gravity waterer for hedgehog
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I used to have a pet hedgehog. I had him from the time he was old enough to be weaned from his mom, up until his natural passing. Sadly, they don’t live very long (3-5 years is the average hedgehog lifespan). I really enjoyed having a hedgehog and sometimes think about getting another one someday. I recently got looking at some hedgehog information online and saw a lot of questions about aggression, biting, whether hedgehogs are dangerous, and so on. I thought it would make a good blog post topic so, here we go!

Are hedgehogs aggressive? Do they bite?

Are hedgehogs aggressive towards people?

Hedgehogs are not typically aggressive towards people. They are somewhat anti-social and are generally happy to be left alone. However, they will typically “ball up” if people get too close, rather than bite or attack. 

Are hedgehogs aggressive towards other hedgehogs?

Hedgehogs can be aggressive towards other hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are solitary animals so keeping one per cage is recommended for pet hedgehogs. It’s also important to know that if you breed hedgehogs, the father needs to be removed from the mother’s cage before the babies are born. Father’s can harm the babies once they are born.

While it is not an intentional act of aggression, mother hedgehogs can harm their babies by running over them on their running wheel. They may drag their babies up onto the running wheel and then begin to run, stepping on the babies or injuring them as the wheel spins. For this reason, it’s important to remove the wheel from the mother’s cage before she gives birth until the babies are weaned. 

Do hedgehogs bite?

Hedgehogs can bite. When hedgehogs bite, it’s typically in response to a scent, rather than out of aggression. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight, so they rely a lot on scent. If your hands smell like food, soap, or perfume, your hedgehog may get confused and bite as a result of trying to eat, more so than attempting to hurt you. 

Are hedgehogs dangerous?

Generally speaking, hedgehogs are not dangerous. Getting poked by hedgehog quills can hurt. It’s not typically a meaningful injury, though. Getting poked by hedgehog quills typically won’t draw blood. Some people suspect they are allergic to hedgehogs as they will experience a rash after handling a hedgehog. What is more common is that hedgehog quills will poke the skin and allow other items from the environment to get deeper into the skin. For example, you may use a lotion and not get a rash typically. Then you use the lotion and hold a hedgehog and their quills poke your skin, which allows the lotion to get deeper into your skin, and causes a rash. It may be the ingredients in the lotion that are irritating you, rather than the hedgehog quills themselves. 

Do hedgehogs attack?

It’s very rare for hedgehogs to attack, but it can happen. If you look on YouTube, you can find some hedgehog videos where they are aggressive towards people. They tend to try to protect themselves rather than try to go after people, though. Their #1 go-to behavior when afraid is to curl up into a ball. This makes all of their quills come out, making them hard to handle and hard for animals to bite or hit without getting injured themselves. 

In some cases, hedgehogs will hiss and “pop” as sort of a bluffing measure. Their goal is to intimidate you into backing off. When hedgehogs pop, they will draw their quills over their eyes, and then jerk forward a little bit. This is sort of their way of saying “I’ll poke you!”. 

If your hedgehog is hissing or popping, it’s best to leave them alone. While it’s good to try to socialize your hedgehog and get them used to you, you don’t want to push socialization when they are too upset. 

Are Hedgehogs a bad pet?

All of this talk about aggression and biting may have you wondering if hedgehogs make a good pet. Honestly, it really depends on what you want out of a pet. IF you want an animal that is really happy to see you, and is really affectionate, then hedgehogs are probably not your idea of a good pet. Hedgehogs are solitary creatures that are rather unconcerned about you for the most part. 

However, if you find hedgehogs really fun to watch and experience, and are happy with your love being slightly one-sided…then sure, they can make good pets. It really just depends on your expectations! 

How to tame an aggressive hedgehog

How to tame an aggressive hedgehog

I’d encourage you to reconsider if your hedgehog is truly aggressive, or if it’s more fearful. If you find that it’s staying balled up and hisses, it’s likely terrified, more so than aggressive. I just point this out because I think shifting your perspective can help with solving the problem. Aggression seems like bad behavior, while anxiety seems like a hedgehog that needs help with their fear. I’d encourage you to look at it as helping to ease your hedgehog’s fear. 

If your hedgehog is too difficult to handle, I’d start by putting old clothing that you have worn in your hedgehogs cage. You want your hedgehog to get familiar with your scent. If you can wear a shirt an dthen leave that shirt in their cage, this can help your hedgehog adjust to your smell without having to be handled. Or if you don’t have a piece of clothing that you want to sacrifice, you could use an old rag or wash-cloth. Simply keep it on your body (perhaps in a pocket) for a day so that it will absorb your scent, then leave it in your hedgehogs cage. 

Once you’re ready to attempt handling your hedgehog, pick it up gently. I would flatten my hands stiff and put on on either side of my hedgehog, and then push my hands together under the hedgehog. This would allow me to lift my hedgehog even if he balled up mid-way through. 

It’s 100% okay if your hedgehog stays balled up when you have him out of the cage. You can use a blanket or towel on your lap and simply let your hedgehog stay balled up while you sit with him. 

You can try using mealworms or hedgehog-safe foods to see if you can lure your hedgehog out of his balled-up form. My hedgehog didn’t like mealworms even though most hedgehogs are known for being crazy about them! Mine went crazy for bananas, and chicken. There are some human foods that are not safe for hedgehogs so be sure to google before giving your hedgehog a food. 

Whether your hedgehog comes out of their ball or not, keep him on you for a while. If you simply sit your hedgehog on your lap everyday for half an hour or so, over time, they’ll get more comfortable with you and will relax and walk around in time. 

What is most important is to be patient. It can also help if you try to keep your smell the same. Don’t switch laundry soap, handsoap, perfume, etc during this time. 

Hedgehogs are often sensitive to bright lights and shadows due to having poor vision. Being mindful of the lighting in the room around your hedgehog’s cage, and around any place you spend time with your hedgehog is key. You don’t want to cast shadows into his cage prior to picking him up from his cage, or while sitting with him. If you can keep good overhead lighting on, that would be best.

If your hedgehog has suddenly become more fearful

If your hedgehog used to be relaxed and friendly and now is not, here is what I would suggest.

Look at what has changed in terms of scent. Are you using a new scented handsoap prior to picking up your hedgie? Are you using a new laundry detergent? Perfume? Anything that your hedgehog may smell now that they didn’t used to smell may be throwing them off. 

Has the lighting changed? Are you creating bright lights or shadows that didn’t used to occur? If so, those could be triggering anxiety. 

Could your hedgehog be going through puberty? Sometimes young hedgehogs get a bit of an attitude around puberty. If this is the case, patience and consistency will be key. 

If you went a long time between handling your hedgehog, it may have to be re-conditioned to interacting with you. Consistency is important. 

If your hedgehogs change in behavior is sudden and you aren’t able to pinpoint why, a trip to the vet may be in order. Change in behavior in animals can often signal that something is wrong. If you aren’t sure, best to get them checked out! Most veterinarians don’t see hedgehogs, you’ll need to find one that accepts “exotic pets”. 

If you have a pet hedgehog or are considering one, check out my other articles about hedgehogs.

What you should know before you get a pet hedgehog

Are hedgehogs a good pet for kids?

Must-have products before bringing home a hedgehog

How to care for a pet hedgehog

 


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