Before getting a hedgehog there are certain things you need to know before you decide to ensure that a hedgehog will be a good fit with you and your family.
If you are thinking of getting a pet hedgehog then before you commit to buy you need to consider the hedgehog’s age, potential lifespan, legality to own, cost to buy and care for and also the fact that they are nocturnal so will sleep in their cage much of the time when you are awake.
These nine things are just suggestions that may help you decide if a hedgehog is the right pet for you. Every situation is different so do as much research as possible (as you are obviously sensibly doing since you are reading this).
How old should the hedgehog be?
Some people buy hedgehogs as young as 6 weeks old which, in my opinion, is too young. And sadly, some breeders will actually sell them that young.
A hoglet should be with its mother until it is at least 2 months old. Ideally, at 2 months, young males should be separated from its mother and female siblings but be kept with its brothers for another month before being re-homed. Female hoglets should remain with the mother until they are 3 months old before being sold.
This allows the hoglets to socialize, making them much happier as pets and easier to tame.
Handle the hedgehog before you buy
When you visit a breeder or pet shop you should insist on being able to handle the hoglet before you commit to buying. If they won’t allow you to then go elsewhere.
You should consider going elsewhere to buy if, when you handle them:
- they are very nervous, curling up in a ball and, even after you have been holding them gently for some minutes, don’t uncurl
- if they try to bite or scratch you while hissing
Generally you wouldn’t buy a cat or a dog that acted like this when you met them so why buy a hedgehog that does. A good breeder will handle them from a young age to make them used to humans before they are sold.
Of course it is possible to tame a hedgehog that is not happy being handled but this could take a considerable amount of extra time.
Male or female – which is best?
Actually it really doesn’t matter too much which sex you choose as both male and female hedgehogs make equally good pets.
If you intend having more than one then under normal circumstances you wouldn’t actually house hedgehogs together as they are solitary animals. If you put hedgehogs together in the same cage they will invariably fight and get injured. Two females can sometimes live together successfully.
Unless you wanted to breed hedgehogs, or they were neutered, you wouldn’t put a male and a female together either. Even then you wouldn’t normally keep them together and males take no active part in raising the young.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal
Because pet hedgehogs are nocturnal they are likely to be asleep for much of the time that you are awake. This can make them unsuitable pets for young children who may rarely actually see them since the child will often be going to bed to sleep before the hedgehog wakes up.
Although you can wake them up, many hedgehogs will be very grumpy if they are woken up from their deep daytime sleep – and I don’t blame them as I would be grumpy too.
The lifespan of a hedgehog
Hedgehogs generally live for between 4 and 7 years in captivity. That may not be a problem in many situations but before getting a hedgehog for your children you should consider that things may change during the hedgehog’s life.
For example, if you have a teenager who is, say 15 years old, that wants a pet hedgehog, it could live until your child is 22 years old. If they go off to college at 18 then it is unlikely that they will be able to take the hedgehog with them (or they will even want to). In which case you will be left with the the responsibility of caring for it while they are away, which may not fit in with your life.
Hedgehogs are illegal in some places
It is actually illegal to keep a hedgehog as a pet in some states in the US. Most notably this includes California, New York City, Hawaii, Omaha, Georgia, Nebraska and Washington, D.C. Some other states and cities sometimes have particular restrictions or require a permit to keep hedgehogs as pets.
You should check what restrictions there may be in your particular location. Here is the hedgehog law relating to California.
A hedgehog is considered an exotic animal
The reason why this makes a difference is that you will probably need to find a veterinarian who has specific experience with hedgehogs.
This can often mean a longer journey to visit the vet as one may not be close by and it will usually mean higher fees than visiting a general vet with a less exotic animal such as a guinea pig or hamster.
Hedgehogs need heat
Hedgehogs are very susceptible to extremes of temperature. Too cold (below 68-70ºF/20-21ºC) and they can start to hibernate which is not healthy for a pet hedgehog and can cause death. Too hot (above 81-84ºF/26-28ºC) and they can suffer from heatstroke. For this reason it is not practical to keep a hedgehog outdoors.
Even when keeping hedgehogs indoors they still need the temperature to be controlled. Normally you will need some form of gentle heating such as a heat pad under their cage or an infra-red lamp above. This obviously adds to the cost of keeping a hedgehog and makes them more difficult to keep than some other types of small pet.
Hedgehogs need cleaning
In the wild, hedgehogs poop when they run normally which means they leave it behind without stepping in it. When they live in a cage, they will exercise on their wheel. So when they poop they will run over it as the wheel is turning.
Consequently they get it on their feet and underbelly as they exercise so you will need to wash them quite regularly otherwise they may begin to smell. It may also effect their health if they are not clean.
If you think cleaning poop (and pee) off of a hedgehog is gross then perhaps a hedgehog is not the animal for you to keep as a pet.