Hoping for a Hedgehog? 10 Things to Know Before Bringing One Home

8. Hedgehogs Carry Human Disease Risks

Like all other animals, hedgehogs may carry a handful of diseases that are contagious to people, including Salmonella bacteria in their stool. They can also carry fungal spores on their quills and skin that cause ringworm in people. This fungus may cause quill loss and dry flaky skin on the hedgehog. As with all other pets, hedgehog owners should be sure to thoroughly wash their hands after handling their pets or cleaning their cages.

9. Heat and Cold Extremes Influence Their Behavior

European hedgehogs who live in the wild will hibernate when the climate gets very cold and food sources become scarce. They do this to reduce their metabolism and maintain their body temperature. Similarly, during hot months, when food supply is limited, African pygmy hedgehogs drastically reduce their activity and sleep more—a state called aestivation—to reduce their metabolic rate and prevent overheating. Though wildhedgehogshave developed these behavior patterns as adaptations to climate changes, domesticated pet hedgehogs should not exhibit either pattern but remain active, since their environmental temperature and food supplies should be constant. When pet hedgehogs hibernate or aestivate, they can lose weight, become ill and even die. If your pet is exhibiting any unusual behaviors, contact your veterinarian.

10. They Bond With Their Owners

Any hedgehog owner who has spent a significant amount of time interacting with his pet and socializing it will tell you that a hedgehog responds to an owner’s voice and appearance. Nervous, balled up hedgehogs may unfurl only when they hear their owners' voices and smell their owners' scents.

Hedgehogs can be adorable, loving pets if they are handled often and made less fearful of people. Unsocialized hedgehogs who are never or rarely handled, however, may remain nervous, jumpy and tightly curled up. So if you’re thinking of having a hedgehog, realize that these cute little prickly pets need time, attention and tender loving care to thrive and be interactive.

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