How To Encourage A Hedgehog To Release A Bite...

Oct 11, 2013 by

Keep in mind hedgehogs are natural hunters.  Their instinct is to hold on until what they have in their mouth is still.  Do not attempt to shake off your hedgehog (or other small critters). Hedgehog enthusiasts tend to disagree on what is the best method to stop a bite.  What one person might consider safe and effective another person might view as cruel. Regardless of your behavior modification preference, should your hedgehog actually latch on to your skin, pulling away might encourage your hedgehog to grip tighter. One method of getting a hedgehog to release a bite is to simply scream like the dickens when you get bit.  This startle technique lets the biter know that a negative reaction happens when they bite.  It is also a good healthy way for the one being bitten to relieve their stress! Another safe and simple way to encourage your hedgehog to release a bite is to gently cover both nostrils.  The hedgehog will release its bite so it can take a breath. Blowing in the hedgehog’s face works sometimes, but many breeders recommend not doing this because it could cause the hedgehog to clamp down tighter. Others have found that a splash of water or a quick dash under running water will shock the hedgehog into releasing.  Of course you will need to ensure that your hedgehog is properly dry before retuning it to its cage....

Digging

Sep 5, 2013 by

Instinctual Habit In the wild, hedgehogs dig dens in the ground, both for protection from predators and also shelter from the elements. Hedgehogs have a powerful forefoot and claws designed specifically for digging. While digging habits may vary between different species of hedgehogs; the overwhelming majority of hedgehogs have a digging instinct that needs to be satisfied. Hedgehogs are also very active and need lots of exercise to avoid becoming obese in captivity. Digging can help with this! http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-Hedgehog-Dig-Box Digging at Home In order to satisfy the digging instinct, hedgehogs tend to try and burrow into anything they find available. This includes food bowls, litter, carpet, and anything else that happens to be around when they feel like digging. Because they are nocturnal creatures, hedgehogs often dig at night. This digging can be messy for owners with wire or open cages, as hedgehogs tend to fling litter or other beddings all over the place as they attempt to burrow. Not only can digging make an inconvenient mess, it can also be dangerous for your spikey buddy if the proper precautions aren’t taken to prevent injury and irritation to your hedgehog’s skin, lungs, genitals, and eyes. Safe Suggestions and Solutions Two excellent ways to protect your hedgehog and provide a safe and enjoyable place to dig are to provide a hedgehog sleeping bag, a hedgehog dig box, or both. Large sleeping bags filled with strips...

Body Language

Jun 28, 2013 by

Body language and facial expression are both common forms of communication in both humans and animals. One can tell many things about a hedgehog just by paying attention to their body and spine language. Spines The most obvious and famous form of hedgehog’s body language is the use of its spines. When the spines are up, the hedgehog is most likely reacting defensively, or showing a sign of irritation. When the spines are down, the hedgehog is relaxed and comfortable in it’s surroundings. A Hedgehog raising and lowering their spines is the equivalent of a human smile and frown. When your hedgehog is scared, angry, or upset, it generally does not want you to touch it. The goal is to help your hedgehog relax and become comfortable, so that it can be handled more easily. Flat Spines Once your pet hedgehog gets to know and trust you, it will keep its spines flat while you are caressing it. It might take a while longer for it to stop raising its forehead spines or “eyebrows”. Forehead Spines or Eyebrows Humans and hedgehogs alike can use their eyebrows to communicate. Typically, when your hedgehog’s eyebrows are pulled down and are covering its eyes or face it is trying to communicate, hide, or protect itself. This can mean the hedgehog is: angry or irritated wary or uncertain scared or defensive Hedgehogs may also raise their forehead spines if you...

Introduction To Biting Articles

Jun 24, 2013 by

Introduction  Most hedgehogs do not bite. Any animal with teeth has the potential to bite, so hedgehog owners must understand the potential of getting bit is always present. Hedgehogs aren’t like dogs, where the bite is usually an intentionally mean or aggressive act. Their main line of defense is to ball up and use their spines for protection, rather than to bite. Hedgehogs do investigate the world around them with their nose, eyes, and mouth.  Quite literally, your pig probably doesn’t even realize she’s hurting you. Also keep in mind that hedgehogs are *hard-wired* to put new/odd/unusual things in their mouths, chew on it and then anoint with it.  So in a way, it’s a compliment your hedgie is biting you, because she finds you interesting. The good news is that hedgehogs’ mouths are designed to crush bugs and not fingers! Their tiny teeth and elongated jaw make it difficult to get in a good chomp when compared to the average cranky hamster. One need not be fearful of a hedgehog bite, but we do want to make you aware that it can happen and when it happens, what to do and how to understand your hedgehog’s biting. Proper understanding of hedgehog behavior will help decrease the risk and/or frequency of biting. How Bad Does it Hurt? Hedgehogs have fairly small teeth designed to crunch insects. They do not have the typical rodent incisors...

Bedding & Litter Eating Or Ingestion...

Jun 7, 2013 by

Reasons for Eating Bedding Inquisitive – Hedgehogs are inquisitive by nature and often attempt to learn about their environment through their senses of taste and smell.  Baby or young hedgehogs are very prone to eating new brands or types of bedding. Self-Anoint and/or Camouflage – Many hedgehogs will ingest new bedding in order to create a forth to self anoint. Hunger – It is believed that hedgehogs that have had drastically reduced diets or an inadequate diet may eat bedding to attempt to satisfy hunger. Nutritional Deficiency – Some believe animals eat things in their environment to try to combat something they are lacking in their diet. What to Do The most important thing to do is to monitor how much bedding your hedgehog is eating and to try to discourage your hedgehog from eating more bedding. Hedgehogs that eat a single piece of new bedding and spit it out or self anoint with it are most likely eating it out of curiosity and will discontinue eating the bedding once they realize it isn’t food. Offer additional treats or additional staple diet to encourage the hedgehog to eat food rather than bedding. Immediately remove bedding if you notice your hedgehog eating multiple pieces of bedding. Dangers Ingested bedding can cause serious abdominal impactions that can lead to death. Always keep an eye on your hedgehog’s appetite and stool after your hedgehog eats bedding. Your hedgehog’s stool should...

Vocalization & Noise

Jun 7, 2013 by

Vocalizations Hedgehogs have a wide range of sounds that they use to communicate.  You must listen carefully and observe the hedgehog’s behavior to clearly understand what your pet is trying to communicate. Different people can describe each noise that a hedgehog makes in different terms. Some sounds require little or no attention on your part.   For example, the squeaking or chirping of new babies lets you know babies have arrived and as long as momma isn’t stressed there is nothing you need to do.  Other sounds such as clicking or popping should be a clear sign to you that your hedgehog is in defense mode, and you need to change how you are handling your pet. Chirping This sound is also referred to as “squeaking”. This sound is often the first indication of new babies. Leave your mother hedgehog alone if she is in her nesting box. If you hear this sound and your hedgehog does not have a nesting box, you’ll want to give the new mother a box right away. Be sure to disturb her as little as possible when she has newborn young. This sound can also be an indication of male hedgehogs breeding and trying to court a female hedgehog. Clicking (Kissing Sound) This soft clicking sounds similar to kissing. Some hedgehogs do this when they are happy and content! Clicking (Popping) This sound is an aggressive/defensive sound that is...

Are Hedgehogs Nocturnal, Crepuscular or Diurnal?...

Jun 6, 2013 by

Nocturnal vs. Crepuscular vs. Diurnal The time of day during which animals are awake are generally described as nocturnal, crepuscular or diurnal.  These terms can basically be defined as follows: Nocturnal – Animals that are awake primarily at night Crepuscular- Animals that are awake during late evening and early morning Diurnal – Animals that are awake during the day Some hedgehogs may exhibit crepuscular activity, meaning they are active in early morning and early evening, but hedgehogs are generally considered to be primarily nocturnal in nature. No matter how the hedgehog is technically defined or described, each hedgehog is going to have his or her own schedule of activity or routine. Built for the Dark Many hedgehog experts and enthusiasts agree that hedgehog senses are adapted to work best at night. Whether naturally active at night only or dawn and dusk, the point is that hedgehogs are active when the levels of light are very low or even pitch black. Hedgehog activity typically is not determined by the hour of the day, but rather by the level of light. Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight so their other senses are sharper to compensate for this weakness. Generally speaking, the world is much more calm and quiet during the night. Hedgehogs are known to be naturally timid and afraid of new things, such as strange smells or sounds. There is less noise, movement, and distraction on...

Signs Of Affection Or Lack Thereof

May 27, 2013 by

Some hedgehogs do not display outward signs of affection, while others can be quite affectionate towards their owners. Hedgehogs do not typically come when called, or actively seek out human interaction. They are NOT like cats and dogs, which have drastically different personalities and forms of affection. You may be sadly disappointed if you are looking for an attention-seeking and affection-giving pet. Your hedgehog may not even greet you or seem happy when you wake it up to take it out of its cage. The average hedgehog is content to do its own thing and may not show any outward sign that it even cares about your existence unless you have a treat in hand. Despite their somewhat solitary nature, they can become very affectionate with their owners and will even enjoying watching TV with you or just snuggling in your...

Hibernation & Estivation

May 27, 2013 by

In the Wild European species of hedgehogs hibernate in the wild when the temperature becomes too cold. They spend the warmer months building fat reserves to sustain them through their periods of inactivity. In the wild, African species of hedgehogs may go into a dormant period of inactivity called estivation (also referred to as aestivation; see below for a definition) when the weather is too hot and dry in the summer. Hedgehogs are very vulnerable when they wake up from hibernation or estivation. In such a weak state, hedgehogs are easy targets for predators. Some hedgehogs are unable to recover from hibernation or estivation and die from related illnesses. In Captivity Hedgehogs in captivity can also go into periods of partial-hibernation. Indoor room temperatures that are too cool can induce a false hibernation attempt. Some hedgehogs attempt hibernation in response to barometric pressure changes or external temperature changes even though the indoor temperature is acceptable. Captive, bred hedgehogs generally have lost the ability to recover from hibernation and need immediate attention.   These hibernation attempts for the pet hedgehog are very dangerous and can result in death if not given immediate attention..   Estivation attempts are rare for pet hedgehogs, but are equally dangerous. Hedgehogs living in captivity should be kept in a controlled environment to help prevent hibernation or estivation. Signs and Symptoms When the hedgehog begins to hibernate, it will be cold...

Huffing, Puffing & Popping

May 27, 2013 by

Understanding Huffing, Puffing, and Popping When you first pick up your hedgehog, it may have its spines erect, and it may make some defensive noises. Huffing and puffing is a way for a hedgehog to say, “I’m big and bad”. It is a sign that your hedgehog is threatened and scared, nervous, or possibly unhappy. When a hedgehog huffs and puffs, it is trying to intimidate whatever is making it feel defensive. Big Scaredy Cats Hedgehogs are usually shy when introduced to something new. They are often born like scared cats and need to learn that they are safe. So, it is quite natural for the hedgehog to be scared or nervous; the huffing and puffing noises are an attempt to scare you away. Hedgehogs still have many of their wild instincts – including a fear of potential predators (and this includes humans!) due to the fact that they have a limited defense system and poor eyesight. Until your hedgehog knows who you are and that you have good intentions, it is simply trying to communicate its uncertainty with you. When you take your hedgehog from its home and move it to a new environment, it has to relearn that it is safe in the new surroundings. Bed Heads Keep in mind that your hedgehog may have woken up and therefore be uncertain of its surroundings. Daytime for us is actually the middle of...

Climbing, Agility & Grace

May 27, 2013 by

Climbing Hedgehogs will attempt to climb, and are often quite adept at climbing. However, once they are up, they cannot easily climb down. Their body mass is not proportioned for climbing. For example, squirrels, monkeys, and other animals that climb tend to have long and narrow bodies, rather than short and round bodies, like hedgehogs. Hedgehog limbs do not have the strength to support their round body mass when climbing, so gravity naturally works against them. You can imagine a sumo wrestler mountain climbing. Their weight would be out of proportion, making their climb both difficult and potentially dangerous. Hedgehogs have four feet instead of hands and feet like other animals that climb. Hedgehogs simply don’t have the strength in their feet to grasp and hold on, like other animals that have hands. Agility and Grace Animals considered agile move quickly and lightly. Again, the shape of hedgehogs’ bodies keeps them from climbing with the agility that they need to be safe. While hedgehogs have the ability to climb; they do not have the ability to jump from one level or point to another. Hedgehogs, therefore, are not considered to be light-footed; rather they are more awkward and clumsy in their attempt to climb. Hedgehogs will not see a spot in the distance and attempt to jump, since they lack the ability to jump. They might simply walk off of your hands, a table,...

Cage Pacing & Circling

May 27, 2013 by

Normal Behavior Hedgehogs are quite active in the wild and frequently run in circles; therefore, running laps inside the cage can be a great form of exercise. Hedgehogs can run in circles or even run in a figure eight form. Breeders have also seen athletic hedgehog moms bowl over toddler hedgehog babies headed for the food dish, when the toddlers have gotten in their way! Some hedgehogs may pace at the front of their cage in anticipation of exercise or feeding time. This is normal behavior as long as it stops once they are fed or removed from their cage. Abnormal Behavior Obsessive and compulsive pacing occurs when animals are confined in cages that are too small. Hedgehogs with a physical problem may also turn in circles, often with their head tilted at an angle. This kind of circling needs immediate veterinary attention. Primary Author:  Gail Dick, Millermeade Farm’s Critter Connection Contributor: Jamie...

Defensiveness & Aggression

May 27, 2013 by

Aggression Hedgehogs are not naturally offensive or aggressive to either perceived or real danger; instead, they are instinctively very defensive, because their primary concern in life is survival! They do not attack when they feel threatened, but would rather hide. Hedgehogs are shy and can easily feel threatened when confronted with something new, different, or startling in their environment. Unlike a dog that is likely to protect itself by fighting off danger, a hedgehog is likely to simply try to hide until danger goes away. Moreover, hedgehogs were first introduced into the pet trade in the early 1990’s and have not been domesticated as long as other pets.1, 2 Most breeders try to continually breed for increasingly friendly hedgehogs. Defense Mechanisms Hedgehogs that are mildly threatened or startled will simply lower their visor or the spines on their forehead to protect their eyes. The most obvious hedgehog defense is to curl up in a ball and use its spines to protect its head and vulnerable underbelly. Huffing or puffing is the hedgehogs’ way to appear more threatening than they really are, and to ward off potential harm. Hedgehogs can click or pop as a way to poke human hands or any other critters that aren’t intimidated by the huffing and puffing. Hedgehogs that feel threatened may use their visor or forehead spines to ram or lunge into something in order to poke the offender....

Elimination Habits

May 27, 2013 by

Baby Hedgehogs Young hedgehogs are especially prone to releasing their bowels on their handler. When you first get your hedgehog you can pretty much expect to get pooped on at some point. Hedgehog babies typically get better as they get older. Wake Up Ritual Many animals (including humans) have to go to the bathroom when they wake up after a nap or a night of sleep. While the body is resting, it is still processing foods and wastes. Hedgehogs are no different, and they normally eliminate within twenty minutes of waking. It is a good idea to have a litter box or paper towel handy at the beginning of playtime. Litter Pan Usage Some hedgehogs use the litter pan faithfully when they are first introduced to it. Other hedgehogs flatly refuse to use a litter pan. One hedgehog owner reported that her hedgehog suddenly started using the litter pan at the age of two. The benefits of a hedgehog using the litter pan are well worth the small investment and effort required to set one up. When hedgehogs use their litter pan it cuts down on cage cleaning, which in turn saves on both time and bedding, as well as improves overall hygiene of your hedgehog. Hopefully litter box use will occur in the first week or so of coming home. See our Litter Training Article for more information on this topic. Wheel Pooping Hedgehogs...

Balling Up

May 27, 2013 by

First Line of Defense When a hedgehog senses danger, or is uncertain about something in its environment, its first line of defense is to ball up.  This classic hedgehog trait is made possible by the orbicularis muscle, which runs along the edge of its body. In order to ball up, a hedgehog tightens this muscle, which acts like a drawstring.  This enables the hedgehog to hide its head, belly, feet, and legs in a prickly coat of erect spines. A balled-up hedgehog may also snuffle, huffle, snort, or pop in order to seem scarier and more menacing to potential dangers. An obese hedgehog may not be able to roll into a tight ball. This is a sure sign that the hedgehog needs a change in its diet, supervised with veterinary care. Hedgehogs that are sick, injured, cold, or lethargic may not be able to unroll, or they may not be able to ball up.  These hedgehogs need immediate veterinary attention. Shock Absorber Hedgehogs will also ball themselves up when they are falling, to cushion the impact of their fall.  Their tuck and roll characteristic is similar to that of paratrooper, and gives them a sense of fearlessness when falling. Even though the quills act as a natural shock absorber, the hedgehog can still be injured from its fall.  The quills can actually puncture inwards and injure the hedgehog, so it is always better to...

Grouchy Hedgehogs

May 27, 2013 by

Are Hedgehogs Truly Grouchy or Are They Simply Misunderstood? Understanding Hedgehog Behavior “I’d rather be alone.” One of the biggest misconceptions about the hedgehog is that this naturally shy animal is “grumpy” or “grouchy”. The reality is hedgehogs are simply fearful of changes in their environment (i.e.: Being handled by a new person). “I heard that!” Hedgehogs have poor eyesight, but heightened senses of hearing, motion detection, and even emotion detection. This makes them very sensitive to changes in their environment, and changes in your approach and mood.  The way in which hedgehogs are approached and handled can determine their reaction. “Trust takes time.” You must to prove yourself trustworthy before a hedgehog can completely relax and enjoy being in your company. To do this, you must be persistent, patient, and relaxed. If your pet senses you are scared to handle it, then it will most likely react defensively. “Take a step back, please.” When hedgehogs are nervous or scared they will ball up, becoming a handful of prickly quills. This natural defensive mechanism is not a sign of aggression. They are simply protecting themselves from the unknown. “I don’t feel so good.” Hedgehogs with health issues may be less responsive to handling due to pain or discomfort, and may prefer to be left alone. Quilling is an example of a normal process that can be very uncomfortable for a hedgehog and can impact...

Scent Marking & Other Nasty Habits...

May 27, 2013 by

Hedgehogs do not spray or scent-mark their territory like other animals. Males do not have a stronger odor than females and can only be physically distinguished from females by differences in their genitalia. Some male hedgehog owners do report self-stimulation of their male hedgehogs. This most frequently occurs at night and is not something that is widely disturbing to an average pet owner. Hedgehogs do self-anoint as described in our Self Anointing...

Burrowing

May 27, 2013 by

Natural Instinct Hedgehogs sleep during the day in any dark place that they can find. In the wild, they may hide from other animals in vacated burrows, under rocks, or in thick vegetation.  They typically dig their own shallow burrow under some form of cover. They enter and exit their burrows headfirst, so the burrows or hiding places must be large enough for the hedgehog to turn around. Cage Activity In captivity, hedgehogs enjoy burrowing, and if a hedgehog escapes, it will hide in any dark, quiet place it can find. Ideally, the hedgehog’s cage is large enough to provide an igloo or other object in which they can hide.  This not only provides hedgehogs with environmental enrichment, but with a better sense of security as well. The Lixit® igloo and a sleeping bag together provide a great place for a hedgehog to burrow in its cage. Escaped Hedgehog When a hedgehog escapes, it will almost always look for a place to burrow and hide. Some of these places may include:  in shoes, behind appliances, under furniture, or under clothes.  Usually hedgehogs will first travel around the outer edges of the room, looking for a place to hide. Handling Challenges Many hedgehogs will try to burrow into their human friend to find a warm, cozy place to sleep. Almost all hedgehogs will root and wiggle their way into the crook of your arm to find...

Scratching

May 27, 2013 by

Bed Head Hedgehogs often scratch a bit when they first wake up or after they are handled. One might compare this scratching to fluffing out a “bed head” hairdo. Hedgehogs’ skin may also feel tight or need to be scratched when their spines are out of alignment. Some hedgehogs scratch when nervous or exploring. Again, this is a habit you may see in humans. Quilling and Dry Skin Quilling also can cause scratching because it is uncomfortable when the new spines are working their way through the skin. Dry or dirty skin can also cause scratching. A bath and olive oil treatment (or our skin care oil) should help alleviate both these problems. Check out the Quill Loss and Quilling, Dry Skin, and Bathing Your Hedgehog articles for more information on these topics. Mites Mites are the first thing people typically think of when they see their hedgehog scratching. If you are sure that the cause of scratching is only mites, be sure to look out for other signs of mites. Signs of mites include: Loss of quills with a flaky root rather than a healthy root bulb Visible mites or mite droppings Scratching and itching to the point where the hedgehog leaves marks on its body. A trip to the vet may be necessary if excessive itching continues or if other signs and symptoms of mites accompany the scratching. Check out the Mites...

Activity Levels Of Pet Hedgehogs

May 27, 2013 by

 Nocturnal, Crepuscular, and Diurnal Defined Animal activity is defined as nocturnal (nighttime), crepuscular (twilight – early morning and late evening), or diurnal (daytime). Hedgehogs are typically described as nocturnal or crepuscular. Most pet hedgehogs sleep during the day, only coming out for an occasional snack or drink. Our article ‘Are Hedgehogs Nocturnal, Crepuscular, or Diurnal?’ describes this topic in great detail, with many sources and opinions provided. Hedgehog Activity at Millermeade Farms Almost all hedgehog activity at our place, occurs when we turn off the lights for the night. We feed all our animals in the morning. Many hedgehogs come out to greet us and have snacks, but all quickly return to their slumber. Throughout the day, hedgehogs may get up to have a drink or a bite to eat, or use the litter pan, but for the most part there is very little daytime activity. On cage-cleaning days, weaning days, and days that we rotate our breeding animals, there is quite a bit of activity. Hedgehogs love to explore their clean cage and then usually go right back to sleep. Are Hedgehogs Lazy? You may think your hedgehog just sleeps all the time, but most likely they are active when you are not. Customers frequently ask questions about and comment on their hedgehog’s lack of daytime activity or their “laziness”, and wonder if this is normal hedgehog behavior. Our former ‘Critter Connection’ website answered...

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