What is that irresistibly cute little brush that looks like an upside down bowl, with the sweetest, tiny face sticking out at one end, that's covered with quills? It must be a hedgehog. These quills are not the type of quills like, those of a porcupine; with barbs on the end. The quills feel more like a bristly brush. Pet hedgehogs have soft fur on their faces and bellies and they sport a very busy nose sniffing and snorting around. The hedgehog really does have a tail, but it is hard to see given that it is just a little nub hiding under the quills.
The little armored critters are between 4 and 9 inches in length. If you are an early bird jumping out of bed at 6 AM and back to bed early at night, (the old early to bed, early to rise variety of person) a hedgehog is not for you. At best, you would have time to wave a friendly hello, since they are nocturnal. Though a bit nervous and not the standard cuddly lap animal they do have advantages. You do not have to walk them in a rainstorm.
Hedgehogs have not been kept in people's homes as a pet for very long. Their life expectancy is thought to be 4-6 years. As people become more familiar with the hedgehog, life expectancy is creeping upward, toward ten years. Normally you see the Pigmy Hedgehog for sale in pet shops. Most hedgehogs can be trained to use a litter box, but not all. If their cage is kept cleaned they have very little odor. Some commercial foods tend to cause hedgehogs to have a stronger odor. People that are normally allergic to cats are rarely allergic to hedgehogs.
The hedgehog most often seen as a family pet is actually a hybrid between White-bellied Hedgehog and the North African Hedgehog. You will often find the hedgehog in pet stores as a African Pygmy Hedgehog or a Pygmy Hedgehog. Two other hedgehogs you will find as pets is the Indian Long-eared Hedgehog and the Long-eared Hedgehog.
There are many states that the hedgehog is illegal. Naming one, the most unfriendly, unreasonable, backward bureaucracy there is, California. Some states and local governments require permits. Some states are stuck with two permits, federal and state, and/or importation. Be sure to check with the Department of Fish and Game, and/or Department of Wildlife and or USDA to check on the legalities before purchasing. This is the case with any exotic pet.
He or She and What do you call a Hedgehog?
As near, as I can tell referring to a hedgehog is far from standard. Here are a couple catchy terms, "The Tribble from Hell" and the Yuppie Puppy.” Baby hedgehogs are referred to as "hoglets" or hedgehoglets.” I have seen two different terms used when referring to a group of hedgehogs; these terms are drift and herd.
Purchasing Your Hedgehog
Buy a just weaned, 6-8 week old hedgehog, it is much easier to bond with them. Look for bright clear eyes and a well-rounded body. The hedgehog should be alert, inquisitive, and energetic.
Bringing the Baby Hedgehog Home
Make sure your house is escape proof. Hedgehogs are masters at escaping and can fit through anything their little heads can fit. They also climb everything, for example, water bottles in their cages. Make sure the top of the hedgehog enclosure is secure, locked if you have children or expect children to visit.
Bonding is different from bonding with other animals. The hedgehog has very poor eyesight. Their hearing is not much better. Hedgehogs will rely on their sense of smell to form a bond with you. You cannot wear gloves. Do not change your odor each day by wearing different perfumes or colognes. He will learn to identify your smell as a friend; in time. Spend a great deal of time with your new friend. It is better to spend small amounts of times frequently than large amounts of time infrequently. Find an article of clothing that has no lose threads, or loops for him to be entangled. Wear it for a day and then place it in his cage with him. He will quickly adjust to your scent.
Handling the Hedgehog
Place your hand on each side of him and gently cup him in your hand. Use great caution not to place your fingers in the middle of his body. They can ball up quickly and your finger can be caught in the middle of a bunch of quills being squeezed together by very strong muscles. The hedgehog will learn to step up upon your hand as he gets to know you. We nicknamed our first hedgehog our pocket pet because he seemed to really enjoy riding around in our shirt pockets. This also will help with the bonding process.
Housing and Cages
Several types of cages will work. Most important is that the cage is secure. If it is an aquarium, make sure it has a secure lid with ventilation. Wire cages work, make sure the squares are small enough so the hedgehog cannot get out. An excellent container is a good size Tupperware bin. Drill many holes for ventilation, but not too big for your pet to escape. The bin works great and it can be disinfected. The bin should be deep enough so that a hedgehog's exercise wheel will fit and be free spinning.
Never use pine or cedar. Aromatic softwood is dangerous to their respiratory system you can use aspen shavings, or non-dusty clay litter. Choose the bedding carefully because the hedgehog will consume some of the bedding. Aspen shavings are good because they are digestible. Why pet stores still put up for sale pine and cedar shavings is utterly beyond me when it has killed so many animals.
Hedgehogs must be kept warm. Place a heating pad under one third of the enclosure set on the lowest setting. The hedgehog can escape the heat if he should become too warm.
While there are some good quality hedgehog foods appearing on the market, it is not readily available. Their favorite food and treat is mealworms. They can eat small crickets and other prey bugs. If a commercial food is not available a high quality cat food can be fed in a pinch. The dietary needs of a hedgehog have not been completely established. Offer them some fruits and veggies that are high in fiber. Exercise wheels seem to reverse and completely avoid the difficulty of a hedgehog having liver problems that sometimes seem to show up no matter what food is offered.
The hedgehog will need a large, sturdy running wheel. Don’t use the old fashion wire variety. They are active animals and the exercise is very beneficial to them. In addition, empty toilet papers rolls, that have been cut from end to end, so the animal does not get his head trapped. You should even bevel the ends a bit. They love to dig and root. Make a small sandbox for him, add sand and some mealworms, he will have a blast! On the other hand, you could go all the way, get a small child’s swimming pool (hard plastic), and add sand, dirt, grass, and mealworms and crickets. Digging up clumps if dirt with the grass still attached is a great deal of fun for them too.
The hedgehog is pet that can be special for the right person. Some hedgehogs have suffered though, because of people have purchased only because of their popularity. They are not a throw-a-way pet. If you must have an exotic animal to show off to your friends please adopt a Furby; they cannot die of loneliness, or starve. If you are a responsible, pet owner and do a great deal of research a hedgehog can make a wonderful little pet especially if you have busy lives, and cramped quarters. One disadvantage of a hedgehog they can bite and do have sharp teeth. However, they do not bite often. Above all else, enjoy your pet hedgehog.
Comments and questions Comments!
Interview with Z. G. Standing Bear, president of the International Hedgehog Association (IHA).
Hedgehogs - Review A Complete Pet Owners Manual by Guest Author - Zug G. Standing Bear
Anytime you are considering an exotic pet, or any pet for that matter, you truly need to know as much as possible about the pet. My articles are a brief overviews of the pet. There are a number of books on the market that claim authority about the animal. It takes diligence to weed out the bad to mediocre books to find the book or books that will help you the most. I am taking the time to do just that. Written by Sharon Vanderlip, DVM, Hedgehogs:A Complete Pet Owners Manual will serve you well taking care of your bristly little pet hedgehog.
Hedgehogs (Complete Pet Owner's Manual)
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