Have you ever seen a hedgehog? You’re right! They’re small, spiky animals. Many people keep hedgehogs as pets for their adorable look. Wondering how they deal with the spikes or the aggressiveness? Or do hedgehogs bite?
Well, to be honest, hedgehogs make great pets. When you get one, they can be a little intimidating, but a little research and care tips help in the long run.
In this article, we will help you know about hedgehogs and kick out some misconceptions surrounding them. Let’s jump into it!
Are Hedgehogs Aggressive?
Time to kick out the first misconception about hedgehogs. Many people think hedgehogs are aggressive and will attack or bite anytime. But, this isn’t true.
Hedgehogs are actually peaceful animals. They’re also timid and protective. But be sure, they won’t bite you. They may curl up into a ball, exposing their spikes, but they won’t run toward you and bite.
Moreover, hedgehogs are anti-social. They don’t like being surrounded by people and are happy when left alone if this isn’t all of us sometimes!
Hedgehogs are also territorial animals making them aggressive towards other hedgehogs. This trait can mislead people to believe they’re intentionally aggressive.
If you get more than one hedgehog, keeping them separated is better. Moreover, if you want to keep a male and a female together, re-cage the male before the female is about to give birth. Why? Well, male hedgehogs may attack the babies and can injure them.
So, the main point is hedgehogs aren’t aggressive animals. They may be just a little defensive about themselves. Moreover, a nibble on the finger or a hiss is a communication system for them.
Will My Hedgehog Bite Me?
As we said before, hedgehogs aren’t aggressive. So, there’s less chance of a hedgehog biting you. But we’re not saying they won’t bite at all.
You may be cuddling with your pet hedgehog and suddenly feel a bite on your hand. Any animal with teeth can bite, even your tiny, adorable hedgehog. It’s scary but don’t misunderstand it as aggression. It can be due to many reasons.
Sometimes people don’t understand the reasons behind their hedgehog bite and rehome or take them to shelters.
Don’t be upset if you don’t understand your hedgehog’s bite. We are here to show you some reasons for it and help you learn more about their biting instincts.
Reasons Your Hedgehog is Biting You
You may think your hedgehog is aggressive if you don’t know the reasons behind the bite. That’s why we have listed and briefly explained some reasons.
🦔 Your hedgehog is trying to communicate with you. Of course, they can’t speak like humans and need a way to communicate with their owners. What do they do? Ouch! They bite. But maybe you’re doing something they aren’t fond of, such as bathing them at the wrong time, pressing against them too hard, missing their feeding time, etc.
🦔 Your pet wants something from you. Animals learn to get their way in different ways. In this case, hedgehogs bite to get something from you. You can easily break this behavior by not paying heed to their request. They will eventually learn to communicate less aggressively.
🦔 To explore new things. Hedgehogs love exploring and are curious as a cat. Baby hedgehogs nibble everything around them to get familiar. They do it out of sheer curiosity rather than any aggressiveness.
🦔 Your spiky friend feels stressed. Hedgehogs can get stressed easily when moved into a new cage or startled by loud noises they aren’t familiar with. They may also get stressed adjusting to a new food, toys, or even people around them. It may result in biting for comfort.
🦔 Your hedgehog has had enough physical contact for the day. As we mentioned earlier, hedgehogs are shy and feel happy when alone. They’re like many of us. Of course, we, humans, won’t bite someone when we’ve had enough. We can speak for ourselves, but as they’re non-verbal animals, they use biting to show they’ve had enough cuddles for the day.
🦔 Your hand smells fruity or tastes good. Hedgehogs don’t have good vision. They mainly rely on their sense of smell to find food or gather information about their surroundings. If your hand has a sweet, fruity scent, be sure your hedgehog will mistake it for fruit and bite you. But, these bites can often be known early as they will sniff and lick your hand before the bite.
🦔 Your hedgehog is experiencing pain or health problems. If your pet has recently started biting you, maybe there’s something wrong with their health. The frequent biting doesn’t lead to health problems always. Sometimes, it’s the quilling phase that creates discomfort in your prickly pet. The quilling process is painful for them, so try to make them as comfortable as possible.
What Can You Do for a Hedgehog Bite?
First of all, if your hedgehog has bitten you, don’t panic. It will only scare your pet, and they will latch onto you harder. Remain calm and see if they let go. If they let go, it means any of the above reasons may be causing the biting instinct.
If your hedgehog isn’t letting you go, it can be aggressive. At this moment, there are a few things you can do.
- Gently place your other hand under their belly to show them you’re not a threat.
- Place a towel under them to make them feel comfortable.
- Blow a puff of air on them after they let you go.
- Use an ultra-fine water mister to teach your hedgehog to stop biting.
- Make sure to bond with them before you start cuddling again.
If your hand hurts from the bite, wash the wound and put some anti-bacterial cream on it. Don’t worry. Hedgehog bites aren’t that harmful, although they have sharp incisor teeth. Still, next time you cuddle your pet, ensure they’re comfortable with you.
Can I Have a Pet Hedgehog?
Yes, why not! You can have a pet hedgehog, but first, you must know as much information as possible to take care of them correctly and adequately. Otherwise, you and your pet will both be unhappy.
We have researched hedgehogs ourselves to make the information-gathering process easier for you!
Bonus Information: Are Hedgehogs Legal?
Although hedgehogs are exotic animals, they’re legal to have as a pet in the United States except in 5 states: California, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Georgia, and the five boroughs of New York City.
Know About Hedgehogs Before Getting One
Getting a hedgehog as a pet seems like a great idea until you get one and don’t understand anything about it. A real bummer, right! But you still have time to learn about them. So, there’s nothing to worry about.
Moreover, we’ve got you covered. So, you can easily go through it and get prepared before deciding to get a hedgehog. We’ll focus on 2 aspects of hedgehogs: physical and mental. Let’s get to it; we have a lot to cover.
🦔 Hedgehog Behavior
Let’s talk about a hedgehog’s behavior first. You won’t believe how much personality they have.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. They’re sleepy during the day and active during the night. Their senses also work best at nighttime. But this doesn’t mean you won’t get to spend time with them. Maybe you can try bonding with them at their time.
Baby hedgehogs mostly spend time sleeping when brought into a new home because they get stressed. But as they grow up, you can slowly get them accustomed to daytime activities by changing their handling and feeding time.
Bonus Info: Some hedgehogs are active in the early mornings and evenings, known as crepuscular activity.
Hedgehogs aren’t social animals. They only come together when mating. Keeping two or more hedgehogs together is never a good idea because they’re also territorial. You can say that hedgehogs love their own company.
3. Not Omnivorous?
Well, technically, hedgehogs are omnivores, but they also eat insects. Their favorite treats are mealworms and crickets.
Fun Fact: Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. So, no dairy! You should also avoid giving them bread as it doesn’t have much nutritional value.
Nocturnal animals tend to dig burrows to hide and spend their days in. Hedgehogs can’t dig deep holes, so they find empty or vacant burrows of other animals for shelter. Even captive hedgehogs would love a place to hide in. So, try to give them a larger cage where you can place an igloo or some sort of burrow. They will feel safer that way.
Wild hedgehogs tend to hibernate or estivate. Estivation is like hibernation but on dry, hot summer days. But your pet hedgehog shouldn’t do either. They should be kept in a controlled environment with plenty of food to enjoy.
🦔 Hedgehog Physicality
In this part, we’ll inform you about a hedgehog’s physical aspects and defense mechanism.
1. Hedgehog Teeth
You’ll be surprised to know hedgehogs have a similar dental structure as humans. They also have all the teeth mammals have such as Canine, Premolars, Molars, and Incisors.
Hedgehog’s incisor teeth are pointed and sharp, which they use to lift their prey, and the back molar teeth help to crush the food. However, their nipping, biting, and nibbling won’t puncture or break your skin.
Did you know that hedgehogs also have baby teeth at the beginning? They usually have 34 to 44 teeth when adults, and they start getting them after their baby teeth fall at 7 to 9 weeks old.
2. Hedgehog Spikes
If you thought hedgehog’s teeth were the only thing similar to humans, you’re wrong! Hedgehog spines/spikes/quills are made of keratin, the same material our hair and nails are made of. The quills are 2.5cm to 3cm long and 2mm wide at their widest part with a pointy, sharp end. An adult hedgehog has 6,000 to 7,000 quills on its back. Fascinating!
The spines are a mix of white, brown, and sometimes black colors. Baby hedgehogs also have spines that are white but don’t mistake them for being soft. Baby hedgehogs or hoglets can use their spike from a young age if they sense any danger. So be careful while handling one. Moreover, hedgehogs also shed their quills in a year or two for new ones to grow.
By the way, don’t mistake a hedgehog with a porcupine. Porcupines have much larger spikes that can stick to predators, whereas hedgehog spikes stay on their back and don’t come off.
3. Hedgehog Defense Mechanism
When attacked, hedgehogs curl tight into a ball, protecting their inner soft belly part and forming a ball of spikes. It protects them from predators and works as an excellent shock absorber for falls or hits. No other animal has a curl so tight as a hedgehog.
Fun Fact: The spikes also work great as a buoyancy aid.
Hedgehog Care Guide
Are you getting a hedgehog now? Great! You’re at an advantage as you know a lot about them now. But still, caring and understanding the information are quite different. So, we’ve prepared a small care guide to help you take care of your new spiky buddy.
Food & Diet
People usually feed crickets, mealworms, or cat food to their pet hedgehogs. But it doesn’t help them get all the nutrition. Try opting for store-bought, formulated hedgehog food/kibble containing chitin and blood meal. However, you can give them insects as treats sometimes. But don’t overfeed them mealworms as it might cause health problems.
You should avoid keeping your hedgehog in a wire-bottom cage as it can lead to the formation of feet callus, which later can form pododermatitis, a foot infection. Lay good padding like fleece or dog-training potty pads on the bottom of the cage to avoid infections and for easy cleaning.
Hedgehogs are active animals who run 2 to 4 miles daily in the wild. Set up a running wheel to satisfy their exercise needs and help them avoid obesity, as hedgehogs are prone to it. And, you better not forget to provide them a place to hide. Above all, keeping the cage clean at all times is of utmost importance.
Hedgehogs are prone to skin, dental diseases, and tumors. But, all of these can be prevented with care. Take your pet to the vet for monthly checkups for any lice or mite infestations and teeth checkups. The best way to avoid tumors is to neuter or spay your pet as soon as they reach a certain age.
Prickly But Cute
Hedgehogs are native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. Still, they’re slowly declining due to the extensive use of pesticides in the agricultural sector which is their primary food source. Even if you don’t want one as a pet, keep some food and water outside for any stray hedgehogs. It will help them survive in the wild.
As an animal enthusiast, we advise you to look at their adorable side instead of their prickly spikes. Trust us; they’re great pets, just like any other pet. Help hedgehogs thrive and give them love! Have a great day ahead with your new buddy!
Have a look at our website to learn about other adorable pets. You won’t be disappointed!
I am Dana McQueen, a Veterinary Doctor who studied Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. For years, I have got common questions from friends and family about their pets. So, I decided to open up this website and answer all those frequently asked questions. Alongside, here I share my expert knowledge about pet care, pet health and the animal environment.