Bonding With Your Hedgehog

May 24, 2013 by

Bonding With Your Hedgehog

Introduction

  • Bonding with your hedgehog helps to create an attachment between you and your pet.
  • The more the attachment develops between you and your hedgehog, the more you will grow to love and enjoy your pet.
  • Some hedgehogs will bond to their owners for life (HHC).
  • Bonding does require effort, persistence, and an understanding of hedgehogs.
  • The well-bonded hedgehog completely trusts its owner, its spines will stay flat and it is likely to tolerate being petted, scratched, and will be easy to handle
  • Many hedgehogs don’t like to be petted by just anyone until they are completely comfortable with their environment.  This is especially important when a hedgehog goes to a new home.
  • Hedgehogs have poor eyesight, so using its other senses will increase bonding effectiveness.

Time Commitment

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  • As stated above, bonding does take effort and persistence, and may require a great deal of time.  Some hedgehogs will bond rather quickly, but other hedgehogs may take up to a YEAR to fully bond.
  • Over time your hedgehog will become accustomed to your smell, feel, and will appreciate the warmth of your body.
  • One of the best ways to bond with your hedgehog is to simply let it sit on your lap and get to know you while you watch a movie, talk on the phone, or work on a computer.
  • Once your hedgehog uncurls it is likely to explore your lap, use you as a human mountain, or find a snuggly place to fall asleep.
  • Having your hedgehog sleep on you is perfect bonding time.  It will associate you with warmth, comfort, and an enjoyable experience.

Through Scent

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  • Hedgehogs have a great sense of smell so it is important to get the hedgehog used to your scent.
  • One way to get a hedgehog used to your scent is to sleep in a t-shirt for several nights or wear one all day (without washing it) then drape the t-shirt over the hedgehog’s cage.
  • We suggest sleeping with a piece of fleece about 2” x12” square then putting the fleece in the hedgehog’s sleeping area or sleeping with the hedgie’s sleeping bag.
  • New lotions, perfumes, or scents may confuse your hedgie, because they disguise your “original” scent.

Through Sound

  • Hedgehogs are very sensitive to sound in that most ball up or “prickle” when they hear new or loud noises.
  • Talk to your hedgehog and let it get to know your voice.
  • Talking to your hedgehog while holding, snuggling, bathing, and other enjoyable activities will help your hedgehog associate the sound of your voice with comfort and enjoyment.
  • Over the years we have found the radio and music very soothing for a variety of different animals.  Hedgehogs are no exception.
  • The periods of talking and music on the radio provides a constant stream of noise for the animals and makes new sounds less obtrusive.
  • The sudden noise of talking, doors opening and closing, and general noise of being in the room may be irritating to the hedgehog if it is accustomed to silence.
  • Using the same greeting every time you talk to them will let them know it is you.

Through Snuggle, Sleep, and Lap Time

Overview

  • The key to handling and bonding with your hedgehog through snuggle, sleep, and lap time is to make sure your hedgehog feels secure.
  • Don’t attempt to pet a shy hedgehog, simply relax and let him come out on his own.
  • It is extremely important not to provoke your hedgehog to huff, puff, jump, or pop in defense because it is scared or upset.
  • Most of the time your hedgehog will uncurl and attempt to explore in just a few minutes.
  • Other hedgehogs may take a little longer to begin to relax, but please be patient and allow it to explore on its own terms.

Suggestions

  • Lori Keller, bonding expert, suggests holding your hedgie against you in your hands and on your chest so your hedgehog can feel your body heat and hear your heart beat.  Hold him while watching TV, or long enough so that he sleeps on you, as having your hedgie sleep on you is an excellent way to get them to bond.
  • You can hold a hedgehog close and let it snuggle into you without “petting” your hedgehog which may make it more nervous.
  • You may be able to pet an otherwise “unpettable” hedgie when your hedgehog falls asleep and relaxes.
  • Some hedgehogs might not feel comfortable being exposed.
  • Holding your hedgehog in its sleeping bag might make it feel more comfortable.
  • A section of fleece or a towel that smells like you might also be a good asset to lap time.
  • Another tip Lori has is to put on a t-shirt with a nice big over shirt on and tuck the hedgehog in-between the layers.
  • Some people like to use large bonding pouches (similar to those used for sugar gliders) or hedgie packs to carry the hedgehog around during daily activities.
  • As mentioned in other sections, there are some hedgehogs that simply will not fall asleep on your lap or snuggle.

Through Play

  • You can also sit your hedgehog down on the floor in a hedgie-safe room or area.  Don’t attempt to touch your hedgie, but instead allow it to get to know you on its own terms.
  • Place your hand several inches away from your hedgehog and allow it to come up to your hands and smell you.
  • Your hedgehog is relaxed when its quills are laid down and it is moving about without flinching every time you move.  Certain sounds may still scare a relaxed hedgehog.
  • Allow your hedgehog to use you as a human mountain.  Let it climb on you and explore you.
  • In her article on Hedgehog Central Forums Kalandra describes how she works with some of her hedgehogs: “I’ve had some that I blocked off a small area, threw a blanket down, some toys and a wheel and laid in the middle while the hedgehog explored. Given enough time, each of the hedgehogs that liked this interaction would end up snuggled next to me when they were done playing.”
  • One of our customers reported that their hedgehog did not like the color red.  Whenever anyone wore a red shirt this particular hedgehog was grouchier, and didn’t seem to enjoy being handled as much as on other days.
  • While color preference is somewhat unusual for animals, it is important to notice subtle things in the hedgehog’s environment that could affect their behavior.

Through Treats

  • You can try to offer hedgies treats from your hand.  Your hedgehog may respond well or it might completely ignore you.
  • Don’t let your hedgie lick your fingers or hand because it might decide that since a little bit of you tastes good, a lot of you might taste better!
  • You may need to help your hedgie differentiate between treats and hands, but the bonding time is worth the effort.
  • More information about bonding with treats can be found in our Hedgehog Treats guide.

Patience, Patience, Patience

  • We cannot stress enough that it is going to take some time for your hedgehog to get used to you, trust you, and bond with you.
  • You mustn’t give up, Mr. Rossiter, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.’ [a 1979 A. Christie Miss Marple’s Final Cases 39]
  • A large number of hedgehogs will eventually recognize your voice and smell and realize that you are not a threat.
  • Hedgehogs will all respond to you differently, but eventually they will recognize you as their source of food and your hands as a safe place where it can begin to explore the world.

References:
Hedgehog Club (HHC) http://hedgehogclub.com/introduction.html 6/14/10
http://www.heritage-pets.com/id80.html  6/14/10
Behavior Expectations; Kalandra.  http://hedgehogcentral.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=13  6/14/10

Contributor:  Susan Crocker, Susan’s Hawkeye Hedgies

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