Hedgehogs are not for everyone. They require a lot of time and attention, and like any pet, can be messy and require a lot of cleaning to keep them healthy. This list of hedgehog facts is to help you decide if a hedgehog is the right pet for you and your family.
* Hedgehogs can be temperamental. If you get a hedgehog from a quality breeder, your baby should be tame and easy to handle. However, they still are prone to moods, especially while shedding their quills! They can be huffy and ball up into pokey, sharp balls and refuse to be held. You have to be patient with them, and spend a lot of time bonding with your hedgehog. When their quills are crossed, they are not pettable, holdable, or in any way cuddly. Touching them hurts. They need to be a pet you spend a lot of time with in order for them to be a socialized, outgoing member of your family! When they are in a good mood and well-adjusted, they are cuddly, have soft bellies, and their smooth quills are easy to pet. Each has their own personality, and there is no guarantee that you will get Happy Hog over Homicidal Hog, although purchasing from a reliable breeder that focuses on socialization is a good start for sure.
* Hedgehogs poop. Yes, I realize this is a redundant "duh" fact, but the truth is, they can really make a mess. Many hedgehogs are easily litter trained, which is nice for keeping the cage clean, however, they often run miles a night on their wheels. They poop while they run. Its natural for them. Thus, they run in their poop. You will wake up to a poop caked wheel that needs to be cleaned off daily, and a poopy-footed pet that needs foot baths before you will want to play with him. Are you ready and willing to cope with this rather stinky inconvenience?
* Hedgehogs are escape artists. You will need to invest in a completely secure cage. My favorites are Ferret Nation cages. They are expensive, but they are secure, easy to clean and easy to get the wheel in and out of for daily cleaning, unlike many other cages. There are many other options for cheaper cages, but they are also not as secure and need modification to make sure your hedgie cannot escape from them. If you don't have the time or money to invest in a secure cage and safe decor, or the room for a rather large cage, a hedgehog is not the pet for you.
* Hedgehogs are nocturnal. You will not likely see your hog out and playing during the daytime hours, and they are very active at night. They run miles a night on their wheels, snuffle around, re-arrange their homes, and generally party all night long. if your hedgehog will be in a room where you are sleeping, you will need to adjust to this noise. You will need to time your hedgehog bonding and play time around their waking hours, which is evening and nighttime.
* Hedgehogs need it roomy, and they need it warm. If the room they are in is too cold, they can go into hibernation, which can be fatal. The ideal temperature is 72-80 degrees, which is warmer than many people keep their homes. If your home is too cool, you will need to invest in a ceramic heat emitter to help keep their cages warm, which are expensive bulbs that let off heat but no light. They also require a lot of floor space in order to meet their exercise needs. Are you committed to providing your hedgehog with what they need to be comfortable?
* Hedgehogs are unique pets. This is part of their appeal, however, it has its downfalls, most notably in the area of vet care. Many vets have no experience working with hedgehogs. If your hog gets sick, you may have to travel or pay more to go to a vet that specializes in exotic animals. My vet is 90 miles away. Like any pet, hedgehogs will need vet care at some time in their lives, so keep that in mind and check out your local vets before you purchase.
* Hedgehogs are expensive. Some of the more unusual morphs can be upward of $250-300. Average price is $150-200. With a lifespan of 4-6 years, this makes them expensive pets to purchase, not to mention the cost of wheels (a necessity, and the safest ones are not cheap), a secure cage and quality food. Fleece liners used for cage liners can be expensive as well. Vet care is expensive. Owning a pet is expensive. If you don't have the money to care for them properly from the start, you should consider waiting. They require a high quality cat food blend as their main diet, which costs more than the typical grocery store cat foods. They are healthiest if other foods, such an safe fruits and vegetables, can be introduced to their diet. They are also insectivores, which brings me to...
* Hedgehogs are insectivores. This means they eat worms. Mealworms to be exact. If you are not a fan of bugs or the idea of keeping said bugs around for your hedgehog to eat, you may want to consider a more vegetarian orientated pet. Or a rock. Rocks don't eat anything at all. Or at least a pet that doesn't get extreme satisfaction from biting into a wiggly worm and spraying you with worm guts. It's happened, more than I care to say.
* Hedgehogs are prone to health problems. You MUST get your hedgehog from a quality breeder, or you risk being in for years of heartbreak. Wobbly hedgehog syndrome affects hedgehogs, and quality breeders make an effort to only breed hogs that have no history of this in their lineage. Pet stores often house males and females together, and since they can breed as young as 8 weeks old, you may end up going home with more than one pet, unknown to you at the time. Take the time to research and find a breeder that can guarantee the health of their babies, even if pet store hedgehogs are more readily available.
* People are prone to health problems. Hedgehogs are not an allergy-free pet. Many people react to their quills, their saliva or their dander, just like any other pet. Be sure you are able to interact with a hedgehog before you bring one home, to see if you react to any of these things. There is no lamer excuse for getting rid of a pet than "I am allergic" when it's as simple as making an effort to spend time around one first before you buy. Hedgehogs don't like lame people.
* Hedgehogs are weird. When they encounter a new smell they like, they "anoint". What this means is they snuffle, smell, lick, gnaw and chew on the new item (a washcloth. a couch cushion. your arm.) Then their contort their bodies into positions you had no idea were possible, start foaming at the mouth, and spread that foam onto their quills. It's weird. Its a little bit disgusting. They look like rabid little gremlins when they do this. Yes, hedgehogs are weird.
So by now you've read through all that. Part of you is wondering why I'm trying to talk you out of getting a hedgehog. I'm not, I'm just a firm believer in researching your pets before you purchase, and being prepared for the reality of that pet. Pet stores don't tell you these things: they want to make a sale. As a breeder that cares about each and every animal I breed and their future homes, I want to make sure the home they go to is their FOREVER home. That means educating you, the future owner, ahead of time so you are not met with unexpected reasons to not enjoy your new pet.
Hedgehogs are lovely animals. They are fun to play with, fun to bond with, are goofy and eccentric. They are unique and adorable. I absolutely adore my own and love to connect with people that want a hedgehog in their lives. They are irresistible. Weird, but irresistible.
by Seri Dukart
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