Adopting a Hedgehog – Expectations vs. Reality

Most of our animals come from bad situations. They’re rescues. Some of our gators we rescued from places called skin farms where they’re bred to become shoes, belts, and bags. Many of our other animals were owner surrenders. In those cases, they were adopted by someone who was not quite ready to manage the reality of the pet, like a turtle who lives for 30 years.


We feel fortunate that we have the resources in these cases to take them in but that is not always the case. Some exotic animals are simply abandoned, or worse, set free in a Florida park or wild area. This is how we end up with invasive, non-native species. Some well-meaning person who no longer wants or can care for the pet releases them into the wild assuming they’d be better there than a high-kill shelter (if the shelter will even take them).


Many people release because they simply don’t know better. They assume these exotic animals can just return to their “wild” ways but what they don’t understand is many have been domesticated to the point that they may not know how to hunt for food. And some “wild” animals have been bred for markings/coloring that would make it difficult for them to blend in outdoors, like a white bunny.


Why are we bringing this up?


In addition to being a fun attraction for interacting with gators and other animals, we pride ourselves on education. Since we get asked a lot about adopting out our pets or being allowed to buy them, we thought we should explain the reality of caring for our creatures. Today, we’ll focus on the hedgehog.


What’s It Like to Own a Hedgehog?


Hedgehogs are becoming very popular pets these days. They are incredibly cute and they’re part of the growing number of portable “pocket” pets that people are so fond of. But sometimes the reality of pet ownership doesn’t match the fantasy.


What People Imagine Owning a Hedgehog Is Like

Many visitors to Alligator Attraction see our hedgehog Sonic and want to run out and adopt one. They’re so eager because they think owning a hedgehog will be:


  • Fun because they’re so cute and cuddly
  • Easy because the hedgehog is so small
  • Similar to owning a hamster or a guinea pig
  • Nice for a small space like an apartment
  • Something to show off to friends and something no one else has


But what is hedgehog ownership really like?


The Reality of Owning a Hedgehog as a Pet

Before you run out and adopt a hedgehog there are several things you should know.


They’re Nocturnal

Hedgehogs are nocturnal so at about the time you’re looking for peace and quiet, they’ll decide it’s time to rattle around and have some fun. For this reason, having their cage in a bedroom is less than ideal unless you are a really heavy sleeper.


They Eat Weird Stuff

Hedgehogs eat insects, plants, and roots. This can be hard if you’re the kind of pet owner who likes to buy your pet’s food in the grocery store pet aisle. You’ll need to make a special trip to the pet store or order online. You’ll buy food made specifically for an insectivore and supplement it with things like mealworms, crickets, and fruit. Hedgehogs are definitely not low-maintenance in the food department.


They Need Room

One of the biggest misconceptions with owning a hedgehog is that since they are so small you can keep them in a small enclosure. That is not the case. In the wild, they can run several miles at night. At the very least, you need an exercise wheel (no wired bottoms. They can fracture a leg that way.) and enough area that they can forage around. They also need a hiding spot for sleeping. They won’t sleep out in the open. The pen should have smooth sides. Hedgehogs are amazing climbers.


They Want It “Just Right”

Hedgehogs are a lot like Goldilocks. They need the temperature of their enclosure “just right.” If you are someone who enjoys a cold room, you will need an external heat source for your hedgehog. They need temps in their enclosure to be between 75-85 degrees.


They Like to Swim

A few times a week, let your hedgehog out of the enclosure and allow them to swim with supervision. If swimming isn’t possible, try allowing them to roam but keep a good eye on them. They are extremely athletic and can get away from you quickly.


Hedgehogs Aren’t Social

But they’re sooo cute! While this is true, they don’t love to be touched quite as much as most people want to touch them. They are solitary creatures that need time to trust their owners. They will often bite if they’re not used to getting cuddled. This is a mistake many people make when adopting a hedgie. If you want one that enjoys being held, you should get it from a breeder very early in its life. When you adopt a mature hedgie, you don’t know how much human interaction it has had.


They Live About Five Years

Hedgehogs have a relatively short life. They are prone to cancer and cardiac conditions. Females should almost always be spayed even if you only have one. They often develop uterine tumors. The possibility of that condition can be eliminated by the surgical procedure. They can develop internal and external parasites and should be checked for mites. They’ll need regular vet examinations like your other pets.


Still considering hedgehog adoption? Come in and meet our hedgehog Sonic and talk with our team to learn more about how we care for him.

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