The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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If like me, you love small unique critters, you have probably thought about getting a pet hedgehog. Hedgehogs are grumpy but cute little mammals that love being on their own. I wanted to get a pet hedgehog, but I was worried about how well a hedgehog would fit in with my family. I wondered, are hedgehogs social?
Hedgehogs are not social animals by nature. In the wild, they only socialize when it’s mating season. Domesticated hedgehogs live solitary lives and don’t like interacting with humans, pets, or other hedgehogs. Breeders usually socialize hedgehogs from an early age, but they prefer to be alone.
I thought I would do more research on hedgehogs and how well they get along with pets and other hedgehogs. I discovered a lot of interesting pieces of information on hedgehog socialization, so I thought I would share what I found.
Are Hedgehogs Social?
In the wild, hedgehogs are only social when it’s mating season. They like their solitary life. Domesticated hedgehogs or pet hedgehogs still don’t like too much interaction with humans and other animals.
They prefer to live and roam alone. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, meaning they are only active at night and enjoy exercising. That being said, good breeders usually socialize their hoglets from an early age, so they get used to other hedgehogs easier.
There are animals that hedgehogs do get along with easier than others but keep in mind to give your hedgehog its own enclosure, separate from other animals. It is not only a place of safety, but they like their own space.
Can Hedgehogs Be Socialized?
The fact that hedgehogs are solitary animals might put some people off when it comes to getting them as pets, but with persistence and patience, you could get your hedgehog used to being handled.
Most hedgehog owners and experts define a well-socialized hedgehog as:
- A hedgehog that is calm.
- A hedgehog whose quills are flat against its body.
- A hedgehog that isn’t curled up in a ball or uncurls when it realizes its owner is holding it.
- And generally looks like they trust and enjoy being handled by their owner.
Variables to Keep in Mind When Socializing Your Hedgehog
When you embark on socializing your hedgehog, there are variables to keep in mind as hedgehogs all have different personalities. Here are some variables and tips to keep in mind when socializing your hedgehog:
The Nature of a Hedgehog
Hedgehogs have a unique nature that a hedgehog owner needs to understand. Here are some traits that will influence how your hedgehog might react to being socialized:
Curling into a Ball
Hedgehogs will curl into a shaky ball with their quills sticking out when they are scared, confused, or nervous. You might even hear them hiss a little. You need to give your hedgehog time and be patient.
It will take time and consistency to ensure your hedgehog gets used to your scent and to being picked up.
Hedgehogs Are Self Anointing
When you are starting to socialize with your hedgehog, you might see them self-anointing. As soon as hedgehogs encounter something new, they spit on themselves and smear it all over their body.
It is thought they do it to remember the scent or to imitate its smell, making them less attractive to predators. So if you are handling your hedgehog for the first time or have a certain scent they have never encountered on your hands, then you might see them self-anoint.
It’s perfectly normal, and you shouldn’t worry about it. It is sticky and unpleasant, but it is best to leave your hedgehog until it’s finished.
Like all animals, hedgehogs can bite, but it is extremely rare. They will only ever bite in extreme circumstances like:
- A hedgehog might bite when you try to socialize it while it is quilling (losing quills) and is in pain.
- If they smell someone they don’t recognize holding them, they tend to get nervous and might bite to get away from the threat.
- If your hedgehog is hungry, it might smell the scent of food on your hands or near you and might mistake the smell for a snack and take a bite.
Hedgehog Owner Responsibility
When you want to get your hedgehog used to you and want to socialize them as much as possible, there are certain things you need to do to ensure your hedgehog feels safe and comfortable:
Handling Your Hedgehog
Most experts suggest it’s best to handle your hedgehog for at least 30 minutes each day. You can divide the time into 15-minute slots in the early morning and at night. It all depends on the time of day that suits your hedgehog and your schedule.
After you get your hedgehog, you might want to wait until it gets a little more comfortable in its new surroundings. So before you start handling your hedgehog, put an old shirt that has your scent on it in the hedgehogs’ cage.
It will get them used to your scent, make them less nervous when you handle them for the first time and will calm them enough to relax after a while.
Because hedgehogs are nocturnal, the best time of the day to spend quality time with your hedgehog is at night when they are awake and more active or very early in the morning just before it’s their bedtime.
The Right Way to Pick Your Hedgehog Up
If you are a first-time hedgehog owner, you might feel slightly nervous about picking up your hedgehog for the first time. It’s like pulling off a band-aid; it’s best to do it quickly but gently. Just don’t jerkingly pick your hedgehog up.
Remember that a hedgehog can’t see well, which means it might think you are attacking it, so it might roll into a ball and shake. It can be painful, and you don’t want to scare your hedgehog too badly your first time handling it.
Use both your hands when picking up your hedgehog; that will make it easier for you and help control the movement and speed.
The more confidence you have when picking up your hedgehog, the more secure your hedgie will feel when you pick it up. When your hedgehog starts to get comfortable with you picking it up, one unpleasant sign might be pooping on you.
It’s unpleasant, but it’s also a good sign; it shows that your hedgehog feels comfortable enough with you to let its guard down enough to be vulnerable in your hands. It’s a sign of trust.
The other sign of trust from your hedgehog will be when you pick it up, it will only roll into a ball halfway, or it won’t roll into a ball at all.
Signs of Stress When Socializing Your Hedgehog
When you socialize with your hedgehog, there might be signs that it is stressed or doesn’t want to be handled. It might be due to sickness, or your hedgehog is quilling. Here are some signs that your hedgehog wants to be left alone.
A stressed-out and scared hedgehog will exhibit these traits:
- It will keep its quills straight, keeping its head down, and it will lean forward.
- The hedgehog will hiss, huff, and puff at the offending item.
- It will hiss, vibrate while keeping its head down, and quills pointed.
- It will roll into the defensive, hissing and shaking ball of quills.
- If they urinate or defecate on themselves, it is a sign of utter fear, so it would be best to put them back in their enclosure.
Tips for Socializing Your Hedgehog
It might be intimidating when you are starting to interact with your hedgehog to socialize it, but there are a few things you can do to ease the way. Here are some helpful tips to successfully socialize your hedgehog:
Washing Your Hands
Hedgehogs have a sensitive sense of smell, so before you handle your hedgehog, it might be a good idea to wash your hands. It also protects them from bacteria, as hedgehogs are can easily get a bacterial infection.
Picking Up Your Hedgehog
When picking up your hedgehog, you need to distribute the weight that way; it hurts less when you pick up your hedgehog. Ensure you pick your hedgehog up in one swift motion. You might try to pick it up with some bedding until it is comfortable with your touch.
Help Your Hedgehog Stay Calm
When you have picked up your hedgehog, it will initially curl into a ball. You need to ensure your hedgehog that it’s safe with you by talking softly to it. Don’t try to pet it just while it’s still rolled in a ball. Curiosity will eventually get the best of it, and it will uncurl and start to explore.
When this happens, try not to move too much, or it might get scared; after a few times of being handled, your hedgehog will feel more comfortable and understand small movements aren’t a threat.
Bathing Is Relaxing
One way to get a hedgehog to relax is by giving it a bath. Hedgehogs enjoy the water, and it might relax easier. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t give hedgehogs more than one bath a month, so this might be best for occasional help when it looks like your hedgehog is in a bad mood.
Pet Your Hedgehog the Right Way
When you want to pet your hedgehog, be careful not to pet it in its enclosure but pet it when it’s in your hand. The best way is to lightly rub your finger over its nose and head, and don’t stroke it too lightly; gentle but firm backward strokes are best.
Know When to Put Your Hedgehog Back in Its Enclosure
Hedgehogs get irritated easily, so it’s important to know when to put your hedgehog back in its enclosure. When a hedgehog is irritated, it will start to huff and puff. It will roll back into a ball and shake. Then will go back to normal as soon as you put it back into its enclosure.
Socialization Starts Before Your Hedgehog Gets Home
When you first buy your hedgehog, it’s important to handle it correctly from the start. In this case, first impressions are essential. A hedgehog wouldn’t be a happy camper if it were poked and prodded in a cage.
Handle your hedgehog as you plan on doing when you will handle it when you get home. That way, it will create a good first impression and not scare your hedgehog.
Don’t Overlook Bribery
When you are first getting your hedgehog used to being handled, and it doesn’t want to uncurl and relax, you might want to try bribing it with a few wormy treats. It will smell the treats and realize when it uncurls and relaxes, it will get rewarded.
When Housing Your Hedgehog Help Your Hedgehog Exercise
When you create a space/enclosure for your hedgehog, it will help if you give your hedgehog an exercise wheel. It will help your hedgehog to burn off some energy. Hedgehogs are curious and active critters by nature, and it allows them to stay relaxed.
Some hedgehogs become irritable and grumpy when they don’t get enough exercise. So they will be less cranky when you want to spend time with them.
Look for Signs of Sickness
If you take your hedgehog out to socialize or spend time with you and it looks uncomfortable or irritable or uncharacteristically cranky, it might be sick. Look to see if it might be sick. A sick hedgehog won’t want to be handled or touched.
Feeding Your Hedgehog Correctly
Feeding your hedgehog the proper amount of food with the correct nutrient value will have a big impact on its overall health and its socialization skills. A happy, healthy hedgehog will be more receptive to socializing when fed a nutritious diet.
You can use mealworms and canned snails as treats; it will help you build trust and a good rapport with your hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are cute little critters and make great pets. When buying a hedgehog, you should handle it as you would at home; it will help it relax. Take your time when you are socializing with your hedgehog.
With time and patience, you will find your hedgehog will get used to being handled and enjoy the time it gets to spend with you. Try not to handle it for more than 30 minutes a day; it will ensure your hedgehog doesn’t get irritated too easily.