The Joys of Owning a Pet Hedgehog

There are several species of hedgehog, but if you want a pet hedgehog it should be an African Pygmy hedgehog. Not only are the African Pygmies smaller than most wild hedgehogs, but they make the best pets. The European hedgehog is a larger animal, and while this species can become somewhat tame, it seldom makes a good pet as it tends to be ill tempered, and does not take well to being handled. The Egyptian hedgehog is not suitable as a pet either. This species can be downright nasty. Besides being smaller and much more social, the African Pygmy hedgehog is also much cuter.

Hedgehogs can live singly, but also enjoy the company of another hedgehog. If you put two females together they will usually get along fine. If you put two males together they will fight. If you put a male and female together, you'll eventually have several more hedgehogs. Baby hedgehogs need to be kept separate from adult males. Females will usually take good care of their offspring, but on occasion will eat them right after they are born. Why they do that from time to time is somewhat of a mystery.

When the Quills Come Out

When hedgehogs are frightened, they will curl up into a ball, exposing their sharp quills, for protection. They can do this very quickly, literally in the blink of an eye. If you are holding a hedgehog in your hand, and there is a sudden loud noise, you may suddenly find yourself holding a very prickly ball. A hedgehog's quills are very sharp. While you can sometimes hold in your bare hand a small hedgehog that is curled up, with its spines exposed, a larger hedgehog, usually a male hedgehog, sometimes requires industrial strength gloves to hold when the quills are exposed. On the other hand, when a hedgehog is relaxed, and its quills are lying flat, they are smooth to the touch if you stroke the animal, if you stroke it in the right direction that is. A hedgehog does not throw its quills. In fact, they seem to be quite firmly attached. The quills do not have barbs either. If a hedgehog is upset or irritated, it will sometimes expose its quills, without curling up in a ball, and hiss.

Some Bite, Others Hiss – Most are Sociable

These little guys will sometimes bite. If a small hedgehog bites you, typically on a finger, it won't do much damage. Its teeth are small, but sharp. A bite will rarely break the skin, but can sometimes leave little teeth marks. When a hedgehog does bite, it will sometimes hang on for awhile, but if you relax and wait, it will eventually let go. It won't try to chew on you. Many hedgehogs become quite tame and will never bit, while others may nip on occasion. There are a few, definitely a minority, that bite often enough that you can't handle them without wearing gloves. Most of these little critters are quite social, and some are extremely so. On the other hand, there are a few that will curl up on  a ball and hiss the minute you walk in the room, and may remain curled up until you leave. If you have one of these for a pet, you'd be better off with a pet rock.

Caring for a Pet Hedgehog

An aquarium tank makes an ideal home for a hedgehog. If you have two hedgehogs, two tanks would be better, but you can let them out on occasion to run around, which they usually enjoy. When they get tired, they tend to curl up and go to sleep. When they are resting or sleeping their quills stay flat. Hedgehogs do not have the best eyesight. If you let them scurry around on the living room floor, they will occasionally run headlong into a piece of furniture. One or more of them usually enjoy running around in a large box or playpen that has several inches of shredded paper on the bottom. They seem to enjoy burrowing as they run.

You can let a pet hedgehog run outside on the lawn or in the garden when the weather is nice and warm. The hedgehog will usually have a ball running around outside, but you literally have to watch them every second. It can move about fairly quickly, and if tit gets in tall grass or a flower bed it can disappear. Sometimes, if outside, the hedgehog will find a nice cozy spot and take a nap. If you haven't been watching it, it can be difficult to find in a flower garden or weed patch.

If you decide to purchase one of these animals for a pet, take the time to learn how to care for it first. Hedgehogs make fairly low maintenance pets, but they are exotic animals and need to be well cared for to stay healthy. If you get a very young hedgehog and handle it regularly, it should become quite tame. It may even become your favorite "lap" hedgehog. A typical life span of one of these animals is around 3 years. When they die is the only time they are apt to break your heart.