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Old 04-11-2014, 08:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Angry Hissing / Biting Monster

This is my first post on this forums so I apologize if this topic has been discussed millions of times over and if you know of some great threads feel free to link them in your posts.

I have had experience with hedgehogs (and many other exotic pets) throughout my lifetime. I've had tarantulas, scorpions, short tailed opossums, chameleons, bearded dragons, snakes, birds, and all sorts of stuff. I've been bitten by tarantulas, stung by scorpions, had my finger torn by a plumed basilisk and roughed up by all sorts of critters. That being said this thing is really trying my patience and has one of the worst temperaments I've ever dealt with. Me and my girlfriend wanted to adopt a hedgehog and we got lucky and found one on Craigslist. The transaction went smoothly, I was out of town so a friend of mine picked her up and brought her over a few hours later. First day is stressful I get it, thing hisses and puffs at even the gentlest sound or movement. Makes sense, it's a hedgehog and that's what hedgehogs do. I've had two other hedgehogs, the first one was extremely mentally impaired and walked funny. It never ever puffed or hissed and was a good pet but didn't live very long. The second one was a healthy female who would be all huff and scuff but after you scooped her up and let her unravel she would ease up and let you pet her and play with her. Even she took a bit of time sometimes to be kind but if you waited and were patient once she unraveled she was good to go.

Yes it hasn't been long, I got her Tuesday and today is Friday. Second day she was very similar to the first, not friendly but if I kept my hand in there eventually she would open up and walk past it, give it barely a sniff and move on. She now unrolls within 5 - 10 minutes and sniffs around but hates being anywhere near me. I tried picking her up with a towel and letting her unroll in my hands, it worked unless my hand moved even slightly in which case she would roll up with my fingers caught underneath her and she'd bite them very hard. It's been 3 days and I've been bitten at least 15 times. I am very patient, I brush off the bites and I just stay as still as I can and make no noise and wait for her to do her stuff. It seemed as though progress had been made but then today happened and my hope is dwindling. She opens up like I said in about 10 minutes if the room is perfectly quiet and you don't move your hand but today she sniffed my fingers a bit, gave them a lick and then chomped. Okay fine, my fingers must smell like food. I went to the bathroom and washed them and came back, same thing happened again. I keep my hand in there and I tell myself that if I wiggle my finger maybe she'll realize I'm another living thing and not bite me. She gets really angry and head butts me a bunch of times and gives me a really deep bite. I am angry but I wash my hand and put it back in the cage and wait. It may sound like all I am doing is provoking this thing but I assure you that there are almost no sounds in the room and that I am waiting silently and motionless until she makes her moves. She has shown that she will bite me not only out of defense but out of curiosity and potential hunger. How on earth am I supposed to convince this animal not to bite me without getting charged at? I don't think I can sit her down and explain that I want to play with her.

Anyway, the previous owner was a mother and an 11 year old girl. From what I gather the 11 year old girl was the primary care taker as the mother told me she would never go near the thing or touch it. She told me the little girl has successfully handled this thing but I am highly skeptical. I can barely go near it with all the carefullest maneuvers I can manage yet she claims her daughter was able to put this thing on her stomach and whisper kind stuff to it and magically it would be nice. They were keeping it on bedding that seems like shredded confetti, feeding it meow mix and it has a tiny food bowl and a tiny water trough. In my possession it eats Purina natural (mixed with meow mix to gradually transition her without upsetting her stomach) and is on aspen bedding. I put a water bottle directly over her water dish in an effort to convert her and she has her old wheel and hideout so she can feel more comfortable.

I have heard of miracles and stories of immense patience leading to unfriendly hedgehogs becoming friendly hedgehogs but in this case I don't think I have much of a chance if biting is going to happen with or without malice. It's 2 years old and I can't imagine there is much I can do to make it change it's mind about me. If it used to be friendly and was treated badly that's one thing but I don't think it was handled more than once in it's lifetime and if it was it was probably held with a pair of pitcher's mitts and was thrown like a baseball down the stairs. It seems healthy just really mean and timid. I know there are those of you out there who have had them for weeks and are losing hope but I have spent hours just sitting here not moving and it seems her greatest rehabilitation is in acting like a feral hedgehog.

How do I convince this animal to be my friend? How do I not get bit or headbutted? This thing doesn't just go on the defense it goes on the offense. I have never been attacked by a hedgehog before. I can understand hissing in a ball but being headbutted repeatedly is another thing entirely.

I am willing to try new things and do my best and be patient but when something seems like a lost cause it seems hard to have much hope. Any ideas?

Best Regards,

Last edited by Corpsehand; 04-11-2014 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 04-11-2014, 09:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm not sure what to tell you when it seems like you've already made up your mind about her after only three days. She barely knows you - it's perfectly for normal for her to be very defensive. It's perfectly normal for hedgehogs to be very defensive or nervous for weeks, or months in a new home. It's not always common. But it's normal.

She's not being malicious or feral or a monster or anything else. She's being a hedgehog - and a very nervous one from the sounds of it. You've mentioned three different causes for the biting - curiosity, defense, and hunger.

Hunger's easy to solve. If she's hungry, she needs to be fed more. You said her food dish is very tiny. If she's finishing all of her food every night, then she needs a bigger dish, and she should have enough food that in the morning there's a little left. I'm glad you're getting her off the Meow Mix, but Purina Naturals isn't a very good food either. When you have a chance, it might be a good idea to check out this sticky for some brands that have better ingredients - https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...oods-list.html Once you've had her longer & you both get to know each other better, you'll start to notice signs of her getting hungry before she starts biting, and you can head her off by offering food before she bites, avoiding the unwanted behavior completely.

For the other two reasons, it's probably best to do what you can to keep your fingers away from her. Not much you can do to discourage curious biting other than making sure you've washed with non-scented soap, as you said you did.

For the defensive biting, all you can do is give her time. Like I said, three days is nothing at all. Hedgehogs take patience, and some much more than others. When you handle her, try to keep fabric between your hands and her. Hopefully if she does bite, she'll catch the fabric instead, or at least the fabric will help shield your hand. Fleece blankets are good for handling. Don't put her back in her cage or put her down at all after she bites for at least a few minutes - she'll learn that biting gets you to leave her alone or at least put her down briefly. You can also sleep with a small fleece blanket for a few nights, then put it in her cage. Having your scent around all the time, especially when she's sleeping, can help her get used to your scent and realize it doesn't mean danger.

When you get her out, don't try to interact directly with her. Don't try and get her to let you pet her, or put your hands near her face. She'll interpret your hand as a threat right now and either ball up or bite or charge. Just let her hang out your lap & explore, or you can try covering her up and see if she'll sleep on you. Sleeping is great bonding - if she's comfortable enough to sleep, she's saying she figures you won't try to eat her while she sleeps.

She may take weeks or months to calm down around you. Keep that in mind constantly and treat any step forward (whether it's less biting, less charging, willing to come out of ball faster or fall asleep faster) as great progress. If you don't think you have the patience and time she deserves, it may be better for you both for you to find an experienced hedgehog rescue that understands her behavior issues and is willing to take her.
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Last edited by Lilysmommy; 04-11-2014 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 04-12-2014, 06:58 AM   #3 (permalink)
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She might just need longer.

A thing I find is that if I'm just holding Hector, and he is my focus, then every time he makes a move to come out I get terribly excited and usually end up frightening him again. It also feels like much slower progress that way!

So I tuck him in my jumper by my shoulder or let him burrow in the sleeves of my onesie..... and pretty much ignore him, for two hours. It is pleasant having him there, and he has somewhere secure to get used to me doing my thing without it scaring the crap out of him.

I'm not saying you should handle a stressed hedgehog for that long, but just that if you're finding it hard on your patience, tuck her in somewhere she's comfy and get on with something. If she tries to bugger off then obviously she isn't coping with it, but if she stays put... there is your starting point.

Oh! And helping her get used to noises is good. Hector will just about have a panic attack about any noises in a silent room, but with a little background noise he is a lot better.
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you both for the in-depth reply,

Lilysmommy: Thank you very much for the information, I did get around to reading your "Behavioral Expectations" after I had posted this thread. As for the food, It was the only one on the shelf that had some sort of meat as its first ingredient. I'll probably have to order something better online (and don't worry I have no problem shelling out a few extra bucks / special ordering the right diet if necessary).

It's not that I've made up my mind and already intend to ship her away to whatever hands will have her, I simply needed to vent my frustration. Since it is the next day and I've gotten a full night sleep I feel rejuvenated and ready to keep trying. I tend to feel immense frustration and agitation at the time in which something is going badly but after some sleep I feel optimistic and ready to give whatever bothered me another chance. I am sure I will feel anger and impatience again in the future but I don't believe I am ready to give up so easily or so quickly.

For her food, I usually fill up her bowl twice a day and I've yet to let it hit the bottom completely. I will probably get her a new bowl later today and browse online for a new food source. I'll also pick up a wash cloth and keep it on my bed for a day or two so it picks up my scent.

rodanthi: Thanks for the reply, I bought a plastic tub that is a little bigger than she is and I think I'll just put a piece of cloth in there and let her sit next to me on my desk and just get used to my noises. Of course if she seems unbelievably miserable I'll put her back in her cage and try again another time.

Thanks again,

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Old 04-12-2014, 12:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I just wanted to add that it is not entirely unbelievable that the little girl could handle the hedgehog but she is mean to you. You may not know this, but hedgehogs form a very strong bond with their primary care giver - which is not you YET. It may take her a long time to gain your trust. You, I am sure realize that this is a rescue, from Craigslist….We have no idea how she was treated. You may be right, perhaps the previous people never gave her any attention at all and now here she is 2 years old!
Try to think of her as a rescue and don't try to compare her to your previous hedgies. Even if those 2 were also rescues, it is the luck of the draw whether you will get a nice one or a neurotic one. You are now going to provide her with her basic needs and some TLC which she may or may not have ever received before…
One other thing I noticed is that you changed her bedding. This might be upsetting to her too. IMO a paper bedding like Carefresh is better than Aspen because it is more comfortable. Those wood chips are pretty pokey. Also, you don't have to switch her over to a water bottle. The latest thinking is that a bowl is more anatomically correct and they are less likely to chip a tooth or something than they are on a water bottle. If she is used to the bowl, then I would stick with the bowl if I were you.

As for the biting, you and everything in your house is new to her. She is trying to check you out with the lick, lick, lick chomp! so it isn't just whatever soap you were using, it is also the smell of you! that is why it might be good to put some article of clothing of yours in w/ her. I would use a bandana or something like that though, because w/ a washcloth those terry cloth loops can get caught on their toes and lead to an amputation! I am sure you don't want to deal with that and I know it sounds far fetched, but it actually isn't…it happens more than you think.

What is her name by the way?
Good luck and let us know how it goes.
-Susan H.
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Last edited by shmurciakova; 04-12-2014 at 12:46 PM. Reason: adding info.
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Old 04-12-2014, 10:21 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm so glad to hear that you're more than willing to keep trying with her! I apologize if I was overly harsh in my reply at all - sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between venting and when someone actually means everything they're saying & has already given up. I do hope that she comes around for you sooner rather than later, and hope you'll keep us updated on any progress you make with her.
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RIP my sweet Lily ~ 6/12/08 - 1/20/12
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Old 04-12-2014, 11:29 PM   #7 (permalink)
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We are three weeks in to owning a rescue Hedgie. He hisses, puffs and balls at the slightest sound or movement. I just keep quiet and still. I try to respect his behaviors as natural not malicious. At this point he now opens up when held to my chest, But I must not touch him or its all over. Oddly enough, after a foot bath he is more tolerant of me. I hope, with time, he is less nervous. But if this is just his personality then.....still love him. We're all unique!
Good luck!!
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Old 04-13-2014, 03:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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shmurciakova: Thanks for the reply, I only assumed the little girl was not the best owner because the mother said they wanted to give the hedgehog to a better home because she doesn't get played with anymore. This leads me to believe the girl eventually got bored of her hedgehog. (Although maybe she just was too busy with school, who knows.)

I changed the bedding for several reasons, I know a breeder who keeps all his hedgehogs on aspen and hasn't reported any problems (all of his hedgehogs seem healthy, happy and have good longevity). I couldn't find any of the bedding they originally supplied me with and when I filled the cage with care-fresh the cage smelled very rank the next day after she knocked over her water bowl and crapped everywhere. I decided that since her original bedding and the care fresh wasn't doing it for me that I would go back to aspen which I've used in the past without issue and seen used by many other owners. I mixed a decent portion of her previous and original litter in with the aspen so she could adjust and she immediately anointed herself with the aspen upon exploring in it. She also seems to love borrowing into it and poking her head out occasionally. I suspect she is an explorer rather than a snuggler.

Although a bowl makes more sense and may appear more anatomically correct for any animal (as water doesn't come out of a metal tube in nature), I believe that having a water bottle can be just as efficient and no more dangerous than a water dish. I have heard many claim that a water bottle can lead to a chipped tooth but I have never read of anyone experiencing their hedgehog chipping their tooth this way. I am not claiming that it never happens but it doesn't seem to be very common. I believe my hedgehog can just as easily chip her tooth on a ceramic food bowl or the metal stand that holds up her plastic solid wheel as she could on her water bottle. (The wheel looks like this, http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/...7L._SY300_.jpg , it has plenty of room for her to run, she uses it all the time and the metal bar that holds it up is coated with a white paint). Every observable instance I've witnessed of a hedgehog using a water bottle has been watching them lick the end and water coming out causing no harm to the bottle or the hedgehog. Plus the water dish is easily and frequently soiled / knocked around and can randomly loose all it's water when I am not around so having the water bottle in there insures that there is a ready source of water that cannot be knocked over or spoiled. Although as of my experience with her she has not yet shown interest / noticed the bottle but hopefully she will figure it out soon.

I will be sure to put some cloth (non looped) in there with her as soon as I can make one smell enough like me. I purchased a cheap baby scarf (has no visible stitching and has the texture of cotton) and a cheap baby beanie (also no visible stitching / loops) and washed them both with soap and detergent. Right now they smell too much like clean clothes and not enough like me so I'm keeping them in my bed with me until they smell like nothing to me (and like me to others).

I've also noticed I get bit less when I rub aspen on my hands before I go near her.

*Edit* I believe the fabric is polyester, does this make it any less safe? It has no visible stitching and is very soft.

Lilysmommy: Thank you very much for the support and I completely understand your protective original reply. Many people buy animals, face difficulty and then ship them away, I know I appeared like one of those people and although I often get frustrated as I said I usually cool off pretty easily. I will be sure to keep you all updated. Thanks again!

: Sorry to hear you are facing such difficulties but I am glad you are being patient and working with the animal as others have recommended to me (and I presume others). I am fortunate enough where I can keep my hand near my hedgehog and now talk to it without it going into a ball and being angry. It unravels pretty quickly (a few minutes) and seems okay with my hand being near it, it is comfortable with squeezing between my hand and the wall / trying to squeeze itself under my hand without getting puffy or angry. (Don't worry, I am not encouraging or facilitating it's desire to crush itself up against something. I suspect it's borrowing habits lead it to desire the feeling of compressing it's body through small spaces. It will not react negatively to my hand unless it thinks I am trying to scoop it up (I have tried that) or that I am touching it and moving my hand. It doesn't mind interacting with my hand as scenery but the second my hand starts to interact with it in a way that doesn't feel like an inanimate object she gets angry. I suspect her main interest will always be walking around and playing rather than sitting quietly and being pet but if she lets me pick her up (even while wanting to walk somewhere else) I will be happy. But to clarify I can scoop her up with bedding but she hisses, bounces and tries to bite me so she clearly isn't interested in being handled quite yet although she does look upwards at the side of the tank which indicates to me that she wouldn't mind coming out at some point just not via my hand.

As indicated in my response to newalbinomom, I am seeing progress which is very exciting and encouraging.

Thanks again everyone,

Best Regards,

P.S. Oh and her name is Mona or Moe-Moe, we're not entirely sure if we're going to stick with it because Moe isn't really the most feminine name (as the hedgehog is female) but we'll see what sticks.

Last edited by Corpsehand; 04-13-2014 at 03:27 PM.
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