Hedgehogs are cute and friendly critters if they are bred and raised correctly. They are the perfect pets for dedicated and patient owners—they aren’t smelly, they make almost no noise, and most importantly, they’re cute! In spite of all of this, some people are still afraid to handle a hedgehog. Luckily, carrying your hedgehog is a great way to bond with it and when you learn to understand and respond to its subtle methods of communicating, you’ll have no problem at all!
EditPicking up Your Hedgehog
Clean your hands with a non-fruity smelling anti-bacterial soap. It’s important to clean your hands before you handle your hedgehog to get rid of any food smells, which can make it bite you. It’s also important to keep them scent-free so they can get used to your natural smell.
Always use warm water when washing your hands and be sure to clean them after you handle your hedgehog as well!
Let your hedgehog sniff your hand before picking it up. This is especially important if your hedgehog isn’t familiar with you yet. In some cases, it might want to taste you as well—let it, it’s not painful!
Don’t be nervous! Hedgehogs are great at sensing fear, and if you’re scared and nervous, it will be scared and nervous too.
Scoop your hedgehog up from underneath with both hands. Avoid its quills and make sure all you feel is its fur. Try to keep your hedgehog’s weight evenly distributed over your hands to minimize the pressure of its spines. Think of yourself as a performer walking on nails—instead of walking on one nail at a time, you need to distribute your weight across as many nails as you can.
Either use your fingers and slip them under your hedgehog’s belly or scoop them up with the sides of your hands.
If you’re having trouble picking your hedgehog up, use the side of its cage to roll it into your hands.
Don’t let your fingers meet in the middle of your hedgehog’s belly or you’ll get pricked if it rolls into a ball.
Lift up your hedgehog with both hands in a single, quick motion. Think of it like pulling off a Band-Aid or imagine yourself as a nurse giving a needle shot. Be sure to keep your motion steady and confident and remember that it’s going to prick a little.
Grab the hedgehog firmly enough to hold it but light enough to minimize the pain.
Always use gentle, slow, and non-threatening motions. Don’t move jerky and fast or your hedgehog might think you’re attacking it.
Have confidence—the better you are at picking up your hedgehog, the more secure it will be and the less likely it is to prick you.
Keep calm and give your hedgehog time to relax. After picking up your hedgehog, remain still and let it do what it wants. If it rolls into a ball, don’t worry—be patient and wait for it to calm down. After a few minutes, it should unroll and start to sniff you and might even try to explore you!
If your hedgehog continues to be agitated, put it back in its cage and wait a bit.
Some hedgehogs have been well socialized and bred or have better temperaments—they should unroll pretty quickly. However, some are not so great and require more time.
Keep your hands flat and let them wake up and get used to everything. Once their quills are down and they’re looking around and sniffing, they’re comfortable.
Carry your hedgehog using the palms of your hands. Start walking with your hedgehog and keep your palms underneath it to support them. If your hedgehog is a bit jumpy, hold it in the palm of one hand and place the other palm behind it—facing its head—just in case it tries to get away.
Be sure to carry your hedgehog by the fur and not its quills!
Press your hedgehog against your chest with one hand as you carry it. If you want to get a bit cuddlier, hold your hedgehog with its back to your belly with one hand. Just be sure to cover this area of your chest with something soft, such as a small cloth, to avoid getting pricked by its quills!
If it’s comfortable enough with you, scratch your hedgehog between its quills with your free hand.
EditSocializing Your Hedgehog
Carry your hedgehog at least 30 minutes daily. The best way to do this is by carrying them 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. If you just received your hedgehog, take note of its behavior when you carry it—if it’s stressed, wait 2 days until you start carrying it. Otherwise, you can start carrying it right away and bonding with it!
Signs of stress including hissing and huffing, twitching and shaking its head, and frantically running away.
Never provoke your hedgehog within its cage. Only pick your hedgehog up from its cage when it’s comfortable. If you cause your hedgehog to hiss or huff when you reach into its cage, you’re training it to react this way any time a human hand approaches it. Avoid touching its spines and never pet your hedgehog by reaching into its cage.
If you want to pet your hedgehog, wait until it’s in your hands.
Some people can pet their hedgehog in its cage when it’s completely comfortable with them, but it’s not recommended.
Don’t pet or pat your hedgehog’s quills until they’re comfortable with you. In general, hedgehogs don’t like to get their quills pet. When you’re carrying them, let them move around your hand and sniff you and talk to them as much as possible to get them used to the sound of your voice.
After your hedgehog gets to know you, it might start to enjoy getting scratched between its quills. However, don’t ever rush this process—wait until it’s very comfortable with you!
Keep the same smell as much as possible. Hedgehogs don’t have good eyesight, so they use their sense of smell to recognize you. Avoid changing perfumes, shampoos, and soaps, as this can confuse your hedgehog and make it feel like it has to get to know you again.
Avoid using gloves when handling your hedgehog as it will mask your smell.
If you’re having a hard time not getting pricked, try using some bedding as cushioning. Go for the fluffiest kind you can for the best results!
Hedgehogs respond to positive reinforcement and punishment should never be implemented for any reason. Hedgehogs are timid creatures by nature and need loving support to learn good behaviors. Be patient—some hedgehogs are easier to train than others!
Hissing is a normal reaction to being picked up for the first time. However, clicking and popping are aggressive acts that mean “get away from me.” If your hedgehog does this when first being picked up, it means it has been poorly socialized and bred and it will need intensive socialization to come around. If it does this when you try to pet them while handling them, it means it is either not awake and calm enough yet or it simply doesn’t like being pet.
Never punish your hedgehog.
Do not associate feeding with handling—this can lead to biting problems with some hedgehogs. It is best to feed your hedgehog with treats by hand when they are fully awake and not in your hands, on you, or with tweezers.
If your hedgehog bites you, remain calm. They do this out of fear, because you smell like food, or you have associated food with handling—they will eventually let go. Do not pull your finger/hand away and do not strike the hedgehog.
Take Care of a Hedgehog
Make a Home for Your Hedgehog
Take Care of a Hedgehog
Buy a Hedgehog
React when Your Hedgehog Bites You
Make Your House a Better Place for Animals
Clean Hedgehog Quills
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