Owning a pet hedgehog can be an incredibly rewarding and fun experience. They’re cute, cuddly (even with the quills), and super unique!
Because of this, there’s been a growing interest in hedgehogs as pets and we couldn’t be happier. Honestly, we think everyone should consider owning a hedgehog if you’re looking for something unique.
However, there are some things you should know before you rush out and get one.
Because of their cute nature and growing popularity, a lot of people skip the important process of learning about the animal and determining if a pet hedgehog is right for them. This leads to poor care of their hedgehog, purchases from bad breeders, and other issues.
That’s why we put together this list of everything you need to know to be sure if a pet hedgehog is right for you. By the time you’re done with this, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
1. Are Hedgehogs Good Pets?
Let’s get this out of the way first. Due to their uncommon nature, a lot of people don’t know if hedgehogs make good pets or not.
Some people assume they’re extremely difficult and high maintenance, and others believe they’re perfect cuddle balls that need no effort to raise whatsoever.
As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. If you think they’re entirely hands-off then you’re in for a surprise, but it’s not much more effort than owning a dog (you just spend your time on different things.)
So do hedgehogs make good pets? Absolutely!
Pet hedgehogs will thrive and be a bundle of fun if you understand what they need and give them proper care. The same can be said for any domesticated animal.
However, this doesn’t mean they’re good pets for everyone. There are various lifestyle factors that might not mesh with your schedule, and you should be aware of this before you take the leap.
Don’t worry, we cover these in detail later in the guide!
2. One Species Stands Above The Rest
There are seventeen different species of hedgehogs that can be found on the planet, but one that’s best-suited to be a pet. That species is the African pygmy hedgehog.
These cuties are the kind of hedgehog that you’ve probably seen the most online, especially when looking at other people who own them as a pet. We have nothing against the other species of hedgehogs of course, but there are three main reasons why the African pygmy is considered the best choice:
- They’re the smallest of all the species which makes them easy to handle and find space for in your home.
- Their temperament is well-suited for being pets. They err on the shy side by nature and will warm up to you over time.
- They’re the cutest of the bunch! They have a very adorable and striking look to them and can come in various different colors.
Fortunately, you won’t have to spend a lot of time clarifying what species you want when you speak to breeders. The African pygmy hedgehog is pretty much the only option you’ll find when you start shopping around.
3. You’ll Need To Make Sure They’re Allowed Where You Live
As funny as it might seem, pet hedgehogs aren’t legal everywhere. The majority of states in the U.S. allow them, and most European countries do as well.
However, there are some places where they’re outright illegal or require you to get a permit before owning one. The origin of these regulations is thought to come from the fact that hedgehogs are able to carry foot and mouth disease in some situations (don’t panic, this won’t be an issue for you).
Do your research and understand the laws in your local area before you start shopping around and talking to breeders. Assuming you aren’t in one of the unlucky spots where they aren’t allowed, you’re free to get a pet hedgehog!
4. Handling Them Takes Some Practice
As you’ve probably noticed by now, hedgehogs have quills (duh). This adds to their unique and interesting look, but it also provides a challenge for some new owners who want to handle them.
If your hedgie is nervous or scared it’s probably going to be rather uncomfortable to hold them. This is far more common when your pet hedgehog is still unfamiliar with you and its surroundings, so you’ll need to be patient.
As you two get more familiar with each other it will become easier to pick them up and handle them. This is mainly because they’ll become more comfortable with you and won’t be so quick to stick out their quills. You’ll also learn what they like and what they don’t, so you can keep them relaxed and comfortable more often.
5. You’ll Learn To Read Their Moods
The emotions of a pet hedgehog are a lot more complex than most people realize. The notion that they’re simple creatures couldn’t be further from the truth.
New hedgehog owners will quickly discover that there’s a lot of subtlety they need to be aware of when it comes to their hedgies. Unlike dogs where their emotions are pretty easy to read (tail wagging = happy, growling = mad), you have to look a lot closer.
When you get used to identifying the small signs and noises they make, the mood of your pet hedgehog will become a whole lot easier to understand. In fact, you’ll be shocked by how communicative they can be!
When this happens you’ll be able to provide better care and have more fun together. You’ll know when they don’t want to be disturbed, and when they’re in the mood to be played with.
6. Feeding Them Can Be Simpler Than You Think
For the most part, feeding your pet hedgehog won’t take up a ton of extra time or mental energy. Like we said earlier, they’re pretty low-maintenance!
A lot of owners give their hedgehogs dry and moist cat food since it has the fundamental nutritional properties that they need. It’s also easier to find at your local pet store than hedgehog food.
Their diet can get a little more complicated when it comes to the extra stuff like snacks. By this, we mean fruits, vegetables, insects, etc. Hedgehogs love to snack and these additional foods will help round out their diet to keep them happy and healthy.
You’ll learn pretty quick what foods are good for them and what your pet hedgehog likes most (everyone has their preferences after all).
Another thing you’ll want to be aware of is the potential for your hedgehog to overeat. They LOVE to eat and if you’re not careful they’ll gain weight.
Another common reason this happens is because feeding them is a ton of fun and very adorable to watch. You’ll need to keep yourself in check as much as your hedgie!
7. They’re Nocturnal
In case you weren’t aware of this already, your pet African pygmy hedgehog will be active at night and snoozing during the day. Each hedgehog is different, but most of them will get up around your dinner time and start their days.
This means the best time for cuddling and giving them treats is in the evening before you go to bed (assuming you don’t work a night shift). If you get up very early you might have some time to see them in the morning as well, but keep in mind that they’ll be winding down after a full night of play.
If your schedule doesn’t fit with their sleep cycle, owning a pet hedgehog might not be a good fit for you. It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re a light sleeper and don’t have a place far away from your bedroom to keep them, the noise from their nighttime activities might keep you up.
You’ll also want to make sure their location is somewhere in your home where your daytime activities won’t disturb their sleep. This goes both ways!
For most people this isn’t an issue, but take some time to be sure of this before getting a pet hedgehog. You want this to be a good fit for both of you.
8. Pet Hedgehogs Make A Variety Of Noises
Hedgehogs don’t just sit around and sniff things all day. They’re actually rather expressive when it comes to the noises they can make!
Each noise means something different and the more you get to know your pet hedgehog, the more you’ll start to pick up on what each sound means. They might hiss and snort if they’re grumpy, or snuffle if they’re engaged and exploring their surroundings.
Learning to understand these signs can make owning a hedgehog as a pet even more fun. It’s also a great way for you to provide better care for them since you’ll be more in tune with how they’re feeling.
Despite the range of noises hedgehogs can make, they aren’t super loud. This means you shouldn’t have issues with their various chirps and snuffles keeping you up at night. They actually make much more noise when they’re playing with things in their cage!
9. Practice Smart Hygiene
While hedgies aren’t very dirty animals, you should still give your hands a good wash after handling them and touching things in their cage. They have the ability to carry salmonella and there have been outbreaks linked to pet hedgehogs in the past. They also can get ringworm, which is a fungal skin disease (this isn’t as common with domesticated hedgehogs though).
This is all pretty easy to avoid if you practice smart hygiene. It can become easy to get lax about this as you get more comfortable with your hedgehog over time, but you need to stay consistent.
Wash your hands well after handling them or their cage, and don’t kiss them (even though it might be tempting). If you do this you’re unlikely to run into any problems.
10. Temperature Will Become Very Important To You
Having a pet hedgehog will make you very aware of the temperature in their environment. This is something that most people haven’t had experience with before owning a hedgehog.
The reason why this is so important is that you want to avoid sending your hedgehog into hibernation or estivation. While hibernation is more likely, both can cause equally serious health concerns for them and likely lead to death.
This is often a surprise to many people who are considering owning a hedgehog as a pet. After all, this isn’t something you have to worry about with a dog!
However, it’s pretty simple to manage once you get set up. A couple of heating lamps and pads will do the job. A safe sweet spot for them is somewhere in between 74 and 80 degrees. This will keep them warm, comfortable, and safe.
11. Your Pet Hedgehog Will Learn To Recognize You Over Time
It’s going to take a little while for your hedgehog to get comfortable with you and know who you are. During this process, new owners are prone to wondering if they made a mistake or if pet hedgehogs aren’t that affectionate.
But don’t worry! You just have to be patient. Hedgehogs are naturally a bit nervous around humans at first and it takes some time for them to build that trust around you.
If you socialize and handle your new hedgehog properly, they’ll learn to recognize your voice, appearance, and scent over time. This will lead to them become more comfortable and relaxed around you.
Once this happens you’re well on your way to bonding with your hedgie and building a relationship!
12. Find A Reputable Breeder
You’ll want to do your homework and find a breeder that knows their stuff and treats their hedgehogs well. There are good breeders and bad ones, and it’s up to you to make the final decision on who you want to buy from.
Unfortunately, in the rush to get a cute new pet a lot of potential owners overlook this and end up with a hedgehog that has health issues or came from a bad environment. Don’t skip this step.
13. Hedgehogs Can Be Quite Adventurous
We’ve heard from so many new owners over the years that have said they were shocked when they saw how spunky their pet hedgehogs were. It’s really something to see!
Now this will vary with the hedgehog of course. Some are more mellow than others.
But for the most part, they’re all pretty darn energetic.
One minute they might be trying to climb up onto your sofa covers during cuddle time, and the next they might be dragging their toys around their cage. All while sporadically hopping on and off their wheel for some quick cardio!
It’s a ton of fun to watch how active and curious they are, especially when they find an interesting new smell. When this happens their nose goes into overdrive and they’ll stop at nothing to investigate the scent.
14. You’ll Need To Keep Their Home Tidy
Making sure that their cage and habitat is cleaned on a regular basis is very important. This is not only good for the health of your hedgehog but for overall sanitary reasons as well (don’t forget the salmonella).
A weekly cage cleaning is a good idea to make sure they’re living in a place that’s safe and comfortable. It doesn’t take very long and will go a long way in ensuring they live a good life.
15. They’re A Great Pet For People With Allergies
If you’re allergic to other animals like cats and dogs but still want a pet, owning a hedgehog might be a good move! The reason for this is that they hardly have any dander at all.
Other animals like cats have a ton, which is the main cause for people having allergic reactions to them. In fact, you’re far more likely to have an allergic reaction to your hedgehog’s bedding than from your actual hedgehog.
16. They Aren’t Stinky
This is kind of a continuation from the previous point, but hedgehogs don’t smell bad. They pretty much have no body odor which makes them very pleasant to have in your home.
The one caveat to this is that their poop and pee does smell. So if you don’t clean their cage regularly you’re definitely going to notice an odor. But as long as you take care of their home, they’ll keep smelling great!
17. It Will Be Easy To Schedule Vet Trips
Unlike a lot of other animals, your pet hedgehog won’t need any shots or vaccinations. This means you won’t need to worry about scheduling a variety of appointments at your vet to keep them healthy.
All you need to do is schedule a yearly checkup to make sure they’re doing well and have no health problems. Assuming things stay that way, you’re good to go until the following year.
18. Manage Your Expectations
If you’re looking for an animal that will learn tricks and show complex displays of affection, a pet hedgehog isn’t your best bet. Yes, there are a lot of neat subtleties and signs that you can learn over time, but you need to be realistic.
These aren’t orcas, they’re hedgehogs. Their intellect can surprise you and be fun to watch, but they’re not going to get the newspaper for you in the morning. They’re also shy by nature.
The combination of this means that your snuggle time together will be pretty straightforward. If you’re looking for tail wagging and handshaking, this isn’t your pet.
19. They Don’t Need (Or Want) A Cage Buddy
In almost all situations, pet hedgehogs are better off having a cage to themselves. Because of this we highly recommend that you do the same.
If you insist on trying this there are a few things that you should know first. You’ll also need to be very attentive to the situation to make sure things don’t get out of hand.
First, don’t try this with males. Any cage combination that includes males will likely be a disaster. Two males will likely scrap and fight for dominance of the space. A male and a female together will almost always lead to a pregnancy or a fight as well.
This means that two females if your best bet. It’s still not recommended, but it has a far better chance than the other two combinations.
Lastly, if you’re going to give this a shot you’ll want to make sure they each have plenty of cage space. Don’t cram two hedgehogs in a tiny cage and expect everyone to be cheery.
But like we said before, it’s far safer if you don’t try this at all.
20. If You Travel A Lot You’ll Need A Sitter
Pet hedgehogs aren’t the kind of animal that you can leave along for a long trip. They need attention and monitoring to ensure that they’re thriving.
One example of this is the heating situation we mentioned earlier. What if you leave town for a week and your power goes out? Assuming you don’t have your heat lamp on a backup generator, your hedgehog might go into hibernation and die by the time you come back. This might sound overly paranoid, but it’s happened before.
On the flip side, taking them with you can be stressful for them as well. Hedgehogs like a nice stable environment and it will require a ton of work (and a special kind of hedgie) to bring them with you on long trips.
This means if you’re a frequent traveler you’ll want to plan on having someone come over frequently to check on your hedgehog while you’re away. If this seems like too much of a hassle, a hedgehog probably isn’t right for you.
We hope this guide on pet hedgehogs helps you better understand more about what it’s like to own and raise one in your home. They’re a ton of fun, super adorable, and incredibly unique.
Assuming your lifestyle fits, we recommend them to everyone!