So, I have mentioned my hedgehog on my blog a few times, and I'm all too pleased about the fact that dear ShopGirl has requested a post specifically on her! So here it is!
Let's start from the beginning. Why did I get a hedgehog?
Initially, I went into a pet store to look at sugar gliders, but I got distracted by this round spikey ball of a hedgehog which was fast asleep INSIDE its food bowl! It was at that point that I knew I had to have a hedgehog! All thoughts of a sugar glider were cast aside, and the fixation on hedgehogs began.
Now, for some background. I'm the least nurturing person in the universe, and this is why I tend to avoid getting pets or ever having children. The neediness does not bode well for me. Yes, I'm extremely self-centred. I am well aware of this! So, when I read that hedgehogs were nocturnal, solitary creatures, I knew I needed one. However, due to my track record of failing at nurturing pets appropriately, no one was willing to accommodate my obsession. Luckily, I have wonderful friends who are willing to conspire with me against the decree of democracy in my house! And so, I got my hedgehog for my birthday 2 years ago!
There wasn't even a doubt from the time I wanted one that I would be naming it Puffy. Nothing could be more suitable, in my opinion! Since then, she has become affectionately known as Huffy Puffy and Fatty.
This was the picture sent to me when she was purchased the day before she was given to me:
[Oct 2011 - Puffy at 3 months old]
I got her in October of 2013 and she was absolutely tiny! And so, so absolutely adorable! As a little hedgehog, they do need more sleep than adults do, and as always, they tend to be passed out during the day.
[Puffy during the first week of having her]
After this picture was taken, I was playing with her and she bit me because I was baking and my hands smelled of butter. It didn't hurt at all, which is a testament to how different they are as they got older. They generally don't bite unless they are severely harassed or threatened and to date she has only bitten me twice. This was one of those time. While this was more cute than abusive, when she bit me as an adult it was absurdly violent. Due to the fact that their primary diet is insect-based in the wild, they have clamp-like teeth in that they sink into your skin. When she bit me as an adult, and I tried to pull my hand away, she came with it...yes, ouch! Her teeth were imprinted on my skin for a week. She was very healthy though, so no tetanus shot required! Lesson learned! When Puffy is Huffy, leave her alone!
Let me be clear, this was a 2 way street. I was lugging her to different environments in the house while the sun was still up and generally waking her up from slumber. It was merely a defence mechanism. They are by no means harmful in general so don't be deterred.
[Nov 2011 - Puffy and me on my birthday, when both of us were still skinny]
Your best bet for getting a hedgehog is to get one no older than 3-4 months old because that is the best time to handle them. Aside from the soft teeth, their spikes are still very soft and flimsy which means that handling them isn't painful at all at this age. As they get older, around 6-9 months old, they start shedding their spikes and grow thicker, more abusive spikes which are their primary defence mechanism. Also, they don't have good eyesight, and so their sense of smell and hearing is extremely strong which also lends itself to bonding during their early months. Once they are used to your smell and your voice, they tend to avoid spiking up when you are handling them. A lack of abuse is their way of showing affection. Absolutely the perfect pet!
In order to aid the bonding process as well, it would be good if you left an item of your clothing in their cage with them so that they are further exposed to your scent. In my case, I would put socks of mine (which had been washed), into her cage which she would squirm into and out of. Everytime I replaced the sock, the next day, it would be inside out because she had been going into it.
Hedgehogs don't have particularly powerful legs, although they are very fast runners. I have lost her a couple of times because I wasn't paying attention to her for a few minutes. And their default mode is to be out of open spaces so they tend to find dark corners to hang out in.
Now, the fact that they don't have very strong legs never stopped little Puffy from climbing her cage. It was ridiculous. We keep her on the balcony, and some nights I would go down to play with her and when I look out, she'd be halfway up the side of her cage, and the minute I turned on the light, she would just let go and drop. It's a good thing she never hurt herself because she had a small cage at this point. This is precisely why you need to ensure their cage isn't too high. They could fall and break their legs. Nobody wants that!
While they do sell exercise wheels for hedgehogs, they're very hard to get hold of here. Not only is the size too small, but you need a wheel which doesn't have gaps/holes in it so that they don't injure themselves due to the fact that they are very fast runners. I'm still in search of one. This is also something you need to be wary of when placing items of clothing in their cages. It shouldn't have lose ends which could tangle their legs and injure them.
The lack of the wheel means that I definitely do let her out of the cage for at least half an hour a night so that she can run amok outside the cage. Some nights though, she's particularly lazy and she will just sit next to the cage, waiting to be put back in, or she will sit under my knee where it apparently feels like a dark space. Actually, it's not rare for a hedgehog that's used to you to curl up to your skin because they love warmth. They're native to Africa so the cold does not bode well for them. In seasonal countries, when they do not have a heater in the Winter months, they tend to hibernate and die from it. So, this part of the world actually works well for them. Over the last few days here, it's been quite cold and Puffy has been less sociable and sleeping a lot more. Don't be alarmed. A clear sign that they are deathly ill is when they are out of their "houses" during the day and lying in the Sun. This is when you need to worry.
In any event, when she had a cage which she could fit under, and she got tired of being outside, she would crawl underneath it and wait to to back in simply because she couldn't make it all the way up the side to go back in.
[The alternative when failing to get back into her cage]
Hedgehogs are very low maintenance and they only need baths once every 3-4 months, or even every 6 months depending on how dirty they get in the environment they're in. In order to bathe them, you just need a very soft bristled tooth brush, and some Johnson's baby shampoo. When they are shedding their spikes, it's advisable that they be rubbed with a couple of drops of olive oil in order to soften the skin to help the new, thicker, spikes come through.
When you bathe them, you definitely need a container which they cannot climb out of. A sink usually does fine because it's deep enough for them not to be able to reach the edge of. The water should be warm, not hot. And they should be rinsed thoroughly after shampooing to ensure there isn't any skin irritation.
[Puffy hiding from her bath]
[Climbing around furniture]
I learned this the hard way, but they are not pets that need fancy toys. To date her favourite toy is a toilet role tube. They like to stick their heads in them and run around pretending they are in a tunnel - Literally tunnel vision. It's absurd. Then their heads will get stuck and they will panic...but they will do it again!
[Hanging out with her inverted sock]
The picture above is typical of daytime behaviour. When they Sun is out, they are not! They are curled into a ball, in a corner where they are dead to the world.
[She emerges when she smells food]
It's definitely advisable to have a few different spots for them, just so they have options. I cannot count the number of times I've seen the entry of this house turned towards the side of the cage so that she thinks no one can see her.
As for food, their immune systems are very similar to cats and so cat food definitely works. But not any kind. They are prone to liver disease if they are given too much fat...they become hedgehog "foie gras", so any cat food you give them needs to be below 9% in fat. And they need roughly 11g of food per day. Feeding them once a day in the evening is more than enough. If you can't be arsed to weigh the food, which I can't, I give her just enough to about cover my palm. I have recently found food specific to hedgehogs so I'm very pleased with this. She's getting used to it. Anytime you decide to change up their food, you should mix a bit of the new with the old, and gradually phase the old out. They are creatures of habit and can be rather diva-ish if not tailored to!
On top of this, some chicken breast with no oil works, and eggs are a very good source of protein for them once in a while. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also essentials, just make sure to cut everything into small pieces and remove any seeds. This is particularly important for things like strawberries. The seeds can get stuck in their teeth and cause a lot of discomfort.
[She doesn't like mango! Like me!]
Similar to the toilet roll issue, at some point I put an empty popcorn box into her cage and although she had 3 other houses in there, she slept in it for 4 months. It's ridiculous. SHE HAD 3 HOUSES!
The picture above needs some explanation. This has happened multiple times, but she tends to have bouts of extreme laziness where she moves the house she is currently sleeping in (yes, she moves around her cage) closer to her food bowl so that she doesn't have to leave the house to eat. So, very often, her rear feet will be in the house while she pops out for a bite. BUM!
And the pictures below are of her emotionally abusive behaviour.
There are nights when I come home late and this is the sight I return to! She will be sitting next to her food bowl looking like the world's most starved/abused pet. When she hears me coming, she will move closer to the bowl, look at it, go into it, come out, look at it and look at me. Emotional blackmail at its finest.
I really do love her. She's so cute and so temperamental! They are not pets you can keep bothering though, because it will get to them. Love them just enough, and they will love you in their own way. She does, as well. When I got on holiday, my brother looks after her. When I return, she becomes exceptionally huffy. When I take her out of the cage, she huffs are me horribly. She will literally sit next to me an huff! It's horrible! Oh, hedgehogs don't make noise at all. They just huff. The weirdest sound I've heard out of her was when she got carsick on the way to the vet and started puking. Very creepy sound indeed.
They are prone to a couple of illness and they are allergic to certain things, primarily tea tree oil and cedar wood, so just ensure none of these are present in their bedding or your hand creams and whatnot when you touch them.
In order to keep their skin healthy, it's advisable to give them freshly boiled water which has been left to cool, with a drop of honey in it.
If you look after them, and love them, they can live up to 7 years, so be nice and you will definitely have a lovely, non-needy pet!
If you'd like to see how huffy she gets, I have a couple of videos of her on my YouTube page, and they can be found here:
Angry Puffy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAbp8gwkT7o
Bath Time Escape Attempt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a7abKOptCg
P.S. The giveaway (not of my hedgehog) is still on and can be found here.