Owning a Pet Hedgehog: Everything You Need to Know

It’s increasingly popular to have a pet hedgehog at home, and it’s not hard to see why! There are tons of pictures and videos of these cute little critters. And when I see these, I really can’t help but want to have my own cuddly companion.

Hedgies are small and shy creatures, but once they warm up to you, you’ll find them to be very active and lovable pets. Caring for them is not a difficult task, but here is some vital information that you should know before getting one.

Hedgehog Basics

As with owning any pet, you, as the human, must have at least some necessary information on the creature that you’ll care for. Whether it be a dog, cat, or hedgehog, proper knowledge will let you have a better time with your companion.

Here are some things that you should know about hedgies:

What states allow you to own a hedgehog?

Most states allow it, except for California, Georgia, Hawaii,  Maine,  Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. although you can with the proper permit.  In New York, it is illegal in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the most important facts you should know about these adorable hedgies.

Wild Animal or Domesticated Pet?

Some people would argue that hedgehogs shouldn’t be kept as pets – they are wild animals, after all. However, others would also say that all domesticated animals have begun from the wild.

In my view, hedgehogs can make good domesticated pets, as long as you know how to deal with them. Our beloved dogs have come from wild wolves – and years upon years of breeding and training have led us to have them as household companions. What makes hedgies different?

If you want to have a hedgehog pet, you can’t just pick one up from the wild. You will have to find a licensed and reputable breeder if you want a well-bred and well-taken care of little hedgie.

Hedgehog Breeds

Like cats and dogs, hedgehogs have different breeds. The most common and pet-friendly hedgie breed is the African Pygmy, more popularly known as the Four-Toed Hedgehog. There are other breeds out there, but they’re usually not considered as pets.

The Four-Toed Hedgie

They’re the most common pet breed that you can find because they’re the smallest among the hedgehog family. Their pocket size makes taking care of them easier as compared to their bigger brothers. Given that they’re the smallest, they’re also the cutest among the bunch.

These hedgies also come in different colors. The most common that you’ll see on the internet is the salt & pepper hedgehog. As a matter of fact, many owners consider this as the standard color. Their quills are black and white, and they have white hair on their bellies.

Cinnamon is also a popular color – they have white spines with some banded cinnamon accents. Their noses are usually light red, but their bellies have white hair, like their salt & pepper brethren.

Some hedgies are also described as snowflake-colored – so-called because the spines on their back resemble a freshly-laid coat of snow. Their colors are highly-contrasting and make these hedgies fascinating to observe.

There are several more hedgie coat colors that you can find, but these three are the most commonly bred variants.

General Facts About Your Pet Hedgehog

This is what you could expect when you get a hedgie companion. We’ll discuss their lifespan, size, and natural habitat – things that can help you prepare for living a life with your cute and cuddly pet.

How Long Do Hedgies Live?

A typical wild hedgehog lives a good two to three years: predator activity, disease, and injury count as significant factors limiting their lifespan. But if grown in captivity, they could last as long as 10 years!

If your hedgie comes from a responsible breeder, they would have used ethical practices to limit in-breeding and make sure that little spikey will have a good genetic background.

Like us, humans, proper diet, and exercise will keep hedgie healthy. Giving them complete and balanced nutrition will lead them to a healthy life, and an active lifestyle will help them build their physique. Hedgehogs, like any other pet, require physical and mental stimulation.

You’d also want to give them proper housing and environment, as well as little or no stress. If you know how to care for your little spikey hog and give them all their needs, then they will have a good long life ahead of them.

How Big Can Hedgies Get?

You don’t need to worry about not getting enough space for your hedgie. Like typical small pets, they are usually between 5 to 8 inches long and weigh around half a pound to two pounds at the most.

Given that they’re small, you would only need around six square feet of space to house them – so finding a cage big enough for them isn’t going to be an issue.

Where Did Hedgies Come From?

These little critters originally came from Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are not native to the Americas and Australia, although you might find them there as they were introduced by humans as pets.

Are Hedgies Mini Porcupines?

While hedgehogs may look similar to porcupines with their spiny backs, these two creatures are not related at all.

Porcupines are native to the US, while hedgehogs are imported into the country. That’s why the authorities are not very keen on people having pet hedgies, because if they’re inadvertently released into the wild, they could pose a threat to natural wildlife.

Unlike hedgehogs, which are insectivores and omnivores, porcupines are generally herbivores. They only eat fruits, leaves, grass, and tree barks. Porcupines are actually more closely related to mice and rats, as all three are considered rodents.

The significant difference between the two species is how they react defensively. When threatened, a hedgie will roll up into a ball to protect its soft underbelly and avoid being eaten by predators. On the other hand, porcupines will arch its back and stick its quills up. It will actively defend itself and try to hurt the threat with its spines.

Hedgie quills are typically 2 to 3 inches long and are like the bristles of a stiff brush. Porcupines, on the other hand, a foot-long spikes with barbs at its tip. Don’t be pricked by a porcupine because its spikes are hard to remove!

Would Hedgehog Pets Be Fit for You?

Not everyone is fit to have a pet – for example, if you live in a small apartment, you shouldn’t have a big dog that requires a lot of open space to exercise. At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend that you get a cat if you’re allergic to fur.

It is the same thing with hedgehogs. Although they are small creatures, it is wise for you to evaluate yourself and your environment first if you can handle their activity and personality.

Who Should Have a Hedgehog?

Here are some characters that you need to be a successful hedgie guardian.

Knowledgeable

Anyone wanting to have a pet should be knowledgeable about them. Having a companion is a two-way street: your cuddly buddy will give you love and affection, but you will also have to meet their needs. The more you know about hedgies, the better you could understand them and attend to their quirks and behavior.

Patient and Gentle

Hedgies are typically shy creatures. It will take time for them to build up trust and affection for you. That is why you must have the patience to let your relationship with them grow. You also have to be gentle because if you get a little rough with them, they will curl up into a ball, and it might take some time for them to warm up to you again.

Observant

Unlike dogs, which react to their humans and their environment in more visible ways, hedgies are much subtler. As their human, you must be mindful of your little buddy and recognize its needs and behavior to see how they are feeling.

Financially Responsible

Caring for a hedgie can cost you. There are upfront expenses, like their cage and wheel, periodic maintenance like their beddings and supplies, plus daily feeding. You also have to set aside some for the vet. A check-up for you buddy every now and then is essential to keep them healthy and happy.

Accepting

You must also realize that your little buddy will most probably never do any tricks. As long as you accept their quirks and habits, as well as the love and affection that they can offer you, then you’ll be one happy pair.

Regularly Available

While hedgies are typically introverted creatures, they need your constant and consistent presence for them to trust you. They’re also usually awake at night, so you have to be around at the start of their day so they could enjoy your company.

Who Shouldn’t Have a Hedgehog?

Hedgies have innate qualities that might be an issue with some people. That is why, if you find yourself among those below, I’d recommend that you find a suitable arrangement first before getting your first hedgie.

Light Sleepers

Since these little hogs are nocturnal creatures, you’ll find them awake and full of energy at night. Hedgehogs, although tiny, can make a ruckus. For this reason, if you are a light sleeper, you should consider placing your hedgie and their home in another room.

Those Who Can’t Be Around When Little Hedgie Wakes

If you sleep before sunset or are out late at night, it’s better to arrange for a companion or housemate to help you take care of your little buddy. When it wakes up, you should bond with it awhile or observe them so that you could monitor their condition. If you aren’t around, you might miss some essential things that you need to know to care for your pet.

Are Hedgehogs Suitable for Children?

Taking care of these little critters might be easy for adults, but it might be a different matter altogether if you give them to a child. Here are some guidelines that you could follow if you want your kid to have a little buddy of their own.

Your Kids as Hedgehog Pet Owners

owning a pet hedgehog for kids

If you want to teach your children responsibility, it is good to give them a pet. However, as their guardian, you must still be actively involved in daily hedgehog care. Children must be given guidance on how to take care of the little critter.

You must show them how to feed the hedgehog and monitor its activity, temperature, and health. You should ensure that your kids do those things consistently every day.

Consider also that children might be interested in little hedgie initially, but as the novelty fades, they might turn their attention to other things. You must have someone who can take over the responsibility should the young ones forget or get tired of the hedgehog.

Most importantly, caring for pets can be costly, so you cannot expect kids to spend on veterinary and other expenses. You will still be responsible for the financial care of the hedgehog.

Hedgehog Pets in the Classroom

Hedgies also make excellent classroom pets – as long as they are taken care of. The most important thing is that there should be a primary caregiver. It could be the teacher or a responsible student, as long as they know and understand the needs of little hedgie.

The little fella should be given proper time and attention. The teacher should know how to handle a hedgehog and explain to their students how to care for it. If the hedgehog is left alone in a corner and not given any attention, it will be one unhappy hog.

The teacher should show great enthusiasm when caring for the hog. This is so that the students will absorb the positive energy and be interested in little hedgie too.

Most importantly, the hedgehog cannot be left alone in the school during weekends. Someone must care for it every day, so having the teacher or a responsible student take it home is ideal.

Getting a Hedgehog

If you know that you can handle the responsibility of getting a hedgie, then here are some guides on how to get your first little fella.

Before Adopting

Before you adopt or purchase a hedgehog, you would want to research where you could get them and how they were bred. You would also like to have a support group in your local community, so they could give you relevant advice for your area.

Breeders, Pet Shops, and Classifieds

The most common sources are breeders and pet shops. You could also find them in online forums and classifieds, like Craigslist.

As with any purchase, you have to make sure that you’re getting little hedgie from a reputable source. It’s wise that you read through reviews or forums and maybe even ask other hedgie owners where they got their tiny companion.

I would not recommend going through classifieds unless the post was made by a responsible breeder. You wouldn’t know how the hedgie was bred or cared for, especially if it’s someone who’s just experimenting without having learned how to do it properly. It’s not a risk that I would take.

Lineage

Make sure that no wild hedgehogs were taken into captivity in recent generations. Wild hedgies are not suitable pets because of their temperament. Plus, they tend to bite more and be less friendly as compared to their domesticated counterparts.

Find a Community

One of the best things you can do before getting a hedgie is to find a local community. That way, you can find like-minded people who know about the challenges of caring for a hedgie in your area. You can also join the International Hedgehog Association – the global hedgehog community that sets care and breeding standards.

Owning a Pet Hedgehog – Knowing Where to Get One

When you’re about to pick up your first hedgie, you should know how to look at them and have an idea of baby hedgies’ going rate. That way, you can avoid future problems and have a good time with your new cuddly companion.

Hands-on Breeders

Whether you’re going to pick-up your little hog from a breeder or a pet shop, make sure that they regularly socialize with the hedgehogs so that the little ones are used to being held. An adequately socialized hedgehog would initially ball up, but they will soon uncurl and wiggle around your palm. If the hedgie runs away or makes hissing sounds, then you might have a hard time bonding with it.

Also, hoglets adjust better when they’re between 6 to 8 weeks old. If they’re older, they can still adapt to your presence, but it might take some time.

Typically, you would spend between $75 and $250 to cover the cost of adopting your little hog companion.

What to Look For

When you’re looking at baby hedgies, you should know how to look at them – see if there are any symptoms of sickness, abuse, or genetic problems. If your little hog has health issues, you will end up spending a considerable amount of money treating them.

Here are some things that you should look at:

  • Healthy look: check their eyes, nostrils, skin, quill, and fur. These should be clean, clear, and free from any discharge. If they have flaky skin, missing spines, or have discharge, they should be treated first before being set for adoption.
  • Physical build: too thin, and they could be malnourished, too heavy, and they’re obese. Diarrhea is also something that you should look out for, as it needs to be treated by a vet.
  • Genetics: watch out for wobbly hedgehog syndrome – check their legs and hindquarters for any sign of this disease.

Keeping Up With Your Hedgehog Pet

To fully enjoy your time with your little hedgie, you should learn its quirks and behaviors, as well as its habitat and nourishment needs. We’ll talk about these things below so that both you and your hog will have a great time together.

Hedgie Character

Hedgies have their own personalities and characters. Here are some of the quirks that you should expect as you take care of your little buddy.

Nocturnal

Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures. They are typically asleep during the day, sometimes for as long as 18 hours – then they wake up just around sunset and start their activities.

High Energy

As part of the daily exercise, hedgies run several miles per day. They’re also good climbers and can swim pretty well. They must have a wheel in their cage which they can use to spend their energy on – otherwise, you’ll have a very restless hedgie on your hands.

Sensitive to Light

Given that they are night creatures, their eyes are well-adjusted to work in the dark. That also means they are sensitive to bright lights. You should keep your hedgies located in a dim room – or you could cover your lamps with a red covering to protect their cute little eyes.

Self-Anointing

Hedgehogs are curious creatures. If they meet a new smell in their environment, they have this habit of self-anointing. They will chew a little bit on that item they have found and then spread their saliva all over their body.
hedgehog self-anoiting
Experts are not quite sure why hedgies do this, but one hypothesis is that they do it as a form of camouflage. Another theory is that they do it for stress release.

Reading Their Feelings

The most reliable way of reading your hedgie’s emotion is to look at their quills. When things are nice and calm, and the little hog is comfortable, their quills will lay flat on their back, and you could stroke them like some sort of prickly brush.

But if they’re uncertain about something, you could see their little spiky backs slowly rise up. If they’re absolutely scared, they’ll roll into one spiky ball, and all that you could do is to wait for them to relax.

Training a Hedgie

Your hedgehog’s personality will depend on how you interact with them. If you can build a relationship with the little hedgie, and provide for all of its needs, then the hedgie’s socialization and bonding will turn out well.

If you want your little buddy to learn some basic behaviors, you can train them through conditioning and positive reinforcement with treats.

Human Interaction

As I’ve said before, hedgies aren’t very sociable creatures. They will take some time to warm up to you, and they don’t crave human interaction. You will have to earn their trust slowly before they’re comfortable around you.

Although their spines aren’t poisonous or have barbs, they’re still pretty sharp, like steel bristles. If you want to hold a nervous hedgie, use a towel! You wouldn’t want to get pricked. The scent and voice of their human could relax them and let them unfurl, so don’t pick them up without their owner around.

For your health and safety, don’t kiss them! Hedgies could harbor bacteria bad for humans, and they could bite if you startle them. Remember, always wash your hands after handling a hedgie.

The Litte Hog Diet

You have to keep in mind that hedgies are insectivores – that means their primary meal consists of small insects, like beetles, earwigs, slugs, and worms. If you’re not in the mood to hunt for these critters, I suggest that you go for commercially available food.

There is a range of hedgehog feeds available in the market for your spikey buddy. But you have to be vigilant as they’re not all created equal. Some of them have low nutritional value and are inappropriate for your hoglet. Read through the nutritional contents before buying the food so that your pet could get everything that they need.

If you can’t find hedgehog specific food for your buddy, you could go for cat food, as these contain the proteins and other nutrients they need.

Pros and Cons of the Hedgie Lifestyle

Here’s a quick list of the benefits and disadvantages of having a hedgehog buddy:

Hedgie Benefits

owning a pet hedgehogHedgehogs can be great pets when you know how to take care of them. All the reasons below make them ideal pets especially when you are renting:

  • They’re small and easy to manage
  • They don’t cause much noise and commotion
  • Their cage only requires weekly cleaning
  • They generally do not need to bathe often, just once a month, using a toothbrush to clean through spines
  • A healthy hedgehog isn’t stinky
  • Hedgies don’t have dander and are suitable for people with allergies
  • They don’t chew and won’t destroy their surroundings
  • They’re not aggressive and won’t cause trouble
  • They do not really need regular vaccinations or shots, just at least once a year check-up if your hedgie seems fine
  • Hedgehogs are cute, curious, and cuddly!

Hedgehog Disadvantages

  • Hedgies are prickly, especially if you’re a first-time hedgie mom/dad
  • They’re shy, and it will take some effort to get close to them
  • No fun during the daytime – as they’re asleep
  • Daily bonding is required to develop trust and a relationship with your little buddy
  • They sometimes bite to communicate, so you must know their behavior to limit it
  • Hedgehogs are temperature sensitive; they do best between 70° to 80°F
  • Their self-anointing habit is yucky
  • Owning a pet hedgehog is not legal in all states. They’re considered as exotic animals and may fall under bans.

The Takeaway About Owning a Pet Hedgehog

Owning a pet hedgehog is not really that difficult. As long as you learn about your hedgies, put in your effort, and have a support system around you, you can be a good parent to this little hog. And when you take care of your cuddly buddy, you will find that you’re personally growing as well.

Let’s get hedging!

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