Hedgehog Care: Bonding Tips & Tricks
How to Help Your Hedgehog Get Used to Handling
Hedgehogs can make unusual and exciting pets. Learning how to properly handle one, however, can take a some practice. Focus on making your hedgehog feel comfortable and safe. With a little persistence, you and your hedgehog will become the best of friends.
Handling Your Pet
Speak softly.Hedgehogs are naturally shy creatures, and will need to feel safe. Talk quietly around your hedgehog, especially when you first bring it home. Speak to it when you come near it, so that it will get used to the sound of your voice.
Approach slowly.You want to show your hedgehog that you are friendly and not a threat, so move slowly and carefully when you are near it. Give it a few moments to notice you before you attempt to pick it up. Do not be alarmed if your hedgehog hisses, clicks, or puffs up its spines when it sees you. These are instinctual responses, and should go away in time, as your hedgehog becomes more used to you.
Try to pick up the hedgehog.Using two cupped hands, reach for your pet. Start from underneath, feeling for the animal’s soft fur belly and avoiding its quills. Reach smoothly. If you jerk your hands, it may sense danger and not want to be picked up.
- You do not need to wear gloves when handling your hedgehog, just try to avoid its spines. If you are pricked, it may sting a little but should not cause serious injury.
Hold the hedgehog.Once you are able to cup your hands around your pet, lift it upwards. Many hedgehog owners find it easiest to hold the hedgehog in one hand and support its back with their other. Your hedgehog may not want to be petted, so just let it sniff your hands for now.
- If the hedgehog acts like it wants to get away, let it go and try picking it up again later. Do not squeeze or hold the hedgehog forcefully, as it may then associate you with danger.
Try to get it to sit in your lap.If your hedgehog takes well to being held, sit down with it. Hold it in your lap, perhaps on top of a cloth. The hedgehog may still not want to be petted, but you can let it sniff some more and get used to you.
Be patient if your hedgehog rolls into a ball.Hedgehogs are known for rolling themselves into a ball when alarmed. This is a natural defense mechanism, so there is no need to take it personally. If yours rolls into a ball while you are holding it, be patient. It will probably unroll itself after a while and sniff some more.
Offer treats.Giving your hedgehog something tasty while you are handling it will make it form positive associations with you. Mealworms, for instance, are a favorite treat of hedgehogs, and can be obtained from many pet supply stores.
Let the hedgehog get used to your smell.Picking your hedgehog up will give it a chance to get more used to you. You may be able to speed things up by taking a t-shirt you have worn for a day and placing inside your hedgehog’s cage. You can also offer a cloth or towel that you have used. The fabric will carry your smell, which the hedgehog can sniff and get accustomed to.
- You should wash your hands before and after handling your hedgehog, but use unscented soap.
Handle your hedgehog often.The more you try to pick up and talk to your hedgehog, the sooner it will feel safe around you. Try spending at least 30 minutes a day with it. Even if your hedgehog rolls up or hisses, be persistent and calm, and continue to offer it treats. In time, the two of you should get along well.
Increasing Your Chances of Bonding
Try playing with your hedgehog in the evening.Hedgehogs are basically nocturnal creatures. This means that they will typically sleep during the day and will likely be more active around dusk and at night. If you want your hedgehog to get used to being handled, make an attempt when it is most active and playful.
Make sure the hedgehog is well-fed.When your hedgehog feels like it has a good food source, it will be more likely to bond with you. Hedgehogs naturally eat mostly insects, so you can offer yours crickets, mealworms, and other treats that are available at pet supply stores. Earthworms are another favorite food (look for some at a bait store). Hedgehogs can also eat cooked protein, such as small cubes of chicken.
- Plant material is hard for hedgehogs to digest, so give yours vegetables and fruits only sparingly.
- Hedgehogs should always have fresh water available. A plastic bottle like one used for pet rabbits will work just fine.
Give your hedgehog a space to play.Your hedgehog will enjoy having some room to run around and have fun. A plastic wheel, such as one used for hamsters, is a good item to place in its cage. Your hedgehog will also enjoy having a place to hide, such as a sleep sac or plastic box. If your pet feels safe and happy, it will bond with you more quickly.
- You can also offer your hedgehog cat or dog toys to play with. Do make sure, however, that they have no parts that the hedgehog’s claws could become stuck it.
Keep your hedgehog comfortable.Hedgehogs need warm environments, typically between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If your hedgehog is too hot or cold, it may become lethargic or irritable, and may not like being handled.
- If your hedgehog’s room is not quite warm enough, you can offer a supplemental heat source, such as a heat lamp, in addition to the warm dry bedding in its cage.
House your hedgehog alone.Hedgehogs will normally want to live alone. Males in particular should not be caged together, since they may fight to the death. As long as your hedgehog feels safe and not threatened, it will likely bond with you.
Give the hedgehog time to adjust.Especially when you first bring it home, your hedgehog may not want to be bothered or handled. This is completely normal. Once your hedgehog has had some time to learn about its new home and owner, it will start to bond with you. In the meantime, continue to talk softly to it, offer it treats, and try to pick it up when it seems willing.
Video: How To Tame a Hedgehog
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