We all love hedgehogs and some people would like to keep one as a pet. Wild hedgehogs should never be kept as pets. They would not be happy locked inside and they would not adapt to being part of a human lifestyle.
Why hedgehogs would not make good pets
Hedgehogs are wild animals so they are more at home outside in their natural habitat. They don’t seek out company and their instinct is to hide away from humans. Trying to keep one as a pet could lead to a great deal of stress for them.
They are nocturnal
Hedgehogs are nocturnal. They come out to forage for food at night and are not adapted to living during lighter days. If you keep one as a pet, it would not be active while you are up so you would possibly never see it. While this would be a shame in itself, it also means you would not be able to see if it was in good health or if it needed help.
Many animals kept as pets need room to exercise. For some pets this is easy to organise, but not so much for a hedgehog. They can walk several miles a night, so if they are in an enclosed space, this can be very stressful for them. Not being able to walk as far as they usually do can also mean they start to put on weight, and this will affect their health.
Ticks and disease
Hedgehogs do tend to carry ticks and they can also cause illnesses in humans too.
- Ticks can be dangerous to humans and can cause Lyme Disease. While this can be treated, if left, it can cause permanent nerve and memory damage.
- Hedgehog droppings can contain salmonella bacteria. This can not only make them ill, but you too.
- If you try to handle a hedgehog, not only will you frighten it, but you are also at risk of being pricked by one of its spines. While these pricks are not dangerous, they can cause a rash in some people.
- Hedgehogs can also carry ringworm, so if you have other pets, it’s really not the best idea to have a hedgehog around them.
Any hedgehog kept indoors will need a stable temperature, and this can be difficult to achieve. If the temperature drops too low, they may go in to hibernation, and unless they have prepared for this, they may not survive.
When You Should Take a Hedgehog In
There are people who do have hedgehogs in the home but these are never as a pet. If a sick or injured hedgehog needs to be cared for before being released, then it is usually nursed by someone in their home. This is only a temporary measure. As soon as they are well, they are released back in to their natural habitat.
Some hedgehogs do require long term care, but these are quite rare.
The Exception: African Pygmy Hedgehogs
African Pygmy Hedgehogs are becoming more popular among pet owners. While these are domesticated hedgehogs, they still require the same, high level of care. They are not easy pets to care for, so before you get one, check everything that you will need to do and make sure that you are able to handle their needs.
Even though they are domesticated, they still need,
- Plenty of space to move around, ideally with the opportunity to forage for items
- To be left to sleep during the day
- A carefully managed diet
- A stable temperature. Just like wild hedgehogs, African Pygmy Hedgehogs react to different temperatures. In this case, if it is too hot, they will attempt to sleep. In Africa, hot weather means less food, so if they have not prepared for the weather, they may not survive.
You will need to monitor their interaction with any other pets as well. Even if your hedgehog is used to your cat or dog, they may prick them and this can cause your other pets to react.
All wild animals are best left in the wild. While we can try to recreate the things they like, with hedgehogs it’s impossible to give them the life they want. They are solitary creatures and do not seek out or need human contact. This can, in fact, be quite stressful for them.
They need to be able to forage for insects and food, and even if you have a large room for them, this won’t be enough. Keeping a hedgehog as a pet is a nice idea, but it’s better for them that we help them lead the natural life they deserve. Keeping food and water out and keeping an eye on our garden is all they need from us.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I tame a baby hedgehog?
If you find a baby hedgehog, do not try to raise it as a pet. They are adapted to life in the wild, and they will not get everything they need to help them grow and develop if you keep them.
Hedgehogs should always be kept in their natural environment wherever possible.
How long do hedgehogs live?
The average lifespan of a hedgehog is 2-5 years, though some do live a little longer. If you have to care for a sick hedgehog, it will be quite a commitment.