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Lucas Morris
Lucas Morris

Hedgehog Lovers: How to Adopt, Raise, and Enjoy These Adorable Animals


Hedgehog: A Spiny but Cute Animal




Hedgehogs are small mammals that have a coat of stiff, sharp spines on their back. They belong to the subfamily Erinaceinae, which includes 17 species of hedgehogs in five genera. Hedgehogs are native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and have been introduced to New Zealand as an exotic species. They are not related to porcupines or echidnas, which have similar spiny protection.


Hedgehogs are fascinating animals for many reasons. They have a unique way of foraging for food by rooting through hedges and making pig-like grunts. They can roll into a tight ball to protect themselves from predators with their spines. They can also self-anoint by licking their spines with frothy saliva that contains toxins from plants or insects. They are mostly nocturnal and can hibernate or aestivate depending on the climate. They are also popular pets for some people who enjoy their cute appearance and curious personality.




hedgehog



Hedgehog Species




There are 15 different species of hedgehogs in the wild, ranging in size from 5 to 12 inches in length and 14 to 39 ounces in weight. The most common species kept as pets is the African pygmy hedgehog, which is a hybrid of two wild species: the four-toed hedgehog and the Algerian hedgehog.


Hedgehogs live in various habitats, such as grasslands, woodlands, hedgerows, deserts, and urban areas. They are adaptable and can survive in different climates and altitudes. However, they are threatened by habitat loss, road accidents, predation, poisoning, and diseases. Some species are classified as vulnerable or endangered by the IUCN Red List.


Hedgehog Diet




In the wild, hedgehogs are mainly insectivores, meaning they eat insects and other invertebrates. They also eat small vertebrates, such as frogs, snakes, eggs, and baby mice. They occasionally eat plant materials, such as fruits, berries, roots, and grasses.


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urchin, hedgepig, furze-pig synonyms[^3^]


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In captivity, hedgehogs need a balanced diet that provides them with enough protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The best food for hedgehogs is a specially formulated hedgehog kibble that contains chitin from insects. Chitin is a protein that helps hedgehogs digest their food and maintain their health. Hedgehogs can also be given live or freeze-dried insects, such as mealworms, crickets, and waxworms. Fruits and vegetables can be offered as treats, but only in small amounts.


Hedgehog Behavior




Hedgehogs have several behaviors that help them survive and communicate in their environment. Some of these behaviors are:


  • Rolling into a ball: When a hedgehog feels threatened or scared, it curls up into a ball by contracting its back muscles. This exposes its spines to deter predators from attacking it. The spines are not poisonous or barbed, but they are sharp and stiff.



  • Self-anointing: When a hedgehog encounters a new or strong smell, it may lick or chew the source of the smell and then produce a frothy saliva in its mouth. It then spreads the saliva over its spines by contorting its body. This behavior is thought to help hedgehogs mask their own scent or create a protective layer on their spines.



  • Hibernation: In cold climates, hedgehogs hibernate during the winter to conserve energy and avoid food scarcity. They usually sleep in a nest of leaves or grass under bushes or rocks. They may wake up occasionally to search for food or water. In hot climates, hedge ogs aestivate during the summer to avoid heat stress. They sleep in a cool and moist place, such as a burrow or a log.



  • Vocalization: Hedgehogs make various sounds to express their emotions or intentions. They may snort, grunt, squeak, hiss, or scream depending on the situation. For example, they may snort when they are foraging, squeak when they are happy, hiss when they are angry, or scream when they are in pain.



Hedgehog Care




Hedgehogs can be kept as pets by people who are willing to provide them with proper care and attention. Hedgehogs need a spacious and secure cage that has bedding, toys, food and water bowls, and a hiding place. They also need a wheel for exercise, a heating pad for warmth, and a litter box for hygiene. Hedgehogs should be handled gently and regularly to socialize them and prevent them from becoming shy or aggressive.


Hedgehogs have some special dietary and health needs that pet owners should be aware of. Hedgehogs should not be fed foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt, or spices, such as chocolate, cheese, nuts, or onions. These foods can cause obesity, diarrhea, or poisoning in hedgehogs. Hedgehogs should also be checked for signs of illness or injury, such as weight loss, lethargy, discharge, bleeding, or parasites. Hedgehogs may suffer from dental problems, respiratory infections, skin infections, tumors, or wobbly hedgehog syndrome (a neurological disorder). Hedgehogs should be taken to a veterinarian who specializes in exotic animals for regular check-ups and treatments.


Conclusion




Hedgehogs are amazing animals that have many unique features and behaviors. They are spiny but cute creatures that can roll into a ball, self-anoint, hibernate or aestivate, and vocalize. They are diverse in their species and habitats, but they are also endangered by human activities and threats. They are also popular pets for some people who can provide them with adequate care and love. Hedgehogs are truly fascinating animals that deserve our respect and admiration.


Here are some fun facts about hedgehogs:


  • The name hedgehog comes from their habit of foraging in hedges and making hog-like sounds.



  • Hedgehogs have about 5,000 to 7,000 spines on their back that can last up to a year before falling out and being replaced.



  • Hedgehogs have poor eyesight but excellent sense of smell and hearing.



  • Hedgehogs can run up to 4 miles per hour and swim well.



  • Hedgehogs are immune to some snake venom and can eat venomous snakes.



FAQs




Are hedgehogs legal to own as pets?




It depends on where you live. Some countries or states have laws that prohibit or regulate the ownership of hedgehogs as pets. You should check with your local authorities before buying or adopting a hedgehog.


How long do hedgehogs live?




In the wild, hedgehogs live for about 2 to 5 years on average. In captivity, hedgehogs can live for up to 10 years with proper care.


Do hedgehogs get along with other pets?




Not usually. Hedgehogs are solitary animals that prefer to live alone or with other hedgehogs of the same sex. They may see other pets as predators or competitors and react defensively or aggressively. Some hedgehogs may tolerate other pets if they are introduced slowly and carefully, but it is not recommended to keep them together.


How often do hedgehogs need to be bathed?




Not very often. Hedgehogs are clean animals that groom themselves regularly. They only need to be bathed when they are dirty or smelly. You can use a shallow tub of warm water and a mild shampoo to gently wash your hedgehog. Be careful not to get water in their eyes, ears, nose, or mouth. Dry your hedgehog thoroughly with a towel and keep them warm until they are completely dry.


What do hedgehogs like to play with?




Hedgehogs like to play with toys that stimulate their curiosity and natural instincts. Some examples of toys that hedgehogs enjoy are tunnels, balls, stuffed animals, cardboard boxes, paper bags, and cat toys. You can also provide your hedgehog with chew toys or treats to help them keep their teeth healthy.


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