I have read with interest the case for and against the guilt of squirrels in the missing tomatoes caper as presented in the respective letters of David Mowbray {Sept. 9} and Jerry Sussman {Sept. 15}. As both an animal rights advocate and a gardener, I understand each man's viewpoint.

Nevertheless, I must side with Mr. Sussman. He is undoubtedly correct when he testifies that squirrels do not use flashlights to steal fruit at night. Mr. Sussman is partly correct when he says that only "intense hunger" will prompt a squirrel to pilfer peaches (pears, apples, red plums and purple plums), unripe or ripe. I would amend his statement to read: "intense hunger or a mild appetite, whichever comes first."

Mr. Sussman is also correct when he says that these admirable tree rats don't eat that much during the course of a week. When fruit is plentiful, not like this growing season, squirrels graciously bestow the majority of any given piece of fruit for the enjoyment of the person who planted, sprayed, pruned and generally nurtured the fruit tree.

Therefore, my questions for Mr. Mowbray are: Have you had any success in getting your cat to threaten squirrels? And if so, how did you ever get that much cooperation from a cat?

B. K. DONALDSON Silver Spring

Jerry Sussman's defense of squirrels overlooks an important point.

His logic falters because of a lack of observation on the dining habits of the squirrel population. He assumes each squirrel will dine on a single tomato and then, surfeited, take a nap.

Alas, as I have discovered in attempting to raise tomatoes in an area beloved by gray squirrels, these cute creatures will take a single bite from a ripe tomato and then proceed to bite another tomato. One may assume they are taste-testing tomatoes for succulence, acidity or some other quality. Possibly squirrel thought processes lead them to observe: ''This tomato is good, but that one may be even better ... let's take a bite and see.''

The result is that a single squirrel may ruin, in terms of subsequent human consumption, a considerable quantity of ripe tomatoes within a short time.

I have given up attempting a vegetable garden because it was feeding primarily squirrels who enjoyed my contribution to their diet but refused to share. Did they learn this from their human neighbors?

I still like squirrels, primarily when prepared by my gourmet cook wife as a tasty squirrel pot pie.

ARTHUR L. CONE JR. Williamsburg