- Self-anointing is probably the strangest and most unexplainable of all hedgehog behaviors.
- It is completely normal and causes no harm to your hedgehog.
- Some references refer to self-anointing as “anting”.
- This term refers to a similar behavior in birds, where certain species of birds will rub ants onto their bodies in order to apply the formic acid ejected by the ants to its feathers
- Anting in birds, as with hedgehogs, is a form of self-care.
- Hedgehogs will lick or chew the object of interest and create foamy saliva or lather which they will then deposit onto various parts of its body.
- It is not uncommon for new hedgehog owners to think their hedgehog is having a seizure or is vomiting.
- Vomit tends to be more slimy than frothy and usually is a result from motion sickness.
- Substances that can provoke self-anointing include chemicals, perspiration, leather, perfume, hand lotion, soaps, traces of food on your hands (especially garlic), and excrement.
- Hedgehogs that anoint frequently or that anoint with a particularly colorful or smelly substance may need a bath.
- The color of the anointing froth is dependent on the source of the anointing substance. For instance: blueberries produce blue froth and a new food will produce the same color froth as the food.
- Hedgehogs can self-anoint at a very early age, even before their eyes are fully opened.
- The first sign that a hedgehog is going to self-anoint is that they will show a fascination with a particular odor or taste.
- Your hedgehog is likely to chomp its teeth or chew at the substance to create the anointing froth.
- You may see your hedgehog twist and contort in a variety of funny positions as it spreads this foamy saliva on its body using its surprisingly long tongue.
- Many hedgehogs become so engrossed with this activity that they become oblivious to anything going on around them!
Reasons for Anointing
- The reasons hedgehogs self-anoint are still unknown, but it is usually related to a new or pleasant smell.
- Some people believe anointing is a form of scent camouflage designed to cover up their own scent in the environment for protection.
- Others believe the hedgehogs like the scent so much that they want it on their body similar to our “perfume”.
- Hedgehogs are resistant to many toxins and one theory is that hedgehogs spread toxins on their spines as added protection or as a repellant to its enemies.
- Another possible explanation is that they are trying to remember a particular smell by mixing it with the saliva and then depositing it on the spines.
- Male hedgehogs tend to anoint more than females, but the reason for this trend is unknown.
- Light-colored hedgehogs tend to look messier with anointing and anoint more frequently than darker hedgehogs.
- Many believe the lighter colored hedgehogs are trying to camouflage with their environment more so than the darker hedgehogs.
- When there isn’t anything new and your hedgehog is accustomed to their surroundings, they may not anoint as much.
- Hedgehogs may lick and self-anoint with things that could be poisonous to them.
- Be cautious of houseplants, cleaning chemicals, feces of other animals, etc.
Cleaning After Anointing
- The foam spittle on the hedgehog quills is not dangerous.
- Some anointing spots are simply saliva. It dries clear and doesn’t require removal for the hedgehog to appear normal.
- It is your discretion if you don’t mind small amounts on the quills and you leave it, or if you prefer to wipe or wash it off.
- Some anointing material will simply wipe off with a damp paper towel.
- Never use any type of cleaning was or soap that is not ingestible because your hedgehog may self-anoint with that new smell.
- Some particularly messy deposits on the quills may require a bath to thoroughly clean off the anointing material.
- The color of the hedgehog and the substance used to anoint plays a part in dried spittle visibility.
- Some substances may stain light colored hedgehogs but staining is not typical.
Contributor: Nicole Gendler Martin, Formerly of Hedgehogs in Space
List of References:
Hedgehog Valley. (2002, February 15). What is self-anointing? Retrieved from http://hedgehogvalley.com/annoint.html
Hooi, C.K. (2006, March 19). Hedgehog Self-Anointing! [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://whatthepets.blogspot.com/2006/03/hedgehog-self-anointing.html
MacNamara, B. (2012, March 31). Hedgehog FAQ [5/7] – Care and Understanding [Usenet Post]. Retrieved from http://www.faqs.org/faqs/hedgehog-faq/part5/section-2.html#b
Riddle, C. (2012). What is Self Anointing? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.riddleshedgehogs.com/frequently-asked-questions/what-is-self-anointing
Shauna, K. (2011, August 31). Hello Humans! [Web log post]. Retrieved form http://aeroplaneoverthec.wordpress.com/tag/hedgehog-self-anointing/
Simmons, K.E.L (1966), Anting and the problem of self-stimulation. Journal of Zoology, 149: 145–162. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1966.tb03890.x