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Old 07-05-2016, 05:31 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Unhappy Aggressive Hedgehog

Hello, I'm a new hedgehog owner and bought my hedgehog a week ago. The girl I bought it from bought it from a breeder and then had it for a year- but admitted to neglecting him a bit after a couple months... so he's not had much interaction with people since he was a baby.

Whenever I move, even if I move very slowly or make even the slightest amount of noise, my hedgehog will curl up, huff, hiss, click and jump. He will then remain like this and just tremble. I try not to pick him up when he's like this and wait for him to calm down, I also try to avoid giving him treats as I don't want to encourage the behaviour- but giving him mealworms seems to be the closest thing to achieving a relatively calm hegie.

It's really discouraging, I talk to him and have been getting him out for at least an hour a day and I feel like I'm not getting anywhere? I started out handling him with gloves because there was no other way to pick him up. I managed to hold him on my hands for a little while a few days ago but he just kept trying to climb off and eventually curled into a ball again and pricked my hands.

I'm worried that as he's a year old and had little handling, that it will be impossible to tame him has anyone got any tips for me?
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Old 07-05-2016, 05:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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First off, that's not aggression, it's defense. An aggressive hedgehog would be chasing you around biting your ankles and toes, which I think would actually be hilarious .

So, since it's defense, we need to look at the behaviour a bit differently. Bribery is fine! If he likes mealworms and he'll calm down to eat them, offer him one every so often during your handling sessions. That way he'll learn when he hangs out with you, mealworms happen! I don't know about you, but random snacks make me happy when I'm nervous.

Huffing, balling, clicking, jumping, and trembling are all fear responses. He's trying to look as threatening and dangerous as possible. The short answer is don't do what he wants. If he wants you to go away, pick him up. If he throws a huff fit while he's out with you, toss him some mealies or wait it out. Don't give up, don't put him down, don't avoid him. If you do that it's telling him "okay when I act like a scary ball of death I get left alone! I should act like a scary ball of death more often!" If you pick him up even when he's spikey, he'll eventually mellow out a little or stop overacting completely. My hedgie still argues a bit when I first reach in to get him but once he's out he's fine. Progress varies depending on each individual hedgehog, but you should definitely be able to convince your new boy to chill out a bit.

Hopefully you follow my logic so far. If anything is confusing or you have more questions, don't hesitate to post again!

So what do you do about it? Like I mentioned, treats are good. Bugs, fruit, wet cat food, there's a pretty good variety of treats you can bribe them with to get them to feel a bit more secure with you. Make sure you only offer small portions so his tummy doesn't get upset, but you'll soon learn what works as a treat and what he doesn't even recognise as food. I'll add some links to the bottom of this post for things to try. Oh, and watch your fingers. Those little teeth are sharp and hog noses can smell mealworm juice a mile away.

Next, toss the gloves. You want him to get used to your smell, so that when you pick him up it smells like you, and you remind him of safety. Sleep in a t-shirt for a few nights or cuddle a fleece blanket or snuggle sack for a few nights, and then toss that in the cage for him to sleep with. He'll hide in it and be alone and safe and peaceful, but it will smell like you. And then when you pick him up, use that t-shirt, or fleece, to do it. That way he can smell you and get used to your hands a little bit more. He'll likely still poke you a bit through the fabric but it's better than nothing. I find a scooping-from-underneath motion works better than a grabbing motion for not getting poked. That way he'll kind of roll or flump into the t-shirt. If you're really lucky he'll be sleeping in it when you go to pick him up.

Next, keep handling him every single day, and keep talking softly to him. If you want to tame an exotic pet, which is still a lot like a wild animal, you need to be persistent and consistent. At least 30 minutes a day of him being out on your lap in a snuggle sack or tucked in your hoodie pocket while you watch TV or use the computer is great. Mine plays video games with me. Once he gets more used to you he may start trying to explore around on you a bit, or he may stay a cuddler. Hedgies are usually one or the other.

And just a reminder: hedgehogs are nocturnal (or crepuscular, I suppose) so he'll be happiest to explore with you during his natural waking hours. Say you turn his light on at 9am and off at 9pm. Try letting him eat, poop, and play a bit, and then pick him up at around 10-11pm to cuddle. Try to do a 12 hour light/12 hour dark cycle to mimic what he's used to and that will make him the happiest a shy hedgehog can be.

Here's some information for you to peruse while you and your new boy get settled in (I've started with the treat list):
https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...s-veggies.html
https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...ds-treats.html
https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...e-insects.html
https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...ectations.html

Hopefully that helps a bit, and if you have any more questions, do ask! Welcome to hedgie parenthood, and thank you for giving an older, grumpy ball of quills a chance! I'm sure he won't disappoint you.
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Old 07-05-2016, 08:12 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you for your really in depth reply I was half expecting people to tell me that I'm an idiot and shouldn't own a hedgehog. I understand they take patience, but it's just so disheartening when all you want to do is make them understand you're not going to hurt them.

Admittedly, I was putting him down when he was hissing at me- not immediately mind you, but eventually I would just think 'okay he really doesn't want me touching him so I'll put him down' so I'll keep in mind to try and handle him longer when he's being a fusspot and bribe him with some treats. I did give him some cooked chicken before but he chewed it up and spat it on his back; I have read on this self-anointing, though I don't really understand it... but now I don't know whether or not to give him chicken again XD

I did try playing video games with him in my lap, but even just sitting on my lap he just huffs and puffs away and any slight movement I make, he jumps and pricks up my legs. Without being crude- I had a nightmare trying to get him away from my groin when I last put him on my lap. He decided that was the cosiest place for him to try and nestle and any attempt I made at trying to move him away was not surprisingly painful. Perhaps this wasn't my smartest idea to not use a blanket...

Sir Wigglemunch (yes that is what I've named him and probably why he hates me XD) seems to be a bit of an explorer, he'd rather be anywhere that's not near me... I prefer to have him on my bed because I know that's where most of my sent would be, but he looks just about ready to go bungee jumping off the edge. Floor space in my room isn't fantastic, there's so many nooks and crannies leading to places he could get lost / stuck and blocking them off only seems to entice him to wander there more. I was told to get a playpen, but this almost seems to defeat the idea of letting him explore freely?

In terms of trying to handle, it's almost impossible to pick him up when he spikes into a ball- his quills are very sharp and even trying to scoop him from underneath has resulted in me having a bunch of prickly marks on my palms- but if using a blanket is still better than gloves, then away the gloves go.

Time wise; getting him out is a tricky one for me. I felt it was perfect that I work in the day and come home in the late afternoon 5ish because I knew the hedgie would be sleeping. I hoped that this would mean I could get him out around 9ish... but he doesn't get his sleepy butt out of bed until after midnight so I'm worried about disturbing him and making him even grumpier with me.

Thanks for all the links and things, the behaviour expectations was particularly helpful I mean I knew he wasn't going to be the type of pet that would run up and love me and that I'd make a hedgehog version of Disney's ratatouille with... but at the same time, I didn't know how disheartening it was going to be when you feel as though you're not making any progress regardless of what you try.
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Old 07-05-2016, 10:22 AM   #4 (permalink)
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It can be disheartening when they don't understand we aren't out to hurt them, but this is generations upon generations of survival. If they would be passive when a predator is near them, they wouldn't survive long as a species.

Yes the chicken thing was self anointing... Nothing wrong with it. Laugh at it, because it's funny. It doesn't even mean that he doesn't like chicken.

Hedgehog in the crotch is less than comfortable especially while you are getting used to the quills on your hands. Cover your crotch with a small blanket. Let him hang out on top of the blanket. If you need to move him, you can do so with the blanket that he is on. The blanket will also give you an extra buffer.

Explorers can be a lot of fun. Best way to deal with them and get them used to us is a playpen, or section off a hedgehog proof area and hang out in there with them. The goal is to basically become a jungle gym. Letting them explore freely can be difficult. They get into things, out of their area, difficult to keep heated, and you eventually have to pick them up again. For a new owner I wouldn't recommend letting them free roam unless it's a small room like a walk in closet or smaller bathroom.

Picking him up, gloves got to go. Blankets work. So does using their bedding. Scoop him up with some bedding. You get used to the quills, trust me. Also, you have to commit to picking him up when you are going to do so. No hesitation or reacting. Yes, easier said than done, but that in itself makes a big difference. Do some breathing exercises, remember quills are only modified hair and don't hurt that bad and pick him up with calm confidence. One thing that might help you both is when he's out, stick your bare hand on his back. Let him jump, pop or whatever he feels he needs to do. You aren't trying to hold him down, you are just lightly resting your hand there. This will let you get used to his quills and him to understand that he doesn't intimidate you.

Time, it's perfectly fine to wake him up in the evening. You don't have to wait for him to wake up on his own.
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Old 07-05-2016, 01:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Just to add on my hedgehog was 2 years old when I got him and like your hedgie he was rarely handled. I've had him for around 3 weeks now and just handling a bit everyday I can see improvement! He's calmer now and uncurls more (he still huffs and puffs to sudden movements and sounds, but that's just being a hedgehog). I hope you end up seeing improvement!! Don't give up and keep pushing. Like it's been mentioned don't give in to their silliness
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Old 07-05-2016, 10:28 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FinnickHog View Post

Next, toss the gloves. You want him to get used to your smell, so that when you pick him up it smells like you, and you remind him of safety. Sleep in a t-shirt for a few nights or cuddle a fleece blanket or snuggle sack for a few nights, and then toss that in the cage for him to sleep with. He'll hide in it and be alone and safe and peaceful, but it will smell like you. And then when you pick him up, use that t-shirt, or fleece, to do it. That way he can smell you and get used to your hands a little bit more. He'll likely still poke you a bit through the fabric but it's better than nothing. I find a scooping-from-underneath motion works better than a grabbing motion for not getting poked. That way he'll kind of roll or flump into the t-shirt. If you're really lucky he'll be sleeping in it when you go to pick him up.
Quillicus does not like to be picked up, he always balls up when I try. I just cant pick him up bare handed I use T-shirts i wear other wise i just can not do it. for some reason his quills are just really really really really needle like pointy, I had the pleasure of handling other hedgehogs but none of them (old or young) have quills like mine they just go right through your skin. For this reason the old owners (hes a rescued) were not able to handle him much at all. Good thing though he relaxes quickly (give it 5 seconds) and start exploring when i have him on me. he still doesnt really like to be petted unless hes distracted by smells or treats.
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Last edited by OzzyA; 07-05-2016 at 10:31 PM. Reason: my grammar isnt the best
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