Getting To Know Your New Hedgehog

I found this information on another hedgehog page and felt it was very helpful to me when I was first starting out, so thought I would include it here to pass on the knowledge.

Remember when you bring your new hedgehog home for the first time they will go through a period of stress. Nothing about the new place will feel like home. They will have all new smells, sights and be on their own, sometimes for the first time since birth. It may take a week or 2 for your hedgehog to completely relax and settle into their new home. During this time as well they will be getting use to you and your routine. It is very critical during this time period to spend as much time with your hedgehog as possible. In doing so you will help comfort your new friend and in turn end up with a stronger bond. Some things you can do to help with bonding are place a shirt in their cage that smells like you. This will allow them to get use to your scent and realize that you will not hurt them or are a threat. Holding your hedgehog daily, even 2-3 times a day will keep your hedgehog well socialized and reiterate your bond. Hedgehogs will revert back to their natural shyness if not held frequently. If you get really busy and don’t have time to hold your hedgehog for a couple days you may find that when you go to hold them for the first time again they are a little more defensive. This is normal and most will settle down once held on a routine basis again. Another thing you may try to help with the bonding process is hand feed your hedgehog. Whether treats or food this will let the hedgehog know that you are not going to hurt them. Some may refuse to eat from your hand while others will have no problem. I will caution though after hand feeding over and over your hedgehog may associate your hand with food and develop a biting problem. After bringing your hedgehog home it is not uncommon for the first night or 2 to see your hedgehog not eating very much. Keep in mind that stress is very high the first couple days. I tell people to feed your hedgehog about a tablespoon of the food that I provide. Count out how many pieces of cat food are in the tablespoon. Let them go overnight and then in the morning count what is left. As long as they eat something even if it is only one piece of cat food or 2, that’s better than nothing. Make sure to feed a couple days of just the food you receive before mixing in whatever food you decide to feed. Their food and water intake will increase overtime as they become more comfortable in their new home. If you don’t think they are drinking you can also offer them a dish of water for the first couple days. Make sure they know where the water is. If you still don’t think your hedgehog is drinking you can try soaking the cat food in water. This will guarantee that they get a least some water during every meal. Another option is to add 50% Gatorade to their water. You can try flavored and unflavored Gatorade to see which one your hedgehog likes. This is a good way to stimulate their drinking. If dehydration is suspected, you can try tenting their skin on their stomach to tell whether or not they are getting enough water. Tenting is when you pinch a small amount of skin and let go. It should spring right back. If delayed or the skin remains tented then the animal is dehydrated. Because your hedgehog will be stressed when introduced to their new environment it’s not uncommon for a hedgehog to develop green poop. Green poop or diarrhea is common for the first week or 2. Just make sure your hedgehog is eating and drinking. This is not something you need to be worried about and take your hedgehog to the vet for. Just monitor them for the first 2 weeks. If it persists then consider a vet visit as it may be something else.
Handling & Playtime

PICKING UP A HEDGEHOG


It’s easiest to pick up a hedgehog from underneath to avoid getting poked or harming your hedgie. Being such sensitive and shy creatures, it’s important to approach your hedgehog with a quiet voice and gentle temperament.


Wash your hands with a non-scented soap.This is to remove any scents the hedgehog may find appealing and try to bite. Be sure no food is under your nails as well!


Scoop your hedgehog up with both hands from underneath gently . Do not scoop him up roughly, but also not too slowly- use gentle yet confident movements.


 Once in your hands, you can keep him in two hands, gently roll him onto one hand, or place him onto your lap.

If you aren’t comfortable with handling your hedgehog and his quills yet, you can use a blanket to scoop him up.

Try to pick up and play with your hedgehog when he is awake, keeping in mind that they are nocturnal and typically sleep throughout the daylight hours.

If you just brought home your hedgehog and he seems very nervous and shy, you may want to avoid handling him too much for a couple of days until he settles in to his new home.

You should handle your hedgehog for at least 30 minutes a day to ensure that he is getting socialization and has time to bond with you.

If your hedgehog begins to become aggressive, shaking, starts biting you, or you notice green poop, this is a sign that he’s becoming stressed and had too much handling that day.


Playing With Your Hedgehog

You can allow you hedgehog to play by ensuring that he has a wheel to run on in his cage, Bucket wheels are the recommended type for a hedgehog.  Also let him explore when you take him out of his cage, provide dig boxes and other toys for stimulus.


Some tips for letting your hedgehog play out of his cage:


Always make sure your pet hedgehog is supervised when out of his cage. You can get a  play pen for your hedgehog to explore in so that you can keep a close eye on him while he has time outside of his cage.

You can feed your hedgie treats (but NOT from your hands) during playtime to help him bond with you. You can also let him climb into your hands and across your lap, without trying to pick him up and interrupting him too much. If your hedgehog seems shy when you take him out to play, let him snuggle on your lap for a few minutes until he’s ready to explore. He may also just want to stay snuggled on your lap for an hour or so, and that’s fine, too! Some hedgehogs are very snugly, and may prefer to simply lay on your lap


Hedgehog Exercise

It’s very important that your hedgehog get enough exercise in order to stay healthy and avoid obesity. Playing with your hedgehog as talked about above and letting him explore out of his cage is a great for exercise, as well as letting him run on his wheel in his cage.

We’d definitely suggest getting your hedgehog an exercise wheel. These are most hedgehogs’ favorites toy, and does a great job to keep them active.Also a playpen full of different toys or dig box are great ways to keep your friend busy.

My Hedgehog "hates" me!

(Excellent article from  Hedgehog 411 at Critter Connection)


Perceived Signs Your Hedgehog Hates You

• Snuffles and raises its quills when picked up
• Is grumpy
• Runs and hides when lights turn on
• Runs away when owner tries to hold it
• Hates to be touched
• Is startled at every little sound or movement


Wrong! Your Hedgehog Does NOT Hate You

• The three most common reasons for less than friendly behavior include:
1. Your hedgehog has “bed-head”. (See below)
2. Your hedgehog is afraid.
3. Your hedgehog is uncomfortable due to quilling.
• By understanding your hedgehog’s behavior you can handle your hedgehog in ways that make your hedgehog more comfortable.
• Your hedgehog needs to be comfortable before it can relax.


Hedgehog “Bed-Head”

• Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures this means that they typically sleep during daylight hours and are active at night.
• Therefore, we need to wake up our hedgehogs in order to play with them.
• Some hedgehogs wake up in a great mood while others need some time.
• Hedgehogs, like humans with “bed-head”, need some time without a lot of stimulation, such as touch. 
• Touching a hedgehog with “bed-head” increases the hedgehog’s irritation and causes it to huff and puff more instead of relaxing.
• The best ways to wake up a hedgehog with “bed-head” are to simply hold it in flat hands or sit it down on a pillow or other soft place and allow it to become active on its own. 
• See the article, Waking Up Your Hedgehog for more information about this topic.


Hedgehogs Are Really “Big Chickens”

• Many times hedgehogs that are simply shy or scared are misdiagnosed as grumpy.
• Keep in mind that hedgehogs are naturally fearful animals that are basically defenseless against danger. 
• When hedgehogs go to new homes they are likely to be naturally scared of both you and its new surroundings.
• Older hedgehogs that have not been properly handled by previous owners or socialized may be especially fearful of new people.
• A hedgehog’s only line of defense is to ball up, huff and puff and use its spines for protection.
• A hedgehog that senses something “different,” i.e. a noise or movement, automatically reacts defensively until it feels safe enough to come out of its ball to investigate.
• When you pick up your hedgehog its natural instinct is to assume that danger might be lurking nearby, so it balls up for protection.
• Hedgehogs that are afraid do not want to be touched. After all, who wants to be touched by something that might cause harm?
• For this reason, holding your hedgehog close and touching or petting it to soothe it as you would to calm a puppy or kitten will in fact make your hedgehog more afraid.
• Holding your hedgehog in flat hands out away from your body is the fastest and simplest way for your hedgehog to relax.


Behavior During Quilling

• Some hedgehogs show no discomfort during quilling while others might become very grouchy or seem anti-social. 
• Hedgehogs that are uncomfortable might huff and puff more and relax less.
• Change in behavior is perfectly normal and should be expected considering the potential discomfort of the quilling process. 
• Instead of attempting to “pet” your hedgehog simply hold it or allow it to crawl over you and explore. “Petting” may actually increase the discomfort and therefore increase your hedgehog’s grouchiness.
• You don’t want to avoid handling your pet during the quilling process, but you certainly don’t want to increase their agitation by petting it if its behavior indicates it is uncomfortable. 
• Allowing your hedgehog to move about and investigate its surroundings without being “petted” will still be positive bonding time for you and your hedgehog without causing it discomfort.
• Don’t worry though, with consistent and considerate handling the grouchiness will get better.
• For more information on this topic see the article Quill Loss and Quilling

What to Do

• You will need to build trust with your hedgehog and teach it that you are safe.
• You will also need to get to know your hedgehog and how your hedgehog prefers to be handled and then respond appropriately.
• Should your hedgehog seem sensitive to bright lights, handle your hedgehog in the evening in the light of a computer monitor, T.V. or a dimly lit room.
* Be aware of sounds or other stimulus which may be upsetting to your hedgehog.


What NOT to Do

• Don’t pet your hedgehog if it puts its quills up or seems to be upset when touched. You should still attempt to just holdthem in a snuggle sack, to show your "safe"
• A hedgehog that is acting defensive is scared. Neither you nor I want to be touched by a scary person and neither does your hedgehog!
• Even though your hedgehog might act defensively, it is important to keep handling your hedgehog. Don’t wait for your hedgehog to seek you out for attention and to gain confidence on its own, instead provide opportunities to trust you. If you avoid handling your hedgehog because it is acting defensively, you are only rewarding its negative behavior.
• Finally, and most importantly, don’t give up!


Hedgehog Vision

Part of understanding your hedgehog is realizing how their vision works. Hedgehogs are for the most part blind, they don't see things the way we do. Being a nocturnal creature their senses have evolved to suit the darkness. Hearing, smelling and feeling vibrations are the senses they use most to build a picture of their world.The vision they do have is not only limited by how far they can see, but also by the colors they see. Their limited eyesight allows them to see the outlines of objects, such as a tree, and their color vision is dichromatic  . Their binocular vision is limited and they have poor depth perception. As poor as their vision is, it's fine for them because hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, emerging from their nests at night to forage for food. They can see in colour, but they only have two types of cone compared to the three types in humans and most other primates. This means that they are missing part of the spectrum, so will only be able to identify a far smaller proportion of potential colour information. To understand how your hedgehog sees the world, and what their limits are means you can put safety first in the environment you create for them.It also means during bonding time you can use this knowledge to understand why something could suddenly scare or startle your little one. It is very important to remember your hedgehog cannot see a ledge or drop off immediately, by the time their other senses realize the danger it could be too late, be sure all ramps or climbing areas have protective sides to prevent injury!

 Left side is what we see, right is DICHROMATIC vision .

Top is our vision bottom is Dichromatic

GUIDE TO HEDGEHOG SOUNDS

Chirping

• This sound is often the first indication of new babies.


• This sound can also be an indication of male hedgehogs breeding and trying to court a female hedgehog.


Clicking 

• This soft clicking sounds similar to kissing.

• Some hedgehogs do this when they are happy and content!


Clicking (Popping)

• This sound is an aggressive/defensive sound that is made when a hedgehog is trying to defend itself due to fear or irritation.

• Never intentionally provoke your hedgehog to make this sound.

• It is best to avoid behavior that elicits this sound form your pet. Your hedgehog might be so scared that touching it will make it more scared.


Grunting

• This sound may be a sign of contentment.

Hissing

• This sound is an aggressive/defensive sound that is made when a hedgehog is trying to defend itself due to fear or irritation.

• It may sound like a chainsaw or a motorboat.


Huffing

• This is a sign of irritation, annoyance, or uncertainty. 

• Hedgehogs usually make this sound when they hear someone or something that is too close in proximity. 

• They are simply trying to tell you to back off and give them some space.


Popping

• This may sound like a grunt or growl.

• This sound is an aggressive/defensive sound that is made when a hedgehog is trying to defend itself due to fear or irritation.

• Never intentionally provoke your hedgehog to make this sound.

• It is best to avoid behavior that elicits this sound form your pet. Your hedgehog might be so scared that touching it will make it more scared


Puffing

• This is a sign of irritation, annoyance, uncertainty, displeasure or distrust.

• Hedgehogs usually make this sound when they hear someone or something that is too close in proximity. 

They are simply trying to tell you to back off and give them some space


Purring

• This sound is a sign of contentment. 

• You know your hedgehog is truly enjoying your company when you hear this sound.


Screaming

• This sound is something that you never want to hear because it is a sound of pain or extreme fear.

• This sound can be an indication of a fight between hedgehogs.

• Accidental injury, such as getting a leg caught, can also be a cause for this sound.

• Hedgehogs have been known to make this noise in their sleep with no apparent cause as if they are having a hedgehog nightmare.

Singing

• This strange sound is part of the mating ritual.


Sneezing

• This sound can mean displeasure and uncertainty when it accompanies a puffing sound.

• This sound certainly can be a sign of illness, but some hedgehogs are simply trying to have a hedgehog “conversation” with you or are simply checking things out.


Snorting

• This sound is a sign of displeasure, irritation, annoyance, or uncertainty.

• This sound typically accompanies puffing.


Snuffling

• This sound can normally be associated with a hedgehog that is happily exploring his surroundings.


Squeaking

• This sound can also be referred to as “chirping”. 

• This sound is often the first indication of new babies.


Squealing

• You may hear this sound when a fight is about to occur between two hedgehogs.


Wheezing

• Certainly this sound can be a sign of illness, but some hedgehogs are simply trying to have a hedgehog “conversation” with you or are simply checking things out.


Whistling

• This is a sure sign of contentment!! 

• You know your hedgehog is truly enjoying your company when you hear this sound.