Keeping pet chipmunks in the UK

 

Chipmunk Safety

Letting your chipmunk out on free range is a must if you own one and it's kept it indoors. It's the fastest way to tame a chipmunk, unless your aviary is big enough for you to go inside it. I hope as many chipmunk owners as possible get to read this page, as it's intended to point out some of the dangers around the home. Some of the sections in this safety page might seem obvious, but if it can prevent your pet chipmunk meeting an early end or serious injury, it's been worth it.

All of the things listed here have been based on real events told to me by other chipmunk owners, or to myself.

You

Yes, I'm afraid it's true, you are probably the biggest danger to your pet chipmunk. We are huge, they are tiny by comparison, and they move fast. Accidentally stepping on them is a real threat, as no matter how well you know your pet, they can still surprise you with sudden movements. Sorry if this is an obvious one, but I know of owners who have had their pet chipmunk stepped on. Most of the stories have been when someone else, not used to chipmunks has been looking after them.

I never wear shoes in the house when the chipmunks are out, and if I don't know where one is, I will just slide my feet along. I have had one near miss in the six or so years I've been looking after them. Only because I kept my movements slow, and had socks on was I able to avoid a disaster.

Cushions and other soft furnishings.

Chipmunks love to hide nuts and seeds everywhere, and will often be seen shoving them under cushions, carpet edges, and throws. I heard of one which had gone to sleep under a cushion, which was sadly killed by its owner sitting on it. If you have a common type of sofa they can easily get right inside the body of the sofa so be very careful of this.

Shoes, boots and slippers.

Always check these by gently putting your hand in, before putting shoes on. Chipmunks love them, and if you check first, all you should find is a stash of seeds and nuts. Worth doing, as I myself have found a chipmunk in my bike boots I didn't know was there.

Hot drinks.

I love having large mugs of tea, but if I'm in the same room as my chipmunks, I always make sure it has cooled down. Chipmunks know if something is hot or not, but they move so fast, a few of mine have ended up in my mug of tea. No harm done, as the temperature has never been that hot. But be aware it can happen, so no hot drinks. Incidentally, some of my chipmunks quite like a drink of tea, and will hang upside down from the edge of mug to take a few sips.

Open toilets

If your chipmunk can get to the bathroom, get in to the habit of always keeping the lid of the toilet down. A true story relayed to me was of a friend who had someone in to look after his pet whilst in hospital. The person looking after his chipmunk was distracted on the telephone, whilst his pet drowned in the toilet. They cannot get out of a toilet, and although they can swim, they will soon drown.

Paper shredders.

Most paper shredders have an automatic sensor to detect when a bit of paper is in the slot, then start shredding. I know of one chipmunk losing its leg in a paper shredder. So don't have your paper shredder in the same room.

Open windows, and fire places.

Really obvious one this, but there are lots of stories of chipmunks escaping through open windows. I've got an open fireplace, and although it's sealed up, my chipmunks constantly investigate it. Even a high window just opened a little at the top is a danger. They are excellent climbers, and can easily mange vertical surfaces.

Plastic bags

I've read of one chipmunk suffocating in a plastic bag. I was surprised at this as I thought it would have been able to bite it's way out, but apparently this happened to one owner.

Vacuum cleaners

Never vacuum when the chipmunks are out. Mine have become used to the sound of the vacuum now, and show no fear. I can only vacuum when they are all safely in their nests in the evening. The nearest problem I had with vacuums was when Sue jumped in to the dust collector as I was emptying the contests. Poor thing had to spend ages cleaning herself afterwards.

Cats

Many a chipmunk has met their end at the paws and teeth of a cat. The two do not mix.

Old socks

I used to hang up old socks for mine to play in but not now. When chipmunks are very young their nails seems to get stuck in all sorts of fluffy surfaces, like socks and towels. Luckily I was present when I noticed one of the babies could not get back out of a hanging sock she had gone in. Her back leg claw was hooked up in the material, so she had to be freed by me.

Electric cables

Chipmunks don't normally chew on electric cables, but they will if the cable is in their way. I came home to find my TV was not working. When checking behind the TV reaching for the plug, I got an electric shock. My chipmunk Coby had chewed through the live flex, but survived somehow. I rushed out and bought RCD devices for all sockets, and cable protectors. Since then I have only had computer and telephone cables severed. I don't know if the RCD's will help a chipmunk, probably not, but it might.

Chocolate

Never give your chipmunk any chocolate or leave it lying around the place. Famous example, Elizabeth Taylor once left an Easter egg in her room which her pet chipmunk eat half of, then died.

Elastic bands

I've added this one as one of my female chipmunks came and sat next to me with three elastic bands around her body. Luckily she is one of my chipmunks which I can hold, so I was able to roll one band off, but the other two I had to cut off.

Plants

Many common house plants can be toxic or worse if eaten by a chipmunk. Chipmunks do not always have the built in knowledge to know which plants are bad for them, and which are OK. I am building another webpage to list all of the plants I can find that can hurt a chipmunk, there are some surprising plants on the list like daffodils for example.