Having a hedgehog as a pet can certainly be an interesting learning experience. All animals have unique characteristics that are embedded in their DNA.
Over the years, scientists, biologists, and animal experts have been fascinated by some of the unique features of a hedgehog. The one feature that fascinates me the most is how intelligent are hedgehogs?
Studies show hedgehogs have more or less the same intelligence as a hamster. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and have to contend with other nocturnal animals and predators in the wild. They have adapted to survive in the tough forests of Africa, Asia, and Europe, which takes some level of intelligence.
I was wondering about how hedgehogs have survived so long. I did some more research and found some interesting studies about just how smart these prickly little creatures are. I thought I would share a part of the research and information I gathered on how intelligent hedgehogs are.
How Do We Measure Intelligence?
What constitutes intelligence in animals? We have to look what the parameters we use to judge intelligence in animals. Most animals have enough intelligence to survive in the wild. There are measures we can use to evaluate the intelligence of a hedgehog, such as:
We as humans know that communication is one measure we can use to evaluate if there is some form of intelligence in an animal, how well it can communicate with other animals of the same species, and how well it can communicate what it needs from its owners.
We also look at how well animals can recognize the other animals they are in the same house with and how well they acknowledge their owners. If an animal can remember the other pets its owner has and its owner, it has a higher intelligence because it can retain memory and information.
How well animals socialize, play, and get along with other animals and their owners is also a sign of intelligence. The general consensus is that if an animal socializes well with other animals and its owner, it shows a decent level of intelligence.
We know emotion is an important part of any living being. If animals show signs that they feel emotions, like contentment, anger, sulking, loneliness, it is a definite sign of intelligence. Some animals are pure instinct and feel no emotion, like some insects.
They can’t feel emotion, so they don’t make decisions based on emotions like animals and humans sometimes do.
When we encounter bad weather, strangers, or danger, natural disasters, we tend to act in defense and survival. When animals face danger, strangers, bad weather, or natural disasters and act out of more than instincts, it shows intelligence.
Animals show intelligence in how well they can source food and recognize food preferences; for example, some animals of the same species don’t like the same types of food. Some animals will also identify foods that they don’t like and are toxic.
So, they won’t eat that kind of food when they find it, or it is given to them.
Behavior Changes When They Join a Family
If an animal has the ability to adapt its behavior when confronted with different circumstances than where it came from, it is a sign of intelligence.
For example, if an animal is rescued from bad circumstances and is afraid of people, angry, snapping, and doesn’t trust easily, it will try to hide.
Now, if a family adopts that animal and it changes its behavior after some time and starts to trust the family members, it means it realizes it’s safe and it can live out its life in peace.
Are Hedgehogs Intelligent?
Now we have an idea of what is generally considered intelligent behavior by animals; we can use the parameters mentioned above to evaluate the intelligence of hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs have been said to have intelligence equal to that of a hamster; now, we can see if that is accurate or if they may have more intelligence than we give them credit for.
Hedgehogs are excellent communicators. They have underdeveloped eyesight, so they mainly use hearing and sound to get around. There are a variety of sounds that a hedgehog makes to relay to its owners how it feels and what it needs.
When a hedgehog sounds like a mini grunting pig, it’s usually hungry. That’s where the ‘hog’ part in the name hedgehog comes from, the little piglike grunting noises they make when out and about looking for food.
Hissing Like a Snake
When a hedgehog hisses like a snake, you need to steer clear and leave the hedgehog alone. The hissing usually accompanies rolling into a ball or pointing its head down with its butt in the air and quills raised.
It’s the sign of an unhappy hedgehog, and the hissing is its way of warning you to leave it alone for a while. So if you have your hedgehog in playtime with other animals and it starts to hiss, put it back in its enclosure where it can feel safe.
Purring Like a Kitty
When you hear your hedgehog make a sound like a cat purring, you are doing something right as this is a sign that your hedgehog is content and happy in its current enclosure, with the food and toys it has. You want to hear purring over all other sounds.
A Clicking or Barking Sound
If your hedgehog makes a sound between a clicking and mild barking sound, it’s challenging you or another animal. It usually accompanies raised spines and a head that’s lowered. It will try to charge you like a bull.
It’s is usually a male hedgehog during mating season trying to establish dominance if it’s with one or more hedgehogs or other pets.
Meowling or Crying Like an Infant
If you ever hear your hedgehog meowling or crying like an infant, it means your ouch mouse is in severe pain and should be taken to a vet immediately.
Coughing, Harsh Barking or Snoring
Coughing, harsh barking, or a snoring sound when it’s awake is not a good sign in a hedgehog. It means your hedgehog has trouble breathing and might be a sign of lungworm, so if you hear these sounds from your hedgehog, it’s best to take it to a vet as soon as possible.
So with all these different sounds and forms of communication, it is a good sign, so hedgehogs score an intelligence point for communication.
Do Hedgehogs Recognize Their Owner?
One of the primary signs of a pet with some intelligence is recognizing its owner. Many people think that animals should recognize you when they see you. It’s different with hedgehogs as they have poor eyesight and usually recognize you by scent, not sight.
Hedgehog owners have stated that when confronted with a vet visit or family and friends visiting, their hedgehogs would run towards them and want to be picked up or hide behind them. It’s a clear sign of some smarts.
Hedgehogs are known for their love of the solitary life. They don’t particularly enjoy the company of other animals and only tolerate other hedgehogs when it’s mating season. However, if hedgies are socialized at an early age, they will socialize easier with their owners.
They will even show affection towards their owner if they are socialized early, and the interaction between hedgehog and owner continues for at least 30 minutes a day.
Female hedgehogs tend to enjoy the company of humans and other hedgehogs more than males and might even crave the affection of humans if they are properly socialized.
The choice of a solitary life should not count against hedgehogs in the evaluation of their intelligence, as it has proven to keep them alive throughout the millennia, and they can be taught how to socialize.
Hedgehogs have been known to have some emotional responses to their owners. When they are content, they will make low purring noises, and when unhappy, they will nip and screech. Some hedgehog owners say their hedgehogs get really upset when they go on vacation.
They say when they come back, their ouch mouse will turn its back on them and refuse to be picked up. Like it was pouting.
Sings of Intelligence When Confronted with Outside Forces
We also measure intelligence when animals are confronted with outside forces. How they react can tell you if they live on instinct alone or have the smarts to survive.
When They Are in Danger
When domesticated hedgehogs are in danger or feel threatened, they will run to their owner and try to hide behind them or try to be picked up by their owner. They might also try to hide under their blanket.
In the wild, when a hedgehog is confronted with danger, it will run to a safe spot and roll into a spiky shaking ball. We all know hedgehogs do this for protection, so it is somewhat instinctual.
I know from experience that my hedgie used to run to me when he was being bothered by a fly. He tried to shake and vibrate when the fly flew close to him, but as soon as he heard me, he ran to my hands, I picked him up, and he was content.
When They Are Confronted with Strangers
As we discussed before, when hedgehogs are confronted with new people or maybe a vet visit, you might find it will gravitate towards their owner. Trying to get to a safe place will be their first instinct.
However, most hedgehog owners have found that they will choose to run to their owner regardless of other safe places, for example, corners or under the table.
Signs of Intelligence When It Comes to Food
Hedgehogs do also show signs of intelligence when it comes to food. I found my hedgehog would stop eating food that he didn’t like, and even if he found insects in his cage, if he were not familiar with eating it, he would usually not go near it.
I saw he would run and catch the mealworms and insects he liked to eat, but insects like a grasshopper that somehow landed in his cage or the fly he poked with his quills, he wouldn’t go near.
Hedgehogs also know when they are getting food, as I saw my hedgehog would wait by his bowl for his food every night, and if I didn’t give him his mealworms with his other food, he would walk to the end of the glass enclosure with his nose in the air smelling for his favorite snack.
Do Hedgehogs Change Once They Come Home with a Family?
When a hedgehog is removed from its mother and siblings, it will be confused and scared. Many hedgehog owners have said that when they pick up their hedgehog from the breeder, it is scared and rolls into a ball.
Then after they have brought their hedgehog home and put it in its enclosure, it will start to show different sides to its personality; for example, when it is getting used to its new owner, it will become more curious and less defensive over time.
It is also a sign of trust. Most wild animals won’t show signs of trust like this, but it is a sign of intelligence when a hedgehog does start to trust its owner.
Overall, hedgehogs are as intelligent as they need to be to survive; they are smart for mammals in the same class and size. They adapt to different situations and are vocal about things they like and dislike.
Hedgehogs are one of the most interesting animals to have as a pet. They are cute with an attitude, and they show signs of intelligence on par with other animals in their category. Hedgehogs do have different personalities, as showcased by their varied differences.
They tend to know who their owner is and will seek comfort and protection when they feel threatened. They also sulk and are pouty and standoffish after their owner returns from vacation. So it’s clear that hedgehogs are somewhat intelligent for their species.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. I have a wife and two children and love taking them to the zoo to see all the animals. I grew up with dogs and fish and now have two dogs and two cats. I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.