The Chewing and Biting Hedgehog Conundrums
Hedgehogs are not RodentsHedgehogs are mammals of the order Erinaceomorpha (Family: Erinaceidae contains: hedgehogs [subfamily: Erinaceidae] and moonrats [subfamily:Gymnure]), and are not of the order Rodentia (rodents). As such a hedgehogs teeth DO NOT continually grow throughout its life and therefor hedgehogs DO NOT need to chew on something. If you believe your hedgehog is "chewing" on something chances are it is trying to taste whatever is in it's mouth so that it can anoint. Often times hedgehogs will chew up what they want to anoint with and spread the resulting spit on their backs.
Chewing BehaviorHedgehogs will not go out of their way to chew on something like many rodents will. Hedgehogs DO NOT need to file their teeth, and constant chewing can cause dental or jaw problems in some hedgehogs. Instead if a hedgehog tastes something it likes, it will preferentially lick it first and if it believes it is edible or wants to anoint is will proceed to mash its teeth together on it. This mashing is not the same as chewing... the hedgehog is not trying to break apart what it is mashing on, but instead trying to mix the taste with it's saliva. This basically means it will not try to bite off a piece of the object, but just try to moisten the flavor in it's mouth.
If you buy your hedgehog something to chew on like a wood block or a ball, it will most likely just ignore it or push it around with it's snout. If you buy something flavored and textures for rodents the hedgehog may attempt to lick it to get the taste and it has been noted that hedgehogs can cut their tongues on these textured surfaces causing more harm than good.
Biting"But my hedgehog bites me so it must need to chew on something!" some people might say, but this is not true. Yes hedgehogs can bite, and yes they sometimes but rarely do. If your hedgehog bites you it is either an act of aggression, a warning to leave it be, or you taste good.
Lets take a closer look at these possibilities:
You are Tasty!Some hedgehogs like things that taste good or "different", and many times after eating or doing work you will taste appealing to them. An easy way to find out if this is why your hedgehog has bitten you is if he was first licking at your fingers. As soon as your hedgehog starts licking your fingers you should quickly remove them and wash your hands or biting may follow. If your hedgehog did not lick first and you have just handled food or something that smells good some hedgehogs will promptly bite to get a taste without licking. Usually these bites are not hard and most of a lick squeeze before it realizes it is you and not food.
Always wash your hands before handling your hedgie! This biting behavior can lead to aggressive biting and needs to be stopped.
Warning BitesIf you are getting to close to your hedgies face or are really bothering it in some way, it will promptly lash out and give you a nip. This bite is usually not hard and just means "LEAVE ME ALONE". When this happens the last thing you want to do is leave your hedgehog alone, or it may associate biting to making you go away, and then it can turn into an act of aggression. When this happens just hold your hedgie for about 10-15 minutes and tell it that it is not nice to bite in a very calm voice. Keep your fingers away from it's face and if possible gently stroke the quills (do not stroke if quilling or if it plain doesn't like it). After this time is up you can then put your hedgie down. This should cement in it's mind that biting is not a free pass to explore.
AggressionSadly some hedgehogs will bite out of aggression or to establish territory. If your hedgehog bites your socks while they are on your feet and tries to pull them off, as cute as this may be it is a sign of aggression towards you. This behavior must be stopped or it can lead to biting. One way to stop aggressive is to blow on the face after it happens. As with warning bites it is mandatory that you continue to handle your hedgehog or it will associate biting with a way to get you to leave it alone. Whenever the hedgehog bites continue to blow on his face and continue handling. Keep your hand away from your hedgehogs face so that it has a lesser tendency to feel you as a threat. An aggressive bite will clamp down hard and feel like a sharp pinch. Some hedgehogs will try to bite as large a surface as possible, while others will take little nips with their front teeth. (that hurt much worse).
Always make sure that before you assume your hedgehog is an aggressive biter, make sure that you do not have something on your hands that is tasty, or that you just did something really nasty to make it angry.
Ways to Deter BitingOne way to deter biting is to blow on the hedgehogs face after it bites to associate biting with something unpleasant.
You can also reduce biting by continuing to handle your hedgehog after it has bitten. This will show it that biting will not force you to leave it alone.
Biting an the FutureIf you do not attempt to deter biting it can develop into an aggressive act and may cause the hedgehog to become unsocial. If your hedgehog continues to bite you, you may not know who it will bite next, and they may not be expecting it, which can potentially cause harm to both them, your hedgehog and any one else in the room.
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Created by: admin Last Modification: Tuesday 24 of March, 2009 20:40:06 EDT by