• What To Expect From Your Hedgehog's Behavior

    Like all pets, hedgehogs have some common behavioral tendencies that a potential owner needs to be aware of when considering a hedgehog as a pet. An owner who is familiar with what to expect from a hedgehog often falls in love with their quirky quilly pet, while an unsuspecting owner may be completely disgusted and irritated when their pet is not what they expected it to be. It is important to understand these behaviors, and to consider how they will fit into your lifestyle.

    Hedgehogs are nocturnal. They will be asleep while most humans are awake, and awake while most humans are trying to sleep. If you are lucky, your hedgehog will wake up in the evening early enough that you are awake and ready to interact with them, but some hedgehogs tend to "sleep in" until the humans are ready to turn off the lights for the night. You CAN wake a hedgehog up to interact with them, but the hedgehog is more likely to be crabby at first when this happens. With some hedgehogs it is possible to adjust their sleeping schedule where they get up earlier in the evening by feeding and waking them up at a set time each evening, but some hedgehogs resist these efforts. Not only will your hedgehog be sleeping while you are active and wanting to watch them, they will be awake while you are asleep, which can be quite irritating at first. The crunching of food, rattling of water bottle, whirring of a wheel, and banging of any and all moveable cage accessories can be hard to adjust to sleeping through.

    Hedgehogs can be grumpy.
    While there are some hedgehogs that always seem to be ready to be taken from the cage for play time, most hedgehogs will have at least the occasional grumpy time. A grumpy hedgehog may roll into a ball, raise their quills into a pointy shield of defense, huff (a rather cute noise that sounds like a sputtery motor boat), click (a noise that sounds similar to a human clicking their tongue on the roof of their mouth) or even pop (picture popcorn with a lousy attitude). While not necessarily dangerous, the quills of a grumpy hedgehog can be very uncomfortable until you get used to them.

    Hedgehogs poop.
    Oh wow, lets state the obvious here, right? True, but where and how they poop is what can be the issue. Hedgehogs have very short digestive tracts, which means that they don't have long periods of time between bowel movements. Combined with a hedgehogs' natural tendency to go to the bathroom while moving around away from their nest means that you probably will get pooped on while you are holding a hedgehog. Baby hedgehogs are especially prone to this, because they poop more frequently than adults. The good side of this is that hedgehog poop is usually fairly firm, and as long as you are watching for it, can be easily picked up with a piece of tissue. Hedgehogs will also poop on their wheel, which can act as a centrifuge to spin urine and feces over a significant amount of their cage.

    Hedgehogs aren't dogs (or cats).
    Yep, once again, an apparent obvious. However, it is amazing how many people expect their hedgehogs to behave more like other more common pets. The vast majority of hedgehogs will not come when called, do tricks, show obvious affection for their owners, or just generally behave in a predictable way. Hedgehogs often show more affection for their food dish than they do their human companions, with the spillover of affection given to the one that fills the food dish. Some hedgehogs will not be content to relax in your lap while you watch tv. After all, you are a warm, wiggly, interesting smelling living jungle gym, and you MUST be explored.

    Hedgehogs can be picky. Hedgehog law states that the more effort (and money) that a human puts into providing nutritious foods and treats for a hedgehog, the more likely the hedgehog is to stick their nose up at it. Hedgehog law also states that if the human does NOT want a hedgehog to eat something, they will work especially hard to get to the food and eat it. Hedgehogs also are known for suddenly refusing to eat a formerly favorite treat, or suddenly developing a fondness for something they hadn't been willing to eat before.

    Your hedgehog can get sick
    . Hedgehogs are fairly sturdy small animals, and can stay healthy for long periods of time, but it is possible for them to get ill. They can get itchy skin parasites, unpleasant intestinal upsets, and occasionally even serious lumps and bumps. Hedgehog law states that the more serious and sudden the illness, the more likely it is to happen late at night, on the weekend, or on a major holiday when your favorite vet is out of the office.

    Hedgehogs occasionally lose quills.
    Well, they aren't really LOST. They are just strategically located to cause the owner sudden surprises. Common locations for these misplaced quills can include a carpet frequented by bare feet, freshly washed underclothing, and beds. Water beds are an especially powerful quill magnet.

    Hedgehogs can bite. They do have a mouth and teeth, after all. It is quite uncommon to find hedgehogs that frequently bite out of aggression. However, hedgehogs are very reliant on their sense of smell, and if something on your hand smells like food, your hedgehog may nip your hand to see if it actually is food. If they recieve a "reward" for taste nipping (say, with a return to their cage) then they may end up learning that nipping is a good way to be allowed to go back to bed.

    If you can cope with all of these potential negatives, hedgehog ownership DOES have it's benefits.

    Hedgehogs can be fascinating. Trying to figure out why your hedgehog does the things that it does, reacts to things in a certain manner, and trying to find new ways to get your hedgehog to behave can entertain an owner for HOURS. Providing a hedgehog with new toys can not only entertain the hedgehog, but can also be very enjoyable for the owner.

    Hedgehogs have an amazing "HUH?" factor.
    As in, "what kind of pets do you have?" "I have a hedgehog" "HUH???". It can be a lot of fun telling people who may have never heard of a hedgehog as a pet all about your odd little buddy. And if you are able to take your hedgehog with you when going to work, shopping, or otherwise just "out", it can be very entertaining to watch people's faces when they spot what you are holding.

    Hedgehogs are relatively low on the demand scale
    . While you should spend time with your hedgehog daily, they aren't prone to destroying your home if you miss a day. You don't have to take them for long walks in nasty weather, they won't scratch up your furniture, they won't chew holes in your woodwork or electrical cables, and they wont tear up your clothes. Hedgehogs are going to be fine for an occasional day or so with minimal interaction.

    Hedgehogs are very intelligent. While they don't often show it in the traditional ways, your hedgehog may completely blow your mind with their ability to solve problems. Your hedgehog may figure out how to stack their cage furnishings to provide a ladder to escape from their cage, or they may find new ways to play with their toys to create the biggest racket or other form of chaos possible. Wait, are we SURE this is a benefit?

    Hedgehogs are able to turn themselves wrong side out. Ok, not exactly. When a hedgehog comes in contact with a new scent or taste, they may repeatedly lick or chew the item, smack their lips to create a foam, and then stretch into absolutely mindboggling contortions to apply the foam to parts of their body that seem impossible to reach. This can be slightly messy, but can also be hilarious for the owner to watch.

    No matter whether your hedgehog's behaviors lean more towards the positives or negatives of ownership, life with your hedgehog definately won't be dull.