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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey, I'm Evie. I've been lurking HHC for a while, reading as much as I can as a first-time hedgehog owner. I'm hoping maybe for some feedback on my hedgehog's behavior / possible health.

Some relevant information:

- My hedgehog, Blixa, is about ten weeks old. I've had him for only two weeks. The breeder I got him from is reputable on all counts. She handles her hedgehogs daily and from what I saw, she has a great, healthy set-up. She's been in contact with me about his care / wants to know how he's doing, and I've filled her in on all of this, too.

- Blixa has bitten me three times. The first time, it was a lick-lick-bite because I smelled like mealworms. I don't handle food now before touching him, or feed him by hand. The second and third times were stress bites from overhandling when he wanted to explore and because I gave him a bath (he sat in a blueberry like it was a fashion statement.) What was weird about these is he chomped, didn't break skin, but also just didn't let go. It's like he kind of shut down and laid there staring. I eventually was able to pull my finger out of his mouth.

- I don't reinforce the behavior, and since blowing on him / gently pushing doesn't help, I don't do anything but kind of wait it out. I've changed when we have bonding time and how we approach it; right now we just do the "sleep in the snuggle sack on my lap" thing during the day. (He's there right now! :D)

Okay, so.

I took him to the vet yesterday just for a first-time physical to make sure he's healthy. They're an exotics-specific vet practice. I don't know what's normal in a vet exam for hedgies, but this vet anesthetizes all hedgehogs and this seemed odd to me. (If it's not normal, I'd like to know, obviously.) When I talked to the vet, she told me he looked healthy, heart and lungs sound good, but couldn't tell if he was quilling still. (He...is, though? Like. I can tell that?) She also told me hedgehogs rarely to never bite, and said that what he was doing could be a neurological condition.

(Meanwhile the vet tech told me hedgehogs bite all the time there, and Blixa was such a good boy for not biting. :\ )

She also told me if it was fear biting, I should try feeding him treats by hand to help bond with him.

Her advice to me was to contact the breeder, which in my experience means "return him", and I'm not doing that no matter what is or isn't wrong with him. (What the heck? :\ :\ )

I guess I'd like some reassurance that his behaviors are normal-ish, and if it is a neurological condition, what should I be looking for / how can I make him comfortable? The vet really didn't have a lot of answers for me. I'm doing what I can to give him the best care and go at his pace, but I'm worried.

Thanks! (Also please enjoy Blixa's ol' razzle dazzle leg.)
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Aww, he's adorable!
While my hedgehog has never bitten me, there are plenty of posts on this forum addressing biting. I have never heard of biting being a neurological issue. You seem to have figured out the causes of your hedgehog's biting and are dealing with them in appropriate ways. :)
I wouldn't contact the breeder. Biting may be problematic, but that doesn't mean you should return your hedgehog for it! Treats are a good idea for fear biting, though. I'm sure your hedgehog would enjoy treats no matter what. ;)
I'm definitely not an expert, but if it were me, I'd just continue doing what you're doing (and maybeeee look into other vet options, just in case. But that's just me.) :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Aww, he's adorable!
While my hedgehog has never bitten me, there are plenty of posts on this forum addressing biting. I have never heard of biting being a neurological issue. You seem to have figured out the causes of your hedgehog's biting and are dealing with them in appropriate ways. :)
I wouldn't contact the breeder. Biting may be problematic, but that doesn't mean you should return your hedgehog for it! Treats are a good idea for fear biting, though. I'm sure your hedgehog would enjoy treats no matter what. ;)
I'm definitely not an expert, but if it were me, I'd just continue doing what you're doing (and maybeeee look into other vet options, just in case. But that's just me.) :)
Thank you; your reply was a little more relief / validation. I did contact the breeder - but not to return him. I relayed what the vet said and how his exam went, and she expressed shock that they used anesthesia on him. She gave me a lot of reassurance for what was normal and what was maybe something to watch out for (like symptoms that could be neurologically related) and told me how a hedgehog exam really should go; I'm definitely looking into other vets. He's not going back to that one. The breeder also reassured me that she wouldn't put down a returned hedgehog, thankfully. (She runs an animal rescue, so I should have figured.)

Definitely with you on the treats! Just not going to hand them to him, hahaha. Since he doesn't seem interested in them during bonding time, I really like sneaking them near where he's sleeping so there's a nice surprise for him when he wakes up. (He makes adorable chirping noises when he's happy.) So far, he likes blueberries and freezedried mealworms.
 

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Biting happens. Many hedgehogs will bite to take a taste if something smells interesting. Those bites are typically a lick lick bite. I usually classify bites into three types: a taste (Lick, lick, chomp!), a nip (a warning), and a bite down and don't let go. The last one can be a learned behavior, but it can also have other meanings, like I'm really mad at you, I'm really scared, or I'm in pain. You have to start examining the sitution to determine if its a behavioral or physical issue.

Nips can happen if they have learned that if they bite you stop doing something. But also keep in mind that it could also be a reaction to some pain or discomfort. For example, we have seen people post on here that their hedgehog is quilling and they get nipped. Most likely the hedgehog's skin is a little tender and being picked up is uncomfortable. The behavior went away once quilling stopped. I had one nip me once and upon further investigation I found she had a quill poking her in the ear. Once dislodged she was fine.

I found an old post I made a while ago about how to react to biting it may help you some. Biting shouldn't be a common occurrence. It can happen, and how you react to it may actually teach her to bite more often (encouraging the behavior). The link below goes into some of that.

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Biting happens. Many hedgehogs will bite to take a taste if something smells interesting. Those bites are typically a lick lick bite. I usually classify bites into three types: a taste (Lick, lick, chomp!), a nip (a warning), and a bite down and don't let go. The last one can be a learned behavior, but it can also have other meanings, like I'm really mad at you, I'm really scared, or I'm in pain. You have to start examining the sitution to determine if its a behavioral or physical issue.

Nips can happen if they have learned that if they bite you stop doing something. But also keep in mind that it could also be a reaction to some pain or discomfort. For example, we have seen people post on here that their hedgehog is quilling and they get nipped. Most likely the hedgehog's skin is a little tender and being picked up is uncomfortable. The behavior went away once quilling stopped. I had one nip me once and upon further investigation I found she had a quill poking her in the ear. Once dislodged she was fine.

I found an old post I made a while ago about how to react to biting it may help you some. Biting shouldn't be a common occurrence. It can happen, and how you react to it may actually teach her to bite more often (encouraging the behavior). The link below goes into some of that.

The post you linked is one of the ones I read previously, and your thoughtful reply to it made me stop doing any kind of negative reinforcement reactions. No blowing, bopping, loud noises - just waiting it out.

In fact, I think your response there was the reason I decided to dial back our bonding to just snuggle sack sleeping time for a while. And why I started picking him up with fleece instead of bare hands - just to remove the skin temptation.

When I got him he had just begun quilling, and I've been very careful not to handle him too much and have only turned him on his back once to do a check on his feet (I was afraid he'd gotten hurt.) I've been picking him up quickly from the sides and scooping with some soft fleece, moving him to the opening of the snuggle sack and letting him walk in himself, and then carefully putting him on my lap in some warm blankets. This seems agreeable enough to him. He hasn't bitten me or the fleece since I started doing it, though he bit the towel when I had to give him that bath. (It does seem like a fear / stress response, not neurological.)

"Next, if you are nervous, she is going to sense that and is more likely to react accordingly. This person is afraid of something, therefore I need to be afraid too. Relax, take a deep breath and just pick her up. " That right there was something I hadn't considered until I read that post, and I've been approaching him calmly and trying not to be anxious or nervous.

All that to say - I appreciate your advice a lot. It's been helping make the bonding experience less stressful for him.
 

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From everything you have said it sounds like you are doing well. There are lots of reasons a hedgehog could decide to bite. Just try to figure out what is going on and react to it in a way that doesn't scare him or encourage it. And don't stress too much over it. They really do pick up on our stress levels and can react to them. Having him with you shouldn't be stressful, just pure happiness. Take a deep breath, smile and go give your quilled one some snuggles.
 
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