Hedgehogs are a very unusual pet to consider owning, but did you know that there is more than meets the eye? Here, our Gillette vets share some facts about hedgehogs and what makes them so interesting.
What makes hedgehogs special?
Hedgehogs are one of the most unique pets that you can own. They quickly become a favorite among some pet owners as they love to eat all of the terribly destructive bugs that can be found around the garden.
These little creatures also have fur that contains rows and rows of little spines covering everything except their face, legs and tummy. When they are feeling threatened or if they are sleeping, they will curl into a tight little ball allowing the spines to provide them with the protection they need.
Here are some fun facts about this cuddly ball of quills:
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Are hedgehogs smart?
While you can't compare the intelligence of a hedgehog to that of a dog or cat it would be wise to know that they are in fact smarter than we may give them credit for. Not only have these creatures shown an incredible memory and the ability to recognize their owners in a room with other humans but you can also teach them simple tricks!
One of the things that pet owners may appreciate most about hedgehogs is that they are able to be litter-trained and will be able to recall the location of their litter box for use.
Hedgehogs are also known to show trust and affection toward their owners, by hiding behind them when they get scared as well as responding to their owners and nibbling affectionately when cuddling.
So while we may not instantly think of hedgehogs as smart, affectionate pets as say a dog is, they continue to prove that we shouldn't rule them out just yet.
How many spines does a hedgehog have?
Within the fur on a hedgehog's back, they also have a thick layer of protective spines or quills. These spines are made of keratin and have a similar coloring to the hedgehog usually with some banding on each spine.
These spines can be raised and lowered with the help of the muscles on the hedgehog's back and replenish themselves about once a year
Are hedgehogs dangerous?
There are a number of safety concerns to consider when it comes to owning a hedgehog as a pet. Some of these concerns are:
Salmonella & Hedgehogs
In 2019 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) investigated a number of cases of salmonella linked to pet hedgehogs and warned that even hedgehogs that appear perfectly healthy can carry salmonella. If you handle a pet hedgehog be sure to protect yourself from this condition by taking the following steps:
- Wash Hands Thoroughly: Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a hedgehog or cleaning its enclosure.
- Play Safely: Don’t kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth. Don’t allow hedgehogs to roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens or dining tables.
- Keep Your Hedgehog's Environment Squeaky Clean: Clean and wash enclosures, toys, and supplies outside of your house when possible. Do not clean these items in the kitchen or any place where food is prepared, served, or stored.
- Hedgehog quills can penetrate the skin and spread bacteria that may lead to illnesses in pet owners. If you get a puncture from a hedgehog quill be sure to clean your hands and the puncture area thoroughly. Monitor the puncture area carefully for signs of infection.
- Although hedgehogs do bite, their tiny teeth are unlikely to cause you very much pain. The force of a hedgehog bite is typically linked to what your pet is feeling. A really angry hedgehog could cause a bite that hurts a bit. That said, hamsters and other rodents are far more likely to administer a really painful bite when angry or scared.
Is a hedgehog the right pet for you?
As we have shown, owning a pet hedgehog can be a rewarding and unique experience, but are they right for you and your family? By doing your research, visiting breeders, and speaking to an exotic mammal vet, you will be able to decide whether a hedgehog is the right pet for you. For many people, hedgehogs are playful and amusing pets worth making the extra effort for.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.