Hedgehogs, similar to humans, each come with their own personality. That is what makes hedgehogs interesting, and fun pets. Naturally some hedgehogs will be more friendly and open to being handled than others. Others will feel more defensive and ball up, taking longer to open up. If your hedgehog is on the grumpier end of the spectrum, is all hope lost? Not exactly.
Here are some tips & tricks to help your hedgehog become more comfortable being handled:
Please keep in mind, every hedgehog is different and will react differently. Some may always be grumpier than others. This isn't a guaranteed method to help your hedgehog become more friendly, but certainly can help.
If you're looking for a hedgehog, you also can always ask the breeder how often the babies are handled, and which hoglets in the litter are the most friendly. At Penny's Prickly Pigs, we strive to breed friendly adults, which generally leads to more friendly hoglets.
Have you had a grumpy hedgehog? What tips and tricks worked for you?
Who will be responsible for the hedgehog?
Like all pets, hedgehogs require specific care and attention including, but not limited to feeding, fresh water, socialization, cage and wheel cleaning, nail trimming, occasional baths and more. Who will be responsible for making sure the hedgehog is taken care of? If your child's interest wanes, are you willing to step up to take care of your pet for the lifespan of the hedgehog (up to 6+ years)? Note: We ask that all minors (under 18) who submit an adoption application, have a supervising adult that is willing to care for the hedgehog for its entire lifespan if the child cannot/does not.
Why does your child want a hedgehog?
Ask your child why they want a hedgehog. The response might surprise you! It's important that your child has done the research, knows the appropriate care, and is ready to take on this responsibility for the rest of the hedgehog's life.
Do you want a cuddly pet?
Hedgehogs are not "soft" and "cuddly" per se. They do have quills, designed to be defense mechanisms, so they can be sharp - especially baby quills. Friendly hedgehogs will generally let their quills down after they get used to you. It's important that your hedgehog is socialized regularly, in your hands, without gloves on. If you or your child is too afraid to handle hedgehogs, they are likely not an ideal pet for them at this time.
So what is the best age to start owning hedgehogs?
There is no one specific right answer for this question. It will come down to your child's level of responsibility and maturity. Typically, I see this stage reached around middle school (or older) depending on the child WITH an attentive supervising adult. I personally, adopted my first hedgehog when I was about 12 years old.
Ultimately, you know your child best and know your willingness to step in to become the primary caregiver if your child is no longer as interested as the hedgehog deserves.
What age did you get your first hedgehog? Let us know!
bringing your hedgehog home
The day is finally here! Your hedgehog gets to come home. As exciting as it is, you will want to keep in mind that this is also a BIG day for your new companion as well. It can be quite the transition, so your primary goal is to make the hedgehog feel safe, secure, and loved.
safe, secure travel carrier
As tempting as it may be to travel with the hedgehog in your lap or with a companion holding him or her on the ride home, it is important that your hedgehog travel in a secure small pet travel carrier. We typically use the one pictured above, but you can also use a smaller clear storage bin with holes in the side or lid or most any variety that has a secure lid. Not only is it safer to travel in a carrier, but they can get quite squirmy suddenly and the last thing you would want would be for your hedgehog to escape your lap and end up in difficult to reach places in your vehicle or worse - under your gas or brake pedal.
transition the scent
*Optional* To help with the adjustment, it can be nice to see if you can have a small amount of bedding from their previous cage for their travel carrier and transitioned into their new cage, so they have some familiar and comfortable smells around them. You may also leave something that smells like you in their cage. For example, a piece of an old t-shirt. Be sure that it does not have any loose fibers or holes to get stuck in. Monitor any wear and tear on the item and remove after a week or so.
Let the hedgehog adjust
It is so tempting to just want to cuddle up to your new hedgehog, but you will need to be patient. Your hedgehog went through one of the biggest transitions of their life going from their home with siblings and mother to its new home. For the first week, we recommend minimal interaction other than feeding, water, and brief checks on them. Keep in mind they might be a bit grumpier than normal while they adjust to their new surroundings. Also, depending on their age, they may go through a quilling process losing their baby quills while their adult quills come in, also adding to a bit more unease.
In the first week, try to limit handling so they can adjust and feel safe in their new surroundings. After a week of transition time, you can slowly increase your handling and socialization time with your new hedgehog.
You've decided a hedgehog is the right pet for you, but where do you begin to find the perfect hedgehog for you?
Like any pet, you will not want to buy your new family member from just anywhere.
We realize it can be hard to discern a quality hedgehog breeder from a back-yard breeder, so we've put together some helpful resources on where to look for breeders and questions to ask potential breeders before purchasing your hedgehog.
Where to find breeders
First, let's cover where to not find your reputable breeder. I would avoid the following:
So where, then, is the best place to find a breeder?
questions to ask breeders
Most reputable breeders are happy to answer questions about their breeding programs. If you receive push back, it may not be the best fit.
For example, here are the answers to the above questions For Penny's prickly pigs
Where did you find your breeder? What other questions were helpful when you were looking for a breeder? Is there another great resource for hedgehog breeder listings? Let us know!
how to prepare a hedgehog cage
It's very important to prepare a proper hedgehog habitat before their arrival. Not all small pet habitats are ideal for hedgehogs, so please see our blog post on How to Prepare a Hedgehog Cage for detailed items, where to purchase them, and things to avoid.
What is the perfect hedgehog environment
Putting together your perfect hedgehog cage is only part of the hedgehog environment.
what do hedgehogs eat?
It may surprise you to learn that the best diet for hedgehogs is high quality cat food. Thankfully it's nutritionally better (and cheaper! and easier to find!) than "hedgehog food." We feed our hedgehogs Purina ONE chicken flavor cat food. You can also mix a few types of cat food together to make a blend of proteins.
Be wary of too many additional treats (mealworms, etc) as hedgehogs can become obese. It is also helpful if you regularly weigh your hedgehog to track any sudden increases or decreases in weight, which can clue you in if there is a hidden health issue going on.
Also, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so do not feed your hedgehog milk or dairy.
What basic care do hedgehogs require?
In the grand scheme of things, hedgehogs are fairly low maintenance pets. With a dedicated and attentive owner, hedgehogs are easy to rewarding pets.
How to find an exotic vet
Hedgehogs do not require routine veterinary care. However, you always want to know your nearest exotic vet BEFORE a need should arise. You also want to make sure that your vet has experience specific to hedgehogs.
Here are some great ways to find your exotic vet. Be sure to call the ones you're interested in and confirm they are experienced with hedgehogs and ask procedures for regular or acute care as well as in case of emergency. Some vets have a different emergency or after-hours phone number.
Our recommended exotic vet in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area:
NC State Veterinary Hospital
why is my hedgehog foaming at the mouth?!
You're hanging out with your hedgehog and everything is great. All of a sudden your hedgehog starts "foaming" at the mouth and spitting it onto their quills. Yikes!
No, your hedgehog does not have rabies. No, your hedgehog is not having a seizure. This process is called anointing. When hedgehogs come into contact with new smells and tastes, hedgehogs anoint themselves. Why exactly, we're not sure. It's believed they may be saving that scent for later.
Either way. Don't fret. This is a completely normal part of hedgehog ownership.
Note: If there are other concerning things happening with your hedgehog, you should call and consult with your exotic veterinarian.
What else do you want to know about hedgehog care? Let us know in the comments!
How to prepare a hedgehog CAGE
Hedgehog Cage Checklist
Your long-awaited hedgehog is finally ready for his new home. It's always so exciting to bring home a new hedgehog, but do you have everything you need? We've included our checklist, as well as where to purchase, to ensure you have the proper hedgehog set-up. While there are alternative cage, bedding, and hide-away options, we included the options that we've found are the most comfortable and easiest to clean for your new companions.
Recommendation: Sterilite Clear Storage Bin (min. 100 qt)
Available at: Target, Walmart, Amazon
The ideal hedgehog cage is large enough for how active hedgehogs are. They can run miles on their wheel each night! We prefer the Sterilite bins because they are very easy to clean. Not pictured, but we recommend a well ventilated lid for your cage. You can drill holes in the Sterilite lid to ensure proper airflow. Hedgehogs are capable of climbing and some like to get adventurous if given the chance.
Recommendation: Kaytee Large Comfort Wheel
Available at: Walmart, Amazon, Local Pet Stores
Hedgehogs run multiple miles at night. Hedgehogs can also be prone to obesity, so it is essential that they have a proper wheel to exercise on. Be sure to get a large wheel with a solid floor. Wire wheels are not safe for hedgehogs as they can get their small feet and toes stuck in between the wires and holes.
Recommendation: Yesterday's News Unscented Cat Litter and Fibercore Eco-Bedding
Yesterday's News available at: Walmart, Amazon, Chewy, Local Pet Stores
Eco-Bedding available at: Walmart, Amazon, Tractor Supply Co.
You want a safe and comfortable bedding for your hedgehog. We prefer the Yesterday's News non-clumping unscented cat litter (do not substitute normal cat litter), since it seems to be much more absorbent and odor resistant than when we used shavings. They also enjoy the Eco-Bedding to move around and build nests out of. (Note: if you purchase Eco-Bedding in a 10lb box, it is A LOT of bedding and will last you a very long time for just one hedgehog.) You can also use pine shavings, but do not use cedar shavings or anything with cedar in it as it is toxic to hedgehogs.
Recommendation: Kaytee Small Animal Igloo - Large
Available at: Walmart, Amazon, Petsmart, Local Pet Stores
Hedgehogs love to be able to burrow, and feel safe during the day. The hideout is an essential part of their habitat. We prefer the plastic igloos since they are durable, easy to clean, and allow for the hedgehog to bring in and remove bedding. Sometimes fabric hideouts can get dirty and fibers may wrap around the hedgehogs legs if they get worn down.
Food & Water
Available at: Walmart, Amazon, Pet Stores
For water, we recommend water bottles and our hoglets will be used to drinking out of a bottle by the time they arrive home. While bowls are fine, hedgehogs love to burrow and often times this leads to dumping out the water and soiling their bedding. Any basic small animal food bowl will do.
What to avoid
Just as important as the essential items, there are items that seem like a good idea, but need to be avoided for the safety of your hedgehog. These items include, but are not limited to:
Rachel, the owner of Penny's Prickly Pigs has been breeding hedgehogs since 2008, and owned hedgehogs off and on for 23+ years. We maintain a small herd to focus on quality and personality. We track pedigrees on all of our hedgehogs.
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