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Old 07-05-2015, 07:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 2 Hedgehogs find new home after little girls grow bored with them...

Hello everyone,

I am a teacher and I took in a pair of hedgehogs after a local mom contacted me and asked if I would like her daughters' pets...it was the usual story of the animals not getting enough attention. As I am an avid animal lover and have rabbits, guinea pigs, a rat, and 3 small dogs, I did some precursory reading on hedgies and told the friend I would take them on.

After meeting and taking the hedgies (I just got them on Friday), I am a little stumped. First - I'm freaked out to pick them up because they are scared and curl up. Though, I've probably read 20 articles on this now and I have a plan of attack. I have left them alone for the first few days just so they could get used to the smell of the new environment and get over the stress of the car ride.

The former owner had no idea what their gender is and was housing them together. 1 of the hedgies is 1 and a half years old. The other is 1 year old. She said they "love each other" and "need each other" and sold me a song and dance about how hedgehogs are "social animals" and that was why she got the 2nd one (because the first one was lonely). Yeah...she clearly had not done HER research. I found out very quickly that what she was telling me was not true.

My question is that if I DO have 2 girls, is it probably OK for me to let them continue to cohabitate? Obviously in any other scenario I will seperate them. I have another cage as back up in case. One of the hedgies won't uncurl for humans (more on that later) so I am not sure how I will sex that one...

My next question is regarding food. The former owner said she just "covered the bottom" of the food bowl daily for their food. That doesn't seem to be much food and one of the hedgehogs is on the small side. I'm wondering if I should amp up the amount of food for the time being?

My last question is about getting these babies used to handling. I am under the impression that they were pretty neglected. The younger one (I was told) doesn't "like people" and won't uncurl. I feel like I need to do everything in my power to rehabilitate this little creature to not be "wild." I may not even end up keeping both of the hedgehogs now that I know they are more solitary animals, but I want them both to be socialized and tame for any future owners if I can find a suitable family for one of them. Is it realistic or do hedgehogs have a "window of opportunity" for getting tame - and after that, they are pretty much just wild? I want to do everything I can...but also I want to know what I've gotten myself into.

I doubt that I will actually use these animals as classroom pets as there seems to be too much of a risk with getting poked and seeing how they sleep all day, I'm not sure that would be too fun for my students. Anyway, I have a rat who is a clown and loves to be held all day long...he is the perfect class pet!
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Old 07-05-2015, 07:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I would separate them no matter what their gender is. Even females can get tired of having a cage mate and start to fight, it can happen quite unexpectedly. Also if they are in their own cage you can monitor how much each of them is eating. It could be that one is bullying the other so the smaller one may not be getting enough food. What kind of food are they on?

When you want to pick up one of them try using a small fleece blanket to protect your hands then just let them sit on you under the blanket. It can take many months for them to start to get used to being handled.
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Old 07-05-2015, 07:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm glad you were willing to take on the challenge of bringing them home. Especially since you are willing to do the research the parent was not. This will not be easy, but it's totally doable.

If they do happen to both be girls, you could continue to house them together. The problems with doing that though are figuring out which of the two is ill should either of them fall ill, and they could at any time decide they've had enough of each other and decide to fight. I would make sexing them a priority as the idea of leaving them together hinges on them being girls. But really, it would probably be best to separate them regardless of their genders. That way you'll know who is eating and who isn't. You'll know which one is sick. You won't have to worry about them fighting. It's just a better situation all around. They really have no interest in having a companion.

Were you able to get the same food they were on? Until they're more settled it would be better to keep them on what they were eating. As far as how much, you'll have to experiment a bit. You'll want to measure their food in some way. You can weigh it, count kibbles, measure it out by teaspoon. Whatever works for you. Start with a small amount and see if there is any left in the morning. Keep adding a little bit more each night until there's a little bit left in the bowl the next morning. You want them to have enough to fill them up. Hedgehogs are not prone to overeating like dogs are. Keeping track of how much they eat will also give you a heads up that they may not be feeling well. They hide illness well and not eating can be a early indicator that something is wrong.

Socializing them is going to be the hard part. It absolutely can be done. If you are persistent and patient you will get them to come around eventually. But it's going to take time. I would easily expect to spend months getting them to trust you and be comfortable around you. It could even take a year or longer. The key is daily handling. You've got to get them out and have them with you every single day for a minimum of thirty minutes. Longer of course is better. They are going to try all manner of things to scare you away, but you can't let that put you off. You'll get back all that energy in the form of pets that are a joy to have around.

There are lots of stickies on the forums covering pretty much all the things you need to know. Everything from cage requirements, to nutrition, to behavior, to health and other things I'm not even thinking of. If you haven't already I would read them. Those should help you get a clearer idea of what to expect and help you figure out more specifically you may need help with.

Good luck and let us know about any questions you may have. We're here to help!
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Old 07-05-2015, 07:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Welcome!

I think being nervous about handling a hedgehog for the first time is common. The good news is that it's often much worse in your mind than it is in reality. When I need to handle Fitzgerald, I allow him to sniff my hands for a few seconds, and that usually relaxes him enough that I can either pick him up or he walks into my hand. If you're very nervous, a piece of fleece or other fabric can be your best friend. But you should begin to practice handling them bare-handed because there will come a time when using fleece isn't practical -- usually when you need to grab them to prevent an injury. (In my case, it happened the first night. While sitting on the couch, Fitzgerald decided to run up my arm, over my shoulder, onto the back of the couch, onto a side table, and straight off the edge of the table before I could catch him. Twenty minutes later, he tried it again. I was ready. I also got pricked.)

One thing you can do to help them get comfortable is "the t-shirt trick." Simply sleep in a t-shirt or with a snuggle sack or piece of fleece for a couple of nights, and then put it in the cage. They will begin to associate your smell with safety and react less defensively when you handle them -- which you need to do every day for at least half an hour a day (longer is better). Start now. There's no need to allow them to acclimate to the new smells and such. Doing so only makes the transition a two-part process.

Go ahead and feed the same food the previous owners fed them for the first week or two, but if it's not a great quality food, you might want to slowly transition to a mix of at least 2 quality kibbles once they're settled. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out how much to feed, but the goal is to provide them enough so that they eat almost all of it. They should be given fresh food and water daily.

Now, sexing and housing. It's very easy to sex hedgehogs. Look at their bellies. If they appear to have a belly button...well, that's not a belly button. It's a penis. If you have a male and female, it is absolutely imperative that you separate them immediately and prepare for hedgie babies. If you have two males, it is necessary you separate them before they decide they're going to fight and possibly kill each other. If you have two females, I would still separate them. In a few cases, two females can coexist somewhat peacefully in the same cage, but it's simply not in their nature to do so, and they will be happiest in their own space. In addition, housing them separately allows you to keep better records regarding their food and water intake, activity levels, etc and prevents one of them from hogging all the resources.

Here is a wonderful book on hedgehog care written by one of our forum members. It's free to browse and to download.

EDIT: Look at nikki & shinydistraction being quicker than me! I'll blame my 2-year-old and his cries of, "Hide! Hide! I a hedgehog!" from his play tent. It's distractingly cute.
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Old 07-05-2015, 08:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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THANK YOU THANK YOU! Your responses are great reassurances. I will separate them immediately.

The food they are on is "IAMS Kitten Food." I am not a fan of IAMS in the first place; it seems I read that Blue Diamond Kitten Food was a good choice. I will have to do some more research. There is quite a bit of the IAMS left.

One of the Hedgies looks small, and the other is rather large. I will post pictures later. And, the one that is larger is the younger one that is less tame. So I do wonder if she is eating most of the food. Separating them will prove useful on multiple fronts.

Yes, I am amazed that the mom didn't even do precursory research on these guys. She did go on and on about how I need to get the $3000 water osmosis system for them as they can't handle drinking regular filtered water (WTH?!?!??). People amaze me sometimes.

Thanks again. I feel confident I can get these little gals (or guys) more social - even if it takes a long while. And yes - I think I will do the t-shirt trick. I also read about cutting squares of fleece and sticking them under my clothes for a day and then giving them to hedgies...I read these can become like security blankets.
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Old 07-05-2015, 08:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsATeaches5th View Post
Thanks again. I feel confident I can get these little gals (or guys) more social - even if it takes a long while. And yes - I think I will do the t-shirt trick. I also read about cutting squares of fleece and sticking them under my clothes for a day and then giving them to hedgies...I read these can become like security blankets.
Yes! Everyone in our family (except the 2-year-old) sleeps with snuggle sacks, and we rotate them in and out of Fitzgerald's hutch. I often tuck a small piece of fleece into my clothes, and Fitzgerald drags it with him when "my" sack isn't the one available.
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Old 07-06-2015, 11:51 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Update:
So "Hermann" as she was previously named is now "Hedwig." And Hedwig is a LOVE! She is the more socialized hedgehog and we had a lovely evening of Hedwig running all over me and burrowing into my shirt. She is super relaxed and easy to handle. I was able to tell her gender quite easily.

The other hedgehog, who's previous name was Hazel but I'm still thinking on that - and I'd like to find out the gender before sticking with a name - Hazel is not uncurling. However, I let her puff at me and I picked her up anyway, using some fleece. I had her out on my lap for quite a while last night and just talked to her. I will keep doing the same.

I've got my fleece bits tucked into my knickers today and I can't wait to get home to check on them! Thanks for all the encourage,ent! Oh - and yes - they are in separate cages now
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Old 07-06-2015, 12:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Old 07-06-2015, 03:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsATeaches5th View Post
Update:
So "Hermann" as she was previously named is now "Hedwig." And Hedwig is a LOVE! She is the more socialized hedgehog and we had a lovely evening of Hedwig running all over me and burrowing into my shirt. She is super relaxed and easy to handle. I was able to tell her gender quite easily.

The other hedgehog, who's previous name was Hazel but I'm still thinking on that - and I'd like to find out the gender before sticking with a name - Hazel is not uncurling. However, I let her puff at me and I picked her up anyway, using some fleece. I had her out on my lap for quite a while last night and just talked to her. I will keep doing the same.

I've got my fleece bits tucked into my knickers today and I can't wait to get home to check on them! Thanks for all the encourage,ent! Oh - and yes - they are in separate cages now
Oh, yay! It sounds like it's going amazingly well! Keep us posted!
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Old 07-07-2015, 11:47 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Our 2nd night of cuddle time went even better with both! I worked with "Hazel" first (still unsure of gender/name). So - I picked her up with several layers of uhaul liners cut into rectangles (I use the uhaul liners under my fleece for my guinea pigs). Anyway - She puffed and curled but after she woke up and poo'd on me - we became friends! She was crawling all over me, letting me hold her, letting me PET her...I felt like a CHAMPION! What an accomplishment! After about 45 minutes of play time, tornado sirens started going off so she went into a cage quick and we all headed to the basement. Kinda scary!

I got Hedwig out later and we played for about an hour. Well - she played for about 20 minutes and then crashed and slept in my lap.

I am in LOVE with this little creatures and I can't believe I went 41 years before having them in my life!!!
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