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Old 08-22-2008, 09:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Behaviour expectations

I can't help but to post this as it seems we have a lot of new owners recently. People who are interpreting their hedgehog's behavior as hatred for the owner, when it is actually just how hedgehogs are.

This post is more a posting for people reading who are considering getting a hedgehog. And for those who just got a hedgehog and may have the wrong expectation of what interaction with a hedgehog can be like. I don't mean to offend anyone. I've been around for years and hedgehogs have become a "fad" pet many times since then. And it always seems that when they become more popular there is always a flood of folks who get one and have either read posts about an extremely friendly and affectionate hedgehog and get the wrong expectation of what a typical hedgehog can be like.

There have been a few lately that think their hedgehog hates them because it always snuffles and raises its quills when picked up, runs and hides when the lights turn on, or runs away when the owner is trying to hold it. To be honest, I see nothing wrong with any of these behaviors. To me this is what a normal hedgehog does. Hedgehogs are naturally timid/shy/defensive animals and these behaviors are from that. If your hedgehog is new to you, then they may change. With enough time to build a bond of trust, your hedgehog may not do these behaviors anymore.

You really have to get to know your hedgehog, build a bond and treat them as they want to be treated. And don't think that bond forms in a week or two. For some it takes months. I've seem people report a YEAR after they got a hedgehog that that bond of trust has finally formed (I actually had one that took that long). Some may disagree but it's been my experience that many hedgehogs are not what most people consider affectionate. If you are expecting a hedgehog to want to spend time with you like a dog or cat, or even seem happy you are there (like a guinea pig who weeks when you walk up to its cage), then you have expectations that I honestly don't think are reasonable for a hedgehog. Some are oddly affectionate, but most really do what they want to do and if you fit into that plan, great! If not, you may find yourself sorely disappointed.

Don't get me wrong. I love hedgehogs and cannot imagine my life with out them. No two hedgehogs I have had have ever been completely alike. And no two I've met or handled have wanted to be handled the same way. Each had to be interacted with differently. I've had loving and oddly affectionate ones. And I've had the occasional, leave me alone I'm busy, types. You learn what they like and don't like and interact accordingly.

If you try to pet a hedgehog and it gets upset when you try to stroke its quills, don't pet it. Some hate to have their quills stroked. But may not mind having a smaller area rubbed (like along the skirt of their quills or behind their ears).

Some hate to be touched at all, but are fine if allowed to explore on you or near you. I've had some that I blocked off a small area, threw a blanket down, some toys and a wheel and laid in the middle while the hedgehog explored. Given enough time, each of the hedgehogs that liked this interaction would end up snuggled next to me when they were done playing.

Some hate bright lights. Sitting in a very dimly lit room sometimes helps.

Some hate to feel exposed, sitting with a towel or blanket on your lap so they can hide can help.

Some are just so busy exploring their environment that they couldn't be bothered with showing you affection.

Just to give you an example of a hedgehog one might consider to hate people. Riley was an extremely defensive hedgehog. He would snuffle, click, pop and actually purred (or should I say growled) when you did something he didn't like. Which sometimes that just included picking him up. His head quills were often over his eyes. The fur on his face was never smooth because his head quills were up so often. But, if you sat still with him he was fine and would come out to explore. He was very defensive to any type of movement though and would quickly raise his quills if you moved. However he was also extremely loving and oddly affectionate for a hedgehog. He would run up to my shoulder and snuggle up on my neck. He would sit in his cage and stare at me waiting for me to put my hand in (so he could crawl in to get out). Keep in mind that if you tried to take him out when he didn't want to go, you were picking up a clicking quill ball. I thought I would share Riley's story since to me he is a good example of a hedgehog who can be extremely defensive, but yet very affectionate if interacted with correctly.

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Old 08-28-2008, 08:47 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

I think it's great you posted this for perspective owners to read. I too, feel many people expect too much from their hedgehogs, and are sorely disappointed.

Good Post.
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Old 08-29-2008, 07:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

I too think many people have unrealistic expectations of hedgehogs and how they will interact with us. Many people seem to get the impression they are little tiny cats and dogs with quills rather than fur. These ideas mean that many hedgehogs end up being re-homed for behaviour issues when they are doing nothing other than being a hedgehog.

Many hedgehogs, even those that never huff or raise a quill will not interact with us like a cat or dog. Rarely do they come when called or come out to great us when walking by their cage. A few do, but those are few and far between.

Sometimes people want a hedgehog that will cuddle but if a hedgehog does not want to cuddle it will not cuddle. Hedgehogs usually do not conform to us, we conform to them.

Many people seem to think when a hedgehog is shy, usually the term they use is grumpy, they think the hedgehog has not been handled as a baby and that is why it is the way it is. This simply is not always true. Hedgehogs are born shy just the same as humans and with all the handling in the world some hedgehogs will still react to sudden movements and sounds. It is their personality the same as a shy human is not going to be comfortable getting up in front of a bunch of strangers and give a speech.

Often when someone brings home a new baby they are disappointed because the baby that was outgoing and friendly at the breeders is a ball of quills at home. This is totally normal as that baby has left everything that was familiar to him. This is a scarey time for them and they need quiet gentle handling to get accustomed to their new home. Some will be comfortable in hours, some days, and some months.

We have had a wide variety of hedgehogs here from petstores, other breeders, our babies, rescues and rehomes and with probably 100+ hedgehogs there is only one that I could say hated us and I'm not sure she hated us so much as hated human contact. She wanted no interaction with us what so ever and when we had to pick her up to clean her cage, she would retaliate by trying her best to bite. She was a sweetheart as a baby but quilled into a girl who wanted nothing to do with anyone.
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Old 08-29-2008, 08:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

As a newbie to hedige owning the one thing I felt that helped was research and lots of it before I got Ruby. I read up on this site and others and it gave me an insight into what a hedige is like and after I got Ruby this site kept me going knowing that i had to take babysteps to get Ruby's trust and that she didnt hate me.

Its taken until today to see how that has payed off, and that has been since June 7th. We are still away to go before she wil snuggle but I feel anyone new to hedgehog ownership should remember little steps, these hedgies are only a few generations from being wild animals and are still nervous and somewhat skittish, so take it slowly and remember its a marathon not a sprint
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

All my hedgehogs I owned were very timid and shy. Some grew out of it others did not.
Hedgehogs are natrually very scared and always ready to be 'on guard.' I think this should be stated and known before deciding to get one!
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Old 08-30-2008, 09:50 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

This is a great post and definitely a must read for new hedgehog owners. I'm a new hedgehog owner myself and my girl is still adjusting after being with me for 2 months. All it takes is patience and they will come around.
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Old 08-30-2008, 02:11 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

Great post as mentioned.

Pokey hates to have his quills petted at certain times, while other times he just loves it. He does have spots he never likes touched, and others where you can pet anytime you want. You just have to get to know your own hedgie.

I always get huffed at when I first get him out and he balls up. You can't let that deter you. Pokey goes defensive first and THEN finds out who it is. As soon as he sniffs me he comes right on out and as long as no sudden movements are made stays out.

When they try to run, let them. Pokey often times will run around (often times on me) and as soon as some energy gets used up he comes right up, sprawls out, and takes a nap on my chest or snuggled right up next to me.

As a new owner just get to know your own hedgie and it should all turn out great.
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Old 08-30-2008, 04:25 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

The point trying to be made here is that not all hedgehogs will come around regardless of how much patience the owner has or how much attention and handling they receive. Some will never want to be handled, touched and some not even looked at. With time and patience most will come around but not all.
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Old 08-31-2008, 02:11 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

i have also noticed that a lot of people have some very unrealistic expectations of hedgehogs. they expect that their hedgies will fall asleep on them and snuggle with them and that often is not the case. i have had momo over a year now, she is a lovely sweet natured little girl who seems very happy in my company but even she will not fall asleep on me and can get angry if i try to touch anywhere near her face, i can play with her quill as much as i like but as soon as i get too close to her face the quills come out with avengenge. i think for anyone thinking of getting a hedgie they have to be prepared for any type of personality and not expect too much especially not too fast!
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Old 09-01-2008, 03:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Behaviour expectations

I'm naturally an inpatient person so when at first dodger wasn't fond of being held i would get upset and put him down.. Now i realize he is good for me we're teaching each other patience and starting to bond. :P
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isn't he so cute when he wakes up?
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