by Ryan Jordan
My interest in hedgehogs started very young, as soon as I found out you can keep them as pets. I wasn’t allowed to get one when I was eight years old, but I recently revisited that dream as an adult and got my first hedgehog!
Charlie is a retired breeder who was looking for a new home after his baby-making days were over. Hedgehogs breed pretty young, so he still has a lot of life left ahead of him at 18 months old. He lost an eye at some point, and something about his profile picture was just too cute. A little one-eyed pirate hedgehog.
He was a little shy at first, but coming from a great breeder who loves and handled her hedgehogs a lot, he quickly warmed up. Getting a hedgehog that’s had a good start is really important since they’re naturally a very shy and defensive animal.
Charlie was charming immediately. Hedgehogs are very curious and pretty active. This makes them a lot of fun to play with. My nightly routine consists of putting on a big comfortable hoodie, getting Charlie out, and watching TV while he crawls around inside of my hoodie. Sometimes he’ll explore for hours. Other evenings he’ll crawl around for a while until he finds a good place to curl up and nap. Sometimes he pokes his head out for a look around.
It might be hyperbole to say that hedgehogs are the best pet I’ve ever had. I should probably exclude dogs and cats when I say that. Dogs are man’s best friend, after all, and my cats act like dogs. I will say that hedgehogs are been immensely enjoyable, and I’m absolutely enthralled with them. To the point that, when the opportunity arose, I got a second hedgehog within just a few weeks of the first. This won’t work for everyone, and I don’t recommend rushing into get a lot of animals at once. However, these guys fit my life very well and I love having a second. Wilhelmina, or Wila, has been a joy as well.
I’ve had many animals over the years, but hedgehogs are unique. Caring for other species had prepared me for hedgehogs, so while Charlie and Wila are my first hedgehogs, I found their care to be very easy.
I was a bit surprised by Charlie and Wila’s agility. Hedgehogs aren’t exactly graceful but they are able to climb a bit and can definitely take a tumble better than a guinea pig would. They love to run on wheels, like hamsters and other small rodents (although they require a much larger wheel). If Charlie gets bored of his toys, he’ll even attempt to climb the walls of his cage. He typically doesn’t get very far though.
Unlike most small pets, hedgehogs are insectivores. They thrive on a protein rich diet of bugs and other small critters, as well as select cat foods. Occasionally they’ll nibble on fruits or veggies, but this is unnecessary. I love to hand feed bugs to Charlie and Wila and listen to the little smacking noises they make while chewing. Their excitement when he spots the bug is pretty adorable too. I use tongs or just my fingers to feed them meal works or tropical feeder roaches, and both hedgehogs will eagerly take them from my hand. Something about how interactive feeding time can be is just totally endearing to me. The bugs are probably gross to a lot of people, and hedgehogs will also take them out of a bowl, but I enjoy the one on one time with them and it seems to help them build trust.
The interactivity is one of the big things that puts hedgehogs right up there with cats and dogs for me as far as favorite pets. Both Charlie and Wila are inquisitive and want to see what I’m up to when they’re crawling around on me. They like to burrow into my beard and try to groom me. Although that usually turns into excited tugging on my beard and anointing themselves. Apparently my beard is super exciting to small animals.
Some people may get confused about what hedgehogs actually are. They are not rodents, like you might guess. While they’re not related to ferrets, they have similar teeth and other features. The fur on a hedgehog’s belly is similar to that of a ferret. However, hedgehogs to not have a strong odor at all. A well cared for and litter trained hedgehog will need much less cleaning than most other small pets. As much fun as ferrets can be, the no-stink factor of hedgehogs is a HUGE bonus!
Their cleanliness lends itself to other fun if silly things, like giving them toys and houses. I see many hedgehog keepers giving their hedgehogs stuffed animals and plush houses intended for stuffed toys. It’s easy to keep them clean, since hedgehogs don’t make as big of a mess as most mammals.
Hedgehog’s curiosity makes them perfect for one of my favorite hedgehog activities. I get a shallow rubbermaid tub, put a thin layer of bedding down, and a bunch of mealworms or roaches. Then I put a hedgehog in and let them hunt! Charlie loves the hunting tub. Wila hasn’t had a turn yet, but she will soon. This has given me ideas for making them bug mazes and other toys. I love creating things for my animal, so there’s another reason I think they’re such an awesome pet.
I’m really glad I finally got a hedgehog. I’m looking forward to getting to know them better in the coming months, and building new toys for them. If you’ve ever considered a pet hedgehog, make sure you study their care first and find a good breeder. Then dive in and get your new best friend!
This post was written by Ryan Jordan of Bones and Fishes. Ryan is a blogger, artist, and hobbyist zoo keeper with many small furry and scaly minions living with him. You can see his creatures on Instagram @bonesandfishes or on his blog, bonesandfishes.com.