A Squir­rel Called Cyril

The People's Friend Special - - TRAVEL -

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.

“And how?”

“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.

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