Squirrels are cute animals that interact with each other through different activities. They often groom and fight with each other, especially the male specie, and chase each other for mating and playing together.
Do Squirrels Groom Each Other? Squirrels groom each other to clean the young ones and their siblings, to show affection, as a sign to mate, stay warm in cold weather, and remove tiny bugs. They do this by licking or scratching their back, and they groom themselves by bathing in dust or sand.
Grooming is often mistaken for fighting, as they scratch and lick each other. They are considered clever animals because they store food and remain active all day, jumping from branch to branch in the backyard.
Why do squirrels groom each other?
These small animals groom each other by scratching, licking, and gnawing for the following reasons.
Clean the young ones and siblings
One of the primary purposes of grooming the young ones and the siblings is to clean them, as the young squirrels cannot take care of themselves.
The old family members clean the fur of the young ones by licking and gnawing it to keep them neat and well-to-do. Some squirrels take dust baths like cats and rabbits to remove the body oil and keep the fur silky and clean.
Cleanliness is essential for every living organism because bacteria, parasites, and germs can cause many health problems.
They are friendly animals, as they care for their family members and other species.
In addition, they show affection towards each other by grooming, spending time, and playing with other squirrels, which also shows their love for each other.
They often make physical contact, such as patting other young squirrels to show affection and groom them. In addition, they touch their nose, tail, and fur while playing and jumping from trees.
They interact with other species affectionately and protect them from predators. For example, pet squirrels often start grooming your nose, face, and ears to show affection when attached to the owner.
Mutual understanding and care is the main reason for their survival, as they do not kill each other and is intrinsic behavior in their social communication.
A sign of breeding or mate
Research showed that male and female squirrels groom each other, which is a sign of mating or breeding.
They chase each other to mate and reproduce, and the process starts by grooming the opposite gender.
They groom each other before and after mating. Sometimes they become aggressive, which shows they are ready to mate.
The male squirrel chases the female, and they mate when the female allows the selected male to mate.
The winning male protects the female from others and chases it everywhere, which shows love and protection.
To Stay warm in winter
These cute creature works intelligently and often groom the other squirrel to stay warm, especially in winter.
As a result, they get warmth from each other’s bodies and maintain their body temperature in too-cold weather.
I observed their behavior in my backyard and was surprised to see that they were grooming the back, nose, and face of other squirrels. They cuddle to stay warm and stay close to each other in their nest.
The grey squirrels keep their body temperature in winter by shivering. It sounds funny, but it is true that they generate heat in their bodies by shivering in cold weather.
They shiver and stay close to each other in winter, which creates enough temperature to thrive and survive during this season.
Share the scent to identify each other
Another reason for these rodents to groom is that they share the scent with another family member, which makes it easy to identify the family member.
They can easily recognize their siblings and family members by the scent they share when grooming each other, as they have a keen nose to smell the scent.
They greet each other when they meet and have scent glands near the mouth. They identify other species by sniffing the oral glands, as they mark the territory using these oral scent glands.
It can cause them to whiff and identify whether the other squirrel is related to them by the smell given off by the scent glands and their body.
To remove tiny bugs before going into the nest
They can carry different bugs, such as fleas, mites, ticks, and other tiny pests. They can drop these pests in different places when living in home proximity and cause infestation if you do not notice the bugs in the start.
The tree squirrels can have different parasites, and they spread diseases. The tiny fleas and ticks can bite humans and other pets in the house and spread germs and diseases.
They do this to remove the tiny bugs from themselves and other family members before going to the nest at night. Research showed that they groom each other for 15-20 minutes before going to the nest.
That is why you often find them gnawing and licking each other on the tree branches in the evening before moving toward their living spaces.
How do squirrels groom themselves?
They groom themselves and other squirrels like the cats and dogs do by scratching and licking the face, nose, back, and tail of other squirrels.
They often take dust bathing in dry soil with a powdery texture to fluff their fur, as the dust bath is a popular bathing source.
They roll down into the dust or sand and shake their body to remove the excessive sand before returning to their nest and other activities.
The coarse sand is a great way to get rid of parasites, as they rub themselves in the sand and remove the loose hair. The scratching also causes them to remove the itchy spots and get the relief to carry out their daily routine activities.
The loose hair and fur get off the body, which allows the new hair to grow and keep the body covered. These furs or hair keep their body warm but cause the tiny bugs to hide there.
You often put talcum powder in your hair when they get oily if you do not have enough time to shower and have to attend a lunch or meeting. Squirrels use this same technique to get rid of oil in their fur.
They often look weak or skinny because the oil in the fur makes them stick with the body and lose the fluffiness. They play in the sand to remove the excessive oil from the hair and keep it fluffy and clean.
They do not usually like to have water bathe in the rain, as they prefer to have a dust bath because a dust bath is more beneficial for these animals.
Can you groom or bathe a squirrel?
It is not recommended to bathe a squirrel, as they are wild animals and can groom each other and themselves to maintain cleanliness.
They do not depend on humans for cleanliness as they can get stressed or become frightened if humans bathe these animals.
They can react instantly and can bite or scratch your hand. Therefore, it is better to consult a wildlife rehabilitator to maintain their cleanliness because they have better experience in dealing with wild animals.
You can bathe a baby squirrel with some precautions, such as not scrubbing the body and using lukewarm water to get rid of fleas and mites.
Make sure that its head is above the water and try to avoid the baby shampoo in their eyes and nose because they become uncomfortable with shampoo in their eyes and nose.
Use a flea comb and remove the fleas from their fur. Make sure to wash the baby squirrel thoroughly to wash the shampoo and let them air dry.