Are Hedgehogs Good Pets – Should you Bring One Home for the Kids

Picture of hedgehog

It’s hard to resist the appeal of a hedgehog. With their waddling ways and pudgy little bodies, you just can’t help but want to pick them up and give them a good squeeze. Yet not every cute animal makes for a great house pet.

Hedgehogs have been making their home in Africa for centuries, but it is only recently that they have found their way into North American homes. The variant favored in the United States and Canada is a hybrid that was purposefully bred to produce a type of hedgehog that was better suited to domesticated living. This particular “breed” of hedgehog differs radically from his original African forefathers. However, the North American version is an amiable little fellow who is well-suited to life as a family pet. Still, owning a hedgehog is not for everyone. As with all pets, there are some caveats as well as some factors every family must consider before making the decision to welcome a hedgehog into their home.

The Top Ten Considerations

So, you’re thinking of purchasing a hedgehog. Though they can be a wonderful addition to any family home, it is important that you carefully weigh all of the factors regarding what life with this chubby little charmer will be like.

Here is a list of the top ten things families should consider before purchasing a hedgehog

They have peculiar scent detection habits.
Hedgehogs have a rather unique way of processing new fragrances. When a hedgehog comes face to face with a novel smell, he will probe it with his tongue and teeth to create a ball of spit that he can then flick onto his back. The jury is still out as to what motivates the hedgehog to display this behavior. Whether he is using the spitball to disguise his own scent for protection, is decorating his body, or just likes the feeling of spit on his quills, this unusual activity is quite common amongst hedgehogs.

They curl into a ball when nervous.
As a creature in the wild, the hedgehog would have needed a means to protect himself when danger approached. Since the hedgehog’s quills afford him protection for the outer portion of his body, it was only necessary for him to find a way to deal with the areas of his body that are vulnerable to attack. Curling up into a tight little ball was the perfect defense for a hedgehog who is feeling threatened or afraid. Once locked into this ball-like position, it is nearly impossible for them to be “unfurled” without their participation.

Their “coat” is prickly.
The quills on a hedgehog’s back form a powerful layer of protection for him. Unlike a porcupine, hedgehogs do not have the capability of releasing their quills when frightened. However, they are quite adept at maneuvering their bodies so that their quills embed flesh if feeling threatened or afraid.

They belong to a species class all their own.
Though hedgehogs do share some similarities to porcupines, they belong to entirely different species classifications. Hedgehogs belong to the insectivore family, a label which is slightly misleading as their diet is not strictly comprised of insects. In the wild, the hedgehog more closely resembles an omnivore and happily munches on everything from snails, lizards, and snakes to roots, berries, and mushrooms.

They are nocturnal creatures.
As far as times of day go, hedgehogs are a species that like to party! Hedgehogs prefer to spend their days having a good long snooze, so they have the energy reserves they need to enjoy the night life. Since hedgehogs are an animal that can be prone to almost hyperactive behavior, a hedgehog might not be the right pet for your family if your household is comprised of light sleepers.

They love to eat.
Hedgehogs love to eat! Since most hedgehogs spend the majority of their lives in a cage that allows for little true exercise, they are also an animal that is prone to weight gain and even obesity. Excess weight significantly affects a hedgehog’s quality of life, and great care must be taken to ensure that they remain at a healthy weight.

They are noisy.
They don’t call them hogs without good reason! Just like a pig, hedgehogs love to make noise. From squeals to snorts and all sorts of other sounds, you will never have to wonder if your hedgehog is around. When exploring a new territory, hedgehogs can be particularly vocal. Interestingly enough, they also display mellower and more pleasing sounds when they are content.

They can carry diseases hazardous to humans.
Like many other animals, hedgehogs can harbor harmful bacteria on their quills and skin. Their feces is also a powerful carrier of illnesses that can be transmitted to their owners. Because of this, owners must carefully wash their hands after handling their hedgehogs.

Their personalities change with the weather.
In the wild when food supplies began to dwindle, the wild hedgehog would go into hibernation. Though the domesticated hedgehog has no need to do so, the instinct remains powerfully alive in him. With the changing of the seasons, hedgehogs sometimes experience emotional and physical differences. It is important to monitor a hedgehog closely during these times as it is possible for them to suffer depression and wither to the point of death.

They bond intensely to their “people.”
Hedgehogs have a natural fear of people. But the more time an owner spends interacting with them in a loving manner, the more it helps them to quickly warm up and claim their “person.” Hedgehogs can be very affectionate, loyal pets, but it takes some time for them to truly bond with their family.

Still thinking a hedgehog is the pet for you? They can be a wonderful addition to any family. Every family has its quirks, why not add a quirky pet into the mix too? A hedgehog might be just the addition you need to make your family whole.

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