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Handling and Temperament

Trust - Relationships with hedgehogs are completely dependent on trust.  Other animals will often interact with you based on curiosity, interest in food, sounds, smells, etc. but hedgehogs will not.  If they feel that you may harm them they will roll up, make defensive noises, pop (jerk their body), and you aren't likely to coax them to do anything else.  Even the sweetest and most social hedgehogs will have a bad day.  At some point, pretty much all hedgehog owners will have to deal with a major case of the grumpies.  Whether you have a reluctant hedgehog or just one that is having a bad day, these tips may help.

Patience is key.  Hedgehogs can sense if you are anxious.  If you are uptight about the hedgehog not opening up, your anxiety is adding to the problem.  Relax.  In many cases, you can hold a hedgehog in your hand and wait motionless and quietly for them to open.  Do not move.  Do not talk to them.  Do not stroke them.  Just hold them.  It may take a minute, it may take 10 minutes, or it may not happen that particular day.  Eventually, most do come around.  As soon as they feel comfortable and secure, they will slowly unroll and have a look around.  They may immediately roll back up at any little movement or noise but do not give up hope.  Just remind yourself that to the hedgehog ... humans are enormous and scary.  If the hedgehog has not opened within 20 - 30 minutes, try tomorrow.  Too much time trying can be a negative thing.  But DO try again.  Some hedgehogs who've been grumpy and shy for a year or more have been known to come around with the right owner and some patience.

Tips

  • A small piece of fabric (6 - 12 inches square) can be a great tool.  Keep the fabric on you, against your body for several hours so that it picks up your scent.  Place the fabric inside of the hedgehog's hide.  This teaches them to associate your scent with their safe place.  NOTE:  Ensure that the fabric has sealed edges to prevent shed fibers that can become wound or tangled on hedgehog toes or quills.
  • Making sure that the hedgehog sees you placing food in their enclosure (and not trying to interact with them at that time) can be a step toward gaining trust.
  • Being very gentle and talking in a calm tone during bath time can help build trust.
  • Have the hedgehog hang out on your lap while watching TV but not forcing interaction works very well.  NOTE:  Remember to protect clothing and furniture.

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