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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello!

I'm trying to decide between buying one hedgehog or 2-3 fancy rats. The problem is that my situation is a little... different from most people on this forum.

I'm Thomas, American, but living in Tokyo. I've been living overseas for about 9 years now, almost 10. Although, this is my first year in Japan. December is my anniversary of arrival here. It took me that long to find stable employment and a good apartment.

Speaking of apartments, this is Tokyo. So "apartment" is an exaggeration. I live in a "share house", which is basically a dormitory for adults. They take a big house, divide out the rooms and make each room like a tiny apartment. The walls are fairly soundproof though and the rooms are very spartan with no holes or anything big enough for an animal to crawl through. The heavy, soundproof door is practically air tight.

The space i have to invest for a cage is about 155x55x40cm HxWxD and that's right at the foot of my bed, because well, the bed takes about 4/5 of my floor space. Haha

I'm great at building things and I have tools, so building a multi-level cage with adequate airflow, heating and an artificial day/night cycle would be a lot of fun to make.

I've raised a colony of rats in the past, but only as feeders for my snakes. Even then, with about 20 rats living in a huge cage at the foot of my bed, I didn't have trouble sleeping. I can't imagine a hedgehog being louder than they were, although I've read that hedgehogs love their wheel. A little wheel noise at night would just add an extra challenge to the cage build though, so more fun for me.

Anyway, I just can't seem to decide. 3 rats, triple the fun? Plus, rats are super smart and social. For interacting, i think the rats win. The downside is that Japanese people still think of rats as being dirty and scary, so I'd basically need to keep them a secret from my friends and coworkers.

The hedgehog would be more fun to brag about and to take pictures of. It would probably be more quiet than 3 rats and less messy. I'm sure there's still some fun interacting with them, especially when you feed them insects by hand. The downside being that hedgehogs aren't social animals and there's a chance I'll get one that never warms up to me or has some kind of antisocial behavior.

Oh! In terms of sourcing, hedgehogs are actually fairly popular in Tokyo, so it's easy to find a reputable breeder, hedgehog specific supplies and a vet who has experience with them. Rats, on the other hand, not so much.

In terms of price, 1 hedgehog here is $150-200 and one fancy rat is $50-65, if you can find them.

I've been mulling it over for a few weeks now and I'll make my decision in about... two paychecks, so roughly 6 weeks from now.

Does anyone have any thoughts?
 

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Holly is a female African Pygmy Hedgehog. She weighs about 463g and was born May 28, 2019.
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I have owned both rats and hedgehogs. I'll list out a few things that I would consider.
Rats- super smart, more social than hedgehogs, less expensive, take up less space, sweeter, easier to handle, less high maintenance
Hedgehogs- cute, hypoallergenic, friends won't think they're gross.
I would personally buy rats because I think they are quieter and kinder. I love hedgehogs, but rats are super smart and easier to have in a smaller space if you ask me. I got a hedgehog because I needed a hypoallergenic pet and I love her, but having a big cage, buying a wheel, is a lot. It takes longer to socialize hedgehogs as well and they can be mean. Rats can too of course, but they don't have quills to poke you with :). It's up to you, but if you want an easy pet, hedgehogs are probably not the way to go. Hope this helps!!
 

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I’m a new hedgie mom and have never hat rats but honestly just the fact that you said rats aren’t common pets and it may be an issue to find a vet would worry me. I think maybe call around and see how far from you if any vets are familiar with rats first. I’m a worrywart so the first thing I did before I got my hedgie was make sure there was a vet nearby who could see him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have owned both rats and hedgehogs. I'll list out a few things that I would consider.
Rats- super smart, more social than hedgehogs, less expensive, take up less space, sweeter, easier to handle, less high maintenance
Hedgehogs- cute, hypoallergenic, friends won't think they're gross.
I would personally buy rats because I think they are quieter and kinder. I love hedgehogs, but rats are super smart and easier to have in a smaller space if you ask me. I got a hedgehog because I needed a hypoallergenic pet and I love her, but having a big cage, buying a wheel, is a lot. It takes longer to socialize hedgehogs as well and they can be mean. Rats can too of course, but they don't have quills to poke you with :). It's up to you, but if you want an easy pet, hedgehogs are probably not the way to go. Hope this helps!!
I’m a new hedgie mom and have never hat rats but honestly just the fact that you said rats aren’t common pets and it may be an issue to find a vet would worry me. I think maybe call around and see how far from you if any vets are familiar with rats first. I’m a worrywart so the first thing I did before I got my hedgie was make sure there was a vet nearby who could see him.
Great advice!

I've been thinking about the vet problem and discovered a couple of vets that advertise services for rabbits, ferrets, hamsters and "other rodents". They're not super close to my place, but at least there are some options.

In my experience, rats are super quiet. Do you really think 2-3 would be more quiet than 1 hedgehog though? Must be because of the wheel. I was brainstorming some soundproofing options for the cage to deal with that, but it might still be an issue.

I've been bitten by a rat once. It was totally my fault. A mother had recently given birth to a litter and I made the mistake of reaching into the cage, towards her babies. Man, she hit the bone! Rats don't normally bite, but when they do, they make it count. I read that hedgehogs typically prefer to jab with their quills rather than bite. Sounds less painful but more frequent.

The space I have for them is mostly vertical, but I'm sure it's still enough horizontal space for either. This is the cage I was planning to use:

Iris Ohyama Chest, Wide 3 Tiers, 4 Tiers, 5 Tiers, Made in Japan, Easy Assembly, Width 21.5 x Depth 15.4 inches (54.5 x 39.1 cm), French Oak Wood Top https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07XV7F...t_i_D9JTA415ZN0HFFB26K30?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

With the 5-tier option, I can cut out the top drawer and use that space for the lights. This would make it a fully enclosed 4-tier cage with a small squirrel cage fan for ventilation.

The obvious issue with that plan being that rats will eventually chew there way out of plastic tubs. Not that it would be a big issue since there's no way for them to escape from my room.

Lastly, I've been thinking about the community and it seems that the online rat community is a lot bigger than the hedgehog community, which makes sense. There's no way I'd find a local community of pet owners to chat with, so it's important to have good online support.
 

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I'd also keep in mind their lifespan and what lifestyle changes you could have in that time. My understanding on rats is that 2 years is about normal? Maybe 3 at a stretch? Hedgehogs can potentially make it to 9 years, but that is definitely a stretch. 3 to 5 years is far more likely assuming no catastrophic illness. Is it possible your living situation could change in that time frame? Would potential changes affect your ability to care for either pet?

Also, I think the first hedgehog is probably the hardest to own. Getting used to their sounds, getting poked, maybe bitten, understanding their needs can be a lot. If you make it through that experience and still want another by the time you have to say goodbye to the first one, the next one seems to be easier. In my experience at least.

Hedgehogs are difficult pets for beginners. But if you go in with the right expectations and lots of patience they are very much worth it. Or at least I think so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'd also keep in mind their lifespan and what lifestyle changes you could have in that time.
Great point! It's hard to tell exactly where I'll be in 5 years, but I'll most likely still be here in Tokyo, because... It's awesome. Because of the temperature changes, there's no way to safely transport a hedgehog on a plane. Rats could probably go the same way as dogs and cats. Hopefully I won't need to fly anywhere though.

Are there sounds particularly difficult to get used to? I listened to some recordings and they sounded faint, but I've never heard them irl. Rats are usually silent, since they communicate in frequencies that humans can't hear, but they'll shriek loud enough to make your eyeballs vibrate if they're scared or hurt.
 

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Hi! Hedgie parent here! I've never had rats, but I definitely have a hedgehog. During the day she's practically silent since she's asleep, but at night her wheel can thump and rattle on the axis. That's due to the type of wheel (Kaytee Comfort wheel) she has though- I've heard the best things about Carolina Storm wheels, both quality and sound-wise. Hissing and popping will definitely take some getting used to, especially if you're holding the hedgehog when they hiss and/or pop (popping may not be a sound but it's definitely scary!) Beyond that she doesn't really make many other noises. Definitely none loud enough to make your eyes vibrate! Hope this helps :)
 

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They really are mostly quiet. Some people are more bothered by the sounds the wheel makes in the middle of the night than others. But the hissing and popping is probably far more aggressive sounding than you would be used to with rats I would think. It can be surprising if you've never experienced it before and can put some people off. And while they are hissing and popping at you, they are also likely to be actively trying to stab you. Once they're used to you, they don't try as hard to stab, but the aggressive sounds will persist, even when you can tell they don't mean it. It's just their way. But during the day, you'd never even know they're there. Sometimes doesn't feel like I have a pet until night time rolls around and I wake her up to hang out with me. If you can, see if you can go somewhere and meet a hedgehog in person. Might help you decide.
 
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