Gender Differences

May 27, 2013 by

Gender Differences

Physical Gender Differences

  • Male hedgehogs are called boars. Their penis is retracted within a penile sheath that is located in the mid-abdominal region of the hedgehog. The external portion of the sheath most closely resembles a belly button. The testicles are located in the abdomen and are generally not seen.
  • Female hedgehogs are called sows, and their vulva and anus are very close in proximity to each other.  They have five pairs of mammae or teats.
  • Male and female hedgehogs should be housed separately from the time of weaning and should only be allowed contact for breeding purposes. 
  • Hedgehogs can breed as early as eight weeks.  Breeding at this age can be very dangerous for the female and is highly discouraged by most breeders.
  • Male hedgehogs can get bedding or other material inside their penile sheath.  You will need to check this area daily to make sure there is no blockage or irritation.  Most irritations can be freed during a normal bath, but if a problem persists, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary.
Males Physical Gender Difference

Male

Females Physical Gender Difference

Female

  • There are no odor differences between males and females.
  • Neither males nor females mark their scent.
  • Females do not have obvious menstrual cycles.

Gender Differences in Temperament 

  • We at Millermeade Farms along with a majority of hedgehog owners and breeders do not believe that there are major temperament differences between males and females.
  • Female hedgehog’s cohabitate better, than their male counterparts. We have seen signs that some of our female hedgehogs prefer to have a cage mate, but it is not absolutely necessary in most cases.
  • Males can self-stimulate, but this practice is not typically a complaint of male hedgehog owners.

Cohabitation and Gender Differences 

  • It is common knowledge that hedgehogs are solitary creatures in the wild.
  • However, we have found through our own experience, research, and customer feedback that some hedgehogs actually do quite well together.
  • Baby hedgehogs, especially females, cohabitate quite well.
  • Female hedgehogs have a tendency to cohabitate better than males, because they do not have the testosterone hormone and hence are not aggressive during their sexually active period.
  • Males that are raised together and are never exposed to females may also cohabitate nicely.
  • All cohabitation should be monitored throughout a hedgehog’s life. One should be prepared to separate the hedgehogs if signs of dominance develop.  Adult males, not raised together, and/or exposed to females have the greatest risk for fighting and are not recommended for cohabitation.
  • Please refer to our article Are Hedgehogs Solitary or Social?, for more information on this topic.

Gender Differences and Healthcare 

Males
  • Male and female hedgehogs obviously have different reproductive and urinary tract systems and their main health care concerns are related to these differences.
  • A male’s penis is contained in the penile sheath and is only exposed during urination, breeding, and occasionally on self-stimulation.
  • Hedgehogs are relatively low level creatures therefore their extended penis is even closer to the ground.  There is a chance that the bedding can stick to the extended penis and be drawn up into the penile sheath.
  • It is certainly very irritating to the hedgehog as well as being a potential for infection or other damage.
  • Good bedding choices and daily monitoring of your hedgehog dramatically reduces the incidence of serious problems.
  • The first sign of irritation is redness and/or swelling.  A bath and gentle cleansing of the area may be a sufficient treatment.
  • Veterinary care may be required for more serious irritations.
Females
  • A female hedgehog’s urinary and reproductive problems appear to be closely related.
  • Similar to the male hedgehog, a female hedgehog is also close to the ground, which is most likely to contribute to urinary tract and reproductive infections.
  • One obvious indication of a urinary tract infection is visible blood in the stool. Change in eating, elimination habits, and general decline in health are also potential signs of a problem.
  • Female hedgehogs are a species of induced ovulators, which means that their reproductive cycle is stimulated by the presence of a male unlike humans who are cyclic ovulators.
  • Some hedgehog owners and breeders believe that having a male and female in the same household without breeding increases the risk of uterine cancers in the females.
  • On the other hand, breeding also increases the risk of problems due to pregnancy, birth, and postnatal care drastically.
  • Some veterinarians recommend preventative spaying of females.  However, there are risks with every invasive procedure and use of anesthesia.  Proactive spaying is not yet widespread among owners of female hedgehogs and is not recommended by all veterinarians.
  • At this point, there are no conclusive studies showing the advantages and disadvantages of preventive spaying.  Since veterinarians tend to check hedgehogs with problems, it is difficult to get a fair idea of the percentage of female hedgehogs in the pet population in need of spaying.
  • Most veterinarians and breeders DO recommend spaying at the first sign of urinary or reproductive infections. It is much easier to treat a small problem than try to fix a larger problem later on.
  • We suggest finding an experienced veterinarian in your area and consulting with them if you have any concerns regarding owning a female.  Having a good relationship with a veterinarian is not only beneficial before buying your pet and for routine care, but will be critical when dealing with a pet that needs emergency care.

Gender Considerations When Purchasing Your Hedgehog

  • Most hedgehog breeders and enthusiasts encourage new pet owners to be very cautious when buying a female hedgehog that has been housed with a male past six weeks of age.
  • You may be surprised with hedgehog babies if a female has been with a male; even if that male is a littermate.  It is rare for hedgehogs to reproduce at six weeks, but even experienced breeders have had accidental breeding between siblings.
  • It is always a good idea to have a breeder show you how to check the gender of your baby or be prepared to check the gender yourself.  Even knowledgeable breeders can get their babies mixed up or make a simple mistake.
  • Always be prepared to separate babies when buying two. Two female hedgehogs can often cohabitate beautifully and two females may even prefer companionship, but there is always a risk that one can become detrimentally dominant over the other.
  • Two male hedgehogs have a tendency to express dominance especially when a female is in the same household or when the males go through adolescence.  It is always a good idea to prepare for separation even though same gender cohabitation can work.
  • NEVER house male and females together past the age of six weeks.

Conclusion

  • It is our experience that neither males nor females make a better pet.
  • We suggest finding an experienced veterinarian in your area and consulting with them if you have any concerns regarding owning a female.  Having a good relationship with a veterinarian is not only beneficial before buying your pet and for routine care, but will be critical when dealing with a pet that needs emergency care.
  • On many occasions potential hedgehog owners decide that their family might enjoy TWO hedgehogs instead of ONE.
  • Two females tend to cohabitate better than males, so if your family might possibly end up with two hedgehogs we suggest choosing a female for your family.

 

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

Contributor:  Susan Crocker, Susan’s Hawkeye Hedgies

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