Do Hedgehogs Hurt to Touch or Hold?

If you’re thinking about getting a hedgehog as a pet, you may certainly be wondering whether or not a hedgehog hurts to handle.

They can seem frightening at first, but once you become accustom with the right way to handle a hedgehog, you should find his quills very tolerable to touch!

First, what are these quills, exactly?

These quills are technically spines, and are hollow, modified hairs. African Pygmy Hedgehogs, the most common type of pet hedgehog, have between 5,000 and 6,500 of them!

The quills lie on top of two back muscles that allow the hedgehog to curl up and extend his quills as a defense mechanism when threatened.

Do hedgehog quills hurt to touch?

A hedgehog’s quills will feel differently to the touch depending on whether the hedgehog is relaxed, or curled up in defense.


Though the spines come to a point, they are not sharp when relaxed. When you hold a hedgehog who is not in defense position, his quills lie evenly across your hands and distribute the weight your hedgie, meaning that the quills will not poke into your skin. Some owners describe the feeling as touching a bunch of straws or a hairbrush.

In Defense:

When a hedgehog curls up in defense, that even distribution of quills changes, as his quills become more spread out. Since the quills are more spread, they become more sharp to the touch. The quills should not break through your skin, but it will be a bit more painful to touch. Some owners describe the feeling as touching a bunch of toothpicks.

If your hedgehog goes from relaxed to threatened in your hands, it may cause a bit of pain from suddenly raising his quills. However, his quills should not cause any sort of serious pain!

Other notes on hedgehog quills:

  • Baby hedgehogs will have sharper quills than adults, since the quills are smaller and not fully developed.
  • Quill sharpness can also vary from hedgehog to hedgehog. Some hedgehog’s quills can simply feel a bit more painful than others’ to touch.
  • Always pet the hedgehog from head to tail – in the direction that his quills lie. Like petting a dog’s fur, petting backwards feels much more rough, both on your hands and on your pet!
  • The more comfortable your hedgehog becomes being around you and his handlers, the more he’ll stay in relaxed position with his quills down.
  • Most owners say that although the spines seem frightening at first, you will quickly become accustomed and comfortable with the feel of the quills!


17 thoughts on “Do Hedgehogs Hurt to Touch or Hold?

  1. andy

    I am just getting a hedge hog for my birth which is December 24th people are saying that you need to buy special gloves is this true

    1. Campbell

      It is better if you just use a blanket or towel because using gloves can interfere with the bonding process. If you use a blanket while he relaxes and move to holding him in exposed hands, you probably won’t get poked as much, and it won’t interfere with the bonding process as much.

  2. Jayy

    I’ve had my hedgehog for about 3 years. Whenever I first got her she was hiss and make her quills rise & point. Touching them doesn’t “hurt” but it isn’t a good feeling either. Whenever the quills are down you can pet the quilts from head to toe and it just feels like rubber plastic and doesn’t hurt at all!

  3. Jayla

    Thank you for the information, I finally convinced my parents to let me have a hedgehog, but they want me to research them first. I’m writing everything down so I can show them everything I know, plus I want to be sure I take care of it the right way.

  4. Sam Sherman

    Very helpful since I became a hedgie
    adopted father I now share my home with a rescued adult thanks for all the helpful information.

  5. lorelei

    thank for the heads up about not to handle them when they are tired I was gonna it is relly helpful thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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