• Handling Your Hedgehog

    The first step to handling a hedgehog is learning to pick it up with as little stress and pain to either of you as possible. The best way to pick up a hedgehog is by holding your hand flat on each side of the hedgehog with your palms up, then gently moving your hands together to fully support the hedgehog's feet and belly. Even if your hedgehog is grumpy and rolled into a ball, this will distribute the quills over a larger area, making it less uncomfortable on your hands. Providing the hedgehog with a firm support underneath will help the hedgehog feel more safe and secure, reducing the likelihood of them panicking. People with especially grumpy hedgehogs or sensitive hands can use a small blanket (such as a piece of vellux or a baby recieving blanket) to help cushion their hands when you first pick them up.

    Depending on your hedgehogs' personality, there are different ways to spend time with them. Nervous or laid back hedgehogs will likely get most benefit from their daily handling by being held while you are sitting quietly, such as while watching tv, playing on the computer, or reading a book. Providing these hedgehogs with a blanket or hedge-bag to snuggle in while on your lap may help increase their comfort levels. If you have an active wiggly hedgehog, trying to sit quietly with them is not very productive, and may in fact make your hedgehog more grumpy. These hedgehogs benefit most from having the ability to use their owner as a human jungle gym, with the owner sitting or lying on the floor of a small room that has been hedgehog proofed, and allowing the hedgehog to actively explore the floor and climb on your body. Almost all hedgehogs benefit from daily handling, even if the handling is as short as just picking your hedgehog up for a couple of minutes until they start relaxing, and then placing them back into their cage. Be aware that hedgehogs, especially the ones who sit quietly on your lap, may give you some signs that they are wanting to go back to the cage. These signs can include sudden restlessness or irritability. If you notice these signs, it is a good idea to return your hedgehog to the cage. They may be hungry, thirsty, or needing a moment to go to the bathroom.

    Occasionally hedgehogs will bite. Most of these bites are actually taste nips, exploring some taste or smell that is on your skin. These are typically a quick nip, usually accompanied by a few licks, and often followed by self annointing. Make sure to wash your hands very thoroughly before handling your hedgehog to reduce the chances of these bites. Once and a while though, hedgehogs can bite out of irritation. These are typically sudden bites, with the hedgehog holding onto your skin firmly. Irritation bites are NOT accompanied by licking. If your hedgehog bites, do NOT put them back in the cage right away. This will train them to bite when they are ready to go back to their beds. If possible, sit still while the hedgehog is biting you until they let go on their own. You do not want to jerk, as this can cause more injury to you and can hurt your hedgehog's teeth. Some people will recommend blowing on the hedgehog's face, running water over your hedgehog, or other discouragement techniques when your hedgehog bites. I don't encourage this for a single biting episode, frequently just refusing to reward their behavior with a return to their cage is enough to convince your hedgehog that biting is not worth while.