What makes a hedgehog so appealing? Why do many people think they are extremely cute? How do they interact with other animals in the wild? Do they make good pets? We tell you everything you need to know about these inseparable exotic animals.
Types Of Hedgehogs
There are several different kinds’ classification of hedgehogs or Erinaceinae. They include five genera and seventeen different species. Hedgies, as they are sometimes affectionately known, are generally found in Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. There are no hedgehogs in America or Australia, although fossilized remains indicate that they could once be found in the US. They should not be confused with porcupines, which are larger and are commonly found in the USA.
What Is A Hedgehog?
A hedgehog is a small, spiney mammal that is a subspecies of Eraniceinae. They are called hedgehogs because they root in the ground like swine, and make small grunting or squealing sounds. Their back and the top of their head is covered with spines that can stand up and point out when they are frightened. Indeed, they curl up, tucking their vulnerable faces and paws next to their soft tummies, presenting their enemies with a ball of spikes.
Where Do Hedgehogs Come From?
There are diverse types of hedgehog. The four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix Alviventris) is found in Central and eastern Africa. The North African or Algerian hedgehog is native to Algeria, Libya, Morrocco, Malta, and Spain. The most common domestic breed fo hedgehog originates from a cross between these two species. The resultant breed is sometimes called the African pygmy hedgehog.
Hedgehogs have been introduced to Scotland and to New Zealand. In both areas, they have become pests because they have no natural predators in those regions.
What Is The Behavior Of A Hedgehog Usually Like?
Like many exotic mammals, hedgehogs have different moods that can be interpreted by observing their behavior.
- Cheerful – A happy hedgie will root around in his box or small cage at night, making little grunty noises.
- Quiet – Daytime is sleep time, so your hedgie is likely to be quiet during the day. He or she will naturally wake up and forage at night.
- Sad – hissing or clicking noises indicate unhappiness or annoyance. Also, a hedgie who curls up in a ball at night, and that shows no interest in food might be going into a hibernation state, their personal protection against an environment that is too hot or too cold.
- Sociable – hedgehogs are naturally solitary animals, but you might be able to house two young females together, especially if they are litter mates. To get your hedgie to be sociable with you, offer treats, toys, and handle your baby gently. If your hedgie will explore your hand without curling up in a defensive ball, you are your on way toward bonding, hedgehog style. Don’t become alarmed if he tries to paint you with spit. This is called anointing and seems to be a hedgie’s way of marking territory.
- Aggressive – although a frightened or upset hedgehog might curl up in a ball with its barb sticking out, one that is angry or upset will also bite. Since they are a relative of the shrew, these bites will hurt. Treat as you would any animal bite. If your hedgie is frightened or angry, he or she will first hiss. Sudden movements, disturbing a favorite part of the cage, or approaching babies can trigger this behavior. Hedgehogs undergo a shedding process, called quilling. During quilling, they feel vulnerable and will be especially grumpy.
Hedgehog Lifespan: How long does a hedgehog live?
In the wild, large hedgehogs can live between four to seven years, smaller ones live two to four years. In captivity, where they are protected from predators and fed a carefully controlled diet, hedgehogs can live up to sixteen years.
How Do You Know If A Hedgehog Is Male or Female?
When the hedgies are babies, it can be difficult to tell. But girl hedgehogs have their sex organ near the anus. Boy hedgehogs will have a penile sheath near the middle of their tummy. It will look like an extra-large bellybutton.
Trust: How Can You Get The Trust Of A Hedgehog?
Hedgehogs are shy creatures, and bonding with your hedgie can take some time. Begin by offering treats and placing your hand down into the container. When your hedgehog will let you hold him or her, gently cuddle your hedgie in your hands, then near your chest where he or she can feel and hear your heartbeat. Let him sleep on you while you watch TV, read a book, or even while playing a quiet video game.
Is It Advisable To Let The Hedgehog Out Of Its Cage?
Yes, not only can you take him or her out of the cage, it is a good idea. Like many small mammals, they grow bored when cooped up too long. When you take your baby out, make sure that the area is free from predators. Stay with him at all times. He is very small and can quickly hide himself in your house.
He will even enjoy being taken outside. If you do that, make sure that the area you allow him to explore has not been sprayed with anything, and give him a bath when you bring him back in. A small animal pen is helpful for keeping track of him, and, of course, supervise him at all times.
Hedgehog Accessories: What should be in the cage of the hedgehog?
A hedgehog cage should be at least 2 feet by three feet, with walls high enough to discourage escape. A glass aquarium can be a good choice since hedgies are excellent climbers. A mesh cover on the cage or aquarium will help keep your hedgehog in, and your cat or dog out. The cage should have a smooth bottom because wire bottoms could hurt your hedgehog’s feet. Provide some interesting things to climb, bedding or litter for burrowing, and a snug place to sleep, as well as a litter box, fun tunnel, or a Hanging fleece bed. And, of course, containers filled with fresh food and water.
What Is The Best Way To Setup A Hedgehog Cage?
The bigger the hedgehog cage the better and they will love habitat trails that allow them to move around between multiple connected cages. Hedgies love to roam around and explore when they are awake at night. They even enjoy having a full room to themselves to explore and examine. Hedgehogs habitat needs to be kept at temperatures between seventy degrees and eighty five degrees Fahrenheit. Colder temperatures will cause them to hibernate, which is not healthy for them in captivity, and higher temperatures can cause heatstroke. Even the varieties that live in the desert dig in to enjoy cooler temperatures during the day.
Hedgehog Cage Cleaning: How Do You Clean The Cage?
To clean the hedgehog cage, first remove the hedgehog to a temporary residence, such as a carrier or small holding cage. Next, remove all the toys or blankets from the cage. Empty remaining detritus into a trash container. Wash the cage with warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly. Meanwhile, wash any cloth toys or blankets and dry them completely before returning them to the cage. It is handy to have two sets so that you do not have to wait for things to dry. Place a paper liner in the bottom of the cage, followed by fresh litter and bedding. Replenish food and water supplies.
How to Clean a Pet Hedgehog?
To bathe your pet hedgehog, you will need a washcloth and soft towel, baby shampoo, a soft toothbrush, and a basin or sink.
Run enough warm (not hot) water in the basin or sink to allow your adorable animal to get wet all over, but still easily have his head above water. Place the washcloth in the bottom of the basin or sink to give the hedgie comfortable footing.
Place your cute exotic pet on the washcloth. Give him a minute to enjoy the water. Add a drop or two of the baby shampoo to the water, and get him wet. Use the soft toothbrush to brush over the quills. Use the washcloth to gently clean the soft underbelly, face and paws.
Rinse the hedgehog to remove all soap residue. You can run fresh water for this, or have a second basin of warm water ready and waiting.
Dry thoroughly using a soft towel, including around the quill bases before returning your hedgehog to his clean, fresh cage. Residual dampness can cause dry skin which can cause health problems for your hedgie.
Where Should The Cage Be Located?
Place your hedgehogs cage in an area that is away from the busier parts of your house, but where he can be a part of your daily lives. A quiet corner in the living room is often a good choice. It should be a place that is free from drafts, yet is well ventilated.
What Do Pet Hedgehogs Eat?
Wild hedgehogs are omnivores. In the wild, they eat bugs, earwigs, beetles, worms, slugs, and even small snakes. They will also eat roots, leaves, and fruit.
If you have a pet hedgehog, you can feed him commercially prepared hedgehog food, meat-based cat food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and commercially grown crickets. Avoid crickets or grasshoppers from outside, as these might have been exposed to pesticides.
Do not feed your hedgie bread and milk. Bread provides little in the way of nutrients, and hedgies are lactose intolerant. Do not feed mealworms, as these are associated with hedgehog health problems.
Common Diseases: What Diseases Can Hedgehogs Get?
Hedgehogs can succumb to cancer. They can get several human type diseases including fatty liver and cardiovascular problems. They can get dermatophytosis, also known as ringworm, from humans and can transmit it to humans.
These popular exotic pets can also develop balloon syndrome in which a gas under the skin causes the hedgehog to inflate. The cure is to lance the inflated area and to give antibiotics while keeping the area around the incision clean. This condition seems to be unique to hedgehogs.
What Steps Should Be Followed To Train A Hedgehog?
These little critters are not geniuses of the animal kingdom. Training them involves working with things that they will do naturally and hedgie bite-sized portions of favorite foods along with time and patience. Two important things to train hedgehog to do are to use a litter box and to come when called and get the necessary hedgehog supplies that you’ll need.
Using the litter box: Prepare a small box with hamster litter. Reserve some of your hedgie’s droppings when you clean his cage. Place the droppings in the box with the litter. Put the box in the corner of the cage that Hedgie has designated as his place to Go. During the week, between cleanings, remove poop from other areas of his cage, and place them in the box. It might take a while, but eventually your hedgie will get the idea. Perhaps. When he feels like it.
Coming when called. Have a special way of calling your hedgie for treats or cuddles. It could be something like, “Come here, my hedgie. (or whatever your hedgehogs name might be). Treat time, hedgie. Where’s my pretty little hedgie?” Whatever you say, you say it in a special tone that means that you want to visit with your hedgehog. When he comes to you (you might have to simply pick him up the first few times) offer him a bit of his favorite food. Hedgehogs tend to be independent, so lots of good treats will, and time will be required.
Hedgehogs Breeding: What Should You Know About?
Check to see if it is legal to hedgehogs breeding in your location and if you need a license to do so.
Select a gentle female who is in good health and between the ages of six months and twelve months. If she has already had at least one litter, you can opt for a female who is a little older than that, but that is younger than two years old. Hedgies begin menopause at around 2.5 years of age. At that time, it becomes dangerous for the female to become a mama.
Select a gentle male who is not aggressive toward other hedgehogs, or at least not toward females. There seems to be a genetic pre-disposition that guides temperament. Besides, if both of the mated pairs are reasonably non-aggressive, it can cut down on mating violence.
Hedgehogs can breed at any time. When you are prepared for babies, place the female in the cage with the male. If you would like for them to become acquainted first, you can place their cages close together so they can get each other’s scent.
When the female is pregnant, take her out of the male’s cage and put her back in her own cage or a special breeding cage. Keep her quiet and happy. Stressed mama hedgehogs sometimes eat their young. It is important to remove her from the male’s cage because they will frequently harm the babies.
Provide plenty of clean water and good food for the mama, and keep a close eye on her. It is a good idea to establish a good relationship with a small animal veterinarian before starting this process.
What Else Do You Need To Know About Your Hedgehog?
Because hedgehogs are considered an invasive species, check whether it is legal to have one before you adopt a hedgie, and definitely before considering breeding.
Fun Fact about Hedgehogs
Jan Brett, the famous author, and illustrator of more than 35 lovely children’s picture books have several that feature her trademark character, Hedgie, including “The Snowy Nap” and “The Mitten”. If you live in an area where you cannot have a live hedgie, these books, and the accompanying toys are the next best thing.
Hedgehogs can be your best exotic pets. Care of them is on par with keeping a gerbil, chinchilla, hamster, or guinea pig. They are largely nocturnal, but many will be happy to share your evening hours with you, sleeping on your chest or waking up to explore your house. They need a secure habitat during the day, especially if you will be at work or busy with other things besides snuggling the hedgie. Before obtaining a hedgehog, make sure they are legal to own in your area. With proper care and attention, considering their lifespan, hedgehogs as pets, can be your best friend and companion for many years.