Weight: ~ 300 – 600 grams
Lifespan: 3 to 5 years
Color: Hedgehogs can come in many different colors (white, browns, greys, cinnamons, etc.) and patterns/markings (pinto, reverse pinto, snowflake, split faces, blazes, etc.). They can have eye color ranging from pink to dark ruby, black, and sometimes the eyes will be different colors.
Male/female: There isn’t much of a difference between males and females. Their personality depends on the individual rather than their sex, they both make equally good pets. Some males will masturbate, though this is generally a private activity!
Quills: Hedgehogs are covered in hard, air filled quills. They can be sharp feeling, but only if they have their quills raised. They feel smooth when their quills are relaxed. Some people prefer to use a blanket to pick up their hedgehog but you will quickly get used to handling them without one!
There is a part in the quills on their heads, more noticeable on some hedgehogs than others. This 'bald spot' is completely normal!
Allergies: Some people say hedgehogs are hypoallergenic but this is not true. People have had mild reactions: sneezing, runny nose, etc. after handling hedgehogs, though this is not very common. Small bumps are normal after handling a hedgehog, especially if you have sensitive skin. This is usually worse when your hedgehog is dirty, so you may want to wipe the quills down with a baby wipe before handing if you react in this way.
Smell: Hedgehogs don't have a body odour or a strong smell to their urine. They can have some smelly poops, but it shouldn't be anything you notice if you clean their cage on a regular basis!
Hedgehogs are relatively new pets and are prey animals, so they can be nervous critters. This is why it is so important to handle them frequently to help them form a bond with you. Some hedgehogs are naturally calm and like to cuddle with their humans, while others are more energetic and don’t like to sit still. There are many cute videos out there of owners rubbing their bellies while they sleep, etc., but make sure you realize this is not necessarily how every hedgehog acts, and this takes work on your part. Some hedgehogs are a 'watch me only' kind of pet, though you are more likely to get a sociable animal if they have been handled from a young age and socialized on a daily basis. They're all unique, and it's very exciting to find out how your hedgehog acts, what they like, and what they dislike!
Defences: The quills are their natural defense and you WILL be poked by them. They may raise their quills when they feel nervous, hear loud noises, smell new people, get startled, or when they first wake up. Some may completely curl up in a spiky ball at any noise or movement, others might just raise them a bit when you wake them up. Your hedgehog will probably curl up a lot until it gets used to you and is comfortable.
Noises: Hedgehogs can make a variety of noises. Hedgehogs make a huffing/hissing noise when they are nervous. This is a normal sound and you will likely hear it often. When very agitated, they can make a popping or clicking sound, you shouldn’t hear this noise unless you have a particularly grumpy hedgehog or if they are new to you. Some hedgehogs make a cute snuffling sound when they are out. This means they are curious and happy. If you’re lucky, you may hear your hedgehog purr when they are very happy and content.
Sleeping: Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and will sleep for most of the day, only getting up to eat and use the bathroom. They can be more skittish during the day and may be more nervous out in their cage than they are at night. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take your hedgehog out during the day, just realize they probably won’t be as active as they would be at night when it’s darker.
Biting: Hedgehogs don’t generally bite aggressively, but they can bite, and it can be painful. The most common reason for biting is that they smell something good on you and want to have a taste! They will usually smell or lick before doing so, so the bite can be prevented. Other times a hedgehog will bite if they don’t feel well. If your hedgehog doesn’t normally bite and is acting differently, they may have a medical problem they’re hiding.
If they do bite, do not hit them to get them to let go! Try to gently push your hand towards them to get them to let go of you.
Annointing: Annointing is a process where your hedgehog will make a foam/froth from their mouth and spread it onto their bodies. It starts with licking or chewing, then they will make the foam and spread it on themselves, sometimes twisting in strange looking positions. They may do this when offered new foods, or when around new scents. It is not known for sure why they do this, but it is likely a way to protect themselves. They may be camouflaging their scent with their environment, or it may be a way to coat themselves with "toxins" they would find in their natural environments, to help fend off predators.
Keeping Hedgehogs Together
Hedgehogs are solitary animals and don't need or want another hedgehog as company. Males kept together will fight and can kill each other. Females can sometimes be kept together if they come from the same litter, but there's always the possibility that they will fight and injure one another. If you try to keep two sisters together, you will need twice the space, two sets of dishes, two wheels, etc. so you're really not saving any money or space. I would recommend not attempting it - play it safe and have separate cages. Never house males and females together! They will breed and kill the young, and fight with one another. This causes both to be extremely stressed and agitated all the time.
Some hedgehogs can be put together for play time, but never put male and females together as they can breed very quickly! Some hedgehogs will try to dominate one another. This can be obvious, like biting, but can also be more subtle such as dominate mounting. Males are usually more aggressive and territorial with each other, but some females are as well. Always supervise your animals when together to avoid any fighting or injuries!
You can pick up your hedgehog by cupping your hands underneath them and lifting them up, making sure they can lift their heads. Coming at them from above is more likely to startle them - as a prey animal they are nervous about predators grabbing them. They are easy to startle and are more comfortable when they know what you're doing. You can use a blanket to hold them if their quills are sharp for your hands. When first starting out, I suggest using a blanket and trying with your bare hands over a couch or a chair, in case you get startled and drop them. They are generally more comfortable in lower light levels and at night, so this is a better time to start bonding. A minimum of 30 minutes of handling a day is recommended for keeping them socialized and used to you.
You can spend time with your hedgehog depending on what your hedgehog enjoys. If you have a hedgehog that likes to run around and explore, you can let them run around in a room while you sit on the floor, they will probably crawl on and around you. If you have a hedgehog who is more shy, you can leave them in a snuggle sack or in a blanket so they feel safe, and keep them on your lap or beside you. I like to take my hedgehogs out with me while I watch TV. Sometimes they prefer to stay in their bags beside me, and sometimes they like to walk around exploring.
Most hedgehogs also enjoy going outside to explore in the summer. Make sure the temperature outside is warm enough for your hedgie, and take them out to enjoy the fresh air! Make sure to keep an eye on them though, they can move pretty fast and fit into small areas. Hedgehogs with lighter skin are also more likely to get sunburns, so don't take them out for long periods of time.