Can a hedgehog become a pet? According to some, the answer is yes. Indeed, the African Pygmy Hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) seems to be a species that can be possessed, thus being able to be designated as a pet. Well tamed, it would be charming and would not sting at all.
You will find the domestic hedgehog in some breeders. They make sure they produce animals that come from parents who have a good character and they handle them from an early age in order to accustom them. This makes the animal softer and less anxious, so that they forget to have thorns. The fact remains that the hedgehog is still a reserved animal that distrusts strangers, despite the fact that it will easily recognize the smell and the voice of its master. The hedgehog is like a teenager… grumpy in his time, but oh how endearing!
Adopting a Hedgehog
If you are one of those who would like to adopt a hedgehog, it is important to understand that it is a solitary animal. It is not recommended to have two females, but male or female can make good pets. To define the sex of the animal, especially if the animal insists on remaining in a ball, place it in a transparent container that will allow you to discover its genital region once it has unfolded.
To choose your pet hedgehog well, do not hesitate to handle a few and choose the one that seems the nicest and sweetest to you. To check their health, consider that a healthy hedgehog walks without losing its balance and that it can close up in a very tight ball. It will also have its spikes firmly implanted. If it loses the spikes and that gives a glimpse of the skin, there is a problem. It is possible to separate the young from their mother between 8 and 10 weeks.
Compared to the cat or hamster, if it eats adequate food, the hedgehog will hardly smell. If smells are coming, then it is likely that his cage or exercise wheel is not properly cleaned or that his feces have accumulated. If he is well trained, he can make his needs in a litter box, like a cat!
Despite what one might think, a hedgehog is very active and needs to move. So don’t be surprised to see him climb, run or dig and give him the chance to do it as he wishes. A large wire cage with a wheel (at least 30 cm), a bowl, rocks, a small house, etc. will suit him perfectly. An area of at least eight square feet is recommended and paper at the bottom of the cage is ideal. As the hedgehog is chilly, add a small polar blanket and a heating mat under the cage (never inside). Ideally, the temperature should be between 24 and 29°C. If the temperature drops below 18°C, your new pet may go into dormancy. It is important to warm it up if this happens and consult a veterinarian immediately to make sure everything is okay.
Put toys at your pet’s disposal, because even if it doesn’t play the same way as a cat or dog, it will try to explore, climb, pull and push objects.
- Here are some examples of toys you could buy:
- Raw leather toys, untreated;
- Babiche bones for dogs;
- Paper bags;
- Small toys for children on wheels (truck, car). He likes to push them;
- Magazine: likes to shred and stack pieces in her nest;
- Balls for cats with or without a bell that he will like to push with his snout;
- Cardboard boxes: he hides and explores them. If they are stacked, he climbs them. When many are connected by tunnels and ramps, it is total joy. He will work hard to find some hidden treats here and there;
- PVC tubes or transparent dryer hose;
- Big rock, brick or big block of wood to climb.
It would appear that the hedgehog, when confronted with a new substance or an irritant, or a particular smell or taste, will lick and chew a particular object or substance by producing a thick, white/beige, frothy saliva which he will then spread with his tongue on his quills. It would be called “anointing”. No one seems to really be able to explain that behaviour. However, this foam is harmless and evaporates by itself after a few minutes. Some substances seem to provoke this reaction more than others: tobacco, soap, perfume, varnish, fish, the excrement of another hedgehog, milk suri, etc.
Aside from this strange behavior, his character and attitude are relatively easy to live with. Of course, if you wake him up in broad daylight, since he is a night animal, he may be more grumpy, but the more you handle your hedgehog, the more time you spend with him, the more he will develop and interact with you. He will get used to your presence, your voice, your smell and will trust you more and more. With time and patience, you can manage to play ball with him, he will sleep on your thighs and will come to you if you call him.
To care for your hedgehog, it’s relatively simple! Give her a nice and complete bath or just the feet occasionally and have her claws trimmed once in a while. This will clean its legs from the stool that accumulates when it runs in its wheel and keep its claws an adequate length so that it does not injure itself.
To simply give him a little foot bath, put 1 cm of warm water in a sink with a small amount of baby shampoo and let your hedgehog walk in the water for a few minutes. You can then gently brush his legs with a toothbrush if everything is not already gone and you can take the opportunity to cut his nails.
For a full bath, fill the sink with lukewarm water so that it reaches its stomach and add a few drops of olive oil or vitamin E. Gently pour a little water on its back (avoiding the ears, eyes and nose), then put a dab of shampoo on his back and brush it with a toothbrush in the direction of the thorns and hair. Rinse your hedgehog well with warm water by running it under the tap while paying attention to its face and ears. Dry it with a towel and make sure it doesn’t get cold.
About 35% of the hedgehog's body is covered by thorns that it usually uses to defend itself. One should expect to get pecked by his needles if there is a sudden movement or a noise that frightens him. And if he is angry, you will know it!! He will growl and at the same time raise the prickles of his forehead by charging the object or the animal to whom he wants! If he’s really scared, he’ll get into a tight ball and his thorns erect. You can take it, but never try to open it at the risk of hurting it.
A good feed for insectivore or outright hedgehog is necessary. It can sometimes be difficult to find such a feed, so, if necessary, good dry cat food with little activity could do the trick. However, it is necessary to ration your hedgehog and supplement it with other foods such as fruits, vegetables and some insects (flour worms, locusts, silkworms). However, make sure that the insects you buy come from livestock and not from nature.
On average, a medium-weight hedgehog should eat 1 to 3 teaspoons of feed + 1 to 2 tablespoons of fruit and vegetables + 3 to 5 insects, three to four times a week. It is suggested to feed him in the afternoon.
Never give your hedgehog raw meat, carrots, peppers, pineapples, grapes, eggs, popcorn, table scraps, milk (other than that of its mother) or any foods with artificial flavors (chocolate, sausage, chips). Never leave food more than three hours in its cage and do not give it any whole nuts, as it may remain stuck in its mouth. It is also important not to put cedar ripe without its cage.
His favourite treats are dried fruits and vegetables, mashed baby food, cooked white rice, watermelon, bananas and… tofu!
Lifespan, Weight, Length
A hedgehog can live a very long time. We are talking about four to eight years. It measures on average 10 to 15 cm and can weigh up to 400 g (healthy weight).
Common Illnesses, Injuries
Tumors: Many hedgehogs develop cancer between the ages of 3 and 5 years. Unfortunately for them, 85% of these cancers are malignant. The most affected areas are the skin, mouth, uterus, mammary glands and digestive system. A veterinarian should be consulted promptly when a mass appears or blood is present in the urine or stool.
Obesity: The hedgehog who eats too much and does not exercise enough quickly becomes obese. The ultimate sign that the hedgehog is too big: it can no longer close completely when it makes the ball. Weight loss should be done gradually and under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Loss of stings: Parasites, ringworm or bacterial infections of the skin are the most common causes of skin problems leading to abnormal loss of stings. The veterinarian conducts tests to clarify the diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Wobbly: This neurological and fatal disease often occurs in young hedgehogs (18 to 24 months). The animal first has difficulty moving and then becomes completely paralyzed. The exact causes of the disease have not yet been determined, but a genetic component is present. No treatment is available to date. Euthanasia is an option to consider for animals that no longer have a quality of life.
Diarrhea: Bacterial infections, parasites and tumors of the intestine are possible causes of diarrhea. In all cases, the hedgehog must be seen quickly by the veterinarian.
Strangulation of a limb by a fiber of tissue or hair. Tissues used in the cage must not be frayed (example: rat towel). A wire can come off and wrap around the legs. It cuts blood circulation and causes the limb to swell. If it is not removed quickly, an amputation may become necessary. It is therefore wise to regularly inspect the fingers and legs of a hedgehog.
Mites, ticks and fleas: Sprinkle it with an insecticide on the back of the body, where it cannot lick itself. In addition, you need to disinfect your entire garden.
Mushrooms: The veterinarian will scrape and advise you on the appropriate treatment.
Chapped ears: This comes from a problem with mites or mushrooms, once solved the main problem, you will use a cocoa butter cream to moisturize it.
Vomiting: They are rare, but can occur if travelling by car. You must give it water to avoid dehydration. If the problem persists, you should go to the vet, because it could be a gastrointestinal problem.