The hedgehog is one of the cutest little mammals in the world. These tiny little creatures are found in many parts of the world, and many people have managed to domesticate the animal to the point where they make for fantastic pets.
However, keeping a hedgehog as a pet might be cute, but you should know that these creatures are definitely a handful.
For starters, you might have noticed that they are covered with spines on their bodies. Some people refer to them as quills, though there is a significant difference.
Quills are sharper and are stiff by default. Quills are found on porcupines, and they are able to detach them from their body to defend themselves.
However, a hedgehog has spines, which are stiffened due to the excess keratin. Many new owners are not exactly aware of the quilling process, and usually begin to panic when they realize that the hedgehog’s quills are falling off.
You can refer to them as quills, but they are actually known as spines, so it’s a bit of a technical paradox. Throughout the remainder of this article, we will refer to them as spines.
Can They Shoot?
Hedgehogs, unlike porcupines, are not able to shoot their spines. Many people consider the hedgehog to be a pincushion with legs and when you consider the unique defensive mechanism that the animal has developed, it’s easy to see why.
The best defense that this tiny little rodent has against other mammals and predators who want to feast on it is its spiky outer armor. If the hedgehog feels threatened, they are going to raise their spines in a crisscross pattern.
With up to 5,000 spines covering their back all straightened, the body of the hedgehog becomes incredibly sharp and pointy.
The animal also makes use of its back muscles and its belly muscles to tuck its head, tail, and its legs underneath its spiky armor. Within a second, the animal will turn into a ball of spikes, and it is capable of completely protecting its belly (which is soft) completely.
Needless to say, many predators find it difficult to open this ball of spikes. Many lose interest, and just leave it be. The hedgehog has managed to avoid many predators as a result of this.
In fact, there are ancient tales of the animal carrying fruit on its back as it gets stuck on these spines. While there is a strong chance that the spines might catch some fruit, you should know that the hedgehog doesn’t usually use it for transporting.
Think of the spines on a hedgehog’s back to be similar to the hair on your head. Can you shoot the hair out of your head? No! That’s the same for hedgehogs too.
Many people consider hedgehogs to be friends of gardeners. The animal just requires a little bit of space to make a nest for itself. Some gardeners even do that for the animal themselves.
For the hospitality provided by the gardeners, the animal returns it by eating all kinds of snails or slugs, and other garden pests that might be turning into a nuisance around your garden.
Understanding their defensive abilities in the context of their habitat is important. You need to understand that the animal lives on the ground; you won’t find hedgehogs on trees. Hedgehogs can be found in many parts of Europe and Asia, and you will also find the animal in parts of Africa.
The animal largely feeds off of insects that they find on the ground, and because it is so small, the animal is often targeted by other predators. The hedgehog prefers to live alone, and they often turn territorial. In fact, there are certain types of hedgehogs that are able to burrow up to 20 inches in the soil.
There are other types of hedgehogs that like to make their own nests using dead leaves or branches. Desert hedgehogs are usually found beneath boulders or between large rocks that provide protection from the elements.
They often like to burrow into the desert sand to escape the heat. There are certain species found in Asia that like to move into tunnels and nests made by gerbils or otters.
The animal is basically an insectivore, and they usually eat tiny worms or insects that are found on the ground. That is one of the main reasons why you won’t find the animal chewing through your garden or ruining the grass in your backyard; it simply doesn’t care.
But, if there are any insects populating your garden, the hedgehog is going to take care of them for you.
However, you should know that not all hedgehogs are going to leave your garden alone. There are certain varieties that like to nibble on fruit or vegetables growing in your garden. They also like to feast on leaves or grass from time to time, though their main course is very much the favorite insects.
If you have a hedgehog as a pet, you need to make sure that you provide a balanced diet to the animal. Many hedgehogs that are kept in captivity are provided a balanced diet including a bit of cat kibble, some vegetables, and pellets that are made primarily for insectivores.
For people who have just bought a hedgehog as a pet, you don’t need to worry much about the animal showing out its spines. There are going to be times when you will notice the spines falling off, but this is a natural process as a hedgehog matures.
As it continues to grow, the hedgehog is going to get rid of the smaller spines, which are going to be replaced with the larger ones that are designed for greater protection. In the beginning, you will notice your hedgehog curling up as you come close to it.
This shows that the animal is threatened. But, with the passage of time, you will be able to gain its trust, and it will become friendly.
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.