Can a Groundhog make a good Pet?
If you are determined to keep a groundhog, otherwise known
as woodchuck or whistle pig, as a pet, be aware that it will
still have its native instincts to dig and chew, and it
can't survive and be healthy in a small cage. Groundhogs in
captivity can live up to ten years, and once it is dependent
on you it won't be able to survive if you get tired of it
and put it back into the wild, so, you are taking on a real
But, maybe you rescued an orphaned groundhog, are
experienced with many types of animals, have a large secure
yard that your woodchuck can use for exercise, and will
enjoy having an attractive, affectionate but peculiar and
unusual pet. In that case, we'll tell you some ways in which
a groundhog makes a good pet, other ways that make it a
challenge to keep, and some advice to help you keep both the
whistle pig and yourself healthy and happy.
First a few warnings:
The groundhog is a vegetarian rodent of the marmot family.
Rodents chew. Their teeth and claws grow constantly and
quickly and they have to chew and scratch or dig to keep
them trimmed. Marmots also like to eat, and eat, and eat.
You will have to keep your pet in greens and a wide variety
of fruits and vegetables and edible greens, and watch him
when he's lose in the house, to protect your carpets and
Because marmots are burrowers, your pet may hide in some
strange dark spots in your home, and it might be a challenge
to find or extract it from its chosen home.
Dogs don't generally like groundhogs, and the feeling is
mutual. An adult groundhog can hold its own against most
dogs, but one or both may be seriously injured or killed in
the fray. If you have a gentle dog and a young groundhog,
you might be able to teach them to live together in a
friendly fashion, but that is not a "given."
Your whistle pig will need a hibernation cage in your
basement or other quiet, cool spot. He will probably sleep
from November to the end of March, and wake up hungry. As an
adult, he or she will also wake up looking for a mate.
Last but not least, it may be hard to find a veterinarian
who knows anything about treating a groundhog, and your pet
will need vaccinations including a rabies shot.
Pet Groundhog Pluses:
Groundhogs, if raised from an early age and treated gently,
can become extremely affectionate and playful with the
people they know.
Groundhogs can be litter box trained, just like a cat.
A pet groundhog makes a great conversation starter.
Housing your Pet Groundhog
A groundhog cage should be at least four feet by eight feet,
and made of one inch welded wire mesh, including the floor.
The cage will need a large nest box and nesting material
such as hay, a sandbox for digging, and fresh branches for
chewing and teeth sharpening. Of course you will also need
to provide a small animal watering bottle, a plentiful and
large variety of vegetables, fruit and rabbit chow, and
daily gentle handling to tame your pet.
If you are going to build an exercise yard for your
groundhog, as you should, buy six foot tall wire fencing and
bury the bottom of the fencing in a two foot deep trench
around the yard to deter the woodchuck's digging out. Stake
the fence so that three feet of the fencing, from the ground
up, is tight, but let the final foot of fencing bend over
into the exercise yard. Groundhogs not only can dig, they
are good climbers, and that final floppy foot should deter
your pet from climbing out to get the grass that is always
greener on the other side of the fence.