General Information

Hedgehogs can make fun, enjoyable pets. They are mammals whose entire back is covered with spines. Unlike porcupines, they do not throw their spines. The spines are sharp and can injure owners. As a defense mechanism, hedgehogs "ball up" exposing their spiny backsides. Because they often "ball up" owners may not be able to handle them and play with them like other pets.

In the wild, hedgehogs eat insects. Their life expectancy is about 10 years. During the day, hedgehogs burrow and sleep most of the time; hedgehogs are nocturnal pets in the wild. As local laws often regulate whether or not hedgehogs can be kept as pets, this should be investigated prior to purchasing one of these unique animals.


Anatomical Interests

1. Hedgehogs have a keen sense of hearing.

2. Hedgehogs are covered with sharp spines on their back side.

3. Frightened hedgehogs may hiss or spit and "ball up".

4. Hedgehogs will hibernate if the environmental temperature falls below 60 degrees. Hedgehogs do not need to hibernate and many veterinarians recommend against hibernation as problems with disease can occur if the hedgehogs are not healthy prior to hibernation or if hibernation does not proceed correctly. Talk with your doctor about whether or not you should allow your hedgehog to hibernate.

5. Hedgehogs have a lower body temperature (95o F or 35 o C) than most mammals.


Selecting Your Pet

Hedgehogs are usually purchased at pet shops or through breeders; they are often also for sale at exotic pet shows. As with any pet purchase, avoid hedgehogs that appear ill. Hedgehogs should be bright and alert, and move quickly when startled. Avoid pets with closed eyes or discharge from the eyes or nose. As they readily "ball up" when disturbed, it may be difficult to inspect them closely. If possible, check the ears for redness or excess wax, which might indicate an infection. Check the mouth for broken teeth or red and inflamed gums. The pet should neither feel fat nor thin; you should be able to feel the ribs with just a small amount of fat over them. Check the anal area for diarrhea or moistness, which might indicate a gastrointestinal infection. The spines should be free of excess scaliness.


The First Veterinary Visit

Your hedgehog should come with a health guarantee that requires a checkup by a veterinarian within a few days (usually 48 hours) after purchase. All pets including hedgehogs need regular veterinary examinations. Select a veterinarian knowledgeable about hedgehogs.

The visit includes determining the animal's weight, as well as checking for lumps or bumps. The animal is examined for signs of dehydration and starvation. A fecal test is done to check for internal parasites. The veterinarian can also determine the sex of your pet. Like all pets, hedgehogs should be examined annually and have their feces tested for parasites during the annual visit.

Vaccinations  - Pet hedgehogs do not require vaccinations