Pet Hedgehog Information

Hedgehogs can make a great pet for the right person. Information and general care of a Hedgehog.

The irresistibly cute little brush that looks like an upside down bowl, with the sweetest little face sticking out at one end, that's covered with quills! These quills aren't the types of quills like a porcupine has with barbs on the end. The quills feel more like a bristly brush. They do have soft fur on their faces and bellies and they sport a very busy nose sniffing and snorting around. He really does have a tail, but it is hard to see since it's just a little nub hiding under the quills. The little armored critters are between 4 and 9 inches in length. If you're 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 isn't 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 don't 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. Normally it is the Pigmy Hedgehog that you see 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.

Legal Issues

There are many states in which the hedgehog is illegal, including California. Some states and local governments require permits. Be sure to check with the Department of Fish and Game, or Department of Wildlife to check on the legalities before purchasing.

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've seen two different terms used when referring to a group of hedgehogs; these terms are drift and herd.

Is your little bundle of bristles a boy or a girl? That's simple, check the tip of his or her tail, is it blue or pink? Not really, I'm afraid it is a little more complex than that. The male has a penal sheath located 2/3 of the way from the nose to the tail that looks like a belly button. The female's vagina is located down by her anus. The female also has a row of nipples on each side of her soft little belly

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 head can fit through. They also climb everything, like water bottles in their cages.

Bonding is different than bonding with other animals. The hedgehog has very poor eyesight. Their hearing isn't much better. Hedgehogs bond with a reliance on their sense of smell. You cannot use gloves. Don't change your odor each day by wearing different perfumes. He will learn to identify your smell as that of a friend in time. Spend a great deal of time with your new friend. It is better to spend small amounts of time frequently than large amounts of time infrequently. Find an article of clothing that has no lose threads, or loops for him to get injured on. Wear it for a day and then place it in his cage with him. He will quickly adjust to your smell.

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. They can ball up quickly and your finger can get 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.

Housing

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 lots of ventilation. Wire cages work well, but make sure the squares are small enough so the hedgehog can't get out. An excellent container is a good size Tupperware bin. Drill lots of holes for ventilation, but not to 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 wheel will fit and be free spinning.

Bedding

Never use pine or cedar. Aromatic softwood is dangerous to their respiratory systems. You can use aspen shavings, or non-dusty clay litter. Choose the bedding carefully because the hedgehog will ingest some of the bedding. Aspen shavings are good because they are digestible.

Warmth

Hedgehogs must be kept warm. Under the bin or cage place a heating pad at the lowest setting, but only covering one third of the bottom. This way the hedgehog can get away from the heat.

Food

While there are some good quality hedgehog foods appearing on the market, it is not readily available. Their favorite food and treat is mealworms. If a commercial food isn't available a high quality dog or 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. Using Iams kitten food has caused severe and often terminal liver problems in hedgehogs. Iams is a wonderful product for cats, not hedgehogs. Exercise wheels seem to reverse and completely avoid the difficulty of a hedgehog having these liver problems that sometimes seem to show up no matter what food is offered.

Toys

A large sturdy wheel, like a hamster uses, is a must. They are active animals and the exercise is very beneficial to them. Also empty toilet papers rolls that have been cut through completely across so the animal doesn't 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! Or you could go all the way and get a small child's swimming pool (hard plastic) and add sand, dirt, grass and mealworms. Digging up clumps if dirt with the grass still attached is a great deal of fun for them, too.

Summary

The hedgehog is pet that can be pretty special for the right person. Some hedgehogs have suffered though, because of people purchasing them as a fad item. If you must have an exotic animal to show off to your friends please adopt a Furby; they can't 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.

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