As hedgehogs win over the masses as the pet of choice, questions started arising regarding their unique quirks. Hedgehogs do not act like rodents, cats, dogs or other common pets. As a result, first time owners end up taking their hedgehog in for a vet visit for perfectly normal behaviors. Although a vet visit cannot hurt when facing questionable pet behaviors, the associated costs can add up and cut into the treat and toy budget. You can keep that money in your pocket by learning about the behaviors your hedgehog will exhibit during his or her lifetime.
Your hedgehog may foam at the mouth, and then rub the residue all over his or her body from time to time. Although it looks like your hedgehog went rabid (and a bit crazy!), this process is actually called self-anointing. Although there is some dispute about the purpose of self-anointing, it is widely believed that it helps mask the hedgehogs scent in the face of danger.
In the wild, hedgehogs are relatively small, tasty animals preyed on by owls, foxes, wolves and other predators. For these predators, the hedgehogs’ quills do little to deter them from a delicious meal. Therefore, hedgehogs need to mask their scent to evade detection by these animals.
Another defense mechanism employed by these lovable creatures is rolling up into a tight ball. Hedgehogs can hide all of their squishy parts, including face, limbs and underbelly inside the pointy quills for a bit of protection and camouflage when faced with danger. The ability to look like a rock or sea urchin, rather than a delicious hedgehog, probably provides more protection that their quills do. Although the quills are pointy, they are not barbed like a porcupines are.
Hedgehogs always seem to look somewhat sleepy, even while running around their habitat during mealtimes or playtime. Contributing to this appearance is the fact that hedgehogs are actually nocturnal creatures. Although they do wake up during the day, their activity level surges at night, likely just when you’re slinking off to bed. Luckily, their opposite sleeping patterns mean you can cuddle up with a napping hedgehog all day and let him or her play at night while you rest.
Hedgehogs make a wide range of sounds from shrill squeaks and deep grunts to cute whimpers and soft growling sounds. Unless your hedgehog constantly makes these noises, or sounds extremely distressed, no further investigation is needed to decipher the meaning.
Assessing Your Pet’s Condition
Watch your hedgehog closely a few times a day to check for strange behaviors that are beyond the norm. If your hedgehog looks or acts ill, it’s wise to head into the vet for a checkup to rule out serious health conditions. Also, make sure the housing area is warm enough to ensure your hedgehog does not try to go into hibernation. If you rule out health conditions or unsuitable housing conditions, you can usually chalk up that behavior to a unique quirk known only to your hedgehog.