You and your new hedgehog — Heading home and the first two weeks

 Hamor Hollow and the Hedgehog Welfare Society attend the 2004 Pet Rock Festival

DON’T PANIC

And don’t forget to bring a blanket…

 

Encourage the bonding process

The first two weeks with your hedgehog are the most important in shaping your new companion’s personality and how they will react around you! Once home, you may notice a temporary personality change from when you picked out your hedgie, and this is completely normal.

Please remember that you are still new and your new member of the family is just learning to trust you! There are also many new exciting and scary smells and sounds, and your hedgehog needs some time to adjust to their new home and caregivers.

They may ball up a bit more often and take a bit more time to unball, or they may be huffier and pricklier than they were when your first visited Hamor Hollow. Don’t panic! The best thing you can do is to stay calm and ride out the storm.

Transporting hedgie home

Please bring a secure carrier with you when you arrive to pick up your hedgie at Hamor Hollow, and be sure to bring it inside when you arrive so it warms up to room temperature. Hedgehogs are burrowing animals, so a fleece blanket will help make your carrier comfortable and warm. Hedgehogs feel safest in small confined spaces, so a small animal carrier or a small cat carrier is best. If your enclosure is bigger, put a larger blanket in it so your hedgehog can hide.

Do not provide any food or water for the ride home as it will just make a mess. Some hedgehogs are prone to motion sickness, and encouraging eating or drinking will just make the problem worse. Even without food, there is still a chance your hedgehog may experience motion sickness and throw up a small amount.

If this happens, do not be alarmed. Once you get home, just allow your hedgehog a little time to settle into their new enclosure before you start playing with them. Once the motion stops and they settle in, they will be fine to play again. If you have a long drive, you may want to bring some extra blankets in case you need to make a quick change on the way home.

Heat and socialization

Staying warm is key to your hedgehog leading a happier, healthier, and more social life. If your hedgehog gets chilly then they will become grouchy, not want to socialize with you, and they may eventually go into a false hibernation. To help avoid this, it’s important to keep your hedgehog warm. We at Hamor Hollow recommend keeping a heating pad in your hedgehog’s enclosure plugged in at all times, even during the Summer!

SOMETIMES A HEATING PAD ALONE ISN’T ENOUGH

If your hedgie gets too cold even with a heating pad then moving the enclosure to a warmer room or wrapping a blanket around it as insulation may be enough additional heat to keep your hedgehog happy. Other times, you may need to add a ceramic heat emitter as a secondary source of heat.

If your hedgehog is grouchy, adding more heat will help them become happier and more social. This could make all the difference when it comes time to spending quality time with your hedgehog. Please remember that your hedgehog is native to Africa, so your idea of warm may not be warm enough for them.

FALSE HIBERNATIONS ARE NOT HEALTHY FOR YOUR HEDGEHOG

This can happen at any temperatures below 75°F. A warm hedgehog is a happy hedgehog. A happy hedgehog is a companion that you or your child will enjoy playing with more often, which will lead to it becoming more social and easygoing. So it’s important to keep a digital thermometer on your hedgehog’s enclosure so you know the ambient (room) temperature at all times.

Spend time together

Your hedgie doesn’t need adjustment time alone in their new living space. You already became their familiar anchor when you chose each other at our Open House. So get right in there from the start and spend time with your new companion.

Let them sleep in a large pocket or curled up in a blanket on your lap if they’re tired (or frightened) after playing. Being next to you and hearing and smelling you will help familiarize your hedgehog with you and the rest of your family.

It’s just fine to play with your hedgie later in the day and we encourage waking up your hedgehog 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 initial wake up period, your hedgehog should be happy to play with you. At first, don’t overwhelm your hedgie and just keep play periods limited to about half an hour. Allowing your hedgie to nap on you can extend your playtime without stressing them out when they first come home.

BE CONFIDENT OR FAKE IT

Hedgehog quills can be intimidating at first. So keep a piece of fleece blanket or baby blanket near the enclosure to assist with picking up your prickly new friend! Think of them like training wheels for handling your hedgehog. The more confident you get in picking up your hedgie, 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 they will be. Remember, animals are very good at picking up on our confidence and emotions.

SAFE PLACES

Whether it’s on your lap or in its enclosure, your hedgehog needs something they can hide under or 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. So a hoodie or sweatshirt with pockets is a perfect place for them to hide while still spending time with you.

TREATS

Treats are great bribes! If you give your hedgie a favorite treat like mealworms or waxworms when you take them out of their enclosure, they are definitely going to remember it. Eventually they will associate treats with spending time with you. You’ll find that they may learn your routine and might be awake and waiting for you, or much happier when you wake them up.

Limit the amount of treats you give to one or two. Hedgehogs have small stomachs, so treats should be served like giving candy to a child.

Loud noises make for neurotic hedgehogs

Your hedgehog’s enclosure should be in an area that is relatively quiet and away from loud noises and rowdy members of the family like barking dogs or chatty parrots. Remember that hedgehogs are nocturnal so they’re awake at night and try to sleep throughout the day when your house is at its loudest.

Also, if a member of the family plays a musical instrument, then their practice room is not a good location for the hedgehog enclosure. The same can be said for home theaters or video game rooms.

Quilling

Most hedgehogs are between eight and twelve weeks old when they leave Hamor Hollow, and they are still in the process of quilling. Quilling is similar to teething, except baby quills are falling out and are being replaced by adult quills. This can create some discomfort and moodiness as the new adult quills poke through the skin.

Adding more warmth to the enclosure, and making sure your hedgehog is sleeping on the heating pad, can feel soothing and ease the ouchies a little. Continuing to hold and play with your hedgie during this time will strengthen your bond and you’ll work through the quilling together.

If your hedgie gets really grumpy and you need some help, pop us an email and Kelly will help you work through it.

Eating and drinking

It’s normal for your hedgehog not to eat or drink much for the first few days. The stress of adjusting to a new home may decrease its appetite. Don’t panic, continue to offer normal Food Mix and water, and check for dropping to make sure your hedgie is pooping during this adjustment period.

Hedgehogs have small stomachs and don’t each much at a time, so it might not look like their food dish is emptying quickly. As long as something is coming out, your hedgie is eating!

It’s important to make sure that clean food and water is always available, so set a schedule to check daily. If the remaining food in the dish is clean, there is no reason to change it. However, if your hedgehog has soiled in the food bowl, be sure to clean it and give them new food.

Your hedgehog may experience some constipation, diarrhea, or colorful stools for the first few days. This is normal and part of the stress of adjusting to a new home. If this happens, don’t give your hedgie any additional treats. Treats and new foods can also lead to changes in color, consistency, and the smell of their stools.

If pooping issues continue for more than five days, you can give your hedgie Bene-Bac® Plus Pet Gel. This is essentially a prebiotic that will help your hedgehog’s digestive tract. Pop us an email or contact your vet if you need dosage information.

READ MORE ABOUT FOOD MIX →

Sleeping

Remember that hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal, so you will see them sleeping a lot. Hedgehogs sleep away 95% of the day and night. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal.

In the beginning, your hedgehog might not come out to play while the lights are on or while you are awake. After your hedgehog adjusts to the normal sounds of your home, they may start coming out on their own more often. This is going to take awhile, and probably won’t happen for a few months or so.

Huffing

Don’t be alarmed if your hedgie huffs at you. It’s a hedgehog, that’s what they do! Hedgehogs have poor eyesight and may interpret shadows or quick movements above them as a predator. So, until your hedgehog gets your scent, it won’t know who you are. Just be confident and pick them up anyway. Once your hedgehog is on cradled in your hands or on your lap it will identify you as their person.

Never offer your hedgehog your fingers to sniff and do not stick them between the bars of the enclosure and wiggle them. Your fingers look like food and you will get bitten.

The huffing is your hedgehog’s tough-guy voice. It’s meant to scare away predators but don’t let this discourage you. Confidently pick up your hedgie anyway. More socialization and encouraging your hedgie to identify your scent as safe leads to a happier hedgehog that enjoys your company.

Biting

As much as we wish it wasn’t true, all animals bite at some point. If your hedgehog bites, don’t immediately put them back in their enclosure. Hedgehogs learn patterns quickly and may learn that biting you is a way of communicating that they wish to be left alone. If this behavior is learned, then when your hedgehog is tired or doesn’t feel like playing, they may bite you to tell you to put them back to bed.

Instead, discourage this behavior by letting your hedgie run on the floor or snuggle them in a blanket on your lap for a bit before you put them away.

Always wash your hands with a low scent or unscented soap before playing with your hedgehog. If you smell yummy, you are going to be nibbled.

READ MORE ABOUT BITING →

Medical examinations

It’s important to see a veterinarian that either specializes in exotics or has previous hedgehog experience. A relationship should be established with the veterinarian and a wellness examination check-up scheduled within the first two weeks.

A fecal float, urinalysis, and repeat wellness examination check-up should then be scheduled annually as a preventative measure.

Clipping and trimming nails

Hedgehogs need their toenails trimmed on a regular basis. Frequent checks are important as different hedgies' nails will grow at different rates. Long toenails can get caught on things and potentially rip out or, if neglected for too long, curl over themselves and grow into the pad of the foot. Should any toenail problems develop, a vet should be seen immediately to prevent the area from becoming infected.

READ MORE ABOUT CLIPPING AND TRIMMING NAILS →

tl;dr

Your hedgehog may be a bit shy initially. Remember that they are now on unfamiliar turf, and the world can be scary for a little baby hedgehog. Spending time together will help you and your new friend bond and will ease them through this transition period. Warmth plays a huge part. A warm hedgehog is a happy hedgehog and a happy hedgehog is a hedgehog that you will enjoy playing with.

Following these tips will help you and your new companion to bond. Remember that it’s going to take a bit of time for your hedgie to adjust to your home. Just relax, Netflix and chill, and give your hedgie some time to get to know you.


 
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