When you think of squirrels, most people do not think of a cute pet. The closest people get to squirrels, just leaving them a little bit of water or milk in the garden to take a drink from—and even then, the little blighters can be somewhat of a pest or danger.
But for one New York couple, the discovery of a tiny baby squirreled them on a journey that would change their lives forever—and turn everything they thought they knew about squirrels upside down.
A Miracle Birth
It was a cold, frosty March morning in New York City, and the day began like any other. Commuters started their long journeys to work, and the city rumbled into life in the everyday hustle and bustle of the week.
But little did all these people know that hidden away in a tiny corner of the city, two tiny baby squirrels were being born. And as these small squirrels emerged into the world, no one had any idea just how special one of them would turn out to be.
One of Many
This tiny baby born that day was a type of squirrel known as the Eastern Grey Squirrel. Eastern Grey Squirrels are not exceedingly rare or unusual, being a pretty common occurrence and sighting throughout New York City. Who hasn’t seen a common grey squirrel scurrying about the trees and in the parks of the Big Apple?
But though you might assume this tiny squirrel was just another standard specimen, the truth was she was different from any other squirrel that had been born before.
And, she was headed towards a destiny like no other.
Home Away From Home
This tiny squirrel was born on a day just like any other, but exceptional circumstances gave her and her baby sister a very different start in life. Just before these baby squirrels were born, the serene and protective home provided by their mother’s nest came into sudden danger.
Due to construction work going on nearby, the squirrels’ home ended up being destroyed.
What could this squirrel mother-to-be do to save her children? She had to find a new home and quickly.
As you can imagine, this mamma squirrel was desperate. She was about to give birth and had nowhere to call home and no space to bring up her babies safely and in a protective environment.
She had no choice but to find shelter in any place she could, and she ended up crawling into the nearest cave she could find—the window to a 10th-floor apartment.
The apartment appeared to be empty, so mamma squirrel settled onto the empty bed, where she finally gave birth to her two babies.
Making a Home
Now, on the bed of a random New York City apartment is certainly not where most squirrels prefer to settle down and give birth to their babies. They usually like to live in woodland areas, with plenty of trees and foliage to provide them with shelter and comfort.
To try and help her babies feel more at home, mamma squirrel went out and foraged for bits of leaves and twigs, bringing them back home to recreate a real squirrel’s nest on the bed.
But then suddenly, in what had seemed to be an empty apartment, the front door opened.
Can you imagine the shock! In what had appeared to be an empty apartment, suddenly someone had burst in the door—and this wasn’t just a random visitor.
It was the place owner, and he certainly wasn’t expecting to find a squirrel’s nest containing two tiny babies on his bed.
It was crunch time—what would this man do? Would he throw the squirrels out into the harsh NYC streets? Or would he take pity on them and let them stay?
Calling For Help
The apartment owner decided to do neither of these things. He didn’t feel right throwing out these two tiny and vulnerable squirrel babies onto the street to fend for themselves, but also lacked the skills and knowledge to keep them safely in his apartment.
He decided there was only one thing for it—to call in the professionals with no idea what to do next.
But he didn’t want to call pest control—he wanted someone who would look after these babies and help give them a good life.
So who could he call?
With no idea of who to call or where to turn for help, the apartment owner eventually settled on reaching out to two experts, otherwise known as “Certified Wildlife Rehabbers.”
Before he knew it, a couple named Christina and Michael had arrived at his house and began taking a look at the two squirrel babies.
Christina, Michael, and the apartment owner all had no idea that all of their lives were about to change forever—and hit the headlines worldwide.
A Mother’s Love
Now that Christina and Michael were finally here in the apartment, they knew what they had to do next. The right thing to do was find a new place in the wild, for the mamma squirrel to take her tiny babies and start raising them in an environment more natural for their species.
The trouble was, mamma squirrel did not seem to want to take them back into the wild.
The humans couldn’t work out what was going on—why wouldn’t a mother squirrel want to raise her babies in nature and freedom?
But it turned out that she had an exceptional reason.
Although she didn’t want to bring her babies back out into the wild, the mamma squirrel was not abandoning her little ones, scurrying in and out every day, bringing about more leaves, twigs, and other nesting materials to her tiny tots.
But Christina and Michael couldn’t work out why she was so determined to keep her babies’ nest inside the apartment, and not take them back out into the wild.
And then suddenly, things took an even more unexpected turn.
Without a Trace
After relentlessly bringing her babies endless food and sustenance, as well as creating an entire natural squirrel’s nest in the middle of this New York City apartment, the mamma squirrel suddenly did something that surprised everyone.
With no warning, to Christina and Michael’s shock and confusion, mamma squirrel went off one day and never returned.
Didn’t they know what to think—where had she gone? What had happened to her? And most of all—what did she know about these mysterious squirrel babies that they didn’t?
After a while, it became clear that the mother squirrel was merely never coming back. Try as they might, Christina and Michael could not work out what had happened to her or where she might have gone. But it was clear that she was never to be seen again.
The two wildlife rehabilitators looked at each other and knew they were thinking the same thing. It was up to them now—and they would have to take these baby squirrels home with them.
They had no idea the adventure they had in store.
As Christina and Michael headed home with the two baby squirrels in their possession, suddenly, a tragic disaster struck. Even though their mother had done everything she could to give them a strong and healthy start in life, one of the babies struggled and was clinging to life by a thread.
In a matter of hours, this baby squirrel had passed away—and it was only her little sister who remained.
Little did anyone know the miracle that this tiny pink survivor would turn out to be.
A Second Chance
Though devastated by the other baby squirrel’s loss, Christina and Michael were determined to give the surviving sister the best shot at a life they could provide for her.
Because she was so tiny and pink, they named their rescue squirrel “Thumbelina.” A magical name for a miraculous survivor—but Thumbelina would turn out to be exceptional in ways that would enchant the world.
It is unusual for squirrels to be born in March, so Thumbelina was always destined to be a little different. But no one had any idea just how different she would turn out to be.
As Christina and Michael began settling into life at home with their new baby squirrel, they quickly noticed some differences in her normal development.
Considering her unusual start in life, it was no surprise that Thumbelina would end up a bit different—but nothing had prepared them for what they were about to see.
Little Thumbelina was progressing a lot more slowly than most squirrels do at this age—and this was only the tip of the iceberg in her unusual behavior.
We all know that squirrels are famous for nibbling away at whatever foods they can get their hands on. Who hasn’t seen a squirrel clutching a large acorn or another delicious nut?
For most squirrels, they are incredibly keen to wean off from their mother’s milk and head straight to solid food.
But Thumbelina was different—no matter how much she grew and grew, she was only interested in her milk—and didn’t touch an ounce of real food.
And that wasn’t the only thing odd about this tiny miracle creature.
Eyes Wide Shut
Did you know that baby squirrels are born with their eyes shut? As well as being tiny, pink, and hairless, it takes a few weeks for their eyes to develop before they open them and start looking around.
Now, for most baby squirrels, they open their eyes around 4-5 weeks old and then start taking in the sights around them. But for little Thumbelina, she waited almost nine whole weeks before opening her eyes for the first time.
Just what exactly was the cause of this delay?
Another thing commonly seen in squirrels as they grow and develop a particular keenness to get active as soon as possible. Once they have mastered their necessary motor skills, baby squirrels are super energetic and can’t wait to get out in the world, jump around, climb trees, and to hurry along to their next adventure.
But for Thumbelina, she was happy to sit still and cuddle her human parents. She didn’t even run around much, choosing to walk along at a relaxed pace.
And Thumbelina’s strange behavior was about to get even weirder.
Although once squirrels have grown into adulthood, they can become territorial and quite competitive with other squirrels. It’s quite normal for baby squirrels to see them playing around and interacting happily with their siblings or friends.
But what was unusual about Thumbelina was she didn’t seem at all interested with the other squirrels. She preferred to wander off, take a nap on her own, and just be left by herself.
Christina and Michael were bewildered—was Thumbelina, even a real squirrel?
As time went on, Thumbelina was proving herself to be more and more unusual compared to other squirrels. It seemed that every aspect that was part of a regular squirrel’s features didn’t apply to this little miracle baby.
Was it because she was born at an odd time? Or because she missed her mother or a baby sister?
Whatever the reasons, as Thumbelina continued to grow, she only became more and more different from the other squirrels around her.
Unlike her peers, who don’t mind running around in the icy New York winters, little Thumb hated the cold weather and preferred to cuddle up indoors.
Fall from Grace
One thing that squirrels are mainly well known for is their ability to climb up trees and scurry along the high treetops. Who hasn’t seen a little grey squirrel navigating their way through the tall up leaves with complete grace and ease?
But for Thumbelina, she does not have the same grip or sense of balance as regular squirrels.
Climbing and jumping from tree to tree would not just be difficult for her—but also dangerous.
With all these differences between Thumbelina and her peers, it was time for Christina and Michael to make a difficult decision.
Home is Where the Heart Is
As Thumbelina grew into a full-sized squirrel, it became more and more apparent that she was not like any other member of her species.
Her adoptive parents Christina and Michael knew she was exceptional, and we’re ready to do whatever it took to give her every day and happy life. But even they were not prepared for the answer they would get from the local wildlife vet.
It turned out that Thumbelina was such an unusual squirrel that she would never be capable of going back into the wild.
Christina and Michael would have to set up home for her permanently—and very unusual—way.
There was another aspect of Thumbelina’s health and development that set her apart from all the other squirrels in the world.
Even though Christina and Michael were careful to feed her precisely the right foods, and the perfect diet for an indoor squirrel, for some reason, Thumbelina continued to put on more and more weight.
After another check with the vet and a long period of medical testing, Thumbelina’s adoptive parents were given some surprising news—that would have significant implications for the whole family.
After months of vet visits and different kinds of tests, Christina, Michael, and the medical professionals finally found the answer to what had been troubling Thumbelina all this time.
The truth was that this particular little squirrel was suffering from a robust hormonal imbalance within her little body. Due to a lack of progesterone, Thumbelina struggled with a host of different ailments, including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis, and an enlarged uterus.
This caused her little body to become swollen and painful—and also explained the mysterious weight gain.
Road to Recovery
Now that Christina and Michael knew what was behind Thumbelina’s health difficulties and unexplained weight gain, they were able to investigate how best to improve her issues and give her the life she truly deserved.
But it wouldn’t be an easy road to recovery for this little squirrel—to counter her hormone imbalance; tiny Thumbelina had to undergo a full hysterectomy.
It was a long and slow recovery process, but eventually, this particular squirrel would begin to thrive once again.
Christina and Michael waited with bated breath as their beloved Thumbelina went into surgery to have her hysterectomy. They knew it was a complicated procedure, but they also knew that their little squirrel was incredibly unique and had the strength to make it through.
Eventually, after hours of surgery and a long time recovering from the procedure, Thumbelina began to return to her happy, lively self, snuggling happy with her adoptive parents and enjoying life once again.
It began to be clear that Thumbelina was destined for a very different life to other squirrels—in more ways than one.
As Thumbelina settled into her home life with her loving adoptive parents Christina and Michael, it became more apparent than ever that she was much more than just a regular squirrel.
Instead of running around outside and climbing up to the tops of trees, Thumbelina preferred to stay at home, snuggling up to her mom and dad and eating yummy food.
This particular squirrel particularly loves sugar snap peas and kale, which she enjoys eating while curled up in front of the TV! Her favorite TV shows are Good Day NY and The Wendy Williams Show.
But it is not always all smooth sailing in Thumbelina’s human household.
Although Thumbelina lives a happy life with her human adoptive parents and is perfectly content living experience like no other squirrel has had before, that doesn’t mean that life is always perfect.
Though undoubtedly living her best life, this particular squirrel still suffers from the occasional fright and nerves. In particular, Thumbelina has a terrible fear of bugs, showing her to be just like any other human!
She also is super frightened of the vacuum cleaner, which again, let’s face it, strikes fear into many a human heart.
When Michael and Christina first turned up that fateful day, to visit a pair of tiny baby squirrels and see how they could save or improve their lives, they had no idea the adventure that was going to unfold in front of their very eyes.
Little did they know that they would end up taking Thumbelina home to live with them—or just how special she would turn out to be.
More than once, Thumbelina’s adoptive parents have wondered what magical creation she is. “I don’t know what she thinks she is,” they say. “But it’s not a squirrel!”
Looking to the Future
With such an eventful and unusual life and history, it’s clear that Thumbelina has already had enough excitement to last a lifetime. From the very first moment that Christina and Michael laid eyes on her, they knew she was an incredibly unique creature.
None of us know what adventures lie in wait for Thumbelina in the future, but there’s no doubt that she is living her best life.
Thumbelina’s story is an essential and inspirational reminder that it is ok to be different, and that a beautiful and magical destiny awaits us all.