Have you been considering adding a pet to your family? Perhaps you’re seeking something less traditional. You love the small, cute nature of cats and dogs but aren’t sure about some of their louder tendencies. You may decide to consider a hedgehog. As long as you don’t want to snuggle at night this may be a great pet for you. Hedgehogs are less maintenance than some animals such as dogs and cats, but they still required specialized care and devotion. If you’re ready to take the step up from other small pets such as rodents and reptiles than a hedgehog may be the perfect pet for you.
What Is A Hedgehog?
Many people think hedgehogs are rodents but in reality, they’re actually a part of the Erinaceidae family. The common domesticated species of hedgehogs can range anywhere from 5 to 9 inches long and typically don’t weigh much more than a pound. Despite common misconception, hedgehogs are in fact not baby porcupines. Among other differences, a porcupine can shoot their quills whereas hedgehogs don’t use their spines to attack.
Although hedgehogs are cute, they’re not soft. You might need to use a towel to handle a pet hedgehog until you get to know the little guy better. A hedgehog’s spines may stick out if the animal isn’t quite comfortable, making bonding with your hedgehog a vital task in the care for these unique creatures. In order to bond with your prickly friend, you’ll want to first place him or her in a safe area. Create a small distance between yourself and the hedgehog and offer your hand. Allow the hedgehog to approach and smell you while maintaining a relaxed demeanor. When your hedgehog’s quills relax, he or she is likely feeling more at-ease. While we’re on the topic of their spiky nature, you may be interested to know that hedgehog spines are actually modified hairs. Though their spines are spiky, they don’t have barbs. Hedgehog bellies on the other hand are soft, furry, and white – perfect for a nice long tummy rub.
Domesticated hedgehogs are bred in several varieties, which we will illustrate shortly. As far as color types, you can purchase albino, salt-and-pepper, and pinto hedgehogs, among others. Hedgehogs begin to develop their true color after 9 weeks of age, though their distinctive color begins to fade after a year. A typical Hedgehog can live anywhere from 4-10 years.
Which Types Of Hedgehogs Make Good Pets?
Hedgies are relatively easy to care for because they’re fairly low-maintenance and not costly. Better yet, they’re unique and quite interesting. According to Hedgehog Central, there are 14 species of hedgehogs, but not all of them make good pets. Certain species are quite large. The European hedgehog, for example, can grow up to a foot long. These cute animals live throughout Western Europe and can be fairly friendly in the wild, however, European hedgehogs have not been domesticated and cannot be kept as pets.
The most popular type of hedgehog to keep as a pet is the African Pygmy Hedgehog. The African Pygmy Hedgehog is also referred to as a white-bellied or four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris). This hedgehog type typically ranges from ½ to 1-¼ lbs. and will measure approximately 5 to 8 inches.
Other common types of domesticated hedgehogs include:
Egyptian long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus auritus)
Indian long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus collaris)
Is A Hedgehog Right For You?
A hedgehog is relatively easy to care for because they are inexpensive to feed and house compared to many other household pets. You don’t have to walk or provide your hedgie with a lot of exercise and it won’t roam around your house or chew up your furniture. Most people say that a hedgehog’s temperament is delightful. Although genetics, age, and environment are variables that can cause temperament to vary from one hedgehog to another, most will develop into friendly pets if raised properly. Being intelligent creatures, these curious mammals enjoy playing in their enclosures or running through mazes and tunnels. There quick speed and high intellect makes watching these zipping little pincushions vastly entertaining for those of all ages.
Housing Your Hedgehog
One of the most important parts of having a pet hedgie is making sure that he or she has a comfortable and adequate living environment. Hedgehogs like to explore and move about, so the more space you’re able to provide them, the better. Generally, a 24”x24” space is the absolute minimum that you should provide. Your hedgies living quarters should be well-ventilated and clean. The cage should also have sufficient space for things like a wheel, eating area, sleeping area, and litter box.
Are Hedgehogs Good Pets For Kids?
Choosing a hedgehog as a pet can be a great decision if you know what you’re getting into. Hedgehogs may not be the best pets for children. The small animals become frightened easily, when they feel threatened they curl up into a ball a will maintain that position until they feel safe again. This position makes their sharp spines stick out. Make sure that your young children are patient and calm enough to handle a hedgehog properly.
An overly eager child could injure himself or the hedgehog. Hedgehogs that aren’t regularly handled can become antisocial and easily startled, making patience one of the key traits that a prospective hedgehog owner must have. It also should be noted that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hedgehogs may carry salmonella in their stool and potentially transmit ringworm to people. Following proper sanitary regimes will most likely keep hedgehog owners from receiving any disease from their hedgehogs.
What Else Should You Know About Hedgehogs?
What else do you need to know before buying a hedgehog? It’s illegal to own a hedgehog in some areas of the U.S. so you’ll need to check your local laws before purchasing a hedgehog as a pet. If you don’t want to end up with an antisocial sharp ball of spikes as a pet, make sure that you handle your hedgehog once a day. Hedgehogs are typically active in the late afternoon or early evening, so those are the hours when a hedgehog should be taken out of its cage. Once hedgehogs feel comfortable, they may sit in your hand or on your lap and possibly settle in for a nice nap. Even though they’re not soft and fuzzy, hedgehogs can be hard to resist. The easy-to-care-for animals have a sweet temperament, require little maintenance, and can provide years of love.