Climbing, Agility & Grace

May 27, 2013 by

Climbing, Agility & Grace

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, or a bed, but they will not “jump” off.
  • Ladders, branches, and perches in hedgehog cages are dangerous for these ground dwelling creatures, due to their lack of agility and grace.

The Descent

  • As described earlier, hedgehog paws are designed for walking, similar to our feet, and are not built for grasping or holding on to things like our hands.  Therefore, hedgehogs do not climb down. Instead they simply fall from where they are climbing, off a ledge or off of any elevated surface.
  • Hedgehogs will typically roll into a ball when making a descent from various heights.
  • Their spines absorb much of the shock from the fall, and using the tuck and roll technique, most of the hedgehogs will escape without injury.
  • However, hedgehogs can get injured. Kids jump off of swing sets quite frequently without any problems, but it only takes one wrong move to break an arm or worse. Hedgehogs may fall a number of times without injury, but it takes only a second for an injury to occur.
  • Hedgehogs that climb bars of their cages may get a foot or a leg stuck in the wires of the cage. This can cause serious injury including broken bones.
  • Hedgehogs have little depth perception so they may fall or walk off of ledges that are too high, causing their spines to injure them internally.

Preventing Injury

  • First, breeders suggest a deep plastic pan or other type of cage bottom that will prevent the hedgehog from attempting to climb.
  • Hedgehogs will often use cage accessories to give them a boost up the side of the cage, so you may need to move accessories toward the center of the cage.
  • Lexan, plexiglass, heavy vinyl (from a fabric store), or coroplast can be cut to line the interior portion of wire cages, should your hedgehog decide to take up climbing on a regular basis.
  • Cardboard can be cut to fit along the sides of a cage in an emergency or as a temporary solution to prevent climbing.
  • In addition to preventing the hedgehogs from climbing, breeders also suggest a cage with a secure lid and a side door lock to prevent escape.
  • Even large plastic tubs are not escape proof. Low ventilation holes or interior cage attachments, such as a water bottle or the boosting accessories described above, can give hedgehogs just enough of a boost to climb up and out of the cage.

Primary Author: Gail Dick, Millermeade Farm’s Critter Connection

Contributor: Jamie Hand

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