Red Squirrels are especially noisy during the mating season. The female is only on heat for a single day so it is not uncommon to see two or three male Red Squirrels chasing a female through trees. The chasing is fast and loud. The Red Squirrels make ‘chattering’, ‘screaming’, ‘buzzing’ and ‘chik-chik-chik’ sounds when they chase each other. They can be very noisy indeed.
The female Red Squirrel is pregnant for about thirty-eight days and during her pregnancy she builds a secure breeding nest for her kittens. The breeding nest usually takes three days to build. The female Red Squirrel often gives birth to a litter of three kittens, but she can have up to eight. The kittens are born pink and hairless, except for tiny whiskers. They are also blind and deaf. They can open their eyes when they are three weeks old. When the kittens are first born, the mother picks each one up with her front paws and rotates them very slowly so she can lick them clean. The mother suckles her kittens for about eight weeks.
If the mother feels that the breeding nest is no longer safe, she moves the kittens to another nest. She carries each kitten with her teeth, while the kitten holds onto her neck with its front paws. It also wraps its tail around the side of the mother’s neck. This makes the hold very secure which is essential when the mother leaps from branch to branch.
The kittens venture outside when they are seven weeks old. The mother teaches them how to take food to a safe feeding spot and how to hold their food. She also shows them how to rotate their back feet to enable their sharp claws to get a tight grip when they climb down tree trunks. At three to four months the young kittens are fully independent and they can fend for themselves. When the young are one year old, they too may have kittens of their own and so the cycle of life begins again.