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Hedgehog Behavior and Personalities

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Common Hedgehog Behavior

Since your hedgehog cannot talk, he will communicate his likes and dislikes to you through his body language and a few quiet vocalizations.
Here is a list of some things he or she is trying to say:

SOUNDS

  • Soft Purring and Whistling:
    • This is a sign of pure contentment.
  • Puffing:
    • Displeasure, uncertainty
  • Snorting or "Sneezing":
    • Usually accompanies puffing and means the same thing
  • Hissing and Clicking:
    • This means "get away from me, I’m scared or tired of you".
  • Snuffling:
    • Happily checking things out
  • Chirping:
    • Usually done by males while breeding and by nursing hoglets (babies)
  • Screaming:
    • Physical pain, fear and sometime anger
  • Sounds Heard During Sleep
    • Believe it or not, some hedgehogs actually snore! Like dogs and cats, they also appear to dream and will sniff, snort and chirp quietly all the while.

BODY LANGUAGE

  • Rolled up ball:
    • Fearful
  • Spines Erect:
    • All Over: displeasure or fear
    • On Forehead Only: Cautious, uncertain
    • Spines Laying Flat All Over: Everything is fine. He feels comfortable and safe.
  • Self-Anointing:
    • If your hedgehog smells something he likes or if he simply comes across a smell that he is unfamiliar with, such as leather, perfume, etc., he will foam at the mouth and will then deposit this foamy saliva on his back and shoulders. In an effort to cover as much of their backs as possible with this foam, many hedgehogs will contort their bodies in such a way that they will sometimes fall over. Many hedgehogs become so engrossed with this activity that they become totally oblivious to anything going on around them! No one is really certain why hedgehogs perform this unusual behaviour (more often seen in males than females) but there is no shortage of theories.
    • One 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. Another is that the foam acts as a repellant or toxin to a hedgehog's enemies. Whatever the reason, though, self-annointing is a normal occurrence and is no cause for alarm.
  • Circling:
    • To be perfectly honest, we don’t understand this behavior either, but it surely is good exercise! Circling should not, however, be mistaken for pacing - common in animals that are confined in too small an area - since hedgehogs in the wild frequently run circles as well. (Perhaps they know about the Olympics.) Not only do they run in circles, but they often run in figure-eights as well!
  • Awake time: Your hedgehog is diurnal.
**This means that, like a cat, he will be awake during parts of both the day and night, but will be most active at dawn and after dark until 2 or 3 am. By handling him mostly during the daytime, you can easily change his sleep habits so that he will sleep more during the night and be more active during the day. If you are normally gone during the day, though, his normal sleep habits will most likely suit you just fine.

Kalandra on Behavior Expectations

I can't help but to post this as it seems we have a lot of new owners recently. People who are interpreting their hedgehog's behavior as hatred for the owner, when it is actually just how hedgehogs are.

This post is more a posting for people reading who are considering getting a hedgehog. And for those who just got a hedgehog and may have the wrong expectation of what interaction with a hedgehog can be like. I don't mean to offend anyone. I've been around for years and hedgehogs have become a "fad" pet many times since then. And it always seems that when they become more popular there is always a flood of folks who get one and have either read posts about an extremely friendly and affectionate hedgehog and get the wrong expectation of what a typical hedgehog can be like.

There have been a few lately that think their hedgehog hates them because it always snuffles and raises its quills when picked up, runs and hides when the lights turn on, or runs away when the owner is trying to hold it. To be honest, I see nothing wrong with any of these behaviors. To me this is what a normal hedgehog does. Hedgehogs are naturally timid/shy/defensive animals and these behaviors are from that. If your hedgehog is new to you, then they may change. With enough time to build a bond of trust, your hedgehog may not do these behaviors anymore.

You really have to get to know your hedgehog, build a bond and treat them as they want to be treated. And don't think that bond forms in a week or two. For some it takes months. I've seem people report a YEAR after they got a hedgehog that that bond of trust has finally formed (I actually had one that took that long). Some may disagree but it's been my experience that many hedgehogs are not what most people consider affectionate. If you are expecting a hedgehog to want to spend time with you like a dog or cat, or even seem happy you are there (like a guinea pig who weeks when you walk up to its cage), then you have expectations that I honestly don't think are reasonable for a hedgehog. Some are oddly affectionate, but most really do what they want to do and if you fit into that plan, great! If not, you may find yourself sorely disappointed.

Don't get me wrong. I love hedgehogs and cannot imagine my life with out them. No two hedgehogs I have had have ever been completely alike. And no two I've met or handled have wanted to be handled the same way. Each had to be interacted with differently. I've had loving and oddly affectionate ones. And I've had the occasional, leave me alone I'm busy, types. You learn what they like and don't like and interact accordingly.

If you try to pet a hedgehog and it gets upset when you try to stroke its quills, don't pet it. Some hate to have their quills stroked. But may not mind having a smaller area rubbed (like along the skirt of their quills or behind their ears).

Some hate to be touched at all, but are fine if allowed to explore on you or near you. I've had some that I blocked off a small area, threw a blanket down, some toys and a wheel and laid in the middle while the hedgehog explored. Given enough time, each of the hedgehogs that liked this interaction would end up snuggled next to me when they were done playing.

Some hate bright lights. Sitting in a very dimly lit room sometimes helps.

Some hate to feel exposed, sitting with a towel or blanket on your lap so they can hide can help.

Some are just so busy exploring their environment that they couldn't be bothered with showing you affection.

Just to give you an example of a hedgehog one might consider to hate people. Riley was an extremely defensive hedgehog. He would snuffle, click, pop and actually purred (or should I say growled) when you did something he didn't like. Which sometimes that just included picking him up. His head quills were often over his eyes. The fur on his face was never smooth because his head quills were up so often. But, if you sat still with him he was fine and would come out to explore. He was very defensive to any type of movement though and would quickly raise his quills if you moved. However he was also extremely loving and oddly affectionate for a hedgehog. He would run up to my shoulder and snuggle up on my neck. He would sit in his cage and stare at me waiting for me to put my hand in (so he could crawl in to get out). Keep in mind that if you tried to take him out when he didn't want to go, you were picking up a clicking quill ball. I thought I would share Riley's story since to me he is a good example of a hedgehog who can be extremely defensive, but yet very affectionate if interacted with correctly.


References

  1. Hedgehog Central - Understanding Hedgehog Behavior (external link)

Forum Topics

  1. Hedgehog Central Forums - View Topic - Behaviour expectations (external link)

Created by: admin Last Modification: Sunday 15 of March, 2009 10:12:09 EDT by admin


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