The first two weeks of hedgehog ownership are the most important in shaping your new pet’s personality and how they will react when you are around. You may notice a change from when you picked out your hedgehog and this is completely normal. Please remember that you are still new and your pet is just learning to trust you. There are also many new exciting and scary smells and sounds and your hedgehogs needs some time to adjust to its new home and care givers. It may ball up and take a long time to unball or it may be huffier and pricklier then it was when your first picked him out. Don’t panic. The best thing you can do is stay calm and ride out the storm.
Here’s a few tips to ease the introduction process:
1. Spend lots of time with your hedgehog: You pet doesn’t need ‘adjustment time’ alone in his new cage. In fact, this is just about the worst thing you can do. Get right in there from the start and spend time with your new pet. Let then sleep in a large pocket or curled up in a blanket on your lap if they are tired (or frightened) after playing. Being next to you and able to hear and smell you will help familiarize your hedgehog with you and your family.
2. Be confident or fake it: Holding a hedgehog for the first time can be an intimidating experience. Holding a sharp frightened hedgehog is downright scary. Keep a piece of fleece blanket or pot holders near the cage to help you through those tough times. Think of them like training wheels for your hedgehog; the more confident you get in picking up your hedgehog, the less you will need them. The more confident you feel, the more relaxed your hedgehog is going to feel around you and the less quilly it will be (remember, animals are very good at picking up on our emotions).
3. Safe Places: Whether it’s on your lap or in its cage, your hedgehog needs something they can hide under/ in to feel safe. This can be anything from a fleece blanket to a guinea pig hut. Hedgehogs are natural burrowers and love dark confined spaces where they can feel safe.
4. Loud noises make for neurotic hedgehogs: Your hedgehog’s cage should be in an area that is relatively quiet and away from loud pets and children. Remember that hedgehogs are awake at night and sleep through the day when your house is at its loudest and other pets are awake.
5. It’s good to play with hedgie during the day: We strongly encourage waking up your hedgehog to play in the afternoon or evening. Playing first thing in the morning is not recommended since your hedgehog has probably been up all night and has just gotten back to sleep. Make allowances for a little moodiness/ quilliness when they first get up. After the inital wake up peorid, you hedgehog should be happy to play with you. Don’t overwhelm hedgie; keep play periods limited to about a half hour or allow hedgie to nap on you.
6. Treats: Treats are great bribes. If you give your hedgehog a favorite treat (mealie worms, wax worms) when you take them out of their cage, they are definitely going to remember it. Eventually they will learn that they get treats when they spend time with you and you’ll find that they learn your routine and are awake and waiting for you (or much happier to wake up for you). Limit the amount of treats you give to one or two. Hedgehogs have small stomachs, so treats should be treated like giving candy to a child.
7. Soothing Aveeno baths: Hedgehogs have naturally dry skin and bathing will dry skin out even more. They also don’t have scent glands, so they don’t really need regular baths. If your hedgehog is extremely moody and between the age of 6 weeks and 4 months, the moodiness could be due to quilling (baby quills fall out, adult quills come in; think of it like teething). Purchase some powdered oatmeal bath (Aveeno bath…. the stuff you use to soak in when you get poison ivy). You can get it at any drug store or super store in the bath isle. Use 2T of the oatmeal powder in a sink of warm water. Make the water deep enough so hedgie has to swim and allow hedgie to swim for 3-5 mins. Use a cup to carefully dump some water down your hedgehog’s back throughout the bath. Never leave your pet unattended or in a bath longer then 5 mins; also take them out and give them a rest mid bath so they don’t tire out.Remove you hedgehog from the water (do not rinse) and cuddle them in a warm blanket for a minimum of 20 mins or until they are dry.
Following these tips will help you and your new pet to bond. Remember that it is going to take time to adjust to your home. Just relax and spend time together and give your pet some time to get to know you.