HEDGEHOGS AS PETS


Hedgehogs are extremely cute, but please be sure that a hedgehog is the right pet for you. Be prepared for a commitment; hedgehogs require lots of time and attention to be a good pet. They make poor pets if mostly ignored or occasionally played with. The last thing a little hedgehog needs is to feel abandoned or to be passed from home to home when interest runs thin. This can create a very fearful and sad hedgehog. You will get out of your relationship with your hedgehog what you put into it. This can be very frustrating or very rewarding; it is up to you!

Things to know before getting a pet hedgehog

  • Hedgehogs WILL poke you with their sharp quills!
  • Hedgehogs WILL go through several quillings (see below) and their attitude WILL change during that period!
  • Hedgehogs WILL huff, click, pop, and jump towards you to some degree, especially after being woken up!
  • Hedgehogs CAN bite (though it rarely happens)!
  • Hedgehogs NEED to stay warm (at least 75°F), so they most likely need an external heat source!
  • Hedgehogs ARE, by instinct, shy and cautious, becoming a defensive ball of quills when feeling threatened!
  • Hedgehogs ARE NOT like dogs. They will not come to you when you call nor learn to do tricks.
  • Hedgehogs DO NOT like to be pet like a dog or have their faces touched until they have a strong bond of trust with you.
  • Hedgehogs NEED daily interaction with you to bond and stay happy.
  • Hedgehogs WILL poop. Babies poop more often, especially after being woken up. Be prepared to be pooped and peed on.

Common beliefs and misbeliefs

  1. Hedgehogs are pokey
    TRUE - Their back is covered with sharp quills that protect them from predators. When scared or angry, they will roll up in a ball making their quills poke in every direction. This can take some getting used to for a new owner. It takes time for you and your hedgehog to get used to one another, so don't become discouraged.
  2. Hedgehogs are pokey !!ALL THE TIME!!
    FALSE - A scared hedgehog will roll its body into a tight ball as a defense mechanism, enclosing their face and legs. However, when a hedgehog is calm, tame, bonded with its owners, and handled often (at least daily), it will usually lay down its quills so you don't get poked all the time.
  3. My hedgehog has rabies!
    FALSE - You may see your hedgehog turn its head around and lick its back, depositing foamy saliva all over. This isn't vomit; it is "anointing." It may have been licking your hands or eating something new. It is trying to camouflage itself with the new smell in its environment. You will notice it isn't balling up or huffing. Strange as it is, this is completely normal hedgehog behavior!
  4. Hedgehogs are related to porcupines, rats, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, etc
    FALSE - All of these are rodents; hedgehogs are not. Hedgehogs are actually related to shrews and moles you might find in your back yard. In nature, hedgehogs are insectivores and therefore they typically enjoy eating live and freeze-dried insects such as meal worms, wax worms, and crickets.
  5. Hedgehogs are nocturnal
    TRUE - They love the nightlife, so expect to see them sleeping most of the day and eating, drinking, and running on their wheel most of the night. This doesn't mean you can not handle them during the day. In fact, the more time you spend with your hedgehog during the day, the better adjusted to people it will become. Remember, a quiet, quality wheel is a must for a hedgehog.
  6. Hedgehogs are exotic
    TRUE - Hedgehogs are not native to North America and you may not know anyone who has one as a pet. In some areas, they're considered too exotic and have been made illegal! Hedgehogs are exotic animals which makes them seem even more fun than a more typical pet hamster or fish. That is, until you are in need of a good, knowledgeable veterinarian. You will need to find an exotic pet veterinarian, and you will want to do this BEFORE you need one! Exotic pet veterinarians can be difficult to find, and finding one that is truly knowledgeable about hedgehogs is even harder! We can recommend a few local exotic pet veterinarians in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah.
  7. Hedgehogs can hibernate
    TRUE and FALSE - Pet hedgehogs can hibernate, but this is not something that domesticated hedgehogs can or are meant to handle. Sadly, hedgehogs that go into hibernation often do not wake up. Hedgehogs need a temperature above 75 degrees, always, and at all times. A heating pad under the cage is not enough to maintain the proper temperature. You will need to provide a warm area in your house, supplemented by a space heater or ceramic heating element lamp (see supplies for details). If your hedgehog does go into hibernation, immediately contact an experienced breeder or veterinarian for advice. Do NOT put a hibernating hedgehog into a warm bath; this will shock and kill it. Put it on your skin or chest to slowly warm it with your body heat.
  8. Hedgehogs are low maintenance
    TRUE and FALSE - They are low maintenance with regards to housing. They basically need a warm cage with clean bedding, food, and fresh water. However, to have a good pet hedgehog requires a lot of work! Hedgehogs have poor eyesight, so they rely on smell, sound, and feel to sense their environment. Hedgehogs will bond with their owners, and may become more cautious if they do not sense you around. As mentioned before, they are skittish by nature, tending to ball up at indications of danger. They require daily interaction to bond and understand that you (and other similar smelling creatures) are not a threat to them.