Hedgehog Hobbyist

Insider Info

Did you know that Groundhog Day originated as Hedgehog Day? The tiny critters were thought to have weather predicting abilities in their native Europe. But here in North America, groundhogs were substituted as the harbingers of spring. Now, hedgehogs are all the rage for pet owners who know that their prickly creatures don't need to be handled with kid gloves, just kindness.

When most people decide to get a cute and cuddly pet, puppies and kittens are the first animals that come to mind. However, there is a growing number of pet owners who are foregoing the traditional Spot or Whiskers in favor of a hedgehog!

Hedgehogs make good pets in any environment since they are relatively low maintenance.
Courtesy of Sharon Decker

Hedgehogs look like an upside-down oval bowl covered with sharp quills, with an adorable little face and ears peeking out from one end. They have soft fur on their faces and bellies, so they are not completely prickly, and their quills have no barbs on them, so they feel much like a stiff brush, rather than a bunch of needles.

There are many different kinds of hedgehogs, but the most popular one for a pet is the African pygmy, which ranges from approximately four to nine inches in length.

People all over North America are catching the hedgehog craze (the media have even dubbed them "yuppie puppies!"). While most breeders are in the country, hedgehogs make good pets in every environment since they are relatively low maintenance.

There's no need to take them out for a walk in the park! They can get all the exercise they need at home. While they do prefer regular attention, it doesn't need to be for long periods at a time. As pets go, hedgehogs are not your basic cuddly sit-in-your-lap type, but if you want something that's a little different, not too big, and definitely adorable, then maybe a hedgehog is for you.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. If you are a night owl, or often find yourself up and around during the dark hours, a hedgehog can be a very welcome companion. On the other hand, if you jump out of bed early in the morning and fade with the sun, you and your hedgehog may never see one another.

Hedgies don't like bright lights, and often get nervous around people they don't know. All of this can make it difficult to look at hedgehogs.

However, the biggest selling point is that hedgehogs are irresistibly cute!

Hedgehogs are fairly inexpensive pets to own. Although they can cost anywhere from $35 to $100, there are not a lot of other expenses. You can build or buy a cage from $7 to $15, and food will only run about $5 a month. Hedgehogs do not need annual shots or other medical care, so medical expenses are low as well.

It is often difficult to select a hedgehog because they are not found in most pet stores. Try looking up exotic pets or breeders in the yellow pages to find a hedgehog breeder, or contact International Hedgehog Fanciers Society.

Don't worry too much about selecting the right hedgehog -- you'll probably only get as far as seeing the first cute little face and lose your heart right away anyway.

Getting Started

So what do you need to know once you bring your new little friend home? (Other than spoil him rotten, that is!)

  1. Hedgehogs are escape artists! Make sure that whatever cage or enclosure you use has openings too small for the hedgehog to get through, or to get stuck in. Hedgehogs can squeeze through any opening just a fraction bigger than their skull, and they will. They can, and will, also climb anything. Lids are required, especially with babies.
  2. Temperature. Hedgehogs need to be warm -- warmer than you keep your house. Generally something like a heating pad on its lowest setting under part of the enclosure (so the hedgie can get away from the heat if it gets too warm) is the usual way to go.
  3. Food and water. For food, at first, the best thing to do is use the same food your hedgehog was eating at the breeder or store, at least to help them adjust to the move. Ideally, you should feed them one of the special hedgehog foods available. If you can't find that, then a diet, or light, premium cat or dog food will do. A guinea pig water bottle works well (if your hedgie is used to one), if not, a small water dish will work.
  4. Cage, bedding, and a den. The enclosure is up to you (see number one above). It should be big enough -- 60 cm by 90 cm is pretty much the minimum size for a hedgehog. For bedding, pine or, better yet, aspen chips work well -- avoid cedar! Some owners use Astroturf, a pillowcase or even newspapers. A den can be anything from a big piece of plumbing tube to an empty Kleenex box with a door cut in one end.
  5. Playtime. Play with your new friend as often and as much as you want, keeping in mind that your new hedgie will likely tire quickly, especially if young, so give him a break at times. It will also help to keep the lights low and not be too loud.
  6. Expectations. Your hedgie is going to be nervous and upset over the change to a new home. Hedgies don't like change, and rely mostly on their sense of smell to know their way around. Don't be surprised if your hedgie gets a bit withdrawn for a while. It takes time to adjust to a new home.

Antigone Means, also know as the Hedgie Lady, offers the following advice to novice hedgehog hobbyists: "Find out as much as you can about taking care of a hedgehog and what to expect before you purchase your hedgehog.

"And remember when you choose your hedgehog, that if you choose one whose personality isn't what you want to begin with, you can't expect amazing transformations after you get home. I have many hedgehogs who love people, and people love them! We really consider them part of the family!"


The International Hedgehog Association
PO Box 122
Yates Center , KS


African Pygmy Hedgehogs as Pets
How to look after one

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Hedgehogs!

Hedgehog Central
Information and links to everything hedgehog, including breeding and showing hedgies

Hedgehog Valley's Homestead
Meet the hedgie lady and her brood

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