They’re tiny, cute and inquisitive animals but do hedgehogs make good pets or are there negatives to be aware of before you take one in as a pet?
Hedgehogs do make good pets. They’re small enough to handle, don’t require lots of food and are happy on their own without another hedgehog for company. But there are some things to be aware of, and some special care is needed when looking after a hedgehog.
But are they friendly? Do hedgehogs like to cuddle? Are they smelly? And is it actually legal to own a hedgehog? We’ve answered all of these and more to determine whether hedgehogs make good pets or not:
Are Hedgehogs Friendly?
In the wild, hedgehogs are solitary animals who live alone. When you first get a pet hedgehog, you may find them nervous around your company, making them appear unfriendly. But this is not the case. Hedgehogs are friendly and inquisitive once they have trust in you.
Are Hedgehogs Cuddly?
Hedgehogs can become cuddly, but only when they are comfortable in your company. If you are just getting to know your hedgehog, then it can be a great idea to hold them and cuddle them in a towel. This can prevent you from getting pricked with the sharp spikes on their back while allowing them to get comfortable and relaxed.
Are Hedgehogs Affectionate?
Most people own pets for companionship and friendship. But are hedgehogs affectionate? Will they show their owner love?
The good news is that pet hedgehogs can be affectionate, especially when considering that they are solitary animals who live alone in the wild. However, it’s worth remembering that each hedgehog is unique. Some will be outgoing. Some will be introverted.
As a hedgehog owner, it is vital that you prove you’re not a threat. Regularly holding the hedgehog will ensure they become comfortable in your company. As time passes, they will begin to show more and more affection.
Are Hedgehogs Prickly?
Simply by looking at hedgehogs, it’s quite clear to see that their back is covered in sharp spikes. In fact, most hedgehogs are covered with between 5,000 and 7,000 quills. These are there to protect them from predators in the wild. The good news is that they will not (and cannot) shoot these spikes like a porcupine.
These quills are actually muscle controlled. When a hedgehog feels threatened, they will force the spikes to stand up. When they are relaxed, they will lay flat. As your hedgehog becomes familiar with your company, it will relax and the quills will lay flat and feel less prickly.
Are Hedgehogs Dangerous?
If you have children under the age of 5 or adults over the age of 65, then owning a hedgehog is not recommended. Hedgehogs carry salmonella bacteria in their droppings which can be dangerous to vulnerable groups. It can also be dangerous to those with a weak immune system.
It is also difficult to determine whether a hedgehog is carrying salmonella. They may have no symptoms, but they will spread the bacteria in their droppings and anything they come into contact with, including their toys and cage.
Regular maintenance of their cage and cleaning of their toys can help minimise the risk of spreading salmonella. This is why it is also important that you don’t let your pet hedgehog roam where you’re likely to prepare and/or eat food.
Do Hedgehogs Stink?
Like all pets, hedgehogs can stink if they are not cared for properly. There are several things you need to ensure you do regularly to keep your pet hedgehog both clean and healthy:
- Regularly Hoover Cage – Hedgehogs, like all animals, poop, and it smells. It can get everything, including inside their water bowl. All you need to do is hoover up any leftover food and poop and change the water in the water bowl regularly.
- Bath Hedgehog – Although hedgehogs don’t stink of bodily odour, they may smell of urine or poop. A monthly bath can prevent this. Ensure you follow proper hedgehog bathing protocol to prevent their skin from drying out.
- Fully Clean Cage Weekly – Once a week, you’ll want to also a full cage clean as urine can get everywhere. It’s not too laborious. Remove everything from the case, scrub the floor of the cage with soapy water then rinse with clean water. Do the same from anything you removed from the cage.
Do Hedgehogs Bite?
Although hedgehog can bite, it is rare that they will bite their owners, especially as you socialise with them more and more. Hedgehogs will only bite when they feel threatened. Once they are aware that you are not a predator looking to cause harm, then the risk of them biting is reduced.
Biting is rarely used in the wild either. Instead, hedgehogs prefer to roll into a ball causing their quills to stand up on end making them spiky to predators.
Are Hedgehogs Legal?
This is a tough question to answer as it depends on which country you’re in and which state within that country you’re in. The answer varies from state to state in the US alone.
Are Hedgehogs Legal in the US?
In the US, it is legal to own hedgehogs in some states, it is illegal to own European hedgehogs in other states and some states may even require a license. Because of this complexity in owning a pet hedgehog in the US, we’ve broken down whether it is legal to own a hedgehog in different states:
California – Having a pet hedgehog in California is illegal.
Georgia – In George, you cannot have a pet hedgehog as it is illegal.
Hawaii – Hawaii have pet hedgehogs as illegal.
Boroughs of New York City – It is illegal to have a pet hedgehog in the 5 boroughs of New York City
Pennsylvania – The rules in Pennsylvania are complex. You cannot import a hedgehog into the state, and owning a hedgehog illegal imported would be illegal. However, you can own a hedgehog if it has been there since 1992. Some claim that these rules are rarely policed sufficiently.
Arizona – If you want to own a hedgehog in Arizona, then you’ll need to apply for a permit which can be incredibly tough to obtain.
Idaho – In Idaho, owning a European hedgehog is illegal but owning an African pygmy hedgehog is legal.
Oregon – Much like Idaho, you can own an African pygmy hedgehog in Oregon but not a European hedgehog.
Wisconsin – If you want to own a pet hedgehog in Wisconsin, then you’ll need to apply for a permit.
Maine – To legally own a pet hedgehog in Maine, you’ll need to apply for a permit.
New Jersey – New Jersey is another state when you will have to apply for a legal permit if you want to own a pet hedgehog.
Wyoming – Like Wisconsin, Maine and New Jersey; if you want to own a pet hedgehog in Wyoming, then you will need to apply for a permit beforehand.
If a state is not listed above, then it is assumed that owning a pet hedgehog is legal at the time of writing. It is always worth checking with your local Fish and Game Commission or Department of Fish and Wildlife to confirm whether owning a hedgehog in your state is legal or not, as laws and restrictions will constantly change.
Are Hedgehogs Legal Internationally?
Rules change across the globe when it comes to owning hedgehogs as pets. Below are a handful of countries and the rules they have on owning a pet hedgehog. As always, it’s vital that you check with your local government:
United Kingdom – In the UK, it is legal to own an African pygmy hedgehog as a pet. As with all pets, animals are protected by the Animal Welfare Act, which means an animal must be allowed to display normal behaviour.
Australia – Australia is a country known for protecting its indigenous plants, fauna and wildlife, which is why it will come as no surprise that owning either European or African hedgehogs is illegal across Australia.
Spain – In Spain, European hedgehogs are protected, so they cannot be owned as pets. However, African pygmy hedgehogs are legal to own.
Canada – Much like Spain, large parts of Canada ban having European hedgehogs as a pet, but you can have a pet pygmy hedgehog.
Hedgehogs do make good pets if you spend regular time with your pet hedgehog. Hedgehogs will be quiet and shy before they get to know you. It’s important that you take time to form a bond with your pet hedgehog – much like any other pet.
As a hedgehog gets to know you, it will become far more friendly, affectionate and even playful. But be patient. It can take some hedgehogs months and months before they get to a position of being comfortable.