Hedgehogs as a Pet – The Prickly Truth

Hedgehog as a pet
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Justin Snow 

Getting a hedgehog as pet? No Jokes!

Ten, twenty years ago no one would have really honestly considered a hedgehog as a pet. Sure, your neighbour might have left cat food out or even a bowl of milk (a bad idea, as I will explain later) and your other neighbour might have complained about his dog getting fleas from the wild hedgehog that went around the ‘hood. But no one invited a hedgehog into their homes. My first encounter with a wild hedgehog was when I heard these weird snuffling sounds by my front garden. Peeked out the window and there she was, a brown spiky thing the size of a football. My cat was keeping his distance but observing her fast walk through the lawn. Fast? Very.

Why did people ever think that hedgehogs were slow, I wouldn’t understand. I mean, Sonic the Hedgehog runs at the speed of light! So it would make sense hedgehogs in reality were fast.

Lately, hedgehog popularity has been slowly rising since the introductory of tiny hamster sized hedgehogs. Would you like to have a hedgehog as a pet? What are they like? Read on for some insight into these prickly creatures!

The basic facts about hedgehogs as pets:

  • Pet hedgehogs are different to your garden roaming variety. African pygmy hedgehogs are the small pets that can be legally kept at home.
  • Wild hedgehogs or European hedgehogs should never be kept as pets. Not only is it illegal but they are an endangered species and would cope poorly if you try to keep it in your home. Hurt wild hedgehogs should be given to your local vet/wildlife rehabber/hedgehog rescue.
  • Pygmy hedgehogs were originally bred in the USA and were made by breeding Algerian hedgehogs with White Bellied hedgehogs.
  • Adult Pygmy hedgehogs will weigh less than 2lbs and will be around 5-8 inches.
  • Lifespan on average is 3-5 years.
  • Contrary to popular believe, wild or pet hedgehogs should not drink milk as they are lactose intolerant. Milk can be potentially fatal to them.
  • A pet hedgehog will not be flea ridden under normal circumstances. A wild hedgehog may have fleas in the same way that a feral cat or dog might have fleas. Some people complain about their pets catching fleas off hedgehogs that sometimes visit their garden. This is a myth as hedgehog fleas are host specific. They cannot and most likely would not want to live on you, your other pets and your carpet.
  • Their senses are best described as being hamster-like. With poor eyesight, they are likely to walk off the edge of things like tables. That doesn’t mean they don’t climb well though. I heard a man once say he saw a hedgehog climbing a wall… Their other senses, touch, hearing, taste and smell are highly sensitive to make up for the lack of good eyesight.
  • They require plenty of exercise. Wild hedgehogs roam several miles per night.
  • Unlike wild hedgehogs, pet hedgehogs should not hibernate. Hibernation can kill them as they are not prepared for it the way a wild one would.
  • They produce no dander making them more suitable to people with allergies to animals.
  • They are less cuddly and attention seeking than cats and dogs. They might enjoy a cuddle but they are less likely to seek it out.  When scared, their quills may even hurt you.
  • When discovering a new object, hedgehogs may lick the new object till they foam at the mouth and spread their saliva all over their quills. No one is really sure why they do this ‘self-anointing’ business but some suspect it’s to hide their own scent.

There, a collection of facts to give you a better idea about what a hedgehog as a pet might be like and to give you a better understanding about wild hedgehogs.

Dont go chasin’ waterfalls... by Justin Snow, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Justin Snow 

Still interested in their cute little faces? Want to know whether you should be a hedgehog owner? Come back soon, my next post will cover more about the requirements of these prickly animals, both good and bad!

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