There are 17 different species of hedgehogs, four of which can be domesticated. Of the four, the best suited as a pet is the four-toed hedgehog also known as the African Pygmy Hedgehog.
The question as to whether hedgehogs are good pets is a rather diverse one. Mainly because they are excellent pets due to low maintenance, ease of handling due to their small size, and lack of scents, unlike other rodents. However, they aren’t a universal choice because they’re only allowable as pets in very few states. Moreover, they are nocturnal and could interrupt your daily schedules.
Discerning on whether to get yourself a hedgehog for a pet can be a rather hard task. Luckily for you, this article will aid you in making that decision. Take a look at the sections below as you read about all there is to know about having a hedgehog for a pet.
Why Hedgehogs make Good Pets
Hedgehogs are one of the smallest species in the world measuring five to eight inches long and weighing only 0.5 to 1.5 pounds. Meaning you can easily handle and care for them. Their quiet, active, energetic, and very adventurous. To answer the question, yes, hedgehogs can make good pets.
If you want more convincing, let’s have a look at the benefits of having them as pets.
Benefits of Having Them as Pets
First up is little to no maintenance. Hedgehogs are naturally clean animals that don’t require constant cleaning, caring, checking up on, or feeding. Expect to only cage clean once a week where you clean together with their toys, bedding, food bowl, water bowls, and wheels.
Hedgehogs also enjoy playing by themselves. Being solitary animals, they don’t mind if you don’t cuddle or spend much time with them. However, they could enjoy some bonding time with you and the environment, especially outside. Just keep an eye out for them as they tend to escape into dark hiding areas.
In terms of food and water, they can eat just about anything except dairy products since they are lactose intolerant, plus other small foods. Other than that, their diet is straightforward. You can even feed them cat food excluding milk. Don’t forget plenty of water.
Ease of Care
Hedgehogs can easily be cared for as you can make a DIY bed for them out of aspen, wood, or fiber shavings. Cloth bedding is also a great choice to avoid any poisonous shavings like that of cedar or some types of aspen shavings that may give them allergic reactions. Besides, you can alternatively get store-bought bedding and be good to go.
If you can or have temperature controls in your home then you can easily get a pet hedgehog. The most delicate issue about the domesticity of the African pygmy is temperature. They can easily get sick under the wrong temperatures (under 70° Fahrenheit). So if you can invest in heated pads for their bed where they can burrow in, all will be well. Precisely a regulated temperature of between 74 – 80° Fahrenheit.
Purchasing a hedgehog will be the highest expense costing you between $2000 and $4000 depending on your breeder. Other than that, food, bedding, veterinary checkups, and occasional treats will cost you under $100 a month.
Hedgehogs are Adventurous
If you like a bit of thrill and adventure here and there then the hedgehog is an excellent choice for you. They are very active and energetic and you’d rarely find them all relaxed, especially at night. Once they’re fond of you. They’ll be as friendly as they can be, jumping on you, playing hide and seek, and just taking adventure to another level.
More great reasons you should get yourself a pet hedgehog include;
- They’re hypoallergenic – if you’re allergic to other animals like cats and dogs, this is a great alternative.
- They’re not stinky – this point can’t be emphasized enough. Hedgehogs done have bad scents or rather no body odor whatsoever.
- No damage to property – unlike other rodents, hedgehogs don’t have the propensity to chew or gnaw on wires or other surroundings in an effort to destroy them.
- Hedgehogs don’t need regular clinical checkups for vaccination or routine shots. You only visit the veterinary on a need-be basis.
- Hedgehogs are not aggressive in nature and wouldn’t use their quills to hurt you unless they feel threatened, scared, nervous, or have the need to protect themselves.
Why Having Hedgehogs as Pets maybe a bad Idea
Unfortunately, it’s not smooth sailing when you have an exotic animal as a pet. Therefore, here are a few downsides you may experience.
Little to No Human Interaction
Hedgehogs don’t crave human interaction, cuddling, or even bonding. Not unless you initiate the interaction. They are solitary animals that enjoy playing and just being by themselves. However, after some getting used to, they can be hand tamed, and gently handled.
No Pet Sharing
Still, under their need to be alone, hedgehogs are not fond of interacting with other pets as well. Not in their cages nor outside. However, there’s no harm trying to place two hedgehogs in one cage or having one other variety of pets. Be sure to place a keen eye to ensure no disasters arise.
In such a case;
- Avoid placing two or more males in the cage. This will surely cause a disaster as there will be a fight for dominance and space.
- Placing a male and female hedgehog together will surely lead to pregnancy. However, they can share the space.
- Ensure adequate space in the cage before even thinking of getting an additional hedgie.
The African pygmy has an interesting self-anointing habit where the mouth froths with saliva as it spreads the saliva all over its back. This often happens when the hedgehog is introduced to a new scent or food. It’s unclear the reason behind it but many don’t like to witness it and view it as off-putting.
Prone to Diseases
Another offsetting problem with hedgehogs is the numerous diseases they can contract and even transmit to other pets and humans. To start off, there’s the infestation of mites and lice which is pretty common with the rodent. They also get Zoonotic diseases that are transferable to humans, placing you at risk.
Pet hedgehogs also get dental diseases, skin problems, parasitic infections especially in the intestine and reproductive organs for females. Lastly, spine loss where the hedgie loses its quill until there are bald patches, that’s a cause for concern.
These are the most common scenarios, however, with regular veterinary visits for spaying and neutering, dental cleaning, and medical checkups, your pet will be healthy.
Not So Low Maintenance, Sometimes
They’re clean, easy to handle, and cost-friendly. However, they can be expensive if you have to get a sitter to stay with the pet while you’re away. Hedgehogs don’t thrive by themselves, especially after they have been domesticated. Hence, you need to reconsider getting it as a pet if you often travel.
Secondly, they don’t enjoy outdoor adventures like traveling out of the country and going on long trips. They prefer a stable environment, where they are used to and can relate to.
The African pygmy hedgehog isn’t legal to own as a pet in multiple states including Arizona, Georgia, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine, Alabama, Vermont, Hawaii, among other states. Therefore, it’s prudent to first research your state’s regulations on the same.
If you choose to have them as a pet, either way, you will be paying high penalties and fines, which frankly aren’t worth it.
Costly Compared to Other Pets
You have the choice of getting any other pet. Going for an exotic animal means additional expenses like going out of your way to look for a licensed veterinarian who can attend to your hedgehog. When the hedgie gets cancer you will need to invest money for chemotherapy.
Therefore, getting a hedgehog is more costly than getting a fish, hamster, or even several dog breeds.
Nocturnal and Noisy
As you’ve read above, hedgies are most active at night so if you work the night shift, you won’t get the most from your pet. What’s more, they can be quite noisy as they drag their toys all over their cage, run on the wheels, or just make other weird noises like squeals, snorts, and all sorts of other sounds.
If this is something you don’t fancy then the hedgie isn’t the pet for you.
Do Hedgehogs Bite?
Yes, hedgehogs can bite you but not as a protective mechanism but rather communicative. Hedgies use their quills/ spines as their main form of defense. Therefore, when they bite you they’re most probably trying to tell you something, which is also why the bite isn’t painful, just a cry for attention.
As the owner you should know what is bothering them as it could be just about anything;
- In pain
These are just a few of the reasons why they would bite you.
Do Hedgehogs Hurt when you Touch Them?
No, not at all. Once you touch them they will roll or turn into a ball leaving their spines alert as a form of protection. When they get used to you, they don’t mind you touching them neither do they hurt when you occasionally stroke their backs. Remember the first time you touch them they will hide away not because of pain, but due to fear.
Are Hedgehogs Cuddly?
Hedgehogs are shy animals, mainly solitary. They don’t crave human interactions like cuddles, hugs, kisses, and likes. Their temperament may be friendly and coy but they aren’t cuddly in nature.
Nonetheless, with some getting used to, the hedgehog can be a little affectionate. Once in a while, they will climb you to get some cuddling. What’s more, the hedgehogs also have individual personalities meaning some will be more affectionate, while others won’t want you cuddling then even if they’re used to you.
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