You’ve probably read about feeding and basic care if you’ve made the decision, but you may not have thought through everything about what it will be like to own a hedgehog.
In recent years, they have become very popular pets in North America even though they are really from Africa.
Here are some things to remember beyond the basics so that your new hedgehog fits in.
Be prepared for the fact that everyone in your home should know about the hedgehog before you bring it home.
Family members and visitors may handle it incorrectly or be afraid of getting stuck with a hedgehog needle! Many people believe that hedgehogs are some sort of porcupine or are likely to harm people with their quills.
While hedgehogs are prickly and especially so when frightened, they do not launch quills like a cartoon animal. They cannot shoot quills in defense.
They can make themselves look larger by puffing their spines out, and they may feel rough if handled poorly. They will twitch if frightened and this can cause the spines to poke the handler.
As a new owner, you can get used to your hedgehog and help it get used to you by holding it in a towel. Do the same with family members and new visitors until they are used to handling the hedgehog. The animal can actually enjoy being stroked when relaxed, but it takes practice.
Your new hedgehog will let you know when it feels nervous.
They have the ability to roll their bodies up very lightly and tuck their faces and limbs. The quills will stand out and you will be basically unable to see anything but a ball of spines.
It is never a good idea to try to poke or pull on a hedgehog to try to force it to come out of a ball. It does this only when it feels the need to and it should be left alone and quiet until it feels comfortable enough to check its surroundings again.
If your hedgehog knows you well, you can hold it while it Is curled and very gently stroke it to get it relaxed. Once they get used to that, they will associate your scent and your presence with comfort. Until then, allow your hedgehog to get used to everything and don’t be pushy.
Another thing that really shocks many people is the spitting and frothing that a hedgehog does routinely.
When I invited a friend to see my hedgehog, she brought a cat toy stuffed with catnip. I suppose that was intended as a proper gift for a small animal and my hedgehog was curious but also a little nervous about the strange smell and the fake “eyes” on the toy.
My hedgehog watched the toy and saw that it wasn’t aggressive but it could tell that the scent of the toy was unusual. So, it did what hedgehogs do! It worked up a frothy little ball of spit and licked the cat toy with this froth.
It bit the toy a few times to release more of the scent and then began to bathe itself in the frothy spit by licking the toy and then its own spines.
My friend was a little grossed out and asked me if my hedgehog had rabies. I assured her that the froth was very normal.
We don’t know everything about why hedgehogs do this, but it seems to be a possible attempt to make itself smell like its surroundings. It feels safer this way. It’s just one more thing to get used to with these unusual pets!