By: LeslieAnne Hasty
for Carter County Times
So, you think you want a hedgehog? They do make a wonderful pet, and might be exactly what you want and need for a critter companion. First, though, let’s find some fun facts about hedgies and why they’re so interesting.
One of the first things you need to know about hoglets is that they are naturally shy. Even f your baby hedgehog was raised and socialized by loving humans, he or she may take a while to warm up to the idea of being held and cuddled. The key with your hedgie will always be patience! Treats of mealworms, boiled egg, apple bits, banana and berries are all healthy treats and will go a long way toward encouraging your hoglet to boldly face the world.
Another interesting thing about hedgehogs is that they are far from silent! Many new hedgie owners are dumbfounded to hear the range of sounds that this small creature can make. As your hoglet gets to know you and feel comfortable around you, they may make a wide variety of unique sounds. I’ve heard chirps, squeaks, grunts, whistles, purrs, clicks, pops, sneezes, wheezes AND sniffles! Still, they are a LOT quieter than many “apartment pets” you might choose.
Another fun fact about hedgehogs is that they ADORE stuffed animals, especially if the stuffy is small enough to take on adventures around the house. There are hoglets who regularly take their favorite stuffed animal on safari, and may carry it everywhere they go. Other hedgies prefer to leave their stuffies in bed, keeping the home fires burning. Stuffed toys are great for your hedgehogs’ mental health, so make sure they have at least three or four to choose from.
Some hoglets are kleptomaniacs, and will steal your shoelaces, strings, or socks, sometimes while you’re still wearing them. You may find that a sock of her own will make your hedgie stop thieving yours, but perhaps not.
One thing that I found interesting about hedgehogs is that most will use a litter pan just like a cat! Of course, there’s always the oddball who’ll refuse, no matter what you do. You’ll have to live with whatever your hedgehog decides is the rule.
Another fact: If you decide that you want more than one hedgie in your household, you can only SAFELY keep females together for any length of time! They are generally solitary creatures in the wild, unlike many other exotic pets, and so having just one is going to be okay. If you do attempt to keep males as companions, they will eventually fight, even if they’re from the same litter.
Most domestic hedgehogs are from a mix of different species! Multiple African Hedgehog breeds have been used as breeding stock over the years, so your domestic hedgie may be descended from several different species. As one result, the International Hedgehog Association recognizes more than 90 different colors and color variations! So, you have a wide variety of colors to choose from. Another thing to keep in mind is that many hedgies will change color as they age, so if you have your heart set on a hoglet of a specific color, make sure to investigate their parents’ and siblings’ colors as well.
Something else about hedgehogs you may not realize: they are NOT related to porcupines! While porcupines are rodents with quills (which are hollow), hedgehogs are insectivores with spines (which are solid). Porkies can lose their quills easily without harm, while a hedgies’ spines are firmly attached.
So, on to the not so fun parts: Please remember to find a reputable veterinarian BEFORE you bring your adorable hoglet home! As part of your research and preparation for sharing your home with a pet, having a vet who has studied exotic pet species like hedgehogs is indispensable. Your regular dog and cat veterinarian may not be equipped to handle an emergency for a hedgie, so it’s always best to have them lined up and organized beforehand.
If you’re considering getting a hoglet as a pet primarily for your child, please consider having them complete some research BEFORE you end up with that pet in your home that you didn’t really want for yourself, and no-one else will take care of!
I recommend strongly that you consider purchasing a journal and having your child journal about their future pet for at least 30 to 60 days PRIOR to bringing a hoglet into your home! Honestly, if your child is unable to sustain interest in writing about a future pet for a month, how long will it be before all the chores are put off onto you, the parent? Grab a copy of MY Hedgehog Journal (bit.ly/Hedgehog13) and let them prove that they’re responsible enough to have and care for a pet of their very own. They’ll learn lots of fun facts and trivia about hedgies, some quotes about animals to get them thinking about what it’s really like to have an animal companion, and they’ll get practice at journaling (which is great for mental health no matter your age). There’s also room in the back for keeping track of feeding schedules, allowed treats, and your veterinarian information for vacation time, too!
If you let your hoglet have the run of the house or just a particular room, be very careful for both your sakes! It’s super easy to lose track of a fast and furious hedgehog on a mission, but careful observation may help you figure out what they’re planning. You could even make this into a game with a partner or small group, and make bets on what your little spiky friend will do next.
Have a great time with your new spiky friend, and let me know how it goes at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com