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 So You Think You Want A Hedgehog?

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PostSubject: So You Think You Want A Hedgehog?    Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:46 am

Published on 05-27-2010 08:39 AM Written by Laura Tong

Disclaimer: Hedgehogs DO make wonderful pets. If they didn't I would never have fallen in love with them and ended up with so many!However, like any pet, they have their advantages and disadvantages. I wrote this article trying to make sure that any potential hedgehog owner has a chance to look at the downside of hedgehogs before they buy one, both for their sake and for that of the hedgehog.

Disadvantage #1: Hedgehogs are Living Beings

Okay, so this seems terribly obvious, but people who have not had pets before don't always think about what it really means. This is a living creature that you are becoming responsible for. You are going to have to care for it and provide for it's needs, even if you're sick, or tired, or have work to do, or would rather be doing something else. If you're buying this as a present for a child, the responsibility for it's care still falls back onto you. As the adult, you are going to have to be willing to check and make sure it's being properly cared for. If it isn't you are going to need to either be willing to remind your child to care for it, or take over its care yourself.

Is there an advantage?:

Of course there is! Animals are wonderful friends. They have been proven to decrease blood pressure and stress, and they can be wonderfully relaxing to play with and snuggle. If you get a pet as a project with your child it can be a fun activity for you to do together, as well as helping to teach your child responsibility and compassion.

Disadvantage #2: Hedgehogs Have Quills

I know, this also seems horribly obvious, but you might be amazed at how many people don't think much about what this means either. While a hedgehog that is calm and in a good mood will lay back it's quills making it very smooth, and even a hedgehog who is being watchful is no worse than petting a hairbrush, picking up a hedgehog that is on the defensive is an interesting challenge at best, and possibly quite painful. A good pet hedgehog should spend very little time balled up like this, but if you have to give it medicine, clip its nails, or get it out from somewhere it has crawled under, you will have to deal with this. (we keep a pair of heavy gloves on hand for these occasions) Hedgehogs also DO shed. A healthy hedgehog will only loose a quill or two now and then, but that is not much comfort if you find one of them in your carpet with a bare foot.

Is there an Advantage?:

There are several advantages to having a friend with quills. One of them is that you don't need to brush your pet. Hedgehogs need very little in the way of grooming. An occasional bath and nail trim is all that is needed to keep them clean, healthy, and looking good. Hedgehogs also have a small measure of protection against other pets or children. This does not mean you can leave them alone with the five year old or the great big dog, or turn them loose to play outside. It DOES mean that after the first sniff or swat your dog or cat will think twice about bothering them again if they do happen to meet. Incidentally, our hedgehogs are allowed free play time in our den, and have a truce with all our cats. We don't allow the dogs in the den during free play time, but they are frequently down there during nightly cares and treat the hedgehogs with affectionate respect.

Disadvantage #3:
Hedgehogs do not jump through hoops, greet you at the door, or crawl into your lap and purr.
While hedgehogs are wonderfully engaging little creatures and quite intelligent, they are not going to be the same sort of pet as a cat or dog. Most hedgehogs will become accustomed to a schedule and be waiting for you at their regular play time. Most of them also show some degree of affection to their owners, anything from poking their head out of their hiding place when they hear your voice to laying spread out, completely relaxed, snuggling with you. We have several who are waiting at the front of their cage when we get down there for nightly cares, and one who actually climbs the front wire and hangs there if we don't get to her quickly enough. However, this is still not the same degree of cuddling, loyalty, or trainability people expect from their dog or cat, and to expect that from your hedgehog is unrealistic.

Is there an advantage?:

Hedgehogs are gentle, sweet, charismatic pets. They are less demanding of your time than a dog, making them great for people with busy schedules. They live in a cage, so they're less likely to get into mischief while you're gone than either a dog or cat. Their small size and quiet nature also make them easier to keep in many housing situations where a dog or cat would be completely impractical.

Disadvantage #4:

Hedgehogs do not go to the bathroom outside or use a litter box.

In reality, while some hedgehog owners are fortunate enough to have a hedgehog that uses a specific area of the cage, and are able to put a litter box there, most are not. In fact, most hedgehogs seem to prefer to use the restroom while running on their wheel (leading to messy feet and possibly a messy hedgie) or as soon as you wake them up to take them out of their cage (leading to a messy human). The later disaster can be almost completely averted by waking your hedgehog up, holding it for just a minute or two, then putting it back into its cage for a couple of minutes to do it's business before you pick it up again. This is not a guarantee of a poop free encounter though. Hedgehogs quite simply seem to like to poop on their people occasionally. If the thought of this, even on a rare basis, makes you want to go take a shower, then a hedgehog is probably not the pet for you.

Is there an advantage?:

If you can live with the occasional "oops" on your clothes this is one pet you don't have to take for walks in the rain. And to be honest, with all the hedgehog handling we do around here, we don't get pooped on all that often. If you shop well for your cage, weekly cleanup is quick and simple, and a hedgehog that has a regularly cleaned cage has almost no odor at all.

Disadvantage #5:


Hedgehogs have a rather unusual schedule.

The schedule of hedgehogs is most often described as nocturnal, but that isn't truly accurate. Most hedgehogs seem to be awake and active in the late part of the evening or early night time and in the early morning, but this can vary from one hedgehog to another. Nightly hedgehog feeding and play is not terribly noisy, but one that has a squeaky wheel, enjoys jingling cat toys, or banging around their cage with a tp tube on their head can make more noise than you want going on two feet from your head while you're trying to sleep. They also don't make very good classroom pets, due to the fact that almost all of the time you'll be in class they will be in bed, and a good share of hedgehogs are far less charming than usual when woken up from a deep sleep.

Is there an advantage?:

If you spend the day at work or school, your hedgehog will be waking up and ready for some play time about the time you get home and finished with dinner instead of being frustrated waiting for you all day. Hedgehogs are also very adaptable. If you keep a regular playtime with a hedgehog, even if it's during the day, the hedgehog will adjust it's schedule accordingly, just like a person working the night shift rearranges theirs.

Disadvantage #6:

Hedgehogs can be considerably more challenging to keep than other small pets.

Hedgehogs are not a commonly kept pet and this can lead them to be a more difficult pet to keep. Not as much research has been done into their daily or medical care as has with dogs, cats, and common smaller pets. Good care information can be hard to find, although this site will provide you with a good starting point and links to several other sites for great information. If you're in a smaller town it can be very hard to find some of the items that those of us with easy access to the bigger pet store chains take for granted, and while mail or computer ordering of these items is a solution, it can be a more costly one. Finding a vet can be a long and frustrating search that doesn't always end in sucess, and many emergency vets (open holidays and off hours) refuse to see them all together.

Is there an advantage?:

Hedgehogs are a unique pet, and while they aren't for everyone, if you find yourself loving one, the little bit of extra effort needed to keep it properly cared for seems more than worth it. Information may be harder to find than on some pets, but it is out there, and when you find it you are likely to find a very special community of people who love hedgehogs.

Picking The Perfect Hedgehog

Published on 05-27-2010 09:57 AM

Health- The most important factor in choosing a pet hedgehog should be the health of the animal. There are several factors that should be looked at when considering which hedgehog to choose.
Weight- The hedgehogs that you look at for purchase should not be either overweight or underweight. Either of these conditions can increase the chances of your hedgehog becoming ill, and can in fact be symptoms of illnesses.
Eyes- Healthy hedgehog eyes are round, slightly protruding, and bright. If a hedgehog's eyes are sunken, extremely bulgy, dull, half open, or show any signs of discharge,that hedgehog most likely is showing signs of some illness.
Nose- The nose shoudl be just slightly moist. If the hedgehog's nose is wet, crusty, bubbly, or shows any signs of discharge, that hedgehog is NOT healthy.
Skin and coat- Healthy hedgehog skin should be smooth and pliable, a hedgehog with crusty or dry skin could have a case of mites, which must be treated by a vet. The quill coat should be even without bald spots. Do take in account that baby hedgehogs between the ages of 8-12 weeks may be quilling, which includes loss of baby quills, and growing in of adult quills, which may only be visible as points breaking through the skin. This should be an even process, and should never leave bald spots.
Ears- Hedgehog ears should be smooth and round, and should not be missing peices, or have rough edges.
Genitals- Your hedgehogs genitals should be clean and dry, with no discharge, swellings, or redness to them. There should be no sign of blood or soft stools stuck to the genitals or surrounding areas.
Droppings- Your hedgehog's droppings should be firm and brown, and should not contain signs of blood, pus, parasites, or discolorations.
Another aspect of health that is often overlooked, and in some cases (such as pet stores) unavailable, is the health of the family line. A breeder should be able to tell you whether your hedgehog's family tree tends to be healthy, or if there may be some health risk that you need to be watching for.

Temperament- Ideally, you should pick a hedgehog that is friendly and not afraid to be handled. It is common for babies to ball very briefly and keep quills up for a few seconds, but they shoudl unball quickly and start to look around and explore the surroundings. A test of friendliness would be to turn the hedgehog over in your hand, and see if it remains in a balled position, or quickly relaxes and waves feet in the air. If you have a very good trustworthy breeder, LISTEN to their suggestions. While a hedgehogs' behavior may not be exactly the same with you as it is with the breeder, they usually can come close. If they say a hedgehog tends to be friendly and relaxed, or if it tends to be timid and less likely to enjoy handling right away, please realize that this person has spent a lot more time with that baby than you have in your short visit, and will probably have at least a decent understanding of the personality that you are likely to experience.

Age- Ideally, a hedgehog purchased shoudl be between 8-12 weeks of age. A baby hedgehog should NEVER be available for sale before 6 weeks of age. After the 12 week point, a hedgehog can still be a perfectly happy addition to your home, but you have missed the true baby stage. If you specifically want a full adult, any hedgehog after 6 months of age is considered adult, but be aware that if you get a hedgehog over the age of 2 years, you may not have much time left to spend with your hedgehog before it passes away.

Sex- Sex really isn't an important decision point for choosing a single pet hedgehog. For more information on sex differences, see the article on male and female differences.

Color- Color should not be a major factor of picking a pet hedgehog. Color makes no difference in personality, lifespan, health, or any other important parts of your hedgehog ownership.

Choosing A Hedgehog

Published on 05-27-2010 09:48 AM Written by Antigone Means-Burleson

We get a lot of emails from people who have decided that they want a hedgehog for a pet, but they aren't quite sure where to get one, or how to go about it. There are a lot of things to be considered when choosing a hedgehog, and we thought we'd share some of the things that we think are important to consider!

WHERE DO I GET A HEDGEHOG???
Basically, you can choose between a breeder and a pet store. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. At a pet store, you often won't get to know who the hedgie's parents are, where it comes from, what conditions it lived in before arriving at the store, or even what age it is. On the other hand, it may be easier to find a pet store with a hedgehog in your area than it is to find a breeder in your area. If this is the case, and you don't want to ship, then the pet store may be your best bet. Advantages of buying from a breeder are that the breeder is likely to know about the background of the hedgie you are purchasing, like the color and temperament of the parents, the breeder should know about the hedgie's temperament and preferences, you will be able to find out about what kind of habitat, food, and handling your hedgie is used to, and so on. Still, not all hedgehog breeders maintain the same quality of animals or of care for the animals, so you can't assume that a hedgehog from a breeder will be any better than one from a pet store, even if the breeder can give you more information than the pet store. You also can't assume that just because a breeder advertises in a major magazine or says that they take good care of their animals, that they are automatically more reputable. There are some great large scale breeders out there, but there are also folks who keep one pair of pets that they breed occasionally who have awesome hedgies, too! So... what other things should be considered?

IS THE HEDGEHOG HEALTHY??

Since you want a companion who is healthy and happy, this is very important. Veterinary care isn't cheap, and it can be very frustrating to bring home a new friend only to have problem after problem. Some basic things to check for are:
* clear eyes: They should not be crusty, sunken, or swollen. The hedgie should appear alert and aware.
* clean fur and quills: The hedgie may have anointed here or there, that isn't a problem, but there's a difference between a little anointing and being generally filthy all over. If there is fecal matter matted around the anal area, this is often a sign that the animal has diarrhea or some other problem that may indicate severe health problems.
* scabs or injuries: If there are any, they should be healing well, and the seller should be able to tell you how they happened and what treatment has been given. Sometimes babies do get injured, like being bitten by a cage mate, or being blinded by a quill when young, or even losing a limb due to being chewed on by mama as a baby, and these hedgies can grow up to be perfectly happy and healthy. But as a prospective owner, you will want to consider the possible impact that injuries may have on your new pet and your ability to care for him or her, so that you can decide if it is something you're prepared to care for.
* healthy skin: Crustiness around the quills can mean dry skin, or it can indicate mites. If the hedgie has unusually dry skin, you probably should be prepared to treat for the possibility of mites, unless the hedgie has already been checked by a veterinarian (if someone says they took it to the vet, don't be afraid to ask for proof). You'll also want to check for other external parasites, such as fleas. Two products that have been successfully used to treat fleas (and mites) in hedgehogs are Adams Flea Spray (water based only, available over the counter) and Revolution (available by veterinarian's prescription).
* alertness: The hedgehog should be aware of his or her surroundings and should not be lethargic and nonresponsive.
* weight: The hedgehog should not be too fat (can't roll into a ball, has excess "bags" at the "armpit" areas) or too thin (hollow sides, caved looking tummy). Either can indicate poor health.
* feet: The hedgehog's toenails should be trimmed enough that they are not curled under and causing problems. If nails need clipping, ask the seller to show you how.

WHAT ABOUT TEMPERAMENT?

Remember that what you see is probably what you'll get. Shy hedgehogs can be won over with patience and caring, but there's no guarantees. Most hedgehogs will be initially shy when new people pick them up. If the hedgehog balls up initially but comes out within a few minutes and is able to relax and explore, it will probably be just fine. If it comes out but is shy and easily startled, it's likely it will always be a little easily startled and shy... but these hedgies can be really charming, too. There isn't any particular hedgie temperament that I would say doesn't make a good pet, but if you have a certain type in mind, then best to find a hedgie who is already like what you are wanting. Oh, and while we're at it... With hedgehogs, gender doesn't really have anything to do with temperament. Many people believe that female animals will be friendlier or less aggressive, but with hedgies you get angelic and cranky ones of both genders, just as likely. The only difference is that females accept same-gender cage mates much better than males do, so if you plan to house two together, then you will want two females.

WHAT AGE OF HEDGEHOG SHOULD I GET?

If the hedgehog is happy and healthy, age really shouldn't matter all that much. Young or old, they can still bond to new people. With an older hedgehog, you'll know what the color is and have a stronger idea of temperament. But, remember that hedgehogs typically live 3 to 6 years, so an older hedgehog may not be with you as long. With a younger hedgehog, you'll get to see the growing up and the developmental milestones, which is kind of fun! Younger hedgies tend to be more prone to pooping on people, and the babies may go through a "terrible twos" phase when their adult quills start coming in, which can be a bit disconcerting! Both older and younger hedgies can make great pets, it's up to you to decide which would be better for you.

WHAT KINDS OF QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK THE PERSON I GET THE HEDGEHOG FROM??

What you ask should depend on what you are looking for, and what you expect. Here are some suggestions, based on things we look for when we get new hedgehogs, and that people have asked us. We're also putting some suggestions about what we think are satisfactory answers. Remember, these are just guidelines, and you may still be able to get a really nice hedgie even if the person you're getting it from doesn't know much or hasn't cared well for the animal. It's just good to know whether or not you'll be needing to rehabilitate the hedgie, or if you can pick up from the excellent standard of care it's used to.
How old is this hedgehog?
They should be able to at least give you a ballpark idea, or an explanation of why they don't know. If it's obviously wrong (like a baby with no fur yet that one person was told was 6 weeks old... it could not have been more than 2 to 3 and should NOT have been sold yet), be concerned!
What have you been feeding this hedgehog?
They should be able to tell you what the diet has been, and that can give you an idea of the hedgie's nutritional status. If the hedgie has been fed a poor diet, this can affect temperament and health. Overly fatty diets can lead to fatty liver disease and death, undernourishment can lead to grumpiness and various health disorders.
What kind of bedding has the hedgie been living on?
If the person says cedar, be aware that there is documentation that cedar bedding can cause respiratory problems and has been associated with cancers in small animals. Uncured pine bedding can cause the same problem, but most pine beddings that are sold for small animals are baked and don't have this problem. With the cedar, there may also be sores on the hedgie if it has skin allergies, but these will clear right up when put on a more appropriate bedding.
What is the hedgehog's background?
This is especially important if you plan to breed the hedgehog. Pet stores aren't likely to have a whole lot of information, since many buy their animals through wholesalers who may purchase from many different sources. Breeders should at least be able to tell you where they got the hedgie, even if they can't tell you much more. If they bred the hedgie, they should be able to tell you about (or even show you) the parents, or sometimes even further back. Many breeders charge extra for a pedigree.
Who is your veterinarian?
If the person is a breeder, or even for pet stores, they should be able to suggest a veterinarian in the area who can treat hedgehogs, should yours get sick... or should you want a health check-up done to make sure the animal is healthy!
Are you USDA licensed?
In the US, persons who sell hedgehogs are required to have a USDA license. If they are cutting corners and unlicensed, this may be a clue that they are cutting corners elsewhere. The law exists to ensure at least a basic level of care! If the breeder is USDA licensed, they should have some official paperwork for you to fill out, which includes giving you a copy with their license number on it.
What kind of health guarantees do you offer?
This is a good "buyer beware" question. Even with the best of care and careful breeding practices, problems can occur. We have had very few instances of illnesses early on (one eight week old who had a stroke, and a four month old who had pancreatic failure), but we maintain a policy that if a hedgie develops a health problem in the first six months, all we require is a veterinarian's health report (or necropsy, if the animal died) letting us know that the illness was inherent in the animal, and we are willing to replace that hedgie with a new one at no added cost. This also alerts us to possible problems that we need to be aware of to make sure they aren't genetically transmitted, so we consider it a great help. Not everyone is willing or able to make guarantees, so it's a good thing to be aware of individual policies.
What if it doesn't work out between me and this hedgie?
There are times when certain hedgehogs just don't bond with a certain person, or that your life circumstances don't work out to be able to keep the hedgie as permanently as you had planned. So, you'll want to know what the policies are. Pet stores typically have a refund policy stated. If not, ask. Individual breeders have their own policies. At Hedgehog Valley, we discourage impulse purchases, and therefore do not give refunds on hedgehogs. We feel this helps people to know that they are making a serious decision. However, we also understand that not every hedgehog takes to the person who picked it. In these cases, we try to work out an exchange for a different hedgehog that we hope will work out better. When someone calls and says they can't keep their hedgehog any more, we will offer to baby sit if it's a temporary situation, or to help the owner find a new permanent home for the hedgie. This works for us, but each breeder has a different policy. Just ask, and that way you'll be able to weigh and measure these concerns in your decision.
How much has this hedgehog been handled?
If a hedgehog is moderately shy and hasn't been handled much, chances are it'll warm up more with handling. If it's really friendly and hasn't been handled much, it's probably going to be a really awesome hedgehog! If the person indicates that they only handle hedgehogs with gloves, we consider that something to be concerned about. A person with experience in handling hedgehogs should never need gloves to pick up a happy, healthy hedgehog, and should be able to demonstrate to you how to pick up even a balled up hedgehog with minimal pricking.


WHAT IF THERE ARE NO BREEDERS OR PET STORES WITH HEDGEHOGS IN MY AREA?

First, check and see if it's legal to own and/or sell hedgehogs in your area. Some states may require permits, you can call the state veterinarian to find out about that. I believe Maine and North Dakota ask hedgehog owners (or owners of any exotics) to maintain a permit, and others may, too. Some cities and counties have local ordinances about hedgehog ownership, like Baton Rouge, LA makes it illegal to sell hedgehogs in the city limits, but has no laws against owning one. If it's the case that you can't find one in your area, but it's legal to own, then your best bet is to find a breeder who ships. And yes, we have a few tips on shipping, too!
How will the animal be shipped?
If the person tells you they are shipping through the mail or some sort of postal overnight courier, be concerned. The US Post, Fed Ex, UPS, etc... are NOT licensed to ship hedgehogs, and are not prepared to ship hedgehogs, and in addition to the strong possibility of ending up with dead hedgehogs, there are fines for folks who ship animals illegally. A proper courier is an airline who is licensed to ship animals, such as Continental, USAirways, or Northwest (there are certainly others, but these are the ones we have successfully used, so we suggest them).
What is required for animals to be shipped?
A current veterinary health certificate, a shipping kennel that has been certified safe for airline use are required. Also, in times of extreme temperatures, standard carrier service is suspended for heat or cold embargoes, although some airlines have services that ensure quicker delivery and can still ship at these times (but it costs a heck of a lot more!).
So, what is the cost for shipping?
Standard service is around $90 to $170. PDQ/Dash services run around $180. A good kennel cab usually costs around $20, and vet certificates can vary from about $15 to $60.You can ship more than one hedgehog in the same kennel, though, so shipping several at a time can make the cost a lot more feasible.
Isn't it dangerous to ship hedgies?
If done properly, no. I have yet to send or receive an animal shipped via air who appeared at all distressed or harmed by the trip. The compartment that the animals stay in is kept at the same temperature and pressure as the passenger compartment, to ensure their comfort. Food and water are offered as appropriate. The airlines we have worked with have bent over backwards to ensure the health and comfort of their prickly passengers, and we have been very impressed.

WHAT ELSE?? I don't know, what other questions do you think are important (whether you have an idea of the answers or not)? Please email and let us know what other issues you think we should address on this page! If you would like to see if we can make a referral to someone in your area, feel free to write... we may not be able to find one, but we'll try! There are breeder listings online, but keep in mind that most have no checks and balances on the quality of the people who list themselves as breeders. You can always ask for references, as well as asking lots of questions to decide if you want to deal with a specific one. Good luck, and happy hedgehoggery!
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Lou

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PostSubject: Re: So You Think You Want A Hedgehog?    Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:07 pm

A few tips on what to look out for:-

1. Clear Eyes - they should not be crusty, sunken or swollen and the hedgehog's eyes should appear alert and aware

2. Clean Fur and Quills - although their quills may not be perfectly clean they should not appear dirty all over. If there is fecal matter stuck around the anal area, this is an indication that the hedgehog has diarrhea of another problem that could indicate health problems.

3. Healthy Skin - Yellowing of the arm pits can be a sign of liver problems, especially in older hedgehogs, The skin should be pink and clear with mottling or dark skin naturally occuring in darker colours, this should not be a concern. Dry skin can be due to the following reasons:-

Gas Heat - creates a dry environment resulting in dry skin.
Bedding - some beddings (wood) can dry out the skin

Dry skin can also indicate mites, fungus or nutritional deficits - this is usually accompanied by crutiness around the quills.

4. Scabs and Injuries - Any injuries should be seen to be healing well and any injuries should be accounted for by the breeder, informing you of how it happened and any treatment given. An ingrown quill that is healing is not necessarily a problem but an ingrown quill with pus and infection showing is and will need the appropriate treatment.

5. Groomed Feet - hedgehogs do get poop boots so you can expect to see signs of this, their nails should not be overgrown and not so dirty that you cannot inspect their feet - if you are not sure, ask the breeder how to trim nails.

6. Weight - a hedgehog should not be too fat that it cannot roll into a ball, they should not have excess "bags" at the armpits area nor should they be showing signs of a caved in tummy - indication of poor health.

7. Smell - no foul odour should be present - a clear sign that something is wrong - it can indicate that they have been kept in unsanitary conditions or have a bacterial infection

8. Poop
- poop should be relatively firm and brownish in colour. Green poop/loose poop can occur under stress and may or may not indicate health problems. Foods that contain bright dyes will affect the colouration of your hoggies poop. Black/tarry poops may signify major problems while gelatinous poops may indicate baterical imbalances or infections.

Hope this helps as a guide line.


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Lou

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PostSubject: Re: So You Think You Want A Hedgehog?    Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:14 pm

Why Should You Buy From A Breeder?

Published on 05-27-2010 09:13 AM Written by Kelly Sosik-Hamor

With all the hedgehogs that are available in pet stores, you might be wondering why you should take the extra time to contact a breeder and go out of your way to get a hedgehogs. After all, the pet store is only a few blocks away and they are having a sale! Below are a few points we would like to make about the average pet store hedgehog. While you might be lucky enough to find one that is both friendly and healthy, do you really want to take that risk?

* A hedgehog from a breeder is socialized and used to people. While the personality of any individual hedgehog cannot be guaranteed (some are runners, explores, cuddlers, etc.), a hedgehog from a breeder is typically much friendlier then one you would find at a pet store. Temperament is the highest concern when matching breeding pairs, and babies are held from an early age to ensure they are friendly and used to people.

* Hedgehogs from a breeder are weaned at no earlier then 6 weeks of age. A responsible breeder will watch the babies to be sure that they are eating kibble and drinking from a water bottle. This ensures that your baby has received adequate nutrition from his/her mother and makes for a much healthier hedgehog in the long run. Many of the hedgehogs you find in pet stores are taken from their mom by 3 weeks and are already at pet stores by 4 weeks of age. Due to lack of nutrition and stunted development, many of these babies get sick and end up at the vet before they are 6 weeks old. Unfortunately the damage done by weaning a baby to early is nearly impossibly to undo, and if they survive, many of these hedgehogs end up with severe long term problems.

* Hedgehogs from a responsible breeder are kept in clean cages and in good conditions. Many pet stores keep their hedgehogs in overcrowded 10g aquariums with substandard conditions. These hedgehogs are either poked and yelled at all day by excited visitors, or completely ignored because store employees are afraid of them. The hedgehogs are typically not given a hideout so that they will be visible to potential buyers, and they do not receive any toys to occupy them. In a truly bad situation, they may live on dirty shavings, eat dirty food, or drink from water bottles sprouting mold. They learn to fear the loud voices and screaming children who poke at them, and even with proper care, they may never become trusting and friendly hedgehogs. Often male and female hedgehogs are kept in the same cage, and buyers could unknowingly end up with an underage pregnant female.

* A responsible breeder will keep their babies in an adequately sized cage so that they have room to roam and play. They have tubes and toys to play with and a hideout to retreat to when they need to rest. Bedding, food, and water is changed on a regular basis to keep the cage free of poop, mildew, mold, and germs. Males are separated from females by 6 weeks of age to ensure that buyers do not get an unwelcome surprise (pregnancy in an immature female could result in stunted growth, stillborn or cannibalized babies, or death of the mother due to birthing complications). A typical baby from a breeder will learn that people are friendly, and they will often occasionally seek out human interaction.

* A breeder will carefully plan their breedings and not ever allow their animals to free breed. Unfortunately, we've heard horror stories about some pet stores and hedgehog mills who put all of their hedgehogs in a big tub and allow them to randomly breed with the mate of their choosing. This can potentially lead to multiple generations of inbreeding as well as long term health problems.

* A responsible breeder will plan their breeding very carefully and consult with fellow breeders when matching their pairs. They keep detailed pedigrees on site, and most parents are available for prospective buyers to meet. Upon purchase, they will provide you with your hedgehog's parents' names and his/her date of birth.

* Pre-sale support — A hedgehog can be a sharp pet and may not be the right pet for you and your family. A responsible breeder would rather you figure this out before making a purchase. Many breeders will encourage those people who are interested in learning about hedgehogs to make an appointment and visit their facility. They will show you how to pick up and handle a hedgehog, and go over all the things you need to know to care for a hedgehog.

* Post-sale support — Always available to help you and your hedgehog while s/he adjusts to his/her new home. A responsible breeder will explain what to expect when your hedgehog goes through quilling (adult quills coming in) and how you should properly address other care issues. You will receive care sheets, a starter supply of food, and more knowledge and support then you would if you bought your hedgehog from some stranger at a pet store.


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