Hedgehogs are still a fairly uncommon pet, but they are quickly growing in popularity here in Maine since they were taken off the restricted species list in 2017 and are now legal to own without a special permit. I have had my little hedgie Bridget since December of 2017.
While I absolutely love her, there are a few things that I wish I had known before getting her, which would have made my first couple of months with her easier and made both hedgehog and owner a whole lot happier.
So here are 5 Things I wish I knew before getting a Hedgehog!
1. Bonding Time
Hedgies are by nature quite solitary, so they require lots of attention to get them to open up and be social and friendly, I did kind of know this but I didn’t realize how important it was.
The fact is you should ideally spend a half hour to an hour with them every day. Yes, I said every day. I think most people would agree with me when I say that is a lot of time to commit to for a pet. If you don’t have time for them every day or you go away for a week, then you come back to a grumpy ball of quills that you have to completely retrain to like you.
2. Bathroom Habits
This one of the biggest things that I really wish someone had told me.
So, hedgehogs require a wheel for exercise, 12 inches or bigger. My girl runs from about 9:30pm at night to around 6:00am, every night. The thing I didn’t know is that hedgehogs don’t stop running to relieve themselves. In fact, they only do it do it while running. I have tried breaking her of this every way that I could think of and nothing worked. So I have accepted my fate and clean out a poopy wheel every couple of days.
This ties in with number 2 and has been a huge problem up until recently. I had also been told that hedgies hardly smell at all. Whenever I mentioned this to someone they seemed to think I was exaggerating, I mean how could something so little and cute possible smell that bad.
As they are meat eaters they smell like, well, a dog, cat or an actual full sized hog. I originally had Bridget’s cage in my bedroom but after about a month I couldn’t take it anymore and she moved into the office. Then the rest of my family couldn’t stand it, as the stench would waft through the house as we sat watching a movie, so she moved to the basement.
After a while I decided that there must be something that can be done about this, I mean nobody would own one if this was a normal thing. For the first six months or so I had been feeding her the food that the breeder had recommended, but after some research, we discovered that any kind of fish in their diet has a huge effect on how they smell, so we switched her over the duck based food instead of a fish based one and now she hardly smells at all! So there is always a silver lining.
4. Broken Nails
One morning when Bridget was still living in my bedroom, I woke up and looked over at her pen to a scene straight from a horror movie. Her wheel was covered in blood, the roof of her hut was covered, there was blood splattered all over the sides of her pen and on the wall behind the pen. I stared blankly at it for a minute, whatever had happened it wasn’t something my sleepy brain wanted to deal with.
Once I comprehended what I was looking at I popped up and immediately checked to see if Bridget was okay. I got her out and checked her over, despite being covered in blood, I couldn’t see anything wrong with her. I washed the blood off and the only thing I could find was that one of her toenails was quite a bit shorter than the rest.
Yes, this whole violent looking scene was the result of her breaking a toenail and continuing to run in her wheel all night long, which in turn sprinkled blood all over the interior of her pen. The bleeding is caused by the nail snapping off and exposing the thin veins that run through it.
This was something I was aware of, and I was actually given some paperwork about it by the breeder, but I didn’t realize how much it would affect her.
Quilling is a process that takes place between six weeks and four months old when a baby hedgehog starts to lose their baby quills and grow their adult quills. Baby quills are much smaller and thinner than adult quills. Imagine a baby teething, the teeth must come in slowly working their way up and breaking through the skin, it’s basically the same for a hedgie. A quill that has trouble coming out is similar to an ingrown hair, it will be red, swollen and very uncomfortable.
The quilting process is painful so it can affect the little critters mood a lot, which it definitely did. Remember what I said about needing to spend a lot of time handling them? It was hard for me to want to handle her when sixty percent of her body hurt when I tried to pick her up and handle her. This left me with a grumpy, lonely, uncomfortable hedgehog. Thankfully the quilling process only lasts for a couple of weeks, then you can get back to your normal routine.
Despite all this, I absolutely love my little girl and I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to own such a special creature.
If there is anything else you would like to know, or you would like to so more blog posts about owning a hedgehog please let me know!