Pros and Cons of Getting a Hedgehog

Pros and cons - hedgehog

Disclaimer: Wild animals are not pets. Despite not all countries and regions prohibiting owning wild animals, animal rights organizations, such as PETA, and wildlife specialists are advising against keeping wild and exotic animals as pets.

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” – Stewart Udall

Pros Cons
Hedgehogs bond quickly with their carers Hedgehogs may be banned as pets in your region
Hedgehogs are low maintenance Illnesses plague some hedgehogs
Hedgehogs can keep your veggie garden free from insects and pests Hedgehogs don’t do well in noisy homes
Hedgehogs are quiet pets Buying a hedgehog can be fairly expensive
Hedgehogs are hypoallergenic pets Very young children are not well-suited as hedgehog owners
There’s no bad smell when living with a hedgehog Hedgehogs don’t like cage mates
Caring for a hedgehog is inexpensive Hedgehogs need to be provided with time to explore
Traveling with a hedgehog is relatively easy Hedgehogs have a short lifespan
Hedgehog quills won’t hurt you if handled correctly You have to potty train your hedgehog

Hedgehogs, part of the Erinaceidae family with seventeen species in total, are popular pets. These spiny mammals are endemic to Europe, Africa, New Zealand, and Asia. With spiny backs and fur-covered faces, the number one reason for getting a hedgehog is undoubtedly the cuteness factor. Whether you are planning to get a hedgehog for yourself or someone else (perhaps a partner, child, or friend), there are specific pros and cons you should consider before going to the pet store. Being aware of these pros and cons will help you determine if getting a hedgehog is the right choice.

Pros of Getting a Hedgehog

Hedgehogs bond quickly with their carers

While hedgehogs are solitary creatures, they do form bonds with their carers quickly if they are handled regularly. At first, hedgehogs seem wary of being handled by humans, but as they become more comfortable with you, they start to bond. However, how much a hedgehog enjoys cuddling with you will largely depend on the animal’s individual personality. Some may seek out your touch and affection, while others may only tolerate it. 

Hedgehogs are low maintenance

Hedgehogs are very low maintenance. They are pretty happy getting comfortable alone in their living quarters or trundling around the house (if allowed). While it’s a good idea to spend some time with your hedgehog, you don’t have to spend a lot of time. You also won’t have to take your hedgehog for a walk like a dog, buy scratching posts as you do for a cat, or build a specifically fancy enclosure. Hedgehogs are low-key, and so is their care and maintenance.

Hedgehogs can keep your veggie garden free from insects and pests

Hedgehogs are omnivorous and therefore eat veggies, fruits, and meat. They have a varied preferred diet of bugs, insects, and invertebrates. If you have a hedgehog allowed in the veggie garden, it can help you keep pests at bay. A full list of what a hedgehog will eat includes slugs, caterpillars, millipedes, worms, beetles, crickets, maggots, mealworms, carrion, tiny frogs, and various crunchy beetles. While out in the garden, the hedgehog can also do some clearing up by eating any fallen fruit. This isn’t just convenient for keeping your garden ship-shape but also makes hedgehog nutrition convenient and straightforward. While hedgehogs eat bugs, insects, and plants, it is crucial not to feed them anything that doesn’t form part of their diet. 

Hedgehogs are quiet pets

Unlike dogs that bark or hamsters that scamper around making noise all night long, hedgehogs are quiet creatures. They prefer a safe, quiet space to exist in, and as a result, they are just as quiet. When owning a hedgehog, you can rest assured that it won’t disturb the neighbors or the rest of your family. 

According to Home & Roosts’ quick guide to hedgehog noises, you can expect a hedgehog to make the following sounds:

  • Grunting and snuffling (very gently) while hunting for food 
  • Gentle chirping when hungry 
  • Screaming only when in pain or ultra stressed 
  • Hissing as a warning to stay back and leave him/her alone
  • Gentle chuffing, usually only in the mating season 
  • Clicking sounds when there’s another male to challenge

However, the most common noise you will hear from a hedgehog is a gentle purring noise when it wants something. The noise is so soft that it typically doesn’t distract or annoy owners. 

Hedgehogs are hypoallergenic pets

If you struggle with allergies and therefore can’t get a dog, cat, bunny, or similar, a hedgehog could make for the ideal pet. Hedgehogs don’t have dander, and their quills harbor no dust or hair. Because of this, you won’t have to brush or vacuum wherever your hedgehog has been. You also won’t have to deal with hair on your clothing when you need to head out (as is the case when owning a cat or a dog).

There’s no bad smell when living with a hedgehog

Most people worry about the smells that pets bring into the home. Dogs, cats, hamsters, bunnies, rats, and even chinchillas all leave an odor that may become unnoticeable to you but is certainly noticeable to visitors. The good thing about hedgehogs is that they create virtually no smells. If there is a bad smell permeating from your hedgehog or its living quarters, it is a sign that it is ill or something is wrong. 

Caring for a hedgehog is inexpensive

You will find that it is very affordable to care for a healthy hedgehog. A $9 bag of food can easily last you several months. Hedgehogs like variety, so it’s a good idea to buy several types of hedgehog food and alternate them throughout the week. According to Heavenly Hedgies’ best hedgehog food list, if you can’t find dedicated hedgehog food, it is entirely safe (and affordable) to feed a hedgehog low-phosphorous pea-free cat food kibble. This is because hedgehogs are sensitive to phosphorous (peas have a high phosphorous level).

Traveling with a hedgehog is relatively easy

Going to the vet or away on holiday when you have cats, dogs, and birds is noisy because of the chaos that ensues. With a hedgehog, you can quite easily place it in a carrier and take your pet along with you. Most holiday establishments have no worries about a pet hedgehog arriving with guests, which is not quite the same reception received by dogs and cats.

Hedgehog quills won’t hurt you if handled correctly

Many people think that porcupine and hedgehog quills are the same, but they are pretty different. Unlike porcupine quills, hedgehog quills don’t have barbs. They are still spiky, but as long as your hedgehog is calm, its quills will remain in a relaxed position, and you’ll be able to pick up your pet and handle it without getting hurt. 

Cons of Getting a Hedgehog

Hedgehogs may be banned as pets in your region

According to an article posted by PETA, some regions have banned hedgehogs as pets. This is because hedgehogs can be the cause of spreading certain diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. A hedgehog can also spread fungal infections and salmonella bacteria.

Illnesses plague some hedgehogs

While many well-cared-for hedgehogs can live a healthy and happy life, others fall victim to illnesses. The illnesses that hedgehogs are prone to include: urinary tract diseases, bacterial infections, cancer, kidney failure, internal parasites, ringworm, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal disorders. It can be time-consuming and stressful caring for an ill pet, not to mention costly too.

Hedgehogs don’t do well in noisy homes

If you have a noisy or busy home, hedgehogs won’t be a good fit. Hedgehogs require quiet and serene places to live happily. If there’s loud music, continuous shouting, lots of barking dogs, and boisterous children, your hedgehog can suffer shock and stress. Stressed hedgehogs usually become ill and suffer diseases – they also become more withdrawn.

Buying a hedgehog can be fairly expensive

While the cost of a hedgehog can vary from one country to the next and from one type of hedgehog to another, the consensus is that hedgehogs can cost a lot to buy initially. According to Love to Know, a hedgehog can cost anything from $100 to $300. If you are looking for the cheapest hedgehogs to buy, “Salt and Pepper,” “Cinnamon,” and “Pinto” hedgehogs are the most affordable.

Very young children are not well-suited as hedgehog owners

While hedgehogs are spiny and may appear to fend for themselves, they are quite fragile creatures. Unfortunately, most young children don’t have the faculties to understand hedgehog care. The majority of young children want to cuddle and handle a pet, whereas a hedgehog is not particularly keen on being overhandled. When children spend time with a hedgehog, it should be short and gentle handling under supervision.

Hedgehogs don’t like cage mates

If you want to have more than one hedgehog, you will need to keep them separately. Hedgehogs are not social creatures, even with their own kind. If you put two hedgehogs in the same enclosure, they will fight, especially if they are both males. More than one hedgehog means an extra cage, more lost space, and extra expense.

Hedgehogs need to be provided with time to explore

If you’re never home and don’t have much time when you are home, you may find it difficult to meet the exploration needs of a hedgehog. While they are solitary and quiet animals, they don’t like to be stuck in a cage all day. They have a built-in instinct to explore, so they need to be outside of the cage as often as possible. It’s in a hedgehog’s nature to forage, and even if you provide them with food, you still need to take them out to explore often to ensure their quality of life.

Hedgehogs have a short lifespan

If you are getting a pet as a long-term companion, you may be disappointed that hedgehogs typically have a short lifespan. Healthy hedgehogs usually live between 4 and 5 years. In some exceptional cases, they can live longer to around nine years. 

You have to potty train your hedgehog

If you don’t take the time to train your hedgehog to use the litter tray for potty time, you may end up with hedgehog urine and feces all over the cage, on your furniture, and carpets. Potty training involves placing your hedgehog into a litter tray every time it is just about to do its business. This type of training can take several weeks to catch on, and even so, a 100% success rate is not guaranteed.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal

You won’t see your hedgehog much during the day because they are most active at night. You may find that when you want to bond with your hedgehog during the day, he/she is more interested in resting, sleeping, and being alone. 

Sick hedgehogs need specialized care

Not all veterinarians have experience with hedgehogs. In most areas, hedgehogs are considered exotic animals. You may find that none of the local vets can assist you if your hedgehog gets sick or an accident happens. Checking where the nearest vet is that offers specialist hedgehog care should be one of the first steps when considering getting a hedgehog. 

Hedgehog self-anointing behavior can be disturbing

A hedgehog may self-anoint when it encounters a new object or scent that it finds scary or unsettling. In response to this new threat, the hedgehog will form a spitball, throw its head back and cover its spines with frothy saliva that contains the new scent within it. Scientists currently don’t know for sure what prompts this peculiar behavior, though some theories say that hedgehogs use it to make themselves less interesting to potential predators. Either way, this behavior can be a somewhat gross thing to witness, and you may not be thrilled about handling your hedgehog for a while after it happened.

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