A recent story on Good Morning America looked at the rise in popularity of hedgehogs as pets; the story included a video of a cat playing with — and sitting on — an African Pygmy hedgehog. While I can verify the hedgehog-as-pet trend in my own practice, I have to wonder: Is this a good thing?
The truth is, hedgehogs aren’t for everyone; they are nocturnal and like to play, run in wheels and just generally make a lot of noise at night, which may not make them the best choice for people who go to bed early or are light sleepers. When they are nervous, these cute creatures may ball up and extend their quills, especially if they are being handled by unfamiliar people or are being stressed like the hedgehog in the ABC News video above.
However, in secure situations in the hands of people they know, hedgehogs can be very interactive and curious.
Over the past 20 years, I have cared for many hedgehogs whose owners have worked hard to socialize them. These hedgehogs have been wonderful, friendly pets, closely bonded to their people.
Wild vs. Domesticated
For many exotic species kept as pets, there is a distinction between exotic animals found in the wild and domesticated exotic pets. Lions and tigers are examples of exotic wild animals that are not safe or suitable as pets. On the other hand, hedgehogs (and guinea pigs, rabbits, chinchillas, many parrots, etc.) may be found in the wild but are also now domesticated enough to be appropriate as pets in the right circumstances.