Are Hedgehogs Human Friendly? A Comprehensive Guide

You might find it surprising but pets can enhance your mood and are a great way to improve your temperament.

Nowadays, a new wave of keeping exotic pets has taken over for some time. Among these exotic pets, hedgehogs are becoming a hot commodity among pet owners.

According to an estimate, almost 40,000 households in the U.S. alone keep these pet hedgehogs, which has kept increasing ever since.

Hedgehogs are small mammals that are mainly found in the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

These animals are nocturnal, and according to the latest study, 16 known hedgehog species are discovered.

This insect-eating mammal has seen a spike in its sale as a pet animal. Still, this close connection with humans has disrupted the animal-human-environment interface associated with hedgehogs.

Since the research has shifted to conducting more studies regarding the zoonotic diseases found in wildlife, much evidence is still required in this area.

Hedgehog As A Pet

Have you ever wondered what you should know before opting for a hedgehog as a pet? Here is a list of things that will give you an idea of what it is to keep a hedgehog pet:

General behavior: Hedgehogs are animals that require a lot of getting used to being held, as noted by many pet owners.

This solitary behavior is something that is found in many hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs have prickly quills that stand on edge if the animal feels fearful or anxious, and in this agitated state, it becomes nearly impossible to hold the animal.

The animal adopts a curled-up position, and anyone who tries to uncurl it can become injured as these spikes readily penetrate the skin.

Many people are not equipped to handle this animal’s high and specific demands, which can lead to the fatality of these animals in most cases.

Permission from the law: European and African hedgehogs have often kept pet choices for owners.

However, in many European countries, keeping a hedgehog as a pet requires permission from the state, as these animals are protected through law.

In many states of the U.S., keeping pet hedgehogs is also illegal. For this same reason, it is also against the law to transport hedgehogs from Africa.

Feeding: Hedgehogs mostly feed at night, and the diet includes insects mostly and occasionally some plant materials mixed with it.

High-quality hedgehog food should be mixed with low-fat cat food to feed these animals kept as pets. Some supplemental foods can also be fed every week to these pet hedgehogs.

A good tip would be to buy insects from a pet store, raise those insects at home, and then feed these insects to pet hedgehogs.

Avocados are toxic for these hedgehogs, so avoid them in the diet at all costs.

Some other things that should not be included in the diet include milk, raw eggs, and any hard stuff that can choke the animal.

Most importantly, food intake should be monitored and controlled from the very start of the diet of these pet hedgehogs.

Water and exercise: For pet hedgehogs, water availability should always be maintained. Clean water should be provided, and it should be changed daily, as well.

Some owners choose a sipper bottle, but it is important to note that the pet hedgehog is comfortable drinking from the sipper bottle.

Otherwise, the animal might become severely dehydrated. To avoid your hedgehog from getting overweight, regular exercise is also essential.

In the wild, hedgehogs have the luxury of running for many miles at night, but in captivity, the cages can be enriched by putting wheels so the pet hedgehog can run on them.

Zoonoses And Hedgehog

Several fungal, bacterial, and viral infections are associated with wild hedgehogs that can potentially transfer from these animals to humans, harming them.

The same is also true for the domestic hedgehogs that pet owners are keeping.

Hedgehogs act as carriers and reservoirs of many pathogens, particularly those with zoonotic potential.

Many hedgehogs visit cities for food and shelter, and many are exposed to humans. This contact can increase the risk of transmission of diseases from animals to humans.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial diseases of zoonotic potential known to be carried by hedgehogs include Salmonella, Mycobacterium, etc.

Out of all, Salmonella holds the most significance, as presented by considerable evidence and studies conducted as being linked to pet hedgehogs.

Although the affected hedgehog also displays signs of infection, such as weight loss, diarrhea, and anorexia, not all will display these signs.

It has been seen that almost 28% of hedgehogs remain asymptomatic carriers, meaning they do not experience any symptoms.

Salmonella serotype Tilene has been particularly linked to being spread through pet hedgehogs and is a source of causing salmonellosis in humans.

Children are especially susceptible to infection, and strict hygienic measures should be taken to reduce the risk of infection. In any incidence where pets are handled, hands should be washed accordingly to prevent the spread of pathogens.

Direct contact with the pet’s feces should be avoided. In case the pet shows signs of infection, proper veterinary medical attention should be provided to the pet with treatment protocols for a speedy recovery of the pet.

Viral Diseases

Hedgehogs have been linked to carrying the notorious foot-and-mouth disease virus, which results in an economically important disease of livestock and can cause high morbidity and mortality in cattle, especially.

Due to this reason, the import of these animals from Africa was declared prohibited in the United States in 1991 to reduce the prevalence of FMD occurring from these pet sources.

Other Dermatological Issues

Apart from zoonotic infections, several dermatological issues may also be seen in the handlers of pet hedgehogs, especially recent reportings of urticarial reactions to being close to these pet hedgehogs.

The exposed areas were pruritic with the formation of welts in these regions.

As the trend of keeping pet hedgehogs grows, the cases of these urticarial reactions will be seen more.

A Unique Pet

Hedgehogs are small mammals that require special care for a long-time if kept as pets. These are nocturnal beings that prefer to live in solitary and do not seek human affection.

Many owners have a hard time bonding with their pet hedgehogs which may lead to neglect and death of these animals.

Pet hedgehogs are also prone to malnutrition easily, so feeding them high-quality feed is necessary.

Although a traditionally different choice for a pet, hedgehogs are also illegal in many states and countries as pets.

As with any other pet, it is recommended that pet owners do proper and thorough research on hedgehogs, their behavior, feeding, and their needs before opting to buy one.

Due to the risk of Salmonella infection with these pets, it is a safety concern if hedgehogs are kept with families who have immune-compromised people, the elderly, and especially children under the age of 5 years.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have learned that hedgehogs can be friendly with humans when given the chance.

While they may not be as cuddly or affectionate as cats and dogs, they do enjoy interacting with their owners in a variety of ways.

It is important to note that hedgehogs are not naturally social animals and prefer to spend most of their time alone.

However, with the right environment and care, it is possible to develop a strong bond between you and your pet hedgehog.

It is essential to understand their behavioral patterns and the factors that influence their interactions.

Hedgehogs can have varying attitudes toward humans, and it is crucial to give them time to adapt to their new environment until they feel safe with their surroundings.

Once they feel comfortable, they can be quite friendly and interactive with their owners.

It is also important to note that hedgehogs require specific care and attention to thrive in a domestic environment.

They need a suitable living space, proper nutrition, and regular veterinary checkups.

It is essential to research and understand the specific needs of hedgehogs before considering them as pets.

In summary, hedgehogs can make great pets for those looking for a low-maintenance companion.

They have a unique charm about them that makes people want to keep them as pets.

With the right care and attention, hedgehogs can be friendly and interactive with their owners, providing a rewarding pet ownership experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When it comes to hedgehogs, many people have questions about their temperament, behavior, and whether they make good pets.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about hedgehogs:

Are hedgehogs friendly?

Hedgehogs can be friendly if you treat them right. However, they are solitary animals and prefer to be alone.

It takes time and patience to earn a hedgehog’s trust, but once you do, they can become affectionate pets.

It’s important to remember that hedgehogs have spikes and can be easily frightened, so handling them gently and slowly is crucial.

Can hedgehogs be domesticated?

Hedgehogs can be domesticated, but they are still considered wild animals and require specialized care. African Pygmy hedgehogs are the most common type of hedgehog kept as pets.

They need a large cage with plenty of space to run and play, and they require a specific diet of high-quality cat food and insects.

It’s also important to note that some states and countries have laws prohibiting the ownership of hedgehogs as pets, so be sure to check your local regulations before getting one.

Do hedgehogs cuddle?

Hedgehogs are not natural cuddlers, as they are solitary animals and prefer to be alone.

However, with patience and training, you can teach your hedgehog to be more comfortable with being held and touched.

It’s important to remember that hedgehogs have spikes, so handling them gently and slowly is crucial.

Are hedgehogs good pets for children?

Hedgehogs can make good pets for children, but they require specialized care and attention.

Children should be supervised when handling hedgehogs, as they can be easily frightened and may bite if they feel threatened.

It’s important to teach children how to handle hedgehogs gently and slowly, and to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly after handling them.

In summary, hedgehogs can be friendly pets if you treat them right and earn their trust.

They require specialized care and attention, and it’s important to check your local regulations before getting one as a pet.

With patience and training, hedgehogs can become affectionate pets, but they are not natural cuddlers and may not be the best choice for young children.

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