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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had Melchoir, an Albino Pygmy, for just about a week now. He has only come out at night and when he does come out, it's to eat and that's it. I know this is normal.

Someone mentioned to me in the forums today that I need to pick him up to socialize him properly. So, I tried to pick him up, but he seemed so terrified - he jolted every time I approached him, huffed loudly, and quilled up for battle!

I ended up picking him up with gloves on, then taking off the gloves once he was in my hands. He sat in my hands, terrified, angry, huffing and jolting for a few minutes. He climbed off of me on to my pillow, which he started chewing on, and wouldn't allow me to pick him up, so I picked up the pillow with him on it, and brought him back to his cage.

Is there a better way to pick him up and socialize him, without tormenting him? It seems so cruel.
 

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Don't think of it as tormenting him. If you want to be able to handle your hedgie, you have to show him that your hands do not hurt him. If you allow him to "scare" you off with his huffing and puffing and popping he's going to keep repeating those behaviors. Have you tried leaving a shirt or such in his cage so that he can start to learn your scent?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
His cage is by the laundry basket, so I thought that might be smelly enough.

That's good advice, though - his huffing always scares me off.

How often should I be picking him up?
 

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It really is just a defensive action, and it takes some of them a long time before they don't do it when you pick them up. Many never are completely calm and relaxed when you go to pick them up, no matter how old they are. For instance, I've had Lily since August, and although she's calm with me now while I'm holding her, she still huffs and quills up a bit when I first go to get her out of her cage. And there's a good chance she'll never stop doing it.
Also, thin gloves are fine to wear when first picking him up, but make sure you're not wearing thick or leather gloves. Those will just make it worse, from what I've read. And when you do get him out for socializing, try holding him on a blanket on your lap, or in a hedgie bag. He may be more comfortable if he has something covering him. You want to try to get him out for socializing for at least an hour or so every night. You can see if he'll just go to sleep on your lap if you're holding him in a blanket or a hedgie bag, and you can just watch tv or something while he's sleeping. It still counts as socializing, since he's getting to know your scent.
 

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Dora has got to the point that she'll huff and make her car starting noises (as I call it) without even being prickly. She's just being cranky about being woke up. Don't think of your hedgie as wanting to hurt you.

Lilysmommy said:
You can see if he'll just go to sleep on your lap if you're holding him in a blanket or a hedgie bag, and you can just watch tv or something while he's sleeping. It still counts as socializing, since he's getting to know your scent.
We made our hedgie bag for Dora with a fleece toboggan and purse like bag from a Deals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Okay, I have taken him out of the cage, and he has climbed out of my hands - he's in a pillow on my lap, now - but I can't pick him up.

I know I shouldn't be scared, but when he gets in a ball and huffs, it hurts too much to pick him up again. Is it considered socialising if I have him on a pillow in my lap?

I know he doesn't want to hurt me, he's just protecting himself - but without my thick gloves I can't pick him up without being jabbed a bunch of times!
 

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You went out and got a creature that is covered with sharp spikes. You're going to have to deal with getting poked and get over it. It's not going to help him at all if you're picking him up with thick gloves. The fabric, especially if it's leather, feels strange and threatening to them, and will make him even huffier when you go to pick him up. You need to either get over being poked and pick him up anyway, or use THIN gloves. I've heard you can even use a (clean) cat litter box scoop to pick him up, but it just doesn't seem like something you should do every single time you pick him up. You're just going to have to suck it up and learn how to get poked if you want to make friends with your little guy.
 

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We just got a new baby and it does seem like her baby quills are sharper than Dora's so I know (and everybody on the board pretty much) knows what it's like to be poked.

JulietB said:
I know I shouldn't be scared, but when he gets in a ball and huffs, it hurts too much to pick him up again. Is it considered socialising if I have him on a pillow in my lap?
That does count. Try light stroking over his quills and talking to him some while he's there. It'll take time but it's all worth it when they learn to relax around you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks, guys. I know it'll take while to get used to me. I think it's the whole picking up thing that I am having troubles with - I can't do it without thick gloves at this point, and any sort of touching makes him very, very angry. Even if I can find my pinky finger into his soft bits, he freaks out.

I hope that with proper socialization, we'll be good friends!
 

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Lilysmommy said:
You went out and got a creature that is covered with sharp spikes. You're going to have to deal with getting poked and get over it. It's not going to help him at all if you're picking him up with thick gloves. The fabric, especially if it's leather, feels strange and threatening to them, and will make him even huffier when you go to pick him up. You need to either get over being poked and pick him up anyway, or use THIN gloves. I've heard you can even use a (clean) cat litter box scoop to pick him up, but it just doesn't seem like something you should do every single time you pick him up. You're just going to have to suck it up and learn how to get poked if you want to make friends with your little guy.
So true... I know they're freakin' sharp... (Try stepping barefoot on a quill sticking up in your carpet... OW! ...No, don't. I can tell you - it's not fun, lol.) ...but, it's true, you're going to get poked at some point.

I will add this... I've always been a liiiiitle oc about hand washing and if I switch soaps, Eva knows... She's starting to learn my voice better, but up until recently, if my hands didn't smell like passion fruit parfait soap, she'd get super huffy whenever I'd pick her up... So, if you use a soap with any kind of fragrance whatsoever, keep in mind that it might be the soap she associates with you.

As for the bit about soft bits - those are vulnerable spots, so it's naturally going to make your hedgie more defensive if you're trying to touch soft spots... Eva took at least a month before she'd let me touch her head or her tummy without getting huffy.

About the biting - did your little guy lick first or was it just a spontaneous chomp?

Eva's bitten 2 people (thankfully, I haven't been one of them) and I've yet to figure out if it's because they smelled yummy to her or just unfamiliar... she licked them both first though, so that now serves as a warning for us, lol... (She likes to chomp down on pieces of fleece/pants legs/any kind of fabric for some reason as well... not sure if that's related either.)
 

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Ok, I cheat a little when picking up from his cage :lol:

My hedgie LOVES sleeping in his fleecie roll/tunnel that I just stitched up for him. So when I go to get him for our nightly bonding, I pick up his whole "bed' and then sit on the couch with him. I'll have another fleecie blanket in my lap and I'd gently roll him out onto it. I'll then immediately give him his fav treat...a mealie ^_^ That, or I'll have some fruit, or eggs handy to give him. He always gets his treats in my lap(not handfed, I've got another bowl for his treats, or tweezers for the mealie).

He is huffy during the initial pick up, but after the mealie and he wakes up a bit, I can pet him, his spines, his face, and pick him up with minimal huffing and hissing. However, mine is a sleeper/cuddler, and I'll just hold him and he'll settle for as long as I want to hold him for. He will also hiss at me every little movement I make that disturbs his sleep :lol: Which I then tell him how tough of a life he has :p

Did you wash your hands before handling him? Linger food smells can also cause a hedgie to bite, which is why I don't handfeed, otherwise, I'd feed, then have to go wash my hands. I usually prepare everything first, then wash hands, then go get him.

If he's being very huffy and hissy, leave him in your lap and don't bug him too much. Stick with the shirt in his cage for a few days, then try to slowly start petting him. How old is he? Babies sleep a lot, and if he's still a baby, then he'll tire himself out eventually, and find a nice, soft, dark and warm place to curl up and sleep. That is also good bonding time, because back when mine was 8 weeks old, he'd just sleep and I'd pet him while he sleeps. XD I also started cutting his nails while he sleeps. Though now I have to do all that while he's awake, but it definately made everything easier to have done it when he was younger.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
He bit me spontaneously - it was pretty obvious that he was UN-happy. He's only 10 weeks old, so I figured he'd tire out, but for an hour, he was either jolting and hissing in a ball, or trying to escape. When I'd get my hand within inches of him, he'd become a ball.

I was pretty careful about odors - I might have washed my hands before picking him up, but this is not unusual.

I realize I will get poked - and I have many, many times. My hand felt so tender after playing with him. Is it wrong to try and avoid this?

I hope tonight's bonding time will be better - I will let you guys know.

Thanks again for your help! :)
 

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Getting poked is going to happen..you need to lose the gloves immediately, it is only serving to worsen the situation. it scares him even more to be picked up by them which is why 99% of owners wont even take our hedgies to vets that use those nasty things. the best trick i can tell you is to scoop him up quick from behind using a hand on each side of him, that is the way we had to pick up dora for a little while. millis still doesnt like being picked up much but i still dig her out of her fleece hat every night for daddy time. you just have to grow tougher skin and get over it, if you cant handle this rough first part you may need to consider rehoming the little guy before he is too far gone to ever be social...sorry if that sounds harsh but i am thinking about the hedgie here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I've had Melchoir for a week and a half, and I've only seen his face once or twice. Every night for socialization, as soon as I approach his cage, he balls up and wheezes - if I try and pick him up, he jolts away from my hands, stabbing me with his quills. I've had no choice but to use my gloves just to pick him up, then take them off as soon as he loosens up in my hands.

last night and the night before he bit me so hard that I bled. Tonight he bit me within minutes. I don't know how to deal with him. I researched HedgeHogs before I bought them, and I realize it'll take some commitment to socialize him, but is this normal? He seems as though he's not just scared, he's very, very defensive. What should I do to stop the biting?

Tough love is okay, but simple support is more helpful.
 

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Sounds like you ended up with a particularly scared or grumpy hedgie, especially with the biting. That's rather unfortunate, but grumpy ones do come around sometimes, you just have be extra patient with them.
For picking him up, you really should lose the gloves. In the handling section, under Care, on this website, it states "It is never a good idea to pick up a domestic hedgehog with gloves." You want him to start to recognize your scent, and gloves, while protecting your skin from his quills, will also hide your scent from him and may scare him more, because of the weird feel. There's other ways you can pick him up while trying to get him used to you. You could try using a large plastic spoon (make sure it's big enough that he couldn't roll off while you're pick him up in it) or use a clean cat box scoop. As Immortalia said, if he sleeps in something that's like a sleeping bag or a hat, you can pick him up in that, and then roll him out onto your lap. If he doesn't sleep in a sleeping bag or something like that, maybe you could take an older t-shirt that you don't really like anymore (make sure there's no loose strings), wear it for a couple of nights to make sure it smells like you, and then use that to pick him up. I think the fabric would feel less strange than gloves, and it would smell like you, so he would still get to know your scent.
Another thing to help him associate you with good things is giving him treats when you first get him out. If he's already been introduced to mealies and likes them, you could offer him one whenever you get him out. But since he's biting, I wouldn't feed him directly from your fingers. I would place the mealie down in front of his nose and keep your fingers out of range.
As for the biting....I haven't had to deal with a a really bad biting hedgie before, but just make sure that you're not putting him back in his cage directly after he bites you. To him, that's just a reward. He bites, and then he gets left alone. So then next time you get him out, he'll remember that and bite you right away again. Even though it does hurt, you have to keep him out at least for a little while after he bites you. If you're sure that he's not biting because you smell like food or something else interesting, then he might've just learned that biting gets him put back in his cage. If that's the case, my only advice is to keep your fingers and other skin out of range until he gets more used to you. If he does bite and won't let go, I've heard people say that you have to push your fingers towards his face, not pulling them away. And someone else said that sometimes if you very gently squeeze the corners of his mouth, they'll let go. I've never had to test this out for myself, though.
When you get him out, since he's so defensive, I wouldn't try to pet him or anything. I would just keep a fleece blanket over my lap (a nice big one would work very well for this) and let him sit on top of it. He might be more comfortable if you cover him with part of the fleece blanket, so he's covered. Your aim right now, since he's so defensive and nervous, should just be to get him relaxed while he's sitting on you. I wouldn't bother trying to get him used to petting just yet. Even if he just falls asleep on your lap, it's still good bonding, because he still has your scent all around him, and he'll be getting used to it.
I can't think of much more to say right now...sorry for such a long post, but I hope it helps a little bit. Good luck with your grumpy little guy. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hey Kelsey, thanks!

That was awesome advice. Now I am not so worried about the obvious bonding, like cuddling, and am just going to take it one step at a time. I was able to take him out of his cage with out gloves tonight for the first time, so that's very good! I am learning - and I really appreciate your positive help. :)
 

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It would be great to bond also by having his treat dish/bowl handy everytime you pick him up to have him in your lap. It's a bit of a bribe, but he'll quickly learn that coming out means food and treats. This is also why I don't feed him treats in his cage. He only ever gets treats when he is out with me.

Since he is new still, even just a few pieces of his kibble would associate coming out as a good thing. But because of the obvious biting issue, do not hand feed, just move the bowl/dish next to him while he is in your lap, you might need to cover his head and bowl with a fleecie to give him some privacy.

Mine sees me as his bed, and food dispenser :lol: There are times when I'm trying to wake him up and he gets annoyed at me and tries to nip, but he's never gotten a firm hold, or just didn't hold on. But, nowadays, if I move slow, I'll reach towards his face, and he'll sniff, realize it's me, then let me rub his nose and pet his head. It will take a lot of time and patience. Don't give up! ^_^
 

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Aw, I'm glad you guys had a bit of success! :D Keep us updated on how he's doing. I hope he doesn't take too long!
 
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