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Hedghogs

ID-100148435After playing Sonic the Hedgehog my son badly wanted a hedgehog, but after taking him to the pet store to see a real live hedgehog he changed his mind. Hedgehogs can make great pets, but they are not suitable for young children. These little animals require your attention and interaction to remain friendly and sociable.

Pigmy Hedgehogs are native to Southern Europe and Africa, but they have been domesticated for many years. However they are still classified as an exotic animal, so before you purchase one you should check with local restrictions on exotic animals to see if it is legal to own one. They make great pets because they are cute, well behaved, and don’t have a smell to them, not to mention that they are allergy friendly.

The best age to buy a hedgehog is 6 months old. At this age they are more likely to bond with you and be social, but all animals have their own personality, so if your hedgehog is grumpy it will require extra patience and time to bond with you. Because these animals do have quills and teeth it is possible that you will receive a poke or a bite some time during your ownership. Hedgehogs are shy, nocturnal creatures that become active at dusk. It’s best for the care of the animal that it is overseen by an adult who can maintain a schedule with the hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are not like rodents, they don’t have a need to chew and wear down their teeth. It’s okay to let them have some time to run around outside their cage and socialize. However, if you have a pet like a dog or cat you need to monitor the interactions between them and the hedgehog closely as the larger animals might see the hedgehog as a toy, frightening the hedgehog and causing him to use his quills in defense. If you own a ferret NEVER allow these two animals to interact, the ferret will attack the hedgehog. You can introduce the animals when the hedgehog is in the cage, but never let them interact without strict supervision.

If you plan to purchase a Hedgehog you should try to find a reputable breeder in your area. Although, because you are more likely to buy one from a pet store here is what you should be looking for in a healthy hedgehog. The eyes should be wide open, bright and beady. If the critter has a runny nose, eye, ear, then it is most likely sick and in need of medical care. Carefully examine the quills and belly, there should be no missing patches of quills and the belly should be smooth. Look at the fecal matter in the pan, the color should not be green or runny. Ask the pet store to see the hedgehog walk. As it walks across a flat surface watch the body, it should look like a shuffle or a walk. If the animal has trouble walking you should not buy him. Hedgehogs make little chirping, purring noises, but if you hear rattling when it breathes it could have pneumonia.

When you bring the new hedgehog home, place him in his new cage and let him have absolute privacy for at least a day. You may pick him up and hold him once or twice for a few minutes the first day, but remember, it will probably be more like a week before he begins to feel at home.

Hedgehogs can eat cat food, but make sure that the cat food covers all the dietary needs of the hedgehog. In the wild hedgehogs eat insects, but also forage for grains and fruit. They’ve even been known to eat lizards, and from the carcass of dead animals. You can buy special hedgehog food, but it might be hard to find.

You can house a hedgehog in a guinea pig cage with fresh bedding. Some hedgehogs can learn to use a litter box, but this requires patience and training, it’s not instinctual for them to use a litter box. Most hedgehogs require weekly cage cleaning, but you might have the odd messy critter who needs their cage to be spot  cleaned every other day. And you should place the hedgehog somewhere it can be warm, 72-75 degrees is preferable. Never use a cage with a wire floor, these can cause problems for you hedgehog. You should have a hide area where the hedgehog can curl up and feel safe, as well as provide some toys for mental stimulation like cat toys, bells, balls and an exercise wheel.

You don’t need to bath your hedgehog often, they are self cleaning animals. But if bedding or feces becomes stuck to the hedgehog you will need to bath and clean that area. To do this set the hedgehog down on a towel and using a tooth brush, scrub away the dirt. You should scrub the quills from front to back and avoid getting soap and water in its eyes. You will also need to clip the nails of the hedgehog. Be sure to do this when you are both calm and make sure you aren’t cutting to close to the quick, just the ends need to come off. If the hedgehog tenses up, just wait for it to relax again.

Do not wear gloves to handle your hedgehog, his quills aren’t that sharp and he needs to get used to your scent. To hold your hedgehog scoop him up from under the belly, this way you should feel his furry belly and not his quills. Try to avoid his quills if possible. Once you have picked him up, you can have him in one hand while you other hand protects and supports from his back. He may curl up into a ball, but be patient and he will come out eventually. If he is agitated he might flex his quills in protest, again just be patient.

If you do decide to purchase a hedgehog, we hope that this blog has been helpful in making your choice and informing you about hedgehogs in general.

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