They’re certainly cute, but is a hedgehog a good pet for you?
Why would someone want an animal companion covered in pointy quills? It’s an understandable question, but if you’ve seen a hedgehog before, you already know the answer: Because they’re cute! These little critters are adorable, in every sense of the word, but cuteness isn’t the only factor to consider when you’re looking into getting a new pet.
Although hedgehogs (or “hedgies”, if you like!) have been found in the wild for millions of years, their popularity as a pet has been a more recent development. Luckily, hedgehogs are legal in certain states. So are hedgehogs good pets?
Ultimately, this will come down to the pet owner in question, as well as their lifestyle and expectations. There are both positives and negatives to keep in mind when it comes to hedgies as pets, and by weighing their relative importance, you’ll be able to come up with a definitive answer to the question.
Positive aspects of hedgehog pets
Cute as they are, hedgehogs wouldn’t be such a prominent pet option if looks were all they had! There are other positives to consider, although the weight of these will depend on your own priorities and personality. If you live in a place where pet hedgehogs aren’t legal, like Australia, stop reading now before you get too taken with the idea.
- Food is attainable and inexpensive – Hedgehogs are foragers who eat insects, plants and animal matter depending on availability. Getting food for your hedgehog should be fairly easy, but you’ll still need to double-check to ensure that its nutritional needs are being met.
- They can stick around – How long do hedgehogs live? These critters typically live four to six years in the wild, but as pets, they’ve been known to reach ten years of age.
- Hedgies won’t peeve the neighbors – If you want a pet, but you don’t want something that will squawk, howl or bark loud enough to keep your neighbors up, hedgehogs could be a good match. They might purr when content, or make small sounds as they explore, but they’re generally quiet pets.
- They don’t smell – Hedgehogs, if well cared for and fed a good diet, don’t carry the distinct body odor associated with many other pet types.
- No dander – So compared to dogs and cats, are hedgehogs good? Pet shopping for people with allergies can be tricky, but the lack of dander and fur shedding makes hedgehogs an attractive option.
- They bond with owners – If you spend enough time interacting with your hedgehog and keeping it reasonably socialized, it can actually respond to your voice! A balled up hedgehog is a nervous hedgehog, and sometimes only the presence of its owner will relax it.
Drawbacks of hedgehogs as housepets
This wouldn’t be much of a debate if there was only a positive side to having hedgehogs as pets. Some of the negatives are obvious, but there might be a couple that surprise you. In any case, it’s best to be fully aware of these drawbacks before taking the plunge and getting yourself a new little friend.
- Hedgies can hurt – Those sharp spines protruding from hedgehogs aren’t just for show! Although they can’t shoot them out, like porcupines do in cartoons, these quills can certainly hurt. If caught by a predator in the wild, hedgehogs twitch and move around in order to injure their attacker. A nervous pet hedgehog will do the same – handling them will require some patience and precautions, like a towel or gloves, until they relax.
- They can also “ball out” – No, this doesn’t mean they like to party. If threatened, hedgehogs will roll up into a ball with their quills pointed outward as a defense mechanism. Small as they are, these animals have powerful back muscles, meaning you won’t be able to unfurl them by force. The only way for this to happen is by getting them to relax.
- They can carry disease – This isn’t specific to hedgehogs, but like other pets, they can carry some illnesses that are transferable to humans. These include salmonella and ringworm, which can typically be avoided by maintaining good hygiene and washing one’s hands regularly after handling or cleaning up after a hedgehog.
- Questionable bathroom habits – Hedgehogs have a tendency towards relieving themselves whenever they need to, regardless of current location. They’ve been known to even do so on the run! Some hedgehogs can actually be trained to use a litter box, but this depends on the animal in question.
- Expensive vet visits – In all likelihood, you’ll have to take your hedgehog to a veterinarian who specializes in caring for exotic animals. These specialists are less common than general vets, meaning you might need to travel in order to find one. The expenses can vary based on your location, but hedgehog pet care can be costly.
Additionally, as stated by Dr. Meghan Denney, a Veterinarian on JustAnswer, treatments for sick hedgehogs in bad condition won’t usually be the kind you can administer on your own:
“The best recommendation I can make,” she says, in reference to a customer’s ailing hedgehog, “is we need to get him to an exotics veterinarian to be examined.” She goes on to warn against attempting other courses of action. “Do you have a regular exotic veterinarian you see? Unfortunately no over the counter or home therapies will help.”
The qualities that make an ideal hedgehog owner
Pet ownership is a two-way street. If an animal companion seems like a good candidate, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re a good match for each other! Your own habits, mannerisms and lifestyle will help determine whether you’d make a suitable hedgehog owner.
For starters, you’ll need to be the kind of person who doesn’t go to sleep early. Hedgehogs are very active at night, meaning night owl owners who don’t spend most of their evenings out of the house could be a great fit. Light sleepers should steer clear, since an active hedgie can easily keep them up.
Another important quality in a hedgehog owner is being okay with a little grossness – these animals have a habit of spitting all over themselves as camouflage when they encounter a new scent. Also, if you’re dead-set on multiple hedgehogs, you’ll need multiple cages. These animals tend to clash when stuck in close quarters, and males in particular have been known to fight to the death!
Above all else, the optimal hedgehog owner will be willing to put in the time necessary to learn about and socialize with their pet. Neglect will leave a hedgie nervous and jumpy, but handling your hedgehog often will grant you a cute, loving companion. So are hedgehogs good pets? For more information, reach out to an Expert on JustAnswer today!
Do you have experience with pet hedgehogs? Or do you just like to look at their tiny faces? Either way, share in the comments below!