Pet Hedgehog: reflections after a year
After a year of living with my pet african pygmy hedgehog, Oreo, I thought I’d share some reflections on our time together.
They’re fairly low maintenance pets, and you can’t leave them alone for more than a day, two at the max. I clean out Oreo’s poop and running wheel once per day. I have her out of her cage for between 10 minutes and an hour (usually half an hour), either sat on my lap enjoying a stroke or running about in her play pen. She eats dried cat food, which is inexpensive and easy to stock. Her cage is fairly large, at 4′ x 2′.
They do require a stable temperature (a minimum of 23 degrees C is recommended), however, which can be tricky if you’re renting and don’t have thermostat control. Before moving to our current place, we relied on two heat lamps in winter to keep her cage warm. Warmth is critical, as if it gets too cold, they can try and hibernate. If you don’t stop this and warm them up, they could die, which been a worry more than once.
They are indeed spiky, but once you get used to the quills, they don’t bother you very much. Sometimes I’ve had marks on my hand from when she’s been particularly prickly (once or twice I’ve had pinpricks of blood). But being confident, not jumpy, and letting her know that her quills don’t bother you is important. And sometimes you need to handle a prickly hedgepig!
Finding out information about your hedgehog can be tricky, especially as their classify as exotic pets. In the words of Oreo’s vet, “They’re just isn’t much solid research on them”. This can result in a combination of sending emails to the breeder and fruitless internet searches. While there are some consistencies from owners online, the internet is hardly the most reliable of sources, and I usually am wary of what I read.
Much like cats, dogs, and humans, hedgehogs have personalities, and their moods can change from day to day. This may be a reason why finding information online isn’t always helpful; hedgehogs can be wildly different, despite being the same species. As hedgehogs go, I’ve been told Oreo is incredibly friendly, and somewhat affectionate. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have off days when she wants to just be left alone.
Still, the times when she relaxes and spreads her limbs out on your lap, or when she sees you as an escape route from her play pen and rushes towards you to scale your arm is incredibly endearing. I won’t say it makes it all worth it, because I’ve dreamed of having a pet hedgehog for the better part of two decades. What I’ll say instead is it makes it extra special for me.