A Squirrel Called Cyril
Malcolm D. Welshman remembers an adorable little character who was partial to custard creams.
DURING a morning consultation at my veterinary clinic, I carefully lifted the lid off the shoebox two young lads had brought in and parted the cotton-wool inside.
A vivid pink-skinned baby squirrel, barely two inches long, was curled up inside.
Apparently he’d been discovered in the remains of a drey that had come down when an oak was felled on the village green.
He’d survived that fall, and looked so helpless that I was immediately determined to try to rear the little lad.
I constructed an artificial nest from an empty carton with an infra-red lamp suspended above it.
“‘What will you feed him on?” my wife asked.
I brandished a tin of milk powder usually used for rearing kittens.
“With this,” I replied, waving a syringe at her.
It was tricky. Milk shot across the squirrel’s mouth and squirted out the other side. But eventually he cottoned on to what was required and soon suckled away to his heart’s content.
“Cyril would be better with a teat,” Maxeen told me a few days later.
I noted the name. Cyril the squirrel? OK, so be it.
“I doubt you’d find a teat small enough,” I countered.
I hadn’t reckoned on my wife’s resolve. She returned after a lunchtime trip into town, her mood buoyant, her voice distinctly triumphant.
“This is the answer.”
She waved a baby doll’s feeding set at me.
I remained unconvinced until I saw Cyril, curled up fast asleep, his stomach full of milk, bulging out like a white balloon.
Browsing the internet, I learned that an orphaned squirrel had been fostered on to a cat with kittens.
We had one boarding in the hospital and she’d just given birth. Was it worth a try?
With Cyril lined up alongside the three kittens next to their tabby mother, I was doubtful. The cat would surely snap at the baby squirrel and pull it away.
With my heart pounding, I watched the mother give her kittens a protective lick. She then sniffed the squirrel.
My hand hovered just inches away, ready to snatch Cyril up in case he was attacked.
There was another tentative sniff. Then another as the cat’s head lowered towards the wriggling pink body.
Suddenly the cat’s tongue darted out; the naked squirrel was lightly touched and then fervently licked as the cat started washing him, transferring her scent.
Cyril was accepted and was soon suckling.
Three days later his eyes opened.
Cyril soon learned to scrabble up the side of the cat basket, using his large claws to grip.
Once on top, he’d totter along, rolling from side to side like a drunken sailor,
Pretty as a picture – few could resist those eyes!
Sunbathing in one of our apple trees, quite content.
Cyril being fed a titbit, and loving every bite!
These acrobats let nothing defeat their search for food.