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Old 01-25-2015, 02:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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SimontheHedgie's Avatar
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Location: Everett, WA
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Unhappy Help!!New Owner of Aggressive Hedgie!

I am a completely new hedgehog owner and I feel like I am in over my head!

A friend of mine gave me a hedgehog (Simon) for my 21st birthday about 4 months ago. The previous owner of the hedgehog did not give her a lot of information and told her that he was around 1 year old.

For the first week I left Simon mostly alone so that he could get acquainted with his new home. I was able to take him out and play with him a little for the first couple weeks. I noticed that his paws were getting dirty so I tried to give him a bath - and he HATED the water. He began aggressively biting every time I went to hold him and has continued to aggressively bite since then. I have started to use gloves in order to work with him but his bites still draw blood through the gloves sometimes. I took him to the vet to have his nails clipped because I was completely unable to do it and he even bit the vet multiple times.

This last month I went away on a trip to study Music in Germany. I left Simon with a good friend of mine who continued to try to work with him (with gloves on). She had little to no success in calming him down enough to work with him much.

Now here is where it gets weird:

I returned about a week ago and have been waking up in the middle of the night because Simon is making the most awful noises. He screams like a pterodactyl!! And the weirdest part is that he is perfectly fine when he screams. He (seemingly) happily runs on his wheel for a bit and then stops and screams for a couple seconds and then returns to running. It doesn't make any sense.

He has a decent sized cage - a clean environment (I clean his wheel every day) - a rock for him to sleep under - and I feed him meal worms and high protein dog food. I have had him for about 4 months now and I feel like nothing I do makes things better and no matter how much research I do I can't figure out his screaming or how to cure his biting habit.

Emily Johnston
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Old 01-25-2015, 03:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm new too but I'm thinking he mainly needs to bond. Put a t-shirt you've worn into his sleeping area. Take him out into a snuggle sack (use it to pick him up rather than gloves since they have NO familiar scent at all) and let him lay on your lap or even beside you while you're watching TV or something.

Do you have a thermometer in his cage? And what was the temp of the water you tried to bathe him in? I run about an inch of warm water into a large Tupperware container and just let my hedgie walk around in it...seems to clean the poopy feet without making him feel frightened?

I have no idea about the screaming but I do know slightest things like temp or night lights left on change my hedgies patterns but I've never heard him "scream." Someone with way more knowledge here will help you more!
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Old 01-25-2015, 03:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Ok, for starters, lose the gloves. They're masking your scent. If you need something to protect your hands while handling him, use a fleece blanket. Next of all you need him to associate your scent with good things. Find a tshirt you don't care about and sleep in it for a couple of days. Don't wash it and put it in his cage where he sleeps. He'll start associating your smell with safety.

Next you'll need to figure out how to bond with him. Is he an explorer hedgehog or a cuddler? If he's an explorer, set up a large play pen or hedgie proof a room so you can sit with him and let him explore. He'll run around you, and maybe even climb on you. If he's a cuddler, get a fleece blanket, put it on your lap, plop hedgie down on your lap and cover him. He'll feel protected under the blanket and relax. He may even sleep. During this time he'll be getting used to your sounds and smells. Meanwhile you can watch tv, play on your computer, read, whatever. Over time he'll decide that you're not likely to eat him and be calmer when he's out.

Now, for the biting. I have a biter. It's not fun. The simplest thing to do is to not give him the opportunity to bite. Keep skin away from his face. Use a fleece blanket for handling. This should break the cycle of biting. Another thing you can do that some people have had really good success with is watch his body language very closely. Learn what it is that he does right before a bite. If you can recognize the body language, you can then substitute fleece in for your hand. It can become a game at that point. Some hedgies really like to tug on cloth. Either way, the most important thing you can do is NEVER put him back in his cage right after a bite. He'll associate the behavior with getting what he wants, which is you leaving him alone. Keep him out for a minimum of 10 minutes after a bite so he doesn't think he gets to go home because of that. Also, I know it's hard, but if he does bite you, do your best not to react. Scream if you have to, but don't jerk your hand away. If you pull away he's just going to clamp down harder. That will wind up hurting you more, and potentially hurting him. Hold still, he'll let go after a bit.

The screaming thing I have no idea. I know some hedgehogs can be very vocal. Maybe he's pretending to be a a big ferocious beast?
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Old 01-25-2015, 11:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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How ofen/long do you bond with him? Part of the problem may be that you aren't spending enough time with him. It sounds like you didn't bond much for the first couple weeks and then left on a long trip. Even from the start he needed to be held every day. Letting him adjust to a new home for one day is okay, but beyond that it becomes VERY important that he gets accustomed to you with the new home. Hedgehogs, especially those new to a home and ESPECIALLY ones not used to being held, need LOTS of bonding-- every day, for a couple hours a day. The more time the better. Missing ONE NIGHT can be detrimental to any little bit of progress made at this stage.

And, as said above, gloves are adding to this problem because your hedgehog is not learning to recognize you, only that this big scary unknown thing is grabbing it.
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Old 01-26-2015, 10:19 AM   #5 (permalink)
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There is no such thing as an aggressive hedgehog. They are scared. How would you feel if a giant was trying to pick you up and put their hands- which are the size of your body- all around you?
Bond with him for at least an hour a night. I know it is tough to do every night, but it must be done!
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:16 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I've never heard of someone feeding their hedgehog dog food even it is high quality. Though I doubt this has anything to do with his biting and such, I would start using a high quality cat food with over 30% protein and under 15% fat. That's a really broad area but there's more specifics on other sections of the form. Of course if the dog food still meets the major requirements I am sure it is fine.
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:33 PM   #7 (permalink)
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There's a few people that are using dog food because it's easier to find one that meets the requirements for some people.
I'll be using dog food when I get mine. Mostly because my dogs just happen to be eating the same exact food that I need for my hedgie.

As for the biting...I'd have to agree with the above comments. Most animals don't like being handled with gloves anyway for the same reason.
Hedgies are very small creatures and we have to do everything we can to keep them at ease if we want to keep them as pets.
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Old 03-13-2015, 12:27 PM   #8 (permalink)
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You said the food is high protein right? How is his peeing? I have read here that high protein food can lead to kidney issues for hedgies, and hedgies often use the bathroom on the wheel. Is it possible he is having a peeing/kidney issue? I am a brand new owner of a hedgie too so I don't know if this is the case but I think most people here have said that hedgehogs usually scream when in pain.
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