Hedgehogs can make great pets for the right people once you learn the basics on what to look for when purchasing a hedgehog and how to take care of your pet hedgehog.
Here, we’ll go over the main information about what to expect when owning hedgehogs as pets. If you’re still on the fence about whether a hedgehog is right for you, check out our “Is a Hedgehog Right for You?” page to find out if a hedgehog would be a good fit for you and your family.
General Things to Know about Owning Hedgehogs as Pets
Domesticated hedgehogs are legal to own in most of the United States, but not in ALL states.
Keeping African Pygmy hedgehogs as pets is legal in most states. Unfortunately, hedgehogs are illegal to own, breed and sell in Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and three specific areas including New York City, NY, Washington, DC, and Fairfax County, VA.
If you live in any of these states and some other countries, you will not be able to keep hedgehogs as pets. If you live in a place where it is legal to have hedgehogs as pets, keep reading to see if they may be a good fit for you!
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they typically cannot be played with during the day.
Just as in the wild, hedgehogs sleep during daylight hours and can be sensitive to the light. While some rare hedgehogs are okay with being played with or awaken during the day, most hedgehogs will become very grumpy when they aren’t awake during their natural evening hours.
This is important to keep in mind when considering hedgehogs as pets – it’s great for families who are not around during the day to take care of their hedgehogs, but not so great for families looking for a pet to play with during the day.
Hedgehogs may not be suitable for children under 12 or children who may be rough with them.
Though hedgehogs are generally calm and peaceful pets, they are very timid creatures, and can become nervous and extend their quills if handles roughly. For this reason, hedgehogs should not be handled by very young children, or children who may not be ready to handle the hedgehog carefully.
If your children are typically loud and rambunctious, you may want to consider another pet. Hedgehogs can become very frightened by loud noises!
Hedgehog Temperament & Personality
Hedgehogs are generally calm, solitary creatures.
Hedgehogs require only 30 minutes of socialization per day, and some are perfectly content being left completely on their own. Whatever your hedgehog’s personality, it is suggested that you spend a small amount of time with your hedgehog out of his cage each day.
Hedgies should be handled gently and kept in a quiet, clean area. Although they may look a bit dangerous with their sharp-looking quills, they are not typically harmful at all, and hedgehogs rarely bite.
Hedgehogs have quills that may not be suitable for all people.
While a hedgehog’s are not as sharp as they look, they can poke you, especially if the hedgehog is curled up in defensive mode.
It’s important to handle your pet hedgehog with care, and consider that you will have to handle his quills when caring for him. People with sensitive skin and young children may not be suitable for holding hedgehogs.
It’s up to your own discretion whether or not you feel comfortable with a hedgehog’s quills. A good way to test this is to visit a breeder and have them show you the proper way to handle a hedgehog, so that you can see whether you enjoy handling them.
Hedgehogs typically do not bite, and can be trained to stop biting.
Pet hedgehogs are not naturally aggressive animals, and while they have the ability to bite, they will only bite for a few reasons:
- Discomfort / Defense: If you are handling your pet hedgehog when he feels overwhelmed or uncomfortable, or if you mishandle him, he may bite in attempt to let you know that he wants to be left alone.
- Eating: If you have any scent of food on your hands, your hedgie may attempt to nibble, thinking that you are a tasty treat!
- Curiosity: They may bite when exploring a new environment, in attempt to become more familiar with their surroundings.
If you find that your hedgehog bites, you can train him not to bite. We’ve outlined the steps to help you train your hedgehog in our “Do Hedgehogs Bite?” article.
Your experience with having hedgehogs as pets may differ depending on your hedgehog’s personality.
Hedgehogs typically have one of four types of personalities:
- Cuddly. These hedgehogs enjoy human interaction and are happy to snuggle on your lap.
- Explorer. These hedgehogs require a lot of exercise, and preferring exploring during social time rather than being held or snuggling.
- Shy. Hedgies are naturally shy creatures, but some are more shy than others. These hedgehogs may curl up when you go to hold them, and be a little less social than others may be.
- Grumpy. These hedgehogs don’t want to be held or played with – they’d much prefer to simply be left alone in their cage.
Check out our Hedgehog Spotlight section to see interviews with real hedgehog owners. Each owner describes their hedgehog’s individual personality so you can see what it’s really like to own hedgehogs as pets!
Care Required When Owning Pet Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs make fairly inexpensive and low maintenance pets.
Getting a pet hedgehog may require more money spent upfront than some small pets like hamsters of guinea pigs. They typically cost between $150-$300 to buy (see more price info here), plus the cost to set up his cage.
However, since your hedgehog’s food should be primarily small amounts of cat food, it is very inexpensive to feed your hedgehog. Keep in mind, however, that if you hedgehog becomes sick and requires veterinarian attention, this can cost up to $300 if he requires treatment.
As far as maintenance goes, you will need to replace your hedgehog’s food and water each day. To keep his cage clean, you can spot clean daily and do a full cage cleaning about twice per month, or you can just clean the entire cage out once per week.
You should not leave your hedgie home alone for more than a day.
While hedgehogs are content in solitude, they do need to be fed and checked in on daily.
If you travel or are out of the house often, you should make sure that you have a family member, friend or neighbor that is willing to check in on your hedgehog daily to feed him new food and water, clean up his cage when necessary, and ideally give him a bit of attention each day.
Still have questions about hedgehogs as pets? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do out best to help! 🙂
Thank you, Charlotte Hu Photography, for the hedgehog photo featured above!