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PostSubject: An Introduction to the Hedgehog   Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:23 pm

An Introduction to The Hedgehog

It has been said that no other exotic animal has caught the attention of the public quite like hedgehogs have. Their spines, friendly and curious nature, as well as that ever-smiling expression have endeared them to millions of confessed hedgehog lovers around the globe.

Those in Britain, Europe and parts of Africa have long known about the hedgehogs’ charm. British author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, although most famous for her story of Peter Rabbit, also wrote the wonderful tale of a hedgehog named "Mrs. Tiggy-winkle", a matronly washer-woman. A British wildlife hospital dedicated to rescuing sick and injured hedgehogs is even named after this delightful character.

The interest in hedgehogs doesn't end there, though. Until recently, these remarkable little animals were virtually unknown in North America. But now, thanks to the pioneering efforts of breeders, the African Pygmy Hedgehog is now readily available and can be found in the homes of thousands of happy pet owners. But why, you may ask, is their such an interest in hedgehogs as pets?

Besides having a peaceful and humorous nature, hedgehogs readily lend themselves to just about anyone's lifestyle and schedule. Being somewhat nocturnal much like house cats, nearly everyone can find a time of day in which to enjoy them.

Unlike hamsters, Guinea Pigs and other small rodents, hedgehogs do not give off any appreciable odor and most are easily litter trained. They live much longer than rodents, too. With the proper care and diet, your pet can live to be 4 - 7 years old. Add to all of this the fact that they require no immunization shots and are very disease resistant and you can see why so many people consider hedgehogs to be the perfect pet.

They have adorable little raccoon-like faces, set with beady little black eyes and small pointy noses that seem to twitch constantly, checking out the different odors of the room. Depending on the color variation that you choose, their little white faces may or may not have a mask. Although not related to the porcupine, they are sometimes mistaken for them because of the quills that cover their backs. The similarity ends there, however, since these quills are not barbed or nearly as sharp and remain attached to their bodies. Their little white tummies, on the other hand, are extremely soft and are covered with short, white hair. When frightened, they can roll up into a tight ball and look very much like a sea urchin. They have a short, stubby tail, but this is rarely seen since they keep it tucked up close their bodies. With their tiny little legs and round bodies, it is a real sight to see them scurry across the floor.

Unlike their much larger English cousins, the African Pygmy Hedgehog is rather small in size, with the average adult weighing between ½ and 1 ¼ pounds and are 5 to 8 inches long - about the size of a Guinea Pig. There are a few rare adults that will grow to as much as 1 ¾ to 2 pounds (without being fat) while others are as little as 6 or 7 ounces. Breeders are now concentrating on these differences so that someday, we will have a choice between two different sizes of hedgehogs.

They have a quiet, gentle, disposition that makes them a true delight to own and hold. Each has a distinct personality and will bond to it's owner for life. (We are assuming you purchased a socialized pet). They are surprisingly intelligent, fun to play with and are easily entertained. They love to play with tunnels, mazes and specially designed hedgehog wheels. Even something as simple as a toilet paper tube will make a good toy as they love to stick their heads in them and run about the floor. Despite their somewhat solitary nature, they can become very affectionate with their owners and will even enjoying watching TV with you or just snuggling in your lap.

Because they are quiet, they are very easy to travel with. Most people aren’t even aware that a hedgehog is nearby. Many hotels that restrict other animals such as cats and dogs will allow hedgehogs. Because they are not a rodent, they have no body odor, but it is still important to clean the litter box daily to eliminate all smells. Some people are not comfortable with a loose pet, so a cage with a minimum floor area of 24" x 36” will keep it happy and secure.

Hedgehogs truly are a low maintenance pet. Your pet should be kept indoors at normal room temperature (65 to 80oF); it can be fed a good quality dry cat food or a specially formulated hedgehog food; they don't bark, although when happy, some will emit a quiet purr; they do not climb curtains or chew on furniture; and, they do not ask to be taken out for a walk. All that your pet asks for is to be fed and watered, loved and appreciated.
Besides simply being enjoyed as pets, there is also an active hobby.

Thanks to the efforts of the hard-working folks at the International Hedgehog Association, (IHA) there is now a working show system and standard of perfection for African Pygmy Hedgehogs. Breeders and pet owners alike can now show there pets in friendly competition. As well, many breeders are involved in the fascinating and challenging world of color breeding. Many beautiful new colors have already been produced and many breeders are hard at work to produce even more. This adds a whole new dimension to owning hedgehogs and even those with only one or two animals are also actively involved.

What is a Hedgehog?

What is a Hedgehog? Hedgehogs are a small, insectivorous (insect eating) mammal that can be found throughout the world. They are native to England, Europe, Africa and Asia. The hedgehogs typically found in the pet trade of North America are generally a hybrid of two species, the central African hedgehog and the Algerian hedgehog.

Since there are no native species of hedgehog in either Canada or the United States, many people still mistake the domestic hedgehog for the porcupine - an entirely different and unrelated animal. While porcupine quills are extremely sharp, barbed and very dangerous, the hedgehog quill is smooth and not nearly as sharp. Petting a friendly hedgehog can be compared to petting a hairbrush - bristly, not prickly.

Adult hedgehogs typically weigh between 350 to 450 grams with a healthy range (depending on the body habitus) between 220 and 1,000 grams. Compared to other small animals, they have very little odor and are not likely to bite (though they can). They have soft, furry bellies and a coat of rough quills on their back. They roll up in a ball to protect themselves when they are frightened or annoyed, and can prickle when in this mode.

Hedgehogs are intelligent and each has its own personality. They are often solitary in the wild, but may adjust well to interaction with humans. Toys such as flat, solid surfaced running wheels, toilet paper tubes, or kitty toys can entertain them. Many hedgehogs even learn to use a litter box.

Hedgehogs are not rodents and they do not chew on things. Their life span is approximately 4 to 6 years and they come in a variety of colors.

Is a Hedgehog for Me?
One of the most frequently cited reasons for animals being placed in rescue is, “It wasn’t what I expected.”. This section is to help you know what to expect in a pet hedgehog.

You will have to provide a high quality food and pay attention to special dietary needs.
You will need to clean their habitats daily with complete scrubbing done weekly. Not all hedgehogs will litter train perfectly.
Hedgehogs need to stay warm – 72 to 75 degree environmental temperature is required.
You will get poked. Even the best hedgehogs have off days.
You will need to trim the hedgehog’s toenails even if they don’t want you to.
The hedgehog may self-anoint (spread spit on their self).
A hedgehog who is not friendly to begin with will require a lot of patience and respect to re-socialize.
The hedgehog will be happier with an exercise wheel and a place to hide.
If you do not handle the hedgehog frequently, they may not stay as friendly.
A hedgehog may bite, though it is unlikely. Anything with teeth can bite.
Not all veterinarians are familiar with hedgehogs, so it may be difficult or expensive to secure good veterinary care.
Hedgehogs often do not prefer the company of other hedgehogs.
Your hedgehog may never seek you out for companionship. Some hedgies do, but some do not.
The hedgehog may like you better than other people. Some hedgehogs adjust well to change, while others prefer the familiar.
Your hedgehog will prefer to be awake at night. They can make a lot of noise as they eat, drink and explore. Hedgehogs are largely nocturnal.
If your hedgehog is a baby, it will go through a phase called “quilling,” where a baby hedgehog is grumpy and loses baby quills.

Where is the Best Place to Buy a Pet Hedgehog?
The answer to this question varies depending on many factors, but there are some basic guidelines. Generally, it is better to purchase your new pet from a breeder rather than a pet store, but unfortunately, this isn't always possible. No matter where you end up looking, though, make sure that the breeder or store has at least some information on the age and background of their hedgies.

If There are Several to Choose From, Which Hedgehog Should I Select?
You will want to choose a single hedgehog since they are solitary and don’t normally like to share a cage. Never buy a male and female to be placed in the same cage unless you intend to breed! Hedgehogs are ready to breed as early as 8 weeks and females should never be bred before 5 months, so be careful! You may decide to either go to a pet store or check ads and buy from a breeder. In either case, you are looking for a good healthy animal.


You may decide to either go to a pet store or check ads and buy from a breeder. In either case, you are looking for a good healthy animal.

Temperament - This is of major importance and should be a deciding factor as to whether you buy a particular animal or not. After picking a potential pet up, examine it closely. Does it unroll after a few seconds? Does he click, jump or hiss? Hissing is okay. It is simply frightened because it doesn’t know you. Clicking, however, means that it's trying to threaten you. This is NOT acceptable hedgehog behavior and you should look at a different, better-tempered animal. Every hedgehog is different and unique. Some like to play and explore, while others are more content to cuddle. You will be most satisfied with your new pet if you carefully choose the one that best suits your own personality and lifestyle.

Choosing a Healthy Hedgehog
Look for the following:

Are the eyes nice, round, beady, wide open, and bright, without discharge?
Is the nose clean and not running?
Are the ears short, clean, with no discharge or crustiness behind them? Sometimes an ear has been chewed on by a sibling. As long as it has healed, this is not something to worry about.
Is the fur on the belly soft and not matted?
Are the spines all there with no bare spots? Bare spots indicate an unhealthy animal. Is there any sign of mites, fleas, or crustiness on the back?
Check the pen, are there any green droppings or diahhrea?
Is the hedgehog's body plump? (not fat)
Place it on a flat surface such as a table and watch it walk. Does it wobble or have difficulty staying upright? A healthy hedgehog should have a stride that is somewhere between a walk and a shuffle.
Can you hear a rattle when it is breathing? (do not mistake normal hedgehog "talk" such as chirping, purring or cheeping for a pneumonia-related rattle)

Sexing Hedgehogs:
Both male and female hedgehogs make equally good pets so this decision is entirely your own. You can readily tell a boy from a girl. If the hedgehog is tame and friendly, gently roll it over and look at the area closest to the tail. Male hedgehogs have a large gap between the genitals and the rectum, giving the appearance of a “belly button.” If there is no “belly button” you can presume the hedgehog is female. See Picture for assistance with sexing.


How Old Should My Hedgehog be Before I Take it Home?
Never take a hedgehog home before it is at least six weeks of age. Older hedgehogs are OK too, but keep in mind that the younger the hedgehog, the better the odds of him bonding with you.

What Kind of Housing Will He Require?
Your hedgehog will require a flat bottom cage that is as large as possible. Hedgehogs should be given as large of a cage as possible, the more space the better, but we recommend an absolute minimum of 3 square feet of floor space for each animal. Rabbit and guinea pig cages with wire coated tops and solid floors make excellent cages as they provide plenty of floor space and proper ventilation. Large clear sided storage tubs, modified ferret cages and home-made enclosures may be used as well. A good cage is one which has a solid floor to prevent leg injuries, walls high enough that a hedgehog cannot climb out, provides good ventilation and can be well lit but is not exposed to direct sunlight during the daytime.

Cage Placement
Place your hedgehogs new home in a comfortable, warm, well lit area that is free of drafts and direct sunlight. They are most comfortable at temperatures of between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit. (21-27 degrees Celsius) The basic rule of thumb is, if you are comfortable without a sweater, they will do just fine.


Food Bowl
Water Bowl
Hiding Place
Litter Box

In addition to a cage, your hedgehog will require the following accessories:
BEDDING: Cloth cage liners are preferable for hedgehogs. Fleece, flannel or corduroy fabrics work best. Cage liners must be changed daily to ensure cleanliness. Liners made from Vellux are not recommended as it is easily torn by a digging hedgehog and can be colder than other fabric types when wet.
Aspen and Carefresh are popular substrates, however aspen is not recommended because it contains sharp pieces that can pierce a hedgehog in the eye while burrowing, and hedgehogs are burrowers by nature. If you want to use a substrate bedding CareFresh Ultra (white) is the best type to use. This substrate allows for easier detection of blood, green stool, or discolored urine than other substrates.

FOOD BOWL: The food bowl needs to be fairly wide and heavy to prevent your pet from dumping out its contents and using it as a toy. Small ceramic crocks that are designed for small rodents are perfect food dishes for hedgehogs. The width or diameter of the dish can be 3 to 6 inches and it should be no more than 3 inches high.

WATER BOWL: Hedgehogs should always have a source of clean water, whether from a water bowl or waterer. Water bottles are not recommended.

HIDING PLACE: Hedgehogs naturally seek out a hiding place when they sleep. Commercially available hiding logs, igloos, or snuggle sacks work well. Hedgehogs naturally like to burrow, providing additional bedding gives them a more natural ability to make a bed inside the logs, igloos or snuggle sacks. Many hedgehogs will sleep under the snuggle sack as opposed to inside it. Providing 12x12 squares of fleece also make good sleeping material. Hedgehogs will bury themselves inside the blankets.

LITTER BOX: Your pet will use a litter box if you provide it with one. A small box that is 2” deep x 6” x 9” will work nicely. Pieces of paper towel, or ultra-white carefresh may be used as litter. Kitty litter is not recommended as it can get stuck in penile sheaths and eyes.

TOYS: If you choose, you can also add a few toys for your hedgehog to play with. An exercise wheel is an absolute must for hedgehogs. A large wheel, 12 inch diameter or larger, is recommended. The surface should be solid.

WARMTH: Hedgehogs need to stay relatively warm, as hibernation can be fatal. Supplemental heating may be required.

If you provide your hedgehog with the tools to keep warm it will utilize those tools to its advantage. A thick layer of bedding, fleece pieces, snuggle sacks are good items for a hedgehog to cuddle up in. The ambient room temp should be no lower than 72 degrees; heating pads under a corner of the cage are fine so they can get up against it or away from it if needed. If your hedgehog does try to go into hibernation the fastest and safest way to warm it up is to put the hedgehog on your chest preferably between two layers of shirts and let it warm with your body’s heat. Usually within 10 minutes the hedgehog will begin to recover. Older or sickly hedgehogs may require warmer environments as they will have more trouble maintaining their body’s temperature.

What Should I Feed Him and How Much?

Hedgehogs need a diet that contains a good quality protein, low fat and about 15% fiber. In the wild they eat a lot of beetles, which provide fiber from chitin. Although there are hedgehog foods available in stores, dry low fat cat formula are preferable. Whatever commercial food you choose should be supplemented by a variety of other foods such as vegetables, mealworms and crickets, cooked meats and fruits. Dry food can be fed free choice to all but the more obese hedgehogs.

Care and Management
When you bring you new hedgehog home, place him in his new cage and let him have absolute privacy for at least a day. You may pick him up and hold him once or twice for a few minutes the first day, but remember, it will probably be more like a week before he begins to feel at home.

Baby hedgehogs need quite a bit of sleep the first month after they come home with you, so don't be too concerned if he sleeps a lot at first.

Since a healthy hedgehog is a bit on the plump side naturally, determining the difference between a healthy animal's "chubby" condition and obesity can be somewhat difficult. There is such a wide variety of size in domestic stock these days. Healthy hedgehogs can range from 220 to more than 1,000 grams. Weight guidelines are of little use in identifying a fat hedgehog!

Of far more use to you than a set of scales is a weekly or monthly visual inspection of your pet's front legs and chin. While a hedgehog in its normal trim will be a bit chubby in these two locations, an obese specimen will have a double chin and "ham-hocks" for legs and sometimes even rolls of fat under the arm-pits. Such animals will be so fat that they will even be incapable of rolling themselves into a ball!

If your pet should become this fat eliminate all treats from its diet but do not reduce the amount of dry food - the primary source of necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals. If after a month you see no evidence of weight loss, change the type of dry food that you are feeding to one that has a fat content of at least 20 percent. The theory is that the added fat will cause your pet to "bulk-up" and eat less and will actually help it to lose weight


It is important to remember that unlike cats and dogs, hedgehogs have not been domesticated very long and they can still exhibit a lot of "wild" behaviour.

For this reason, fearfulness of new things is not surprising. Even the friendliest of hedgehogs will raise their quills and if you own a hedgehog you will get poked. We must also remember that many hedgehog behaviours, such as reaction to sudden noises, fast movement or handling, may not improve with time spent socializing your hedgehog.

To get the full benefit of owning a hedgehog, we may at times have to make adjustments in our own expectations. We cannot expect all hedgehogs will be naturally calm and seek out our company. Some may do that, but they can be in the minority and it certainly cannot be expected. Some naturally friendly babies can become very cranky when they begin to quill and this can take upto four months to complete. Some hedgehogs will be naturally curious whilst a very small minority can simply be aggressive.

We must remember that even the scaredy cat or hermit hedgehogs have their strong points. It is not that they do not like us it is because we scare them. It will take time to earn their trust and to learn how they want to be interacted with. Some hedgehogs will never enjoy being picked up, but will happily come to you and walk on you. Other hedgehogs may snort, snuffle and prickly before being picked up but they will calm down once in your lap.

Every hedgehog is unique and in order for us to have a good relationship with them, we have to be prepared to accept the hedgehog for what it is rathen than expecting it to conform to what we want.

Each hedgehog is unique and different and for those hedgehogs who don't easily meet our expectations, the challenge is up to us to try to find ways to interact with that that are enjoyable for both and the hedgehog.

What To Expect From Your Hedgehog's Behavior

Published on 05-27-2010 12:25 PM

Like all pets, hedgehogs have some common behavioral tendencies that a potential owner needs to be aware of when considering a hedgehog as a pet. An owner who is familiar with what to expect from a hedgehog often falls in love with their quirky quilly pet, while an unsuspecting owner may be completely disgusted and irritated when their pet is not what they expected it to be. It is important to understand these behaviors, and to consider how they will fit into your lifestyle.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal. They will be asleep while most humans are awake, and awake while most humans are trying to sleep. If you are lucky, your hedgehog will wake up in the evening early enough that you are awake and ready to interact with them, but some hedgehogs tend to "sleep in" until the humans are ready to turn off the lights for the night. You CAN wake a hedgehog up to interact with them, but the hedgehog is more likely to be crabby at first when this happens. With some hedgehogs it is possible to adjust their sleeping schedule where they get up earlier in the evening by feeding and waking them up at a set time each evening, but some hedgehogs resist these efforts. Not only will your hedgehog be sleeping while you are active and wanting to watch them, they will be awake while you are asleep, which can be quite irritating at first. The crunching of food, rattling of water bottle, whirring of a wheel, and banging of any and all moveable cage accessories can be hard to adjust to sleeping through.

Hedgehogs can be grumpy. While there are some hedgehogs that always seem to be ready to be taken from the cage for play time, most hedgehogs will have at least the occasional grumpy time. A grumpy hedgehog may roll into a ball, raise their quills into a pointy shield of defense, huff (a rather cute noise that sounds like a sputtery motor boat), click (a noise that sounds similar to a human clicking their tongue on the roof of their mouth) or even pop (picture popcorn with a lousy attitude). While not necessarily dangerous, the quills of a grumpy hedgehog can be very uncomfortable until you get used to them.

Hedgehogs poop. Oh wow, lets state the obvious here, right? True, but where and how they poop is what can be the issue. Hedgehogs have very short digestive tracts, which means that they don't have long periods of time between bowel movements. Combined with a hedgehogs' natural tendency to go to the bathroom while moving around away from their nest means that you probably will get pooped on while you are holding a hedgehog. Baby hedgehogs are especially prone to this, because they poop more frequently than adults. The good side of this is that hedgehog poop is usually fairly firm, and as long as you are watching for it, can be easily picked up with a piece of tissue. Hedgehogs will also poop on their wheel, which can act as a centrifuge to spin urine and feces over a significant amount of their cage.

Hedgehogs aren't dogs (or cats). Yep, once again, an apparent obvious. However, it is amazing how many people expect their hedgehogs to behave more like other more common pets. The vast majority of hedgehogs will not come when called, do tricks, show obvious affection for their owners, or just generally behave in a predictable way. Hedgehogs often show more affection for their food dish than they do their human companions, with the spillover of affection given to the one that fills the food dish. Some hedgehogs will not be content to relax in your lap while you watch tv. After all, you are a warm, wiggly, interesting smelling living jungle gym, and you MUST be explored.

Hedgehogs can be picky. Hedgehog law states that the more effort (and money) that a human puts into providing nutritious foods and treats for a hedgehog, the more likely the hedgehog is to stick their nose up at it. Hedgehog law also states that if the human does NOT want a hedgehog to eat something, they will work especially hard to get to the food and eat it. Hedgehogs also are known for suddenly refusing to eat a formerly favorite treat, or suddenly developing a fondness for something they hadn't been willing to eat before.

Your hedgehog can get sick. Hedgehogs are fairly sturdy small animals, and can stay healthy for long periods of time, but it is possible for them to get ill. They can get itchy skin parasites, unpleasant intestinal upsets, and occasionally even serious lumps and bumps. Hedgehog law states that the more serious and sudden the illness, the more likely it is to happen late at night, on the weekend, or on a major holiday when your favorite vet is out of the office.

Hedgehogs occasionally lose quills. Well, they aren't really LOST. They are just strategically located to cause the owner sudden surprises. Common locations for these misplaced quills can include a carpet frequented by bare feet, freshly washed underclothing, and beds. Water beds are an especially powerful quill magnet.

Hedgehogs can bite. They do have a mouth and teeth, after all. It is quite uncommon to find hedgehogs that frequently bite out of aggression. However, hedgehogs are very reliant on their sense of smell, and if something on your hand smells like food, your hedgehog may nip your hand to see if it actually is food. If they recieve a "reward" for taste nipping (say, with a return to their cage) then they may end up learning that nipping is a good way to be allowed to go back to bed.

If you can cope with all of these potential negatives, hedgehog ownership DOES have it's benefits.

Hedgehogs can be fascinating. Trying to figure out why your hedgehog does the things that it does, reacts to things in a certain manner, and trying to find new ways to get your hedgehog to behave can entertain an owner for HOURS. Providing a hedgehog with new toys can not only entertain the hedgehog, but can also be very enjoyable for the owner.

Hedgehogs have an amazing "HUH?" factor. As in, "what kind of pets do you have?" "I have a hedgehog" "HUH???". It can be a lot of fun telling people who may have never heard of a hedgehog as a pet all about your odd little buddy. And if you are able to take your hedgehog with you when going to work, shopping, or otherwise just "out", it can be very entertaining to watch people's faces when they spot what you are holding.

Hedgehogs are relatively low on the demand scale. While you should spend time with your hedgehog daily, they aren't prone to destroying your home if you miss a day. You don't have to take them for long walks in nasty weather, they won't scratch up your furniture, they won't chew holes in your woodwork or electrical cables, and they wont tear up your clothes. Hedgehogs are going to be fine for an occasional day or so with minimal interaction.

Hedgehogs are very intelligent. While they don't often show it in the traditional ways, your hedgehog may completely blow your mind with their ability to solve problems. Your hedgehog may figure out how to stack their cage furnishings to provide a ladder to escape from their cage, or they may find new ways to play with their toys to create the biggest racket or other form of chaos possible. Wait, are we SURE this is a benefit?

Hedgehogs are able to turn themselves wrong side out. Ok, not exactly. When a hedgehog comes in contact with a new scent or taste, they may repeatedly lick or chew the item, smack their lips to create a foam, and then stretch into absolutely mindboggling contortions to apply the foam to parts of their body that seem impossible to reach. This can be slightly messy, but can also be hilarious for the owner to watch.

No matter whether your hedgehog's behaviors lean more towards the positives or negatives of ownership, life with your hedgehog definately won't be dull.


Whether or not a hedgehog makes a good pet depends upon two things - the hedgehog and the person.

Hedgehogs are partially domesticated at this point but the fact remains that they are basically wild animals with a lot of wild instincts. A hedgehog cannot be expected to be readily trained to meet human expectations, so it is very important to examine one's own expectations and look for a hedgehog that will be a good match. It is also very important to hae realistic expectations - here is a list of things that you can expect from a hedgehog:

Hedgehogs are largely nocturnal or may be considered somewhat crepuscular (awake at twilight and midnight) and will generally prefer to be awake at night rather than during the day. They may make some noise as they go about their business at night, they do not bark, chirp or squeak but may bang their cage furnishings about.

You will get prickled. Even the friendliests hedgehogs hae their off moments and many will react to strange sounds, fast movement, or other unfamiliar situations by raising their quills or rolling in a tight ball.

Your hedgehog will need to stay warm. They are desert creature and are not meant to hibernate. If kept at too cool of temperatures, they can get sick and die.

Hedgehogs can bite. It is not their usual defence but anything with teeth can bite.

Your hedgehog will need its cage cleaned at least one or twice a week, depending on the type of bedding that you choose. Some bedding such as vellux or plain newspring will need to be changed daily.

Your hedgehog will need fresh food and water daily. Your hedgeho may soil its food or tip their water dish over - for this reason you cannot simply fill up the food and water dish and leave your hedgehog for several days.

Your hedgehog will probably need to see the vet at least once in its lifetime. Not all vets have experience with or will see hedgehogs so you will need to find a suitable vet before it becomes an issue.

You can expect your hedgehog to live between 3 - 6 years. Just like humans and other pets, some may live short lives whilst others live beyond this expectancy.

Your hedgehog does not need another hedgehog as a companion. Some females may accept or even enjoy a companion - males will not.

You will need to spend at least a little time and sometimes a lot of time, daily with your hedgehog if you want it to become used to your sound, smell and touch. If your are afraid of your hedgehog, it will probably make the hedgehog nervous.

Hedgehogs each have their own personalities and not all will want to interact with you in the same way.

Your hedgehog may poop on you, especially if it is very young or very old.

Your hedgehog may never actively seek you out for companionship. Some hedgehogs do but most just think humans are cool terrain to climb on.

Most babies will go through a period of "quilling" and will be very grumpy for a while. This can last for several months. You will need to hold them anyway, if you want to keep them from learning that this is a good way to get people to leave them alone.

While hedgehogs are well tolerated by many persons with allergies, there is no guarantee that they will be tolerated by all. Persons who are allergic to wood beddings will typically experience an allergi reaction when handling hedgehogs due to minute amounts of it secreted into the skin when poked by quills.

Hedgehogs do not have a strong body odour like domestic mice, rats and ferrets but they still eliminate waste and someone with a very sensitive nose can still smell a hedgehog.

Hedgehogs love to explore and hide so you cannot leave a hedgehog unattended without "hedgie proofing" your home.

While many hedgehogs do use a litter box, your hedgehog may be one that doesn't

Hedgehogs have a propensity towards obesity and you may need to monitor your hedgehogs diet carefully. As insectivores they require some attention to diet to meet their specific needs though they do not require to eat live insects to stay healthy.

In short, hedgehogs are an unusual and interesting animal but they are not for everybody. If you are caring, flexible, observant and able to meet its care needs and able to accept your hedgehog for what it is, rather than what you want it to be, then a hedgehog may be a good pet for you. Many people wonder if a hedgehog would make a good pet for a child and the answer is the same as for an adult - a definate maybe. If you are considering a hedgehog for a child's pet, please think about all of these considerations in terms of the child and also remember that ultimately, the adult must take final responsibility for the pet.


Question - How do you handle a hedgehog

Answer - Very Carefully!!

A long standing joke which can make you slightly intimidated about how to handle them as we all know their spines are very sharp as they do have the ability to roll into a tight, prickly ball.

The main thing to remember is that hedgehogs fell secure when they have safe footing. Whilst holding a hedgehog upside down in a ball is not harmful to the hedgehog, it does not encourage them to feel secure.

In order to help your hedgehog feel secure, it helps to hold your hands loosely to the hedgehogs side and keeping your hands relaxed as you slide them under their belly, this allows you to give the hedgehog firm footing and allows your hands to be more in contact with the soft belly fur than the sharp quills. Once your hedgehog realizes that it has firm footing it will become relaxed in your hands. If you are nervous when you handle your hedgehog it can transfer over to them making them more nervous making handling difficult.

Some hedgehogs do not relax enough for you to use the above method and if this is intimidating you to the point where you do not want to pick up your hedgehog you may want to scoop up some of the bedding as you scoop up your hedgehog to cushion your hand from the quills.

Using gloves to handle your hedgehog should always be a last resort as they do not allow your hedgehog to adjust to your smell. It is better to handle a hedgehog with gloves than not at all but remember that the smell of the gloves may bother the hedgehog making gloves counterproductive.

If this seems to be the case try using a small blanket, t-shirt or other soft cloth to cushion between you and the hedgehog as if you are not getting prickled you are not as likely to be startled and if you are calmer and not startled this will help your hedgehog to relax.

There is a hedgehog secret that helps balled up hedgehogs to relax. Hold the hedgehog in your hand if you are comfortable with that, or set it in your lap or any other comfortable setting, then rub their back in a gentle, circular motion. You can use your finger, fingernail or even the rubber eraser end of a pencil to rub - it should be a firm, gentle motion. Even a hedgehog who is completely balled up can be coaxed out by gently and patiently using this method.

Another tip for holding balled up hedgehogs is that distributing the weight of the hedgehog in your palm or palms decreases the amount of pressure that the quills exert on your hands.

It it only the very heavy (more than 16 0z), very upset hedgehogs who can put enough pressure on their quills to actually break the skin - the quills are sharp but not needle sharp. Yes it can hurt but the anticipation of how much we think it will hurt is often for more uncomfortable than the actual poke.

A side note, if the idea of handling an animal that will prickly you at least occasionally sounds unbearable, then a hedgehog is probably not the best choice of animal for you - if it sounds like something you could get used to, then it just takes patience and practice.

Different people definately have their different levels of comfort as do different hedgehogs. Don't worry about winning over your hedgehog on the first day - patience and persistence are necessary qualities for forging a quality relationship.

Handling Your Hedgehog

Published on 05-27-2010 12:24 PM

The first step to handling a hedgehog is learning to pick it up with as little stress and pain to either of you as possible. The best way to pick up a hedgehog is by holding your hand flat on each side of the hedgehog with your palms up, then gently moving your hands together to fully support the hedgehog's feet and belly. Even if your hedgehog is grumpy and rolled into a ball, this will distribute the quills over a larger area, making it less uncomfortable on your hands. Providing the hedgehog with a firm support underneath will help the hedgehog feel more safe and secure, reducing the likelihood of them panicking. People with especially grumpy hedgehogs or sensitive hands can use a small blanket (such as a piece of vellux or a baby recieving blanket) to help cushion their hands when you first pick them up.

Depending on your hedgehogs' personality, there are different ways to spend time with them. Nervous or laid back hedgehogs will likely get most benefit from their daily handling by being held while you are sitting quietly, such as while watching tv, playing on the computer, or reading a book. Providing these hedgehogs with a blanket or hedge-bag to snuggle in while on your lap may help increase their comfort levels. If you have an active wiggly hedgehog, trying to sit quietly with them is not very productive, and may in fact make your hedgehog more grumpy. These hedgehogs benefit most from having the ability to use their owner as a human jungle gym, with the owner sitting or lying on the floor of a small room that has been hedgehog proofed, and allowing the hedgehog to actively explore the floor and climb on your body. Almost all hedgehogs benefit from daily handling, even if the handling is as short as just picking your hedgehog up for a couple of minutes until they start relaxing, and then placing them back into their cage. Be aware that hedgehogs, especially the ones who sit quietly on your lap, may give you some signs that they are wanting to go back to the cage. These signs can include sudden restlessness or irritability. If you notice these signs, it is a good idea to return your hedgehog to the cage. They may be hungry, thirsty, or needing a moment to go to the bathroom.

Occasionally hedgehogs will bite. Most of these bites are actually taste nips, exploring some taste or smell that is on your skin. These are typically a quick nip, usually accompanied by a few licks, and often followed by self annointing. Make sure to wash your hands very thoroughly before handling your hedgehog to reduce the chances of these bites. Once and a while though, hedgehogs can bite out of irritation. These are typically sudden bites, with the hedgehog holding onto your skin firmly. Irritation bites are NOT accompanied by licking. If your hedgehog bites, do NOT put them back in the cage right away. This will train them to bite when they are ready to go back to their beds. If possible, sit still while the hedgehog is biting you until they let go on their own. You do not want to jerk, as this can cause more injury to you and can hurt your hedgehog's teeth. Some people will recommend blowing on the hedgehog's face, running water over your hedgehog, or other discouragement techniques when your hedgehog bites. I don't encourage this for a single biting episode, frequently just refusing to reward their behavior with a return to their cage is enough to convince your hedgehog that biting is not worth while.

My Hedgehog Hates Me

Published on 05-27-2010 12:37 PM Written by Antigone Means-Burleson

It's not unusual to hear new hedgehog owners complain that their hedgehog doesn't like them. It's important to remember that hedgehogs have not been domesticated for very long (just over a decade) as compared to most other critters in the pet trade, so a lot of "wild" behavior and fearfulness of new things in many individuals is not surprising. Even the friendliest of hedgies raise their quills, and if you own a hedgehog you WILL get poked.

To really enjoy hedgies, we have to sometimes make adjustments in our expectations. We can't expect that hedgies will be naturally calm and seek out our company immediately. I have a few who do that, but they are definitely in the minority. Some naturally friendly hedgie babies become total cranks when they go through quilling- which can take about 1 to 4 months to get over with. Some hedgies are just naturally cautious.

Even the shy hedgies have their strong points. It isn't that they don't like you, it's that you scare them! It takes time to earn their trust, and to learn how they want to be interacted with. One hedgie that I had- a big guy named Dante who came from a breeder that I know worked with him a lot- came to me at age 1-1/2, so very shy that he almost never showed his face. The breeder repeatedly asked me, "Are you SURE you want him?" I had fallen in love with his description and meeting him (all his quills- I didn't get to see his face at first) didn't deter me. It took about another year for us to really click. I figured he wanted space, so I let him free range on the hedgie room floor. I'd check to find him daily and talked calmly to him, making sure not to force myself on him. I didn't expect a whole lot, but eventually he started coming out on his own when I was in the room. Then he got to where he would come out and climb on peoples' feet if they were in the room and would come climb in my lap when I would sit on the floor.

I've had other hedgies who, like Dante, did not like to be picked up. To help them get used to me, I started slowly by talking to them and just putting my hand in the cage. They slowly learn to tolerate my presence, and eventually come over to check my hand. Next I work toward getting them to let me touch their nose, and many get to where I can scratch under their chins. They still roll into a ball if I try to pick them up, but I enjoy them because I know they trust and appreciate me. I think they do like me- they just don't like being picked up.

Each hedgie is unique and different, and for those hedgies who don't easily meet our expectations, the challenge is up to us to try to find the ways to interact that are enjoyable for both us and hedgie

Socializing The Grumpy Hedgehog

Published on 05-27-2010 12:40 PM

Through careful breeding by responsible hedgehog breeders, temperament of pet hedgehogs has improved dramatically since hedgehogs first entered the North American pet market in the very early 1990s. However, there are still some animals that are very unfriendly and temperamental that appear from time to time. While it is wonderful to know that probably less than 5% of hedgehogs are as unfriendly as the original imports, this isn't very reassuring when you do end up with one of the few very hateful hedgehogs.

First, it is sometimes helpful to figure out why your hedgehog is unfriendly. If the hedgehog has been mistreated by a previous owner, then it may be more of a fear or lack of trust issue than an actual unfriendly problem. If this is a young hedgehog, especialy one from a pet store, it may be one of two (or possibly even a combination) problems. First, poor breeding. When a breeder does not breed for temperament, the extremely unfriendly individuals who produce other unfriendly offspring are not removed from the gene pool, and continue to pollute the temperament pools of hedgehogs. Secondly, lack of handling. Many of the mass breeders handle their hedgehogs very rarely, and so the babies they produce are not socialized before being stuck in a shipping crate on the way to the pet store. While knowing the cause of your hedgehogs temperament may not bring an amazing understanding of how to bring him around, it sometimes can help you know where you need to target your attentions.

Any unfriendly hedgehog, regardless of cause, has the potential to become a more friendly pet. Notice I said MORE friendly, and not "loving perfect example of hedgehog temperament". While there are some hedgehogs who rebound from an unfriendly start and become a very sweet hedgehog, they aren't necessarily the common rule. I recommend hoping that your hedgehog becomes more easily handled, and less fearful, and then just be pleasantly surprised if they do end up being a very sweet hedgehog.

There are two major keys that I recommend to unlock an unfriendly hedgehog. First, Patience. The best way to bring around a grump is to spend lots of calm, quiet time with your hedgehog. Let them run around on you if they wish, or just sit on your lap if they prefer to be lazy. If they prefer to sit still, provide them with a small blankie or hedgebag to hide in. Even if you don't feel that you are interacting with the hedgehog, the more time they spend with you where they are able to relax and nothing unpleasant happen, the less fear they will hold that something bad IS going to happen with you. If possible, spend an hour or more per day, when the house is at it's calmest and quietest, with your hedgehog out of its' cage and in contact with you. This doesn't necessarily have to be all at once, if your hedgehog is very fearful when it is first picked up, but then calms down shortly, you may have more results holding it for a short period of time, until it relaxes, and then putting it away, and repeating the process a bit later. This gives the hedgehog more experience with the time where it is most nervous, and will do more good than holding it for long periods of time when it is already comfortable.

The second key that I use is Bribery. To begin with, offer your hedgehog a variety of small treats until you find something they really love. Then, make sure that treat smells of you. As gross as this sounds, rub the treats between your hands or *gasp* in your armpit for a second. This will be the start of the understanding that connects you with good things. Then, try keeping your hand near the treat dish while your hedgehog eats. Once your hedgehog accepts your hand near the treat dish, offer the treat dish while your hedgehog is sitting on your lap. Then, offer your hedgehog their treats from a spoon that you hold in your hand. Slowly move your hand up the handle of the spoon until the bowl of the spoon is resting on your fingers. At this point, your hedgehog should be showing a lot more trust in you, and then you can test your own trust for your hedgehog. Offer your hedgehog their treats straight from your fingers. However, be prepared so that even if you DO get nipped, you will not jerk, scream, or do anything else to startle your hedgehog.

Keeping constant with these suggestions will do a lot to bring grumpy hedgehogs around. While there are a very few hedgehogs that don't respond to these techniques, most of them will show improvement with enough work from their owner.


It is never a good idea to pick up a domestic hedgehog with gloves. Although imposing in appearance, the spines are not sharp enough to cause any real injury and, unlike porcupines, the spines do not come out and they are not barbed. It is absolutely essential for your hedgehog to recognize your scent and to recognize it as being harmless. In fact, in order to show your hedgehog at a sanctioned show, you must be able to properly handle him without gloves, since these are not allowed at the show table.

The correct method for picking up a hedgehog is to place your hands, palms up and his head facing away from you, on each side and gently scoop him up from underneath. If you are a bit unsure at first, scoop a little lower and take some of the shavings with him as this will help to protect your hands from his spines. After picking him up, you can drop the shavings as you move him from hand to hand. Then, carefully move him over onto one hand and hold him over the back with the other. Another way is to pick him up with a slotted spoon and place him on your hand. Once accustomed to you, he won’t bother to put his spines up and he will be very easy to pick up.

If he is rolled-up into a ball, he will, in most cases, soon unroll and put his spines down. If he is stubborn, though, getting him to unroll can can sometimes be little bit tricky. The simplest and most effective means to do this is to gently rock him back and forth in your hand. He will soon pop his little head out, but if he doesn't, hold him with his head facing away from you and a little bit higher than the rest of his body. Try to figure where his neck is and, in small circles about the size of a quarter, softly rub his neck. When he peaks out, allow him to lean forward and place his front feet on your other hand. Now, you can slowly move him from hand to hand. If, after trying these methods you are still having difficulties, ask a breeder or the store where you purchased your hedgehog if they could show you the proper technique for unrolling a stubborn pet.



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.


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.


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.


Hedgehog ears should be smooth and round, and should not be missing peices, or have rough edges.


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.


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.


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.


One of the questions frequently asked by potential first time hedgehog owners is "Do boys or girls make better pets?" The answer to this is really quite easy... neither!

The differences between the sexes are minor, and don't really affect the pet potential of the animal. Sex does not seem to affect individual animal personality, cage cleanliness, ability to bond to the owner, activity levels, or any other aspect of behavior.

What it DOES affect is some of the health conditions that you may have to face. Female hedgehogs are somewhat prone to uterine conditions such as cancers. There seems to be some evidence that females who are bred during their lifetime do not have as high of a risk of uterine cancers, however, I do not recommend breeding as cancer preventative due to the possible problems that breeding can bring, including death of the mother. There are individuals who encourage preventative spaying, but I don't think this is a good answer either, usually. IF you have a highly qualified vet who is very experienced in the special surgical needs of hedgehogs, and is familiar with doing spays on very small animals, it cuts the risks, but the spay procedure on hedgehogs is not a common enough procedure that the risks have been minimized, and I feel that doing an unnecessary surgery is as dangerous as the cancer risk. If you do have a female hedgehog, the best thing to do is watch her bedding carefully for any signs of blood, especially around the two year old mark. If you see blood in the bedding that cannot be explained by injury, then it is a good thing to have your female hedgehog tested for urinary or uterine infections, and if it reoccurs even after treatment with antibiotics, THEN a spay is usually recommended.

Male hedgehogs biggest health risk that does not seem to affect females is urinary tract issues. Males seem to occasionally have issues with kidney stones getting lodged in the urinary tract, or with blockages or infections in the penile sheath. The best way to watch for these issues is to check the external sheath opening daily for signs of debris, swelling, bleeding, or discoloration. If any of these signs are seen, get your hedgehog to the vet as soon as possible for an exam. HOWEVER- the exception to the debris rule is caused by the male hedgehog's tendency to pleasure himself. Some males rarely or never do this, others do it frequently, which leaves them with a sticky whitish discharge usually in the fur of the belly. This is normal, and can be removed with a bit of olive oil and a good bath.

The decision between male and female as a single pet is a purely individual preference. Either sex can be a great pet with proper care to the health issues involved.

What is Better- A Boy or Girl?
Published on 05-27-2010 09:39 AM Written by Antigone Means-Burleson

For many species, males are more aggressive than females. Thus, females are typically viewed as more desirable pets than males. I would argue that this belief does not apply to hedgehogs. Males and females show no temperament difference in how they react toward humans. I've raised over 150 litters now, and I have never observed any trend toward one gender or the other being easier to handle or generally more friendly than the other. There are, however, several things to consider when deciding to go with a boy or girl for your pet.

If you want to house two hedgehogs together, it has been our experience that it's extremely rare for two males to get along together. We experimented with this several years ago when it was first suggested that hedgehogs might not be entirely as solitary as early literature stated. The experiment was as disaster and we abandoned it after one poor male was eviscerated by his roommate. It has been our experience that many females enjoy, or at least tolerate, a roommate. This is not always the case, so one should keep in mind that any time you have two hedgies, you can't guarantee they'll get along. That said, it is a terrible idea to house a male and a female together indefinitely. You might not see babies, but unless one is infertile there is a strong chance that they will have them and eat them. You don't want to see what that looks like, believe me.

There is often a concern about scent marking with male critters. In a normal household environment without females around, a lone male is unlikely to do much scent marking. If he gets a whiff of other hedgies, especially female, you may see some occurring- the judging table at a hedgehog show is a great example of that. Overall, I have not found that one species is smellier than the other.

In conclusion, if you are just looking for a good pet, gender of the hedgehog should not be your primary consideration. Look for a hedgie that is friendly and seems to like you, and you and hedgie will be happy.

Note: If you aren't sure if hedgie is a boy or a girl, check the underbelly. If it looks like it has a "belly button" then it's a male. Males have a large urogenital gap, while females do not.

Sexing Hedgehogs

Published on 05-27-2010 07:20 AM

Unlike some animals, adult hedgehogs are quite easy to sex, as long as you know what you are looking for and are able to see the underbelly of the hedgehog. If your hedgehog is uncooperative and chooses not to show you his or her belly, you can put them in a glass baking dish and hold it up so you can look through the clear glass bottom.

This is the underbelly of an adult female hedgehog. Females have two genital openings that are very close together with no space between the two. These openings are located right in front of the tail. You can also see the nipples that are easily apparent in some females, though a lack of obvious nipples is NOT an accurate sexing tool.
This is the underbelly of an adult male hedgehog. The genital openings of males are spread apart, with the rectum right in front of the tail and the sheath opening appearing as a "belly button" in the center of the abdomen. Testicles are internal in hedgehogs, and do not hang outside of the abdomen, but are sometimes visible as a pair of grape sized lumps between the sheath and the rectum. Male hedgehogs also have an internal penis, that extends from the sheath when they are excited. This is a long slim often mottled in color appendage that can be quite startling to people who aren't aware of what they are seeing.

How can I introduce my hedgehog to my (dog/cat/bird/fish/ rabbit/etc.) with the least trouble?

In what limited experience I've had, I have seen no problem with interaction between hedgehogs and other pets -- my wife and I have five cats (Kit & Caboodle, Oreo, Snickers, and Scrapper) in addition to our group of hedgies. Velcro always thought the cats would make nice mealtime treats and chased them whenever possible, while some of the others take little notice of the cats, other than an occasional duck of the head and a snuffling session. For their part, the cats have only shown peaceful curiosity towards the hedgehogs. The occasional very careful paw will reach out and almost, but not quite touch one of the hedgehogs. The cats seem to know that these snuffling little armoured tanks are actually animated pincushions that would hurt if they really connected. For his part, Velcro omce actually shoved the largest cat (18+ lbs.!) out of the way with nothing more than a slightly indignant look from the cat.

Aside from this, I imagine that it will really depend on the personality of your other pet(s). I would expect more aggressive cats/dogs to try nipping at or swatting at a new hedgehog (an action that is unlikely to be repeated by any animal with the ability to learn from its mistakes). Some terriers and other hunting dogs might be an exception here, and might be best kept separate from hedgehogs for the safety of both parties (not to mention any humans who try to separate them!) Hedgehogs are admirably well protected -- the worry is ``how safe are your other pets?''

As long as you supervise the first few encounters between your hedgehog and your other pets, there `should be' no problem in either direction. The only time there should be cause for worry is if one or more of your other pets could potentially be food in the eyes of your hedgehog (such as pet mealworms?). By way of an example of this, I would recommend that you not introduce your hedgehog to any herps you might have -- it seems that, for example, hedgehogs enjoy the taste of iguana tail.

Last edited by Nellie on Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:26 pm; edited 8 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: An Introduction to the Hedgehog   Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:02 am

Always a good place to start ..

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