squirrel and give him deer antlers, cuttlebone, and portobello mushrooms daily. I am worried there might not be enough calcium, as I don’t see him eating any. Is there a vitamin and calcium supplement you recommend for a nocturnal animal?”

Photo: YouTube/Nat Geo WILD

Mark dos Anjos DVM responded with the following facts: “Most flying squirrels that have a healthy diet are able to get all of the vitamins they need from their food and do not need supplementation. Field observations of these animals reveal that they have a varied omnivorous diet in the wild. It sounds like you are trying to give your pet a natural diet, and a natural diet that includes insects and other fresh foods will meet all of his requirements. Multivitamin supplements available on Amazon are formulated for regular squirrels but are as close as you can find.”

But Dr. dos Anjos also pointed out that if Barbie keeps her flying squirrel indoors all the time, her pet may need vitamin supplementation with vitamin D. Yet, it’s still best if her pet can get regular exposure to the sun.

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