Things you should know before owning an African Pygmy Hedgehog


This is Pascal. He’s an African Pygmy Hedgehog. Now some of you may or may not be aware that I am now the proud mother of a hoglet. And no, I didn’t find him in the garden and decided to keep him, like many people believe to be true. In fact, we bought him from a breeder in Essex.

I have always always had a love for hedgehogs. So when I discovered that people had them as pets, it sparked an obsession that was hard to shake. After a while of just watching cute hedgehog compilations online, and sending adorable pics to tom- it was time to address my pitch to him. After many slideshows of hedgies and funny videos, Tom actually thought it would be a great idea! Of course, this was music to my ears. I searched online for a long time before I found someone who I wanted to buy from. I done as much research as possible until I felt that I knew as much as I could before committing.

We fell in love with Pascal as soon as we saw his little photos online, so we arranged to go and meet him before decided if he was definitely right for us. We went along and as soon as we met him we knew we wanted him to be ours. He was only 5 weeks old, and still quite squished and wrinkly haha. We popped down a deposit and arranged to pick him up when he was old enough to leave his mum 😊 note- you should never be allowed to view a hoglet before they reach 4 weeks old! Hedgehog mums have a tendency to eat their babies, and if the hoglet is touched by a human this will only create a high risk of this happening! So no matter how excited you are to meet your potential baby, please wait until 4 weeks. Although no good breeder should allow this to happen anyway!

 

African Pygmy Hedgehogs Quick facts:

  • They are a domesticated breed
  • An average of 3-6 years lifespan
  • They have 5000 spines
  • Their spines are known as quills (their prickles)
  • Unlike porcupines, they do not fire out their quills in defence
  • There is no relation between hedgehogs and porcupines
  • Hind feet have 4 toes, and front feet have 5 toes

 

A hedgehog is not a common pet, so it’s absolutely vital to do as much research as possible if you’re thinking of owning one. So I’ve popped in some information of things I have learnt 😊

Coming home with a hedgehog is very surreal

When you first get your hedgehog, you may think he hates you. This is pretty normal!

Hedgehogs are extremely shy creatures. They are not like puppies or kittens who will instantly love you and be by your side night and day. You must be prepared to take the time every day to handle your hedgie. The more time you spend handling him, the more you will bond.

It’s tough to earn their trust, but once you do it is soo rewarding and worth it. They are quite sensitive souls and don’t like loud noises or sudden movements, but they will get used to normal household noises and smells. They don’t really have any tendencies to bite- their initial reaction to someone they are unsure of is to ball up. Generally, they will only bite if hands are sweaty/ smell of food- or if you’ve hurt them with the way you’re holding them.

Quilling

There are times in a hedgehog’s life when they need to lose their baby quills in order to grow new adult quills. This process can make your hedgie quite grumpy, the same as when humans lose their teeth and grow their adult ones- its not a comfortable experience for us, let alone 5000 times! You won’t really notice them falling out, but if you notice some quills being lost it’s a nice idea to give your hedgie a warm bath to sooth his irritated skin- just be mindful of this process as it’s an uncomfortable time for your hoglet, so he may want to be left alone sometimes.

They are solitary animals

Don’t feel bad for having just 1 hedgehog on his own. He will prefer it, and they do not need/want any other animal in their cage. It’s been said that 2 males will fight to the death!

They are nocturnal

Hedgehogs sleep all day and wake up at night. This is something which we decided was a good thing for us. Neither of us are at home in the daytime Mon-Fri, so it works well. At first I almost felt bad for leaving him when I went to work in the mornings. But in actual fact, all he would be doing while I’m gone is sleeping. Which is important to respect- as how would we like it if someone woke us up to play in the middle of the night while we are all snuggled and cosy? I normally get home, have dinner and then get him up around 7pm. He then will usually have some food and is ready for his day to begin!

They are very,very prickly.

One question I’m always asked- is he really prickly? The answer is yes. When he is tense/scared/angry, he will roll up into a ball and his quills will be VERY sharp. The more you bond with your hedgehog, the less they will do this as time goes on. But in the beginning they will most likely do this a lot. You do get used it, and the more confident you feel- the safer he will feel. When hedgehogs are relaxed, their quills lie flat and are soft to stroke.

Hissing/ Popping noises

Hedgehogs are generally really quiet animals. The main noises they make are when they are scared, annoyed or even just mildly inconvenienced. The hissing is a funny little sound, and again at the beginning will be something you’re sure to hear rather often, especially if your hedgehog is on the grumpy side. You won’t mistake the hiss for anything else, and sometimes you may even hear a pop! These are all fairly normal sounds to hear day to day in the beginning.

Keep them warm!

This is a very important one. Your hedgehog should be kept in a room which has an average of 23c in temp. If you cannot keep the room at this temp, you should invest in a little heat lamp or a head pad. If you want to buy him a heat pad, ensure that this is only covers half of the cage- so that if they get too hot, they can go over to the other side of the cage and cool off.

Now if your hedgehog gets too cold, they will attempt to hibernate. This is extremely dangerous for an African Pygmy and if they do go into hibernation, there’s a great chance that they will starve, freeze and will not wake up. So keep your baby warm! If you feel like he/she may be feeling cold you can just pop them inside your top/jumper and use your own body to warm them up that way. Your hedgehogs belly should always feel warm.

Be Prepared to be pooped on

It happens- a lot. Especially when they are little. Your hedgehog will normally need the toilet in the first 30 mins of waking them up. Keep this in mind when waking them up! You normally get an idea of when this is about to happen as their little tail will go up and they will have that ‘concentrating’ expression on their face. It might also be a good idea for me to mention that they like to poo and run at the same time. So at night when they are running on their wheel, they like to go to the toilet on this and run around it in for hours. Resulting in some poop boots. Which leads me on to my next point.

Keeping your hedgehog clean

The fact that they go to the toilet on their wheel usually means that they might get some in their little paws. It’s a good idea to give him a little foot bath every day/ or every other day dependant on how messy your hedgie is. We put some warm water (very shallow- just enough to reach his belly) and he can walk around and clean his feet. They will need a proper bath about once a month, where they can be washed with some baby shampoo or Aveeno baby wash. You can use a toothbrush to gently wash his quills with the warm water and a drop of baby wash. They shouldn’t ball up in the water, so this can be a good time to bond with your hedgehog as you will have more of a chance to handle him without balling up. Some hedgehogs love baths, others hate it. It depends on the personality of them, however making them feel safe while bathing them will help. If you give your hedgehog a full bath more than this, their skin can become dry and irritated. Their little nails will need clipping every once in a while, and is best to this when bathing them as their nails will be softer. A clean hedgehog has no scent to him whatsoever, and neither does a clean cage. However if you don’t keep up, then the cage may start to whiff! We spot clean his bedding every day, and then once a week we will completely gut his cage out and replace the bedding with fresh paper.

Cage necessities

It may be hard to believe, but hedgehogs require a minimum of 4ft to run around in. They will need a little igloo/shelter for them to sleep in within the daytime, as well as a wheel and a bridge and/or something to keep them entertained such as a big tube or tunnel. We line his bed with shredded paper, which is a couple of inches deep, as they like to be able to bury within their bedding, and it needs to keep them warm. Do not line the cage with any wood shavings as this will irritate their eyes. Some people have water bottles for their hedgehogs, but I have read that this is not a natural drinking position for them, so we have stuck with a little water bowl which seems to be working well for Pascal.

Illness

The topic that none of us want for our beloved pets, but is one that we must be aware of.

Wobbly Hedgehog syndrome (WHS) – a heart-breaking illness. It’s a progressive, degenerative, neurological disease of the African Pygmy hedgehog where the cause is believed to be genetic. Nearly 10 percent of pet African pygmy hedgehogs are affected, due to their limited bloodlines. Signs of this will be that your hedgehog cannot walk in a straight line without falling over or to one side. Over time, the hedgehog will lose control of all muscles from the rear of its body to the front until they have no strength to move at all. Sadly there is no cure for this, so may have to be put to sleep ☹.

If your hedgehog poops green, this can be at due to a change of environment or stress related and should only last a day or so. If after a few days their poop is not back to normal than a trip to the vets is definitely a good idea!

They can suffer from respiratory problems, so if your hedgie is noticeably wheezing and short of breath then get him checked out straight away!

Just like humans, hedgehogs can also suffer from cancer!

 

Self-Anointing

The strangest of the African Pygmy Hedgehog habits.. When your little hedgie has come across a new scent or one that they really like, there’s a chance that they will self-anoint. Your hedgie will start off by frantically sniffing the said smell, maybe even followed by some licking and/or some nibbling. They will then create a foam in their mouth and begin to throw it all over their body. It’s a very strange thing, but some people believe that they are doing this because they love the smell so much, they want it over themselves- just like a perfume. It’s odd, and doesn’t happen a lot, but just to be aware that when your hedgehog starts foaming at the mouth and arching his back its probably just him self anointing.

They are lactose intolerant!

Despite popular belief, you should never feed hedgehogs milk- as they are lactose intolerant! Water will suffice, just no milk or any other dairy! We feed Pascal dried cat food biscuits with some dry mealworms mixed in too. It’s important to feed them insects as they are an important part of a hedgehog’s diet!

So please take this factors into consideration when deciding whether an African Pygmy Hedgehog is right for you. They are exotic pets, and with the right care and love- they really do make great companions. I look forward to coming home to Pascal every day, and already I can see how much he has begun to trust me. We absolutely adore him!

 

For link to cage: Click Here

 

B x

1 Comment

  1. Janet
    October 13, 2018 / 20:08

    Lovely

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