• Why Should You Buy From A Breeder?

    Written by Kelly Sosik-Hamor

    With all the hedgehogs that are available in pet stores, you might be wondering why you should take the extra time to contact a breeder and go out of your way to get a hedgehogs. After all, the pet store is only a few blocks away and they are having a sale! Below are a few points we would like to make about the average pet store hedgehog. While you might be lucky enough to find one that is both friendly and healthy, do you really want to take that risk?

    * A hedgehog from a breeder is socialized and used to people. While the personality of any individual hedgehog cannot be guaranteed (some are runners, explores, cuddlers, etc.), a hedgehog from a breeder is typically much friendlier then one you would find at a pet store. Temperament is the highest concern when matching breeding pairs, and babies are held from an early age to ensure they are friendly and used to people.

    * Hedgehogs from a breeder are weaned at no earlier then 6 weeks of age. A responsible breeder will watch the babies to be sure that they are eating kibble and drinking from a water bottle. This ensures that your baby has received adequate nutrition from his/her mother and makes for a much healthier hedgehog in the long run. Many of the hedgehogs you find in pet stores are taken from their mom by 3 weeks and are already at pet stores by 4 weeks of age. Due to lack of nutrition and stunted development, many of these babies get sick and end up at the vet before they are 6 weeks old. Unfortunately the damage done by weaning a baby to early is nearly impossibly to undo, and if they survive, many of these hedgehogs end up with severe long term problems.

    * Hedgehogs from a responsible breeder are kept in clean cages and in good conditions. Many pet stores keep their hedgehogs in overcrowded 10g aquariums with substandard conditions. These hedgehogs are either poked and yelled at all day by excited visitors, or completely ignored because store employees are afraid of them. The hedgehogs are typically not given a hideout so that they will be visible to potential buyers, and they do not receive any toys to occupy them. In a truly bad situation, they may live on dirty shavings, eat dirty food, or drink from water bottles sprouting mold. They learn to fear the loud voices and screaming children who poke at them, and even with proper care, they may never become trusting and friendly hedgehogs. Often male and female hedgehogs are kept in the same cage, and buyers could unknowingly end up with an underage pregnant female.

    * A responsible breeder will keep their babies in an adequately sized cage so that they have room to roam and play. They have tubes and toys to play with and a hideout to retreat to when they need to rest. Bedding, food, and water is changed on a regular basis to keep the cage free of poop, mildew, mold, and germs. Males are separated from females by 6 weeks of age to ensure that buyers do not get an unwelcome surprise (pregnancy in an immature female could result in stunted growth, stillborn or cannibalized babies, or death of the mother due to birthing complications). A typical baby from a breeder will learn that people are friendly, and they will often occasionally seek out human interaction.

    * A breeder will carefully plan their breedings and not ever allow their animals to free breed. Unfortunately, we've heard horror stories about some pet stores and hedgehog mills who put all of their hedgehogs in a big tub and allow them to randomly breed with the mate of their choosing. This can potentially lead to multiple generations of inbreeding as well as long term health problems.

    * A responsible breeder will plan their breeding very carefully and consult with fellow breeders when matching their pairs. They keep detailed pedigrees on site, and most parents are available for prospective buyers to meet. Upon purchase, they will provide you with your hedgehog's parents' names and his/her date of birth.

    * Pre-sale support A hedgehog can be a sharp pet and may not be the right pet for you and your family. A responsible breeder would rather you figure this out before making a purchase. Many breeders will encourage those people who are interested in learning about hedgehogs to make an appointment and visit their facility. They will show you how to pick up and handle a hedgehog, and go over all the things you need to know to care for a hedgehog.

    * Post-sale support Always available to help you and your hedgehog while s/he adjusts to his/her new home. A responsible breeder will explain what to expect when your hedgehog goes through quilling (adult quills coming in) and how you should properly address other care issues. You will receive care sheets, a starter supply of food, and more knowledge and support then you would if you bought your hedgehog from some stranger at a pet store.