The popular African pygmy hedgehog that is mostly kept as pets in North America is a mix of two species. Hedgehogs are believed to have come from Africa. However, it took a lot of years for them to be finally domesticated. If housed and fed properly, these animals make amazing pets, which is the reason for the rise in their popularity.
Do hedgehogs make good pets?
A hedgehog’s intelligence is comparable to that of a hamster. However, their personality is believed to be dependent on how they are being brought up by their owners. With positive reinforcement, hedgehogs are capable of learning particular behaviours, although it is limited to a basic level. By nature, hedgehogs do not seek interaction with humans nor respond when called. They may also be stressed out from changing environments. So when planning to keep one, be considerate. Here are seven reasons that will prove that hedgehogs can be good pets:
- Hedgehogs are incredibly quiet.
- Hedgehogs are low-maintenance. Most of them only need weekly cage cleaning.
- They need small living space, similar to how much guinea pigs require. A hedgehog typically weighs between six ounces and two pounds.
- Healthy hedgehogs do not have body odour.
- Since hedgehogs are not rodents, they do not gnaw or chew that could possibly destroy their homes.
- They are not naturally aggressive, which means that their spines are only used for protection and defence.
- Unlike most household pets, hedgehogs do not need vaccinations and routine shots. However, it is highly recommended for them to get annual veterinary check-ups.
- You can use various types of cages; however, wire floors should be avoided.
- Be wary of the spacing if you are using wire-sided cages.
- Your cage should have a minimum of two to three feet of floor space. A bigger cage is better.
- You can try using aspen shavings for bedding, as well as recycled paper bedding. Pine shavings are fine, although there are better alternatives.
- Do not use cedar shavings.
- If you are using fleece fabric or AstroTurf to line the cages rather than loose bedding, make sure that there are no loose threads to avoid getting your hedgehog tangled in it.
- Add a cardboard box or other enclosed spot to serve as the sleeping place for your hedgehog.
- For your hedgehog’s litter area, provide a shallow pan with non-clumping, dust-free cat litter.
- There is high-quality food specifically made for hedgehogs that are available in the market. They may also provide hedgehogs with appropriate nutrients.
- Cat food is also a common choice. However, make sure that it is the grain-free variety.
- You can also supplement cat food with crickets, mealworms, and other treats.
- Since hedgehogs love mealworms, give mealworms nutrition by providing them with vegetables, fruits, and even dog food.
- Baby food, fruit, and small pieces of the hardboiled egg are good treats but these should be given occasionally and in moderation.
Frequent handling is necessary to be able to tame a hedgehog. Most of them naturally do not like handling; however, they can learn to tolerate it. Untamed hedgehogs have the tendency to curl themselves into a spikey ball, making it difficult for you to pick them up. Fortunately, hedgehogs will unroll just within minutes. Once they realise that you mean no harm, they will start to explore more. Here are additional tips when practising handling a hedgehog:
- When a hedgehog is sleepy, it is most likely grumpy. It is best to try to practise handling them when they are wide awake.
- To gain your hedgehog’s trust, try hand-feeding it with its favourite treats. Mealworms will definitely help!
Running is a big help for a hedgehog to exercise. A solid surfaced wheel with open sides has to be large enough to give your hedgehog a space to run with comfort.
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Life Expectancy and Healthcare
A hedgehog that is properly taken care of can live for five years. There had been hedgehogs are believed to even live over eight years.
Annual veterinary visits are very helpful to ensure a healthy hedgehog. Hedgehog owners should be aware of the fact that hedgehogs are prone to cardiac and cancerous conditions. A regular veterinary visit would help identify signs of the possible medical condition, which can be treated before it worsens.
It is recommended to get female hedgehogs spayed since they are prone to developing uterine tumours that may cost their lives. Spaying will prevent and eliminate the risk.
‘Self-Anointing’ Behaviour of a Hedgehog
Hedgehogs, being unique creatures, also have their own interesting habit known as ‘self-anointing.’ Certain smells will trigger a hedgehog to salivate and spread the saliva over its back; this might be surprising the first time you witness it. However, this is nothing to worry about. Some hedgehogs are more prone to doing this than others. The reason for this habit is still unknown.
Is it legal to have a pet hedgehog?
In the UK, it is legal to own a pet hedgehog so long as it is the African pygmy hedgehog. However, in most US States, restrictions in owning hedgehogs are enacted due to some hedgehog species possibly being carriers of foot and mouth disease, which are believed to be contagious diseases of cloven-hooved animals. No restriction exists in most European countries. Know more about it here.