Hedgehogs, or “hedgies” if you prefer, are cute little creates that are naturally found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. You can find them in New Zealand now too thanks to their introduction there. There are currently 17 different species known to science with this animal who shares a distant ancestry with shrews. Their tiny quills are reminiscent of porcupines, but the two animals are unrelate.
Hedgehogs got their name in the late 15th century because you would find them living near the hedgerows in Europe. The “hog” portion of their name came about because of the tiny snout that looks reminiscent of a pig.
Most hedgies have brown spines with pale tips, but the ones that live on the island of Alderney in the United Kingdom are blonde. All of them roll into a tight ball as a way to defend themselves, causing their quills to extend outward.
If you are thinking about a hedgehog as a pet right now, then these are the critical pros and cons that you will want to review.
List of the Pros of Having a Hedgehog as a Pet
1. Hedgehogs are relatively quiet when they live in your home.
If you have had guinea pigs or hamsters in the past, then you know how loud they can be when they understand that you might be working on a treat for them. Hedgehogs approach this scenario in a completely different manner. You might hear purring noises coming from them when they want something, but it isn’t a sound that is loud or obnoxious. That is why this small animal tends to be a popular selection for renters – especially if you live in a large complex with thin walls.
2. Hedgehogs are independent creatures who don’t need much attention.
When you have a hedgehog as a pet, then you’ll want to give the animal some daily interactions that are gentle and loving. It only takes a few minutes to give them the attention they need each day, unlike a dog or a cat who might want constant contact. If you want to keep your pet tame, then plan to spend about 60 minutes per day with the animal in some way. That doesn’t mean you need to have physical contact that entire time. Being in the same room can be enough for many of them.
3. Hedgehogs are a low-maintenance pet to consider having in your home.
You don’t need to worry about taking your pet hedgehog out for a walk each day. There aren’t specific outdoor enclosures you’ll need to build, scratching posts to install, or other high-maintenance activities that other pets need to stay mentally and physically healthy. If you provide a hedgehog with an exercise wheel in their enclosure, then you’ll be taking the most essential step necessary to maintain their health requirements.
4. Hedgehogs are interactive at all hours of the day.
Your hedgehog maintains an unusual set of hours, often napping some during the day and night with various activities in between those periods of rest. If you work an alternative shift, then this advantage means that you can interact with your pet whenever you are home. You may want to consider keeping your enclosure somewhere other than your bedroom because of their nightly activities if you find that their motion keeps you away.
5. Hedgehogs have cool quills that don’t hurt.
You can pet a hedgehog because their quills are not as sharp as the ones you might find on a porcupine. If you have a young animal at home as a pet, then you’ll want to handle him or her very carefully because baby quills are usually much sharper than the adult version. You’ll notice that the quills come out like a dog shed’s its coat sometimes as well, which is a process called “quilling.”
Getting poked is still a possibility If you don’t handle a hedgehog of any age with the right amount of care, so be sure to learn how to manage this part of your interactions before bringing home the pet in the first place.
6. Hedgehogs don’t have the same smell issues.
If you share a home with other small pets, then their odor can seep in the upholstery and carpet over time. Even houses with dogs and cats in them can smell problematic. You might become nose-blind to this issue, but your visitors will certainly detect the foul atmosphere. Ferrets are notoriously bad for this issue. When a hedgehog is your pet, then it isn’t something that you’ll need to worry about as all. Keeping the cage clean will help to maintain the animal’s health.
If your hedgie does start to develop a foul odor, then this issue is typically a sign of illness. You’ll want to get him or her to vet right away.
7. Hedgehogs have a long lifespan for their size.
When you bring home a young hedgehog as a pet, then they can live for about 4-6 years when they receive the love, care, and food that they need to maintain their physical and mental health. You’ll need to give your hedgie time to forage to gain this advantage as well. Although they are not as long-lived as most dogs or cats, it is significantly longer than other rodent-like animals that you might consider.
8. Hedgehogs can be a hypoallergenic option for some homes.
You’ll discover that hedgies don’t have the dander that other animals bring into your home, which means they work as an excellent pet option for someone who has allergies. If you don’t like the idea of having a hairless cat or a fish, then your new best friend could be this little ball of quills. They won’t seek out your attention, but you can encourage some physical interactions with gentle care over time.
List of the Cons of Having a Hedgehog as a Pet
1. Hedgehogs are not social animals.
If you have more than one hedgehog at home, then you’ll need to keep them separated from each other. These animals tend to fight when they share the same cage, especially if you have males, and this reaction is typically to the death. You must have separate cages if you’re keeping more than just one of them at home. That means you’ll need to have more space, spend extra time cleaning their cages, and ensure that each animal gets the one-on-one time that’s necessary for their mental and physical health.
2. Hedgehogs need time to explore.
Hedgehogs are independent, self-reliant pets who don’t need a lot of attention, but you do need to get them out of their cages regularly to support their health. Getting an exercise wheel can help them to stay active, and that is an excellent first step. These animals also need time to go foraging since that is one of their primary natural activities. You’ll want to set up a safe area that is separate from their primary home to accomplish this need. Make sure that you clean up after your pet as he or she scurries about too, because there will be many droppings left behind.
3. Hedgehogs don’t engage with litter training well.
It is not unusual for hedgehogs to relieve themselves while they are running around. If you let one loose in your apartment, then you have a 99.9% guarantee that there will be a mess to clean up afterward. Their droppings might be small, but they can leave stains if you’re not careful with this issue. Some hedgehogs do have the ability to use a little box with the right amount of training, but there are some who never catch on to this trick. That’s why daily cleaning is sometimes necessary if you decide that a hedgie is the best pet for your home.
4. Hedgehogs don’t mix well with tiny humans.
Hedgehogs like to have a quiet environment, which means a home with small children or lots of other pets will not be a good fit. These animals get stressed out quickly when there is a high level of noise pollution around them. Hedgies need careful and secure handling to protect their health as well, so children might inadvertently injure the animal if they are not careful – or accidentally drop one. Those quills can give your fingers a poke too if the handling is a little rough.
5. Hedgehogs need a specialized veterinarian for their care.
You will need to speak to the veterinarian offices in your community to see if there is any local expertise in the health management of exotic animals. It may not be a service that is readily available in some areas, so you will want to see where the closest location is before bringing home your pet to ensure that the best level of care is possible. If you need to drive more than 50 miles to reach the help you might need one day, then having a hedgie might not be the best choice.
6. Hedgehogs require a specific nutritional plan that you must follow at all times.
Hedgehogs are omnivorous when they live in the wild. You will find all 17 known species eating frogs, toads, snails, eggs, and even snakes. You’ll find them chasing after insects too. Outside of the winter months, you will find them hunting down melons and mushrooms. When the cold weather hits, then they like to survive on grass roots. In the Middle East, the hedgies there have developed a taste for berries.
That means you’ll need to feed your hedgehog a specific diet meant for their needs. Some stores carry a commercial food product, but it may not be available in all areas. You can sometimes substitute a meat-based dry cat food – especially if the primary ingredient is chicken. Canned dog or cat foot works when the first item in it is an animal-based protein. You should also include peas, corn, apples, carrots, or beans in small portions.
7. Hedgehogs require regular care.
A hedgehog cannot be left alone for an extended time without some kind of interaction. If you plan to be gone any longer than a day or two, then someone will need to stop by your place to check on the hedgie and play with them for a bit. You’ll also want to consider the temperature of your home during this time, as they don’t do well in climates that are under 70F.
Final Pros and Cons of Hedgehogs as Pets
Only you can decide if a hedgehog will be a good pet for your home and family. The first question you should ask yourself is what you want from a hedgie in the first place. These animals will not provide you with constant companionship like a dog or the intelligence of a cat, but they are still smart in their own unique way.
If you want a low-maintenance pet who is happy to be independent without a lot of physical interaction, then this animal might be a good fit for your home if you have responsible children and no other pets that could cause a disturbance. Talk to a breeder, interact with hedgies, and then you’ll know where you stand on the pros and cons of hedgehogs as a pet.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.