Owning a Pet Hedgehog: Baxter, an African Pygmy Hedgehog
Hedgehogs are small, quilled animals that are not really comparable to any other pet. Considered exotic, so they’re illegal in some states like California, and regulated in others. If you’re interested in getting one, be sure to check to make sure your state allows them. I have an African Pygmy named Baxter, who is almost three, and recently I traveled cross-country with him, so I’d say I’m a bit of a hedgehog expert. Here are my thoughts on hedgehog ownership, along with those of reliable websites I frequent.
What are some positives and negatives of owning hedgehogs?
The first good thing is they don’t require vaccinations or any annual shots. It is a good idea to take them to a vet every year or so, and a routine check-up with the standard tests costs about $180-$200. They’re also very quiet, don’t shed fur or dander, and don’t chew on cords as pet rats and rabbits do. They also have no natural “musk,” like ferrets, so if you keep their area clean, the smell is not a problem even in a small apartment.
On the negative side, they are naturally grumpy and uninterested in being cuddled.
Bonding with a hedgehog can take a long time and requires a lot of work, which basically means handling the hedgie. If unhappy or startled, a hedgehog will bite. My hedgehog Baxter lets me hold him, doesn’t bite very often, and sits on my lap. If someone didn’t know anything about hedgehogs, they would consider Baxter a “mean” pet, but for hedgehog fans, he’s pretty friendly. Because of this, hedgehogs aren’t great for kids. They also poop a lot, which can get on their feet, requiring regular foot baths.
So, how do you take care of your hedgehog? Their enclosures are usually big Tupperwares or cages that don’t have wire bottoms, with paper bedding and a water bottle, like a hamster. Some hedgehogs use wheels, too. They should be in an environment that’s at least 70-degrees. For food, hedgehogs should have high-quality cat food with between 25-35% protein and under 15% fat. Vets will often tell you to feed your hedgehog “hedgehog food,” but breeders agree that just about every hedgehog food brand on the market is not good. You can also get treats like mealworms for your hedgehog. To clean your hedgehog, use an unscented (human) baby shampoo in a bath every 3-4 weeks, and keep their nails clipped. Hedgehogs have dry skin, so if you notice your hedgehog flaking, you can give them a bath with a little olive oil.
There’s more to learn, so if you’re seriously interested in hedgehogs, do more research first. The more you know, the more you will enjoy your hedgehog.