Cute, photogenic and trending on just about every social media site, hedgehogs seem like the perfect prickly pet. However, what you don’t see online is the amount of work, time, effort and research that goes into keeping a hedgehog.
They’re arguably harder to care for than other small mammals, so you may want to think twice before adopting. Because these are niche pets and not sold in major pet stores, information and general knowledge on keeping hedgehogs are limited.
So here are a few things to think about before adopting a hedgehog.
1. You Need Access to an Exotic Veterinarian
Do your research to confirm that an exotic veterinarian practices in your area. To be safe, call potential vets to make sure they treat hedgehogs.
In addition, consider the economic burden that comes with visiting a vet, and keep money aside for emergencies. There’s nothing scarier than lacking the resources needed to take care of your hedgehog’s medical emergency.
Hedgehogs are prone to the medical conditions below:
- Wobbly hedgehog syndrome
- Heart disease
Hedgehogs do not need vaccinations, but it’s a good idea to visit a vet as soon as you adopt one. To prevent the medical conditions just mentioned, bring your hedgehog in for a yearly checkup.
2. They May Be Illegal in Your Area
Because of the potential harm hedgehogs bring to local environments when released, they are illegal in several locations across the U.S., including:
- New York City boroughs
- Washington, D.C.
To be safe, also check your town ordinances to ensure hedgehogs are legal in your town or city.
3. They’re Not as Cuddly as You’d Think
A major aspect of keeping a hedgehog includes bonding, and trust me, this can be the hardest part. It could take weeks, months and possibly even a year before your hedgehog warms up to you.
During this time, a hedgehog will puff (also known as huffing) and hiss constantly. As a human, it’s best to show affection despite the hedgehog’s reaction.
Yes, on YouTube and Instagram, hedgehogs look like the cuddliest little creatures. In reality, though, they’re not born to cuddle, and developing a relationship with yours will probably take a lot of patience.
4. You Need Ample Space for Them to Live
At the bare minimum, a hedgehog’s cage should be 18 by 24 inches; however, the larger it is, the better. If you live in a small apartment, dorm room or just don’t a lot of space in your house for a cage this large, you may want to rethink adopting a hedgehog.
In addition, hedgehogs love to explore; it would be ideal for your hedgehog to have a space in which they can run around and feed their curiosity. Of course, keep their play area clean and clear of anything that may endanger them, including:
- Electrical cords
- Cleaning supplies and other chemicals
- Dust, hair and dirt
- Plastic materials (e.g., shopping bags)
5. First-Time Hedgehog Keepers Beware
A prospective hedgehog caregiver should gain experience keeping a small mammal before adopting a hedgehog. Fresh water, food twice a day and constant cleaning of their living space is required.
Hedgehogs can be a bit daunting at first because of their hissing and puffing, so they aren’t for the faint of heart. Yes, the quills will poke you many times, but no, the quills don’t hurt. Use a plush towel to pick them up until the animal gets used to you and doesn’t puff as much.
Did you know that hedgehogs could be this expressive?:
Don’t get me wrong — with the right care, a hedgehog will become your best friend and can make a terrific pet. However, this is not an overnight process, and the effort may not be worth the reward for some people.
Nonetheless, these prickly little friends make a unique companion you’ll remember for a lifetime. If you have the time, space, knowledge and dedication to care for one, I highly recommend adopting.
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Kyle Moschen is a Boston local who enjoys hiking, writing and yoga. Currently, he lives with his pet hedgehog — when he goes back home to New Hampshire, he’s greeted by a Cocker Spaniel, 2 cats and a coop full of chickens. At parties, you can find him petting the dog or cat.