Itís not unusual to hear new hedgehog owners complain that their hedgehog doesnít like them. Itís important to remember that hedgehogs have not been domesticated for very long (just over a decade) as compared to most other critters in the pet trade, so a lot of ďwildĒ behavior and fearfulness of new things in many individuals is not surprising. Even the friendliest of hedgies raise their quills, and if you own a hedgehog you WILL get poked.
To really enjoy hedgies, we have to sometimes make adjustments in our expectations. We canít expect that hedgies will be naturally calm and seek out our company immediately. I have a few who do that, but they are definitely in the minority. Some naturally friendly hedgie babies become total cranks when they go through quilling- which can take about 1 to 4 months to get over with. Some hedgies are just naturally cautious.
Even the shy hedgies have their strong points. It isnít that they donít like you, itís that you scare them! It takes time to earn their trust, and to learn how they want to be interacted with. One hedgie that I had- a big guy named Dante who came from a breeder that I know worked with him a lot- came to me at age 1-1/2, so very shy that he almost never showed his face. The breeder repeatedly asked me, ďAre you SURE you want him?Ē I had fallen in love with his description and meeting him (all his quills- I didnít get to see his face at first) didnít deter me. It took about another year for us to really click. I figured he wanted space, so I let him free range on the hedgie room floor. Iíd check to find him daily and talked calmly to him, making sure not to force myself on him. I didnít expect a whole lot, but eventually he started coming out on his own when I was in the room. Then he got to where he would come out and climb on peoplesí feet if they were in the room and would come climb in my lap when I would sit on the floor.
Iíve had other hedgies who, like Dante, did not like to be picked up. To help them get used to me, I started slowly by talking to them and just putting my hand in the cage. They slowly learn to tolerate my presence, and eventually come over to check my hand. Next I work toward getting them to let me touch their nose, and many get to where I can scratch under their chins. They still roll into a ball if I try to pick them up, but I enjoy them because I know they trust and appreciate me. I think they do like me- they just donít like being picked up.
Each hedgie is unique and different, and for those hedgies who donít easily meet our expectations, the challenge is up to us to try to find the ways to interact that are enjoyable for both us and hedgie.
Page was initially posted 1/19/02. Copyright 2002.
Thanks to the folks at HedgehogValley.Com for allowing us to share their articles!