You want a pet but you’re allergic to cats and dogs? You want a quiet companion? You like unlikely and unconventional animals? The hedgehog is the right pet for you!
The ID card of your prickly little friend
Hedgehogs are native species to England, Europe, Africa and Asia. Those who are kept as pet in North America are Pygmy Hedgehogs from Central Africa.
They weigh between ½ to 1 ¼ pounds and are 5 to 8 inches long – about the size of a Guinea Pig. There are some that will grow to as much as 1 ¾ to 2 pounds (without being fat) while others are as little as 6 or 7 ounces.
They usually are brown or grey, with a lot of subtle variations. Many beautiful new colors have already been produced and many breeders are hard at work to produce even more. This adds a whole new dimension to owning hedgehogs and even those with only one or two animals are becoming actively involved.
Living with a hedgehog
No other exotic pet has caught the public attention as much as the hedgehog recently. They were virtually unknown in North America, but thanks to the efforts of passionate breeders, they now can be found in thousands of homes.
They adapt easily to your lifestyle and schedule so you can always find time to enjoy their peaceful and funny nature. Their quills are not barbed and can be very sharp; you want to be careful with them when they’re in a bad mood! But a socialized hedgehog has a quiet and gentle disposition, and it will be a true delight for you to own, to hold and to let snuggle on your lap while you’re watching TV. With their tiny little legs and round bodies, it is a real sight to see them scurry across the floor. They’re smart, fun to play with and easily entertained: a tunnel or a maze will make their day!
Hedgehogs have a short lifespan, from 3 to 5 years. Make sure you make the most of the time you have with them!
In a whole, hedgehogs get along well with your other pets, especially once your dog, cat and/or ferret finds out they are covered with quills! But you should always supervise these encounters, accidents are quick to happen.
They’re also easy to keep. You’ll just have to provide a decent sized and secure cage (be careful, they’re really good climbers), adapted bedding material, a water bottle or a bowl, another bowl for food, and a litter box. Don’t forget to take them out every day! They love and need to exercise!
Keep them warm, they’re sensitive to the cold! A hedgehog should be kept indoors at normal room temperature (65 to 80*F)
If you have big dreams, there is even a working show system and standard of perfection for African Pygmy Hedgehogs, thanks to the International Hedgehog Association (IHA)!
Hedgehogs are insectivores and it is said they can be fed a good quality dry cat food, but the best way to keep them healthy is to feed them a specially formulated hedgehog food and even live insects. Hedgehogs will also commonly eat meat. As with all hedgehog food, a high protein/low fat meat is preferred. Popular meats are turkey and salmon. Don’t try to feed them something they wouldn’t eat in the wild, it might harmful.
Hedgehogs drink a lot of water. Some will use a water bottle commonly used for hamsters or gerbils and others prefer to drink from a water dish. Regardless it prefers to drink, your hedgehog will require fresh water each day. Moreover, just like cats, hedgehogs have a strong sense of smell and may be turned off by strange odors in their water.
A hedgehog is easy to take care of but it still requires commitment from their owners, like every other pet.
Also be aware that owning hedgehogs is illegal in several states or requires a permit. The best thing you could do is to contact your local police and/or wildlife office and ask if there are any legal issues about hedgehog ownership in your area.
Don’t buy from a breeder! There are plenty of hedgehogs waiting to be adopted in rescue shelters! To find the closest shelter, click here: http://hedgehogclub.com/rescue/rescues.shtml
Find out more about this new fascinating pet!