I love animals, and squirrels are very fun to watch. A while back, I even wrote about a day in the life of a squirrel. Despite my love of their antics and cute faces, I have never considered a pet squirrel, but apparently there are several famous pet squirrels throughout history.
Always a squirrel fan, I of course listened to this 99% Invisible episode about the first-ever squirrel census in New York Central Park and learned a lot. If you’ve ever wondered how squirrels came to be so ubiquitous in our cities today, then this is the episode for you. It tells about the history of city squirrels and how they were intentionally brought to the parks and fed by humans back in the mid-1800s.
Before squirrels were brought to the parks, they were rarely seen in cities, and wealthy people started to keep them as pets. This was just the beginning of a long line of pet squirrels, some of which have become quite famous.
Most Famous Squirrel?
We all know that Rudolph is the most famous reindeer of all. But who is the most famous squirrel? Let’s meet a few and you can decide for yourself which one deserves the title of Most Famous Squirrel.
Mungo (and BeeBee)
In the 1770s, Ben Franklin was living in London while serving as a representative of Philadelphia (before the Revolutionary War). While there he stayed with friends in Twyford. He had his wife send a grey squirrel from Philadelphia to London so that he could give it as a gift to a friend’s daughter. She named the squirrel Mungo.
Unfortunately, Mungo was killed by a dog not long after arriving in England. Ben’s wife sent another squirrel as a replacement. BeeBee fortunately had a much longer life than Mungo.
Tommy was adopted by Zaidee and Mark C. Bullis in 1942 and is believed to have been named after the nursery rhyme Little Tommy Tucker. Zaidee made clothes for Tommy to wear, opting for dresses since they required less tailoring and fitting around his bushy tail.
In 1943 the Bullis’ began touring the country with Tommy, delighting audiences everywhere. He participated in a radio interview with President Franklin Roosevelt, and in 1944 he was photographed by Nina Leen for Life Magazine.
(Touring with your family? Sounds a bit like Mike the Headless Chicken‘s life…)
Pete the Presidential Squirrel(s)
Both Warren Harding and Harry Truman had a pet squirrel named Pete while living in the White House but these were two different squirrels with the same name. Not very original, eh?
Twiggy the Water-Skiing Squirrel
Twiggy was rescued by the Best family after being blown from its nest during a Florida hurricane in 1978. After buying a toy remote control boat for his daughter, Chuck Best decided it would be fun to train the squirrel to water-ski. The local paper ran a story about Twiggy in May 1979 and so began a family legacy of water-skiing squirrels that continues today.
Some early footage of the original Twiggy-
Unfortunately, Chuck Best suffered a heart attack and drowned in 1997. His wife, Lou Ann, trained Twiggy IV a few years later and transformed the show to focus on water safety. Lou Ann and Twiggy VIII are now retired in Florida but their son, Chuck Best, Jr., is touring now with a new Twiggy show.
If you watched The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, you may have seen or heard about his squirrel, Peapod. Peapod would sometimes sit in Bob’s pocket while he was painting on set.
You can see Bob feeding Peapod here
And in 2019, a picture book featuring Peapod was published!
In the current age of social media and influencers, it’s not surprising to see so many rescued squirrels with large Instagram accounts.
Jill the Squirrel
Jill the Squirrel was rescued during Hurricane Isaac and as you can see from her 2020 Top 9, she’s enjoying life with her new family.
Thumbelina was rescued after her mother’s nest was destroyed in a city construction project. Her mother found her way into a 10th floor apartment and gave birth on the bed she found there. Check out the full story on Thumbelina‘s website.
Here you can see Thumbelina enjoying a juice pouch!
Sugar Bush Squirrel
Sugar Bush Squirrel was an influencer before social media became what it is today. Sugar Bush’s mom, Kelly Foxton, took her first photo in 2001. Sugar Bush is now the most photographed squirrel in the world and you can see many of her elaborately staged photos on her website. Scrolling just on the home page, you can see that Sugar Bush has been on billboards, working with brands, and has her own line of clothing, greeting cards, and stuffed squirrel lookalikes.
Here’s a clip of Sugar Bush on the TLC show, My Crazy Obsession.
What is it like to have a pet squirrel?
Disclaimer – you should not keep wild animals as pets, and in some places, it is against the law. Exceptions are sometimes made in cases of a squirrel that has been rescued and rehabilitated but is unable to return safely to the wild. Always consult your local wildlife rescue group for advice.
In an interview with OK Whatever, Decan Anderson told about how he rescued his squirrel TinTin and gives a great look at what life is like with a squirrel in your care. Based on just that quote above alone, I’m certain that I would never want a pet squirrel!
The advice is always to contact an expert to care for a squirrel in need and that’s where squirrel rehabber, Gayle Molloy-Barbour comes in. A Yale Daily News article follows Gayle through her daily life with multiple squirrels under her care. A task that requires endless energy, it reminds me a bit of the hummingbird rescuer Terry Masear.
So… What do you think? Which famous squirrel was your favorite?