Hedgehogs are nocturnal mammals that belong to the family (Erinaceinae). These small size animals are known for having a coat of spines or quills on their backs and they exist in a variety of species across Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as Oceania.
Although some people take hedgehogs as cute pets, others have concerns about their safety around hedgehogs. So are hedgehogs dangerous?
In today’s article, we’ll walk you through a quick guide with everything you need to know in order to answer this question. Let’s jump right in!
Are Hedgehogs Dangerous to Humans?
Hedgehogs earned their “exotic pet” status very recently, so it’s natural that not many people have a complete understanding of these pets and their behaviors.
When people think of hedgehogs as dangerous, it’s not because they’re ferocious predators that will hurt them on purpose.
While hedgehogs are generally calm and won’t attack humans for no reason, they can still be dangerous to humans or even fatal in a variety of ways, especially if they’re mistreated or not taken care of.
Statistically speaking, there aren’t any notable reports about the number of hedgehog attacks, as they don’t generally occur as frequently as some of the most popular pets, such as dogs!
In other words, the answer here is that it highly depends on the situation. For example, wild hedgehogs can be quite dangerous and you should always admire them from a safe distance.
However, hedgehogs that aren’t feral and have been raised among humans are much calmer in terms of behavior.
How Can Hedgehogs Be Dangerous to Humans?
When it comes to hedgehogs, there’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to hedgehogs. One of the best ways to know more about hedgehogs is to find out more about the dangers they pose to humans and the likelihood of these dangers actually causing a problem.
In the following section, we’ll walk you through some of the most popular reasons why a hedgehog can cause a problem to a human:
1 – They Have Sharp Spines
Of course, the only reason why many people would think that hedgehogs are dangerous is the coat of spines on the hedgehog’s back, which is one of the main reasons why many people aren’t ready to explore the possibility of having a hedgehog.
Unlike porcupines, who can shoot out their spines towards others, hedgehogs use these spines to protect themselves from predators and they don’t use them to attack.
Despite their coat of spines, an adult can still handle a hedgehog gently and avoid its prickly spine. But when it comes to children, those spines can cause some problems. This is because children tend to be a little rough when they handle pets.
Although hedgehog’s spines aren’t extremely sharp, they’re still sharp enough to pierce through skin and cause bleeding, especially for kids because they have more delicate skin.
2 – They Can Spread a Variety of Infections and Parasites
Another way hedgehogs can be dangerous to humans is by being a vector or a carrier to a wide range of microbes and bacteria.
Although many of the hedgehogs’ bacteria are harmless, some can cause serious side effects and can be fatal if you’re not careful enough.
However, you should know that keeping your hedgehog maintained and checked regularly as well as washing your hands with antibacterial soap after handling them should help you avoid these parasites easily.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most common infections and parasites that a hedgehog can spread:
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that causes severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, high fever, and can even be fatal if not treated immediately.
However, it’s important to know that many rodent pets like hamsters and exotic reptiles like lizards can also spread salmonella, so it’s not a thing that is quite specific for hedgehogs alone.
Ticks are tiny parasitic creatures that live on the hedgehog’s skin to feed off its blood. These tiny critters are also found in just about any pet that isn’t well maintained and cleaned properly, including domestic pets like dogs.
Like many animals out there, hedgehogs can also spread worms, such as lungworms and ringworms, which leave circular itchy patches on the skin that require medication.
3 – Hedgehog Can Bite for Various Reasons
Hedgehogs, especially adult ones, can bite, as they have large front teeth that are similar to the ones in small rabbits and capable of penetrating the skin.
Baby hedgehogs, on the other hand, can’t bite hard enough to trigger pain. Instead, they’ll just nip on the fingers, much like a little clamp. However, it’s not as likely as many people think.
Additionally, the bites can happen due to a variety of reasons. For example, they might be too excited while being fed from hands that they bite by mistake.
In addition to excitement, hedgehogs can bite when they’re unhappy or mishandled. But unlike bites while eating, they’ll dig their teeth deep and latch on the skin to inflict pain, much like a dog.
If you’re bitten by a hedgehog, it’ll leave an open wound that can be infected very easily. For that reason, you’ll need to go to a hospital in order to get a tetanus shot as well as properly disinfect and dress the wound.
Are Hedgehogs Dangerous to Dogs?
Similar to their effect on humans, dogs, and other house pets can also be prone to infections and parasites that hedgehogs carry. This includes ringworms, salmonella, ticks, and others.
Of course, the younger the dog, the weaker their immunity, so you should keep your puppies away from hedgehogs to avoid any infections.
For that reason, it’s extremely crucial that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after touching your hedgehog and before touching your dog or its food.
Signs of health problems due to infections by parasites carried by hedgehogs can vary, but you can notice any worms, ticks, or other changes on your dog, make sure that you contact your dog’s vet immediately.
Contact between dogs and hedgehogs can also cause some problems, as dogs as curious by nature and might end up getting pricked by the hedgehogs. Even worse, if your dog has temper issues it might try to attack the hedgehog, which can be dangerous for both of them.
Unless you’re capable of training your dog to avoid the hedgehog, by all means, it’s always best to keep your dogs and hedgehogs separated.
Even if your dog is well trained to avoid and tolerate hedgehogs, they should always be under your supervision whenever there’s a chance of contact between them.
Is It Legal to Own a Pet Hedgehog?
While this is not a danger by itself, owning a pet hedgehog can get you in some legal troubles in some regions and areas.
Although hedgehogs are perfectly legal in almost all states and provinces in North America as well as Europe, they’re prohibited as a pet in some states in America. These states include:
Arizona was also included in this list, but as of 2015, owning a pet hedgehog is currently allowed in the state.
The reason behind this status is quite outdated, as there were some concerns about pet hedgehogs spreading foot and mouth diseases.
Additionally, some species of hedgehogs might be protected in your region or state, so you should also inquire about any special permits that you need to have before owning a hedgehog to avoid running into legal troubles or fines.
How to Handle Hedgehogs Without Being Pricked by Spines?
Handling a hedgehog is one of the biggest challenges that come with keeping a hedgehog. Luckily, you should know that hedgehogs are capable of controlling the direction of their spines.
In other words, they can make them stick out when they’re nervous and stressed. At first, hedgehogs will stick their spikes out a lot, but it’ll be less frequent as time goes by and they become accustomed to their new homes.
Ideally, you should avoid holding your hedgehog for the first few weeks and wait until their spikes are relaxed for a long time.
Also, it’s important to always wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after holding the pet. Make sure that the soap is unscented to avoid irritating the hedgehog or encourage them to curiously bite into your fruit-smelling fingers.
The best way to hold a hedgehog is by scooping them from underneath using pet blankets to protect your body from the spikes. Make sure that you do it confidently so that you don’t spook them out and trigger their spines.
How to Tell That Hedgehogs Are Stressed
If you want to avoid being pricked or bitten by your pet hedgehog, you need to know more about their behavior when they’re stressed.
Of course, sticking their spines out and rolling into a prickly ball are obvious and popular signs. However, there are some other actions that also indicate that you should leave your hedgehog alone. Here’s a quick rundown of each one of them:
The first sign that hedgehogs do to let you know that they’re stressed is running away. When hedgehogs are ready to show some love, they’re usually easily spotted in the middle of their habitat.
However, if they focus on running away or are sitting in a hidden corner, it’s best to let them be and avoid handling them.
This one is the first warning sign that a hedgehog might show to let you know that they want you to keep your distance.
They’ll start twitching their head out of stress. The more nervous they are, the more vigorous they’ll shake their heads. Even if it looks cute and funny, avoid approaching a hedgehog when it does that.
Nipping and Biting
If you overlooked the warning sign and attempted to hold the hedgehog, it’ll give you a warning bite with varying degrees of pressure depending on the situation and its level of stress. You will also notice that their quills would be spread by that moment.
If all the other signs were ignored, hedgehogs would poop themselves. But unlike the dark colored regular excrement, this one will have a dark green color
This color is because of undigested food, but certain diseases can also cause it, so make sure that you keep an eye on the hedgehog for other symptoms if you find it in their houses.
How Can a Hedgehog Make a Good Pet?
As previously mentioned, hedgehogs can be dangerous to humans in various ways. However, just because animals can be dangerous in some ways, doesn’t make them good pets, especially if you’re careful enough.
In fact, hedgehogs make a very good pet if they’re regularly checked (even if they show no symptoms) to ensure that they’re free of infections that they can transmit to humans. There are no special vaccines for hedgehogs but regular checkups and treatments will do the trick.
Also, hedgehogs require delicate handling to avoid their sharp spines, which makes them ideal for adults, especially those who don’t have other pets and are more active during the night, as hedgehogs are nocturnal animals.
All in all, the danger of hedgehogs is nothing to worry about as long as you’re careful enough while handling and treating a hedgehog, especially if you don’t mind their nocturnal lifestyle and understand that they sometimes need their space.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons why a lot of people keep pet hedgehogs despite their prickly spines, such as:
They’re Quite Lovely and Cuddly
Despite their spines, hedgehogs are among the cutest animals on earth! They’re also smart enough to create a strong bond with their caregivers and would be quite friendly and even cuddly once this bond is established!
Of course, this might require some patience on your behalf, but patience is all you need! You won’t need any tedious or time consuming training in order to become friends with your hedgehog.
They’re Low Maintenance
Hedgehogs are fairly independent and they don’t require many adjustments to be comfortable. As long as you provide them with access to food and water as well as a suitable temperature and a heated pad for warmth on cold days, they’re simply good to go!
They also don’t suffer from separation anxiety like domestic pets, so they won’t be noticeably depressed or destructive when you’re not free to play.
Unlike hamsters and other small pets, hedgehogs don’t have a strong smell. They also produce very little dander when compared to some dogs and cats, which make them ideal for people with allergies.
They Can Live in Various Habitats
Lastly, they can live in a variety of habitats, including cages, glass tanks, and even plastic storage containers.
However, hedgehogs are quite active and you might need to take them out to explore and play around every now and then.
With that said, we wrap up our guide about hedgehogs and whether they’re safe pets to own. So are hedgehogs dangerous? As you can see, the simple answer here is “yes or no”, so it depends on you and your preparedness to own such an exotic pet!
Owning a hedgehog as a pet may not be as simple as owning a cat or a dog. It requires some extra effort, especially in the beginning, in order to ensure both your and the hedgehog’s safety.
However, if you’re legally eligible and up for a challenge, these spiky buddies would be remarkably unique pets and you’re going to have tons of fun together!