Articles on basic care and considerations for new or prospective owners.
Articles pertaining to health, nutrition, and veterinary care.
Articles and pictures about hedgehog breeding, growth, and development.
Articles for people who already own a hedgehog or want to know more than just the basics.
Learn more about hedgehog colors!
Wondering where to buy a hedgehog? Start here!
Where to purchase hedgehog supplies and collectibles.
Meet the hedgehogs of Hedgehog Valley!
Meet the other critters that call
or have called Hedgehog Valley
1. WHERE DO I GET A HEDGEHOG???
When buying a hedgehog, you generally have three choices: a breeder, a pet store, pr a rescue. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. The chart below will help you to compare your options.
2. IS THE HEDGEHOG HEALTHY?
Since you want a companion who is healthy and happy, this is very important. Veterinary care is not cheap, and it can be very frustrating to bring home a new friend only to have problem after problem. Some basic things to check for are:
* clear eyes: They should not be crusty, sunken, or swollen. The hedgehog should appear alert and aware.
* clean fur and quills: The hedgehog may have self-anointed here or there, that is not a problem, but it should not be filthy all over. If there is fecal matter matted around the anal area, this is a sign that the animal has diarrhea or some other problem that may indicate severe health problems. If there is yellow staining in the arm pits it can be a sign of fatty liver disease.
* scabs or injuries: Accidents do happen. Sometimes hedgehogs get injured, like being bitten by a cage mate or being blinded by a quill when young. Even if there is permanent damage, hedgehogs can grow up to be perfectly happy and healthy. If there are signs of recent injury it should be healing nicely and the seller should be able to tell you how to properly care for the injury.
* healthy skin: Crustiness around the quills can mean dry skin or it can indicate mites. If the hedgehog has unusually dry skin you need to be prepared to take the hedgehog to the vet to find out what is wrong.
You will also want to check for other external parasites, such as fleas. Two products that have been successfully used to treat fleas (and mites) in hedgehogs are Adams Flea Spray (water based only, available over the counter) and Selamectin (available by veterinary prescription). Please discuss with your veterinarian before treating.
* alertness: The hedgehog should be aware of its surroundings and should not be lethargic and nonresponsive.
* weight: The hedgehog should not be too fat (can not roll into a ball, has excess "bags" at the "armpit" areas) or too thin (hollow sides, caved looking tummy). Either can indicate poor health.
* feet: The toenails should be trimmed so they are not curled under and causing problems. If nails need clipping, ask the seller to show you how.
3. WHAT ABOUT TEMPERAMENT?
What you see is usually what you get. Shy hedgehogs can be won over with patience and caring but there are no guarantees. Most hedgehogs will be initially shy when new people pick them up.
If the hedgehog balls up initially but comes out within a minute or three to relax and explore, it will probably be fine. If it comes out of the ball but is shy and easily startled, it will likely always be easily startled and shy. It is best to choose a hedgehog whose personality best fits your expectations so that you will be happy with each other.
While we are at it, with hedgehogs, gender does not really predict which hedgehog will be more friendly with you. Many people believe that female animals will be friendlier or less aggressive, but with hedgehogs you get angelic and cranky ones of both genders, just as likely. The biggest difference is that females usually accept same-gender cage mates while males do not. If you plan to house two together then you will want two females.
4. WHAT AGE OF HEDGEHOG SHOULD I GET?
If the hedgehog is happy and healthy, it's going to be happy and healthy, regardless of age. Young or old, hedgehogs can bond to new people.
With an older hedgehog you will know what the color is and you will have a stronger idea of its personality. However, hedgehogs live 3 to 6 years so an older hedgehog may not be with you very long.
With a younger hedgehog you will get to see the growth and development, which is really cute! Younger hedgehogs do tend to be more prone to pooping on people and the babies may become very cranky when their adult quills start coming in.
Both older and younger hedgehogs can make great pets, it is up to you to decide which would better for you.
5. WHAT KINDS OF QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK THE SELLER??
How old is this hedgehog?
They should be able to tell you roughly how old it is, or an explanation of why they do not know. If it is obviously wrong, be concerned! There are tales of babies with no fur yet, who could not be even three weeks old, being sold with the claim it was six weeks old. People have also been sold hedgehogs that they were told were babies that were clearly elderly.
What have you been feeding this hedgehog?
They should be able to tell you what the hedgehog has been eating. If the hedgehog has been fed a poor diet, this can affect personality and health. Overly fatty diets can lead to fatty liver disease and death, undernourishment can lead to grumpiness and various health disorders.
What kind of bedding has the hedgehog been living on?
If the person says cedar, be aware that cedar bedding can cause respiratory problems and has been associated with cancers in small animals. Uncured pine bedding can cause the same problems, but most pine beddings are baked and do not have this problem.
What is the hedgehog's background?
This is important if you plan to breed the hedgehog. Pet stores are not likely to have much information unless they work directly with a breeder. Many pet stores buy their animals through wholesalers who purchase from many different sources. Breeders should be able to tell you where they got the hedgehog if they did not raise it. If they bred the hedgehog they should be able to tell you about (or even show you) the parents, or sometimes even further back. Many breeders charge extra for a pedigree.
Who is your veterinarian?
If the person is a breeder or pet store, they should be able to suggest a veterinarian in the area who can treat hedgehogs.
Are you USDA licensed?
In the US, persons who sell hedgehogs and have 3 or more females are required to have a USDA license. If they are cutting corners and unlicensed, this may be a clue that they are cutting corners elsewhere. The law exists to ensure at least a basic level of care! If the breeder is USDA licensed they will be able to tell you their USDA number.
What kind of health guarantees do you offer?
This is a "buyer beware" question. Even with the best of care and careful breeding practices, problems can occur. Birth defects do happen and they don't all show up in the first 6 to 8 weeks of life. You will want to know what the seller is and is not willing to do about health problems.
What if it does not work out between me and this hedgehog?
There are times when circumstances just do not work out as you had planned. You will want to know what the seller policies are. Pet stores typically have a refund policy stated. If not, ask. Individual breeders have their own policies.
At Hedgehog Valley, we discourage impulse purchases and therefore do not give refunds on hedgehogs. We feel this helps people to know that they are making a serious decision. However, we also understand that not every hedgehog takes to the person who picked it. In these cases, we try to work out an exchange for a different hedgehog that we hope will work out better. When someone calls and says they can not keep their hedgehog any more, we will offer to baby sit if it is a temporary situation, or to help the owner network to find a new permanent home for the hedgehog. This works for us, but each seller has a different policy.
How much has this hedgehog been handled?
If a hedgehog is a little shy and has not been handled much, chances are it will warm up with handling. If it is really friendly and has not been handled much, it is probably going to be a really awesome hedgehog! If the person indicates that they only handle hedgehogs with gloves, we consider that something to be concerned about. A person with experience in handling hedgehogs should never need gloves to pick up a happy, healthy hedgehog, and should be able to demonstrate to you how to pick up even a balled up hedgehog with minimal pricking.
6. WHAT IF THERE ARE NO BREEDERS OR PET STORES WITH HEDGEHOGS IN MY AREA?
First, check and see if it's legal to own or sell hedgehogs in your area. The only states I have been told hedgehogs are currently totally illegal are Alaska, California, Georgia, and Hawaii. Some states may require permits. You can call the state veterinarian to find out current information. I believe Maine and North Dakota ask hedgehog owners (or owners of any exotics) to maintain a permit and others may, too.
Some cities and counties have local ordinances about hedgehog ownership, like Baton Rouge, LA makes it illegal to sell hedgehogs in the city limits, but has no laws against owning one.
If it's the case that you can not find one in your area but it is legal to own, then your best bet is to find a breeder who ships. And yes, we have a few tips on shipping, too!
How will the animal be shipped?
If the person tells you they are shipping through the mail or some sort of postal overnight courier, be concerned. The US Post, Fed Ex, UPS, etc... are NOT licensed to ship hedgehogs, are not prepared to ship hedgehogs, and in addition to the strong possibility of ending up with dead hedgehogs, there are fines for shipping animals illegally. A proper courier is an airline who is licensed to ship animals, such as Continental, American Airlines, or Northwest. There are also ground courier services that will ship door to door.
What is required for animals to be shipped?
A current veterinary health certificate and a shipping kennel that has been certified safe for airline use are required. Temperatures should not be too hot (over 80F) or too cold (under 45F).
So, what is the cost for shipping?
Standard air cargo service is around $210 to $240. A shipping kennel usually costs around $30 and health certificates can vary. Our veterinarian charges $15 per hedgehog. You can ship more than one hedgehog in the same kennel so shipping several at the same time can make the cost a lot more feasible.
Is it dangerous to ship hedgehogs?
If done properly, no. I have yet to send or receive an animal shipped via air who appeared at all distressed or harmed by the trip. The compartment that the animals stay in is kept at the same temperature and pressure as the passenger compartment, to ensure their comfort. Food and water are offered. The airlines we have worked with have bent over backwards to ensure the health and comfort of their prickly passengers.
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