Should You Keep A Groundhog As A Pet?

Groundhogs are large rodents found in most of the United States and parts of Canada. They’re cute, fluffy, and chunky. But do they make good pets?

Groundhogs do not make good pets. They are wild animals that need lots of space to be happy. Owning a groundhog or any wild animal is also illegal in many states.

So, why shouldn’t you keep a groundhog as a pet? What are some of their habits? Read on to find out!

Groundhogs As Pets

While they may be cute and cuddly, it is unwise to keep groundhogs as pets. Groundhogs are wild animals and therefore have an intense fear of humans. They can be conditioned to tolerate human activity but will most likely be unhappy as pets.

Why It’s Really Complicated To Keep Groundhogs As Pets

While you may think groundhogs are just big guinea pigs or hamsters, it is much more complicated. Guinea pigs and hamsters have the same strong burrowing instinct that groundhogs do but are significantly smaller.

Adult groundhogs weigh approximately 15 lbs when fully grown. That is 10 times larger than the average guinea pig! So, because of their size, they will need a large enclosure and lots of food.

Have you ever seen the tunnels a hamster or guinea pig makes? They can be super intricate even if kept in a relatively small cage. Now scale that up to a groundhog’s size. 

Groundhogs will make an extensive burrow with many rooms. This includes a nest, bathroom, and auxiliary rooms. Their den can be up to 100 feet long but only 6 feet below the surface. You’d need a giant cage to contain that burrow!

Do Pet Groundhogs Hibernate?

Yes, pet groundhogs still hibernate. Groundhogs are one of the few animals that genuinely hibernate through the winter. That’s why many Americans can celebrate Groundhog Day.

Because this need to hibernate is so strong, they will still hibernate even in captivity. They would need a safe place to burrow and hide throughout the winter months and a steady food supply.

What Do I Need If I Decide To Keep A Groundhog As A Pet?

If you’re still set on having a groundhog as a pet, there are some specific things you will need to have to make sure they are cared for properly.

First, it’s important to remember that owning wild animals in many states is illegal. While groundhogs aren’t a protected or endangered species, you should still ensure you aren’t breaking any laws before acquiring your groundhog. 

You will also need a very sizable enclosure. Groundhogs make burrows that are between 50 and 100 feet in length. They will also wander anywhere from 50 to 150 feet away from their burrow in search of food. So they will need plenty of space to roam!

You will also need to ensure your enclosure is resistant to digging and chewing. Groundhogs have very long claws to dig those intricate burrows. Since they are also large rodents, they have super long teeth. They will chew on things to help keep their teeth from growing too long.

Do Wild Groundhogs Interact With Humans?

Wild groundhogs do sometimes interact with humans. However, they will never be as friendly as domesticated animals like cats or dogs.

Groundhogs are mainly plant-eaters and, therefore, might find the plants in your garden super tasty. If you are frequently in your garden or throw out vegetable scraps where the groundhog can see you, they may be conditioned to associate you with food.

This association will make them more likely to come close to you. They think you have tasty snacks! But, don’t confuse this love of food for affection. Their need to find food is powerful, like all wild animals, and they are always looking for a way to make that easier.

What Can I Feed A Groundhog?

Groundhogs are primarily herbivores, which means they feed on many types of plant matter. In the wild, that includes dandelions, grass, berries, and small shrubs. If they live in an urban area, they may also eat ornamental or garden plants.

One of their favorite foods is lettuce. It’s sweet and has high water content, making it a highly desirable food. But, you should never try to feed a groundhog on purpose. They may become dependent on you for food which can hurt their survival.

Groundhogs have also been found to eat bugs, snails, and even small birds. They are opportunistic foragers who look for anything that will give them the nutrition they need. They may also eat worms, grubs, and beetles when they borough underground.

Can You Tame A Wild Groundhog?

Technically, you can train a wild groundhog to tolerate humans. However, this is not recommended. There are several reasons why this isn’t safe for the groundhog and you!

The first thing to remember is that groundhogs are wild animals. That means they may be okay if you hang out near them, but they will not tolerate you touching them. They may become fearful and scratch or bite you. Ouch!

The second thing to remember is that not everyone sees groundhogs as cute little friends. Many people think of groundhogs as pests because of the damage they do to their environment. So, their ability to tolerate human activity may make them more likely to be exterminated.

The final reason not to tame a wild groundhog is for this simple reason: they are wild. They may become sick or unhappy if held in captivity, especially without the proper care and diet. If this is severe enough, they may even die. They are wild creatures.

Can You Raise A Baby Groundhog?

A baby groundhog, funnily enough, is called a chuckling. While you may be tempted to raise any chucklings you find, you should refrain from doing so. Baby groundhogs are very sensitive and need their mothers to survive.

You still shouldn’t keep the chuckling as a pet even if you know for sure it’s an orphan. The best way to help the baby survive is to contact your nearest wildlife rehab or rescue. They will have the resources to care for the chuckling properly!

Is It Possible To Litter Train A Groundhog?

Technically, yes, you can litter train a groundhog. They are very tidy creatures and build a bathroom as part of their burrows. So, you can use that instinct to train your groundhog to potty in a specific spot. 

Do Groundhogs Need A Lot Of Attention From A Vet?

Yes, because they are wild animals, a vet should closely monitor their care. Because they are solitary creatures, they don’t often come in contact with other animals or diseases.

They may also get sick when humans intervene in their regular diet. In addition, they will lose a considerable amount of weight when they hibernate. If they are going to get sick, this will most likely be the time.

Do Groundhogs Make Good Pets?

No, groundhogs do not make good pets. If you find a groundhog injured or an orphaned chuckling, you should immediately contact your nearest wildlife rescue.

Don’t think calling a rescue is a death sentence for these big fluffballs! If they are imprinted on humans, they may be kept by an educational organization as an ambassador teaching people about the wonders of groundhogs.

If the rescue can rehabilitate them, they could be released back into the wild when they are happy and healthy! Groundhogs are super cool animals, but their care is best left to the professionals.

Sources

https://wisconsinpollinators.com/Garden/Pest_Groundhog.aspx

https://now.tufts.edu/2019/01/28/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-groundhogs

https://www.terminix.com/blog/education/groundhog-holes/