Hedge­hogs are hot

These pointy pets are cute as hell, but not ev­ery­one knows about their chal­lenges.

The Coast - Pets Halifax - - Con­tents - BY ASH­LEY CORBETT

Hedge­hogs are some of the most In­sta­gram-wor­thy an­i­mals out there. Their adorably small size— weigh­ing about 250 grams and the size of a fist on av­er­age—and ex­pres­sive faces are enough to melt your heart. The pop­u­lar­ity of these pointy pets is sky­rock­et­ing, which may also be due to the fact that they’re rel­a­tively easy to care for and hypo-al­ler­genic. Peo­ple are ob­sessed. Han­nah Ben­nett is a Hal­i­fax hog en­thu­si­ast—a past owner of two hed­gies now onto her third.

Her new­est baby, named Katie, is a two-month-old chocolate-chip snowflake hedge­hog (one of the 90 pos­si­ble colours to choose from).

Ben­nett says she likes hu­man names for her pets. “If you’re just hang­ing out with your hedge­hog and don’t feel like do­ing any­thing, you just say, ‘I have plans with Katie.’”

Ben­nett paid $250 for her hedgie, which she got from a lo­cal breeder called Hedge­hog Lodge. She says that price is av­er­age, and is the same amount she paid for her first hog from a pet store.

Hedge­hogs are ac­tu­ally a lot like cats: They hiss, purr and use a lit­ter box. They are sim­i­lar to ham­sters too, in that they need a wheel to run on as they are both hy­per and obe­sity prone. Hedge­hogs need a pen, but also a lot of room to run around, so Ben­nett keeps Katie in a rab­bit-sized cage. When she’s not tak­ing her lit­tle pal out on the town, that is.

“I like to take her out on ad­ven­tures, and I like to bring her to meet new peo­ple. They’re so cute, and I’ve no­ticed that they make peo­ple’s day,” she says.

Al­though these pets are fairly easy to care for com­pared to other do­mes­tic an­i­mals, own­ers still need to do a lot of re­search to get the ba­sics of hedge­hog care right. Oth­er­wise, your hog will be a grumpy ass­hole, or get sick...or both.

El­iz­a­beth Mackay is the breeder

Ben­nett bought her new­est hedgie from. Mackay got into the busi­ness orig­i­nally as a res­cuer—she says too many peo­ple buy these pets purely be­cause of their cute­ness and pop­u­lar­ity, but don’t take the time to prop­erly re­search their needs.

Too of­ten, this re­sults in peo­ple want­ing to sell or give away their hogs after a brief few weeks.

There’s a pe­riod in a hedge­hog’s life called quilling, when the lit­tle guys shed their baby quills, and be­gin to grow their adult ones at a few months of age.

“They get really cranky, be­cause they’re un­com­fort­able,” says Mackay.

A lot of peo­ple don’t know this, and so they think the hedge­hog hates them. That’s when things can go down­hill, be­cause that is a crit­i­cal age for these an­i­mals.

“If they’re not get­ting han­dled prop­erly dur­ing that pe­riod, your screwed,” says Mackay. “It’s go­ing to be a cranky an­i­mal.”

An­other widely un­known fact is that hedge­hogs need to stay warm, oth­er­wise they will at­tempt go into hi­ber­na­tion, mak­ing them not only un­friendly, but also low­er­ing their im­mune sys­tem. A heat emit­ter should be used to pre­vent this.

Mackay par­tially blames the in­ter­net for hedge­hog mis­con­cep­tions—she thinks peo­ple are led to be­lieve the pets are in­stantly love­able.

“When you go on Pin­ter­est or YouTube, these hedge­hogs are so­cial­ized. These own­ers worked for this,” she says. “It’s im­por­tant that peo­ple have a wake-up call for what hap­pens when an­i­mals be­come al­most too pop­u­lar.”

Ben­nett agrees that the first few months of own­ing a hedge­hog are crit­i­cal, and are also the most dif­fi­cult for the owner. “It’s very hard, and you want to give up,” she says. Luck­ily, Ben­nett did her re­search, and in­her­ited knowl­edge from Mackay.

Both of these hedge­hog lovers hope prospec­tive own­ers will do more to pre­pare for the tribu­la­tions of car­ing for these an­i­mals.

EL­IZ­A­BETH MACKAY

Hedge­hogs are ac­tu­ally a lot like cats: They hiss, purr and use a lit­ter box.

HAN­NAH BEN­NETT

When shed­ding quills, hedge­hogs can get cranky.

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