|Am I right for a hedgehog?
Yes, you read that title right – Are YOU right for a hedgehog? Hedgehogs have been getting a lot of attention lately – thanks Instagram and YouTube! But lots of people are buying them because they’re trendy and cool, and then deciding they are not what they expected. What they expected, I can’t say, but what I can do is tell you some things you need to know before you come here, or go anywhere, to buy a hedgehog, so you can decide whether or not this is really a good idea.
First, hedgehogs are sharp. They’re called quills for a reason. They’re sharp. When you touch a hedgehog’s quills, you’re going to experience a sharp sensation. Eventually you’ll get used to being poked and you’ll barely even notice it anymore, but it will take some commitment on your part to have the patience to adjust to the sharpness. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t enjoy and can’t get used to being poked by sharp things from time to time, then you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are shy. They have no way to defend themselves against predators except those sharp quills, so when a big honkin’ human comes along and tries to pick one up, he’s going to ball up and stick out all those sharp quills. Then, when he realizes that this big honkin’ human is the same one who always picks him up, and has never tried to eat him, he’ll relax, and those sharp quills will lay flat so you can give him a quill massage, and who doesn’t like a quill massage? But until he reaches that state of relaxation, he’s going to be sharp, and he’s going to hiss and pop at you. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you, it means that he sort of forgot who you are and that he does like you. He’ll get over it, but if you jump and twitch when he pops, he’s going to get more scared and pop even more, and then you’re going to jump and twitch even more, etc. etc. etc, until nobody is happy at all. Calm down. He isn’t going to do you any damage. Calm, quiet, confident handling is the only way to bond with a hedgehog and get him to be your friend. The more nervous you are, the more nervous he will be. If you’re a jumpy twitchy type who gets startled easily, then you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
Did I mention that hedgehogs are sharp?
Hedgehogs are short-sighted. Whenever anything comes towards their face, their instinct is to pull down their sharp little quilly visors over their faces, because their faces are vulnerable and also necessary for their survival, so they want to protect them. See above for what to expect from here, the bit about the big honkin’ human and the whole story that follows it. In time, he may forget to be so defensive, but instinct is hard to overcome, because it’s been there for so long, and there’s a perfectly good reason to have it. If you can’t accept that your hedgehog might always be a little defensive about his face, then you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal. This means that, left to their own devices, they will sleep all day and be awake all night, doing little hedgehoggy things. It’s not possible to “switch” them to being awake during the day, and it’s unhealthy for the animal to try and make him be something he’s not. And the second you stop forcing him to be awake during the day, he’ll go right back to being nocturnal, because that’s what his body and his brain need and are telling him to do. Now, having said that: If you come along in the middle of the day sometimes and want to play with him, he’ll probably be OK with it for a little while, but then he’ll want to go back to sleep. Let him. Go do your homework or text someone in unintelligible acronyms for a couple of hours, and play with him later at night. You’ll be awake anyway, no matter what you’ve told your Mom. You’re not fooling anyone. But, if you’re the kind of person who requires your pet to be awake every second that you are and you can’t accept that you’re doing him harm by constantly bothering him during the day, then you need to pay closer attention in Biology class, and until you foster an understanding of nature and animals and how different creatures need different things and how the world doesn’t revolve around you and your selfish expectations, you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
Hedgehogs aren’t dogs. They won’t play fetch. They won’t bring in the newspaper. What they will do is either run around and explore for a while and then try and snuggle with an available and willing human and find a warm spot to fall asleep in, or they’ll skip the exploring and go straight in for the snuggle, which is utterly adorable and irresistibly endearing, but it’s the polar opposite of what most dogs do, so don’t expect him to be a dog. If you’re the kind of person who wants your pet to do tricks, then you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are not cats. They won’t get litter-trained, no matter what you read on someone’s ten-year-old Angelfire website. They will poop and pee whenever they need to, and they won’t “hold it” until they get back to their litter box. What they will do is…what I said they’d do in the last paragraph, and they will poop and pee while they’re doing it. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to deal with or clean up animal poop and pee, then you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
I’ve been going on for a while, so I forget if I already mentioned that hedgehogs are sharp??
Hedgehogs are tropical. That means that they need to be kept warm. If they get too cold, they will try to hibernate, and if they try to hibernate, they will die. You will need to make sure that the temperature where your hedgehog lives is a minimum of 68 degrees, up to a maximum of around 85 degrees. If you can’t afford or choose not to provide a proper heat source, then you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
In conclusion: You have to understand what a hedgehog is and what he needs from you before you bring one home. If your expectations are unrealistic about what it will be like to have a hedgehog as a pet, then the best advice I can give you is to study them more, learn more about the way they need to live their lives, and change your expectations accordingly, or don’t get a hedgehog. Real life is not Instagram and YouTube. All animals require a commitment of time and attention, and they need to be understood for the delightful things they are, not altered to suit us. If you can’t or won’t do that, then you are NOT right for a hedgehog.
If you are a patient, calm, and kind person, willing to accept a hedgehog’s little quirks, able to overcome the weirdness of having a very sharp pet, and in possession of a heart big enough to love even the pointiest of God’s creatures, then you are EXACTLY right for a hedgehog.