Considering getting a hedgehog
Hello! I have done some research on hedgehogs and I'm thinking about getting one (it would be my first). I have a few questions about them though.
1. I've heard that they can be shy and take time to bond with you, but once they are used to you what do they do? how do they spend time with you or play with you?
2. I know they are nocturnal. Can you change their sleeping schedule so they are awake during the day? if not, how late do you have to stay up to play with them and will they be grumpy if you wake them up during the day to play?
3. Do they smell bad even if you clean them and their cages frequently?
If anyone has an answer to one or more of my questions I would greatly appreciate it because I don't want to get a hedgehog without fully knowing what to expect. Thanks!
Re: Considering getting a hedgehog
This should be answered as a survey-type, since everyone and every hedgie is different!
Yes, they are very shy at first, and it can take real patience to get them used to you. but it is totally possible and the first time they "chirp" or purr in your hands, it's so heart-warming :) Some are really playful and will crawl all over you and explore and put their nose in everything. others will want to curl up on your lap or in your neck to snuggle. My Fiona (my 1st and only hedgie) will do both, depending on the time and her mood. I have a little "snuggle-sack" that she likes to sleep in while I read or watch tv or something for a while
Yes, they are nocturnal, I have never heard of anyone switching their schedule, but it's probably best to leave it. Fiona, however, has her lights turned off a little later than what I've seen most people, being that she is in my bedroom and my lights don't go off too early. But she still has plenty of play time at night in her wheel. You can take them out during the day and play. They might be grumpy the first few minutes, but they ease. Personally, Fiona will be hyper and running all over around noon, but sleepy and cuddly later on in the day/evening (such as right before I shut the lights). A little counter-intuitive, but shes just weird :P
And no, they really don't smell at all. Of course, her cage should be poop-scooped frequently (like when you see it, often when you wake up). If you have a sterilite bin/aquarium tank (less air flow) the pee may smell more than a wire cage. But generally, they do not smell so long as you keep up the hygiene.
If I could offer ONE piece of advice, make sure you have an exotic vet near by and can afford what can be a very costly visit. I learned the hard way, but was lucky enough to scrounge up some money for a pricey surgery. Between high quality cat food, toys, fleece, and tons of other adorable things you'll see and want, it can add up!
Re: Considering getting a hedgehog
Here is my experience (hopefully others share as well!)...
1. Our little Henry is a lot of fun once he warmed up to us. He likes to explore the room or anything we give him to climb around. It's not like a dog that will respond to you calling their name but I find him fun to watch. From everything I've read they all have very different personalities so its hard to know what you will be dealing with. It took not even a week for Henry to warm up to us but I know some are more difficult then others. When we got Henry we held a few other hedgies to make sure we were getting what we felt was the friendliest of the bunch.
2. I don't think it would be wise to try and change their sleeping schedule but others may disagree. There is a lot of natural light in the room where Henry's cage is so I can't imagine how we could get him to adjust any differently. Again they are all different but Henry wakes up every night around 1am and usually is awake until 8am. We wake him up and take him out to socialize with us every night around 9pm. He is usually a little agitated at first but always calms down quickly. We give him a foot bath, clean his wheel, replace food and water and spot clean the cage every night once we take him out. Henry usually stays awake for an hour or two and then falls asleep in my lap. I let him sleep for a bit and then put him back in his cage. He then goes back sleep and like I mentioned I always hear him awake and running is his wheel right at 1am. As far as worrying if they will be grumpy it's best to not give him his way so he doesn't learn that huffing will result in leaving him alone. Even though Henry always huffs a bit I like to believe he is learning I'm going to take him out anyways!
3. We have not noticed any smell whatsoever. Bedding does not need to be replaced daily and you can definitely remove and spot check the cage as needed. Every morning when I wake up I always clean the loose poops from under his wheel just because I feel there is no need for it to set into the fleece all day (and Henry is sound asleep and doesn't seem to notice I'm even near his cage anyway).
I didn't know much about hedgies before we got Henry so I had a lot of learning to do once we got him. I have had lots of experiences with pets in the past and I have to say my boyfriend and I already have such a special bond with our hedgie. I'm sure a grumpy one may be more difficult but getting Henry has been a blast.
This is all just personal experience so I hope you get other feedback on here...best of luck with your decision!
Re: Considering getting a hedgehog
1. It depends largely on the hedgehog. Many just take time and patience to warm up to you, then do better. Some are friendly almost right off the bat and you don't have a lot of trouble with them. And some never get completely comfortable with humans and may remain pretty huffy no matter how much time you spend with them. It's a good idea to think about whether you'd be okay with a hedgie that doesn't really liked to be pet or handled, since many are just explorer-types that don't want to be held. They want to be down on the floor to run around and explore. It just depends on the type and personality. It'd be a good idea to go to a hedgehog breeder nearby you and meet some of their hedgehogs. You can also meet their babies beforehand, or if they are a rescuer as well, some breeders have older hedgehogs that have a more stable personality (since babies can sometimes have a personality change after going through quilling) and you can be slightly more assured of getting a cuddly hedgie. Most hedgehogs will be a bit more shy when they come home though - new surroundings, new smells, everything's unfamiliar, etc.
2. No, you shouldn't change their sleeping schedule. It's very stressful and harmful to their health. They're nocturnal and they should remain that way unless their habits change by their choice - some hedgehogs will take to getting up mid-day for a snack or quick spin on the wheel, but it's not terribly common. Most people get their hedgehogs out in the evening/night. I'd say the earliest you want to try getting them out for actual play time is 6-7 pm. Even then, they may very well just want to sleep. You can get them out any time as long as you let them sleep during the day. If they're too bothered by daytime snuggles and don't seem comfortable sleeping on you then, it's probably best to let them sleep in peace in their cage. You do need to let them sleep during the day though - as I said, it's not good to force them to stay awake during their natural sleeping time. It'd be like someone dragging you out of your bed at 3 or 4 am and trying to get you to play soccer. You'd probably want to punch them in the face!
3. Babies often have stronger smelling pee and poop, but no, usually the smell isn't terrible if you keep up with cleaning. Wheels usually need to be cleaned daily (they poop as they run), your hedgehog may need a foot bath (poopy feet from running through it on their wheel) every morning or every other, and you'll want to change the bedding at least once a week. If you use liners (highly recommended), you may need to change them more than that, 2-3 times a week. You can usually pick up poops daily, if they dry whole on the fleece. If the urine smell gets strong though, it's best to just change the liner more often. Usually their poop and pee gets less smelly as they get older. You can also get an air purifier or use a box of baking soda near the cage to help with the smell.
I also highly suggest you read this care book - http://www.westcoasthedgehogs.com/files ... index.html It's written by LizardGirl, one of the moderators on here, and has a ton of great information for prospective, new, and old owners. It's free to download, so I'd definitely do so and read it over to get a better idea of what owning a hedgehog entails. And kudos to you for doing some research first! :-)
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