When you first bring your hedgehog home, it may take it some time to get adjusted to its new environment. Be patient and don’t try to rush anything. Likewise, it will take you a while to get accustomed to your hedgehog’s behaviors and the sounds it makes. This chapter will give you an idea of what to expect.
Hedgehogs are naturally solitary, and so while they may learn to enjoy being handled they won’t seek out contact, either. At first, don’t be surprised if your hedgehog balls up, or makes hissing or popping sounds. These sounds are a defense mechanism (I’ll talk more about specific sounds later) designed to discourage you from picking the hedgehog up. It’s best to ignore them. If you refrain from picking up your hedgie when it hisses, it will simply learn that behavior works, and continue to do it.
Hedgehogs are naturally scared of sudden movements and loud noises. Try to keep those things to a minimum, but maintain a normal level of noise and activity so your new pet can get used to its surroundings.
In general, if you have multiple hedgehogs it is best to keep them in separate cages. Two females can sometimes live together, but if you keep a male and female together they will breed continuously and may actually kill their babies. Two males will most likely fight.
Hedgehogs have a curious behavior called self-anointing. What this means is that they salivate, and then spread the saliva over themselves. Certain smells seem to set them off, but it is uncertain exactly why they do it or what purpose it serves. You do not need to be concerned about it, but it’s important to be aware of it so you are not startled when it happens.
We’ve already talked about the fact that your hedgehog will most likely sleep throughout the day and be extremely active at night. For that reason, you probably do not want to keep the cage in a room where people are trying to sleep. Instead, keep it in a well-ventilated but warm area.
Like cats and dogs, hedgehogs communicate with a variety of sounds. In order to understand how your hedgie is feeling, it’s important to have a basic grasp of the sounds it makes and what they mean.
- Purring and whistling. These are sounds of happiness and contentment.
- If your hedgehog makes a puffing sound, it means that it is uncertain about something, or displeased.
- Hissing and clicking. If your hedgehog is hissing and clicking, it is trying to warn you that it is unhappy and irritated.
- A snuffling hedgehog is a happy and curious hedgehog, just checking things out.
- A happy sound most often made by breeding males and baby hedgehogs.
- This one is self-explanatory. If your hedgehog screams it is either afraid or in extreme pain.
All of the above sounds are noises your hedgehog may make while it is awake. Some hedgehogs – but not all – also make noises while they sleep. These noises may include chirping, huffing and even snoring. This is not universal, but don’t be alarmed if your hedgehog does make noises while sleeping. I have found that baby pygmy hedgehogs who have recently been separated from their siblings may be more likely to make sleep noises.