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Old 05-27-2020, 02:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Bonding with defensive rescue hog

I think I mostly just need some encouragement here, but also advice if anyone has any!

I adopted Harvey five weeks ago. He's just over a year old. His previous owner didn't have much time to spend with him and saw that he was getting "grouchy" so decided to re-home him.

I am so delighted to have a hedgehog again; I had one once before but she passed quite a few years ago. I had fun doing some nesting with Harvey: got him a new cage, better food (which we've been slowly transitioning to; it's going well), a heating lamp, and sewed him a number of new fleece blankets with little pockets.

He was really defensive when I first brought him home. Totally understandable. Since then we've made a schedule of sitting together every night starting at 9pm. He's gotten a tiny bit better with me, but not much. He'll uncurl and relax in my lap as long as he's covered up with a blanket, but it takes a while. And even then he'll jump and huff at slight movements. I've only gotten him to run around or explore a handful of times, and it only lasts a few minutes before he seems to "max out" and just curls up in a ball. I offer mealworms when he's out, but he's sometimes too busy hiding his face to notice them.

I do notice he perks up a tiny bit around midnight or 12:30, but it'd be nice if it could be just a little earlier..! And even at that time, he will curl up and huff at the slightest sound or at being approached or touched.

He eats well, drinks water, and runs on his wheel at night, so I think he's healthy, just really uncomfortable with people and tends to feel vulnerable very easily. I'm pretty comfortable handling him, even barehanded when he's spiky, so I hope the direct contact helps give him maximum exposure to my scent and etc. I'm also careful to never put him back when he's still huffing and puffing. I manage to get him to relax, even just a tiny bit, before he goes back in the cage. He always has a shirt of mine in his cage and usually sleeps under it, but I don't know if that's helping. I do swap it out regularly so it always has my (I'm sure delightful) smell on it.

I think I was spoiled because my previous hedgie was adopted in a very similar situation (one year old, very poorly socialized) but after a few weeks of careful bonding she noticeably opened up and eventually blossomed into an extremely active, extremely social girl. She loved exploring, loved people, and hardly ever shied away from being handled (unless she was being woken up). Maybe her personality was more unusual than I realized at the time.

Of course I am devoted to Harvey even if he always remains a reclusive guy, but I want to know that he's happy. If he seems always afraid then I can't help but feel bad, like I'm just making it hard on him by pushing my attentions.

Reading past threads here, it sounds like maybe this bonding timeline is not so unusual and I should continue being patient! So words of encouragement would be really lovely, and absolutely any advice if you have it!! Thank you so much.
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Old 05-31-2020, 07:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Sorry, it looks like your post got kissed!
Its been 5 days, how is he doing with bonding now?

Most hogs take a few months, especially ones who are socialised. Some though are like your first one, its not very common haha.

I hope you've kept going even though you got no advice.
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Old 06-22-2020, 12:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you for the reply, Ria! I know my question is probably a common one, so it's ok. I've been looking up lots of advice and resources elsewhere too.

He's doing better bit by bit, but it's definitely a slow process, and I think he'll always be shy. But the good thing is that even when he's not opening up, holding him directly in my hands causes him to calm down and gradually uncurl. After that, he'll often be up for exploring for a little while. And usually the same result if I put him directly on my lap without using a blanket. So I'm pleased that my scent seems to be relaxing for him.

He also really likes going outside, and that's a quick way to get him running around. But it's still chilly at night here, so I don't like to let him do it for too long.

My main hope now is that he can eventually start to relax even if I'm not holding him, and that he'll start to be less easily startled. Even at his most bold, he's still alarmed by small sounds and movements. He still tends to be VERY loud and aggressive in his huffing and puffing before he calms down, which I also wasn't used to. My previous hedgie just wasn't so loud about it so I was worried he was REALLY upset. But I think it's just his peculiar habit, so whether it changes or stays the same I'm not going to worry too much.

Also, I suspect he might have mites as he's losing quills and I don't think I can attribute it to stress anymore. We're going to the vet on Wednesday. If he does have mites and we can get rid of them, maybe he'll be in a better mood!

Last edited by mikiki; 06-22-2020 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 06-22-2020, 02:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Definitely sounds like your scent is helping him to relax!
You could try talking to him get him used to your voice, then he may relax to your voice too (Holly does)

I also find that a radio on in the room throughout the day helps them get used to noises. Not too loudly but not super quite either.

Some hogs are just louder with their huffing than others, I don't think how loud they do it matters I think its more to do with how long they do it for.

A vet will be good to have a check for mites - some quill around 1 years old though. So that is still possible!
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