The only choice for a pet for my daughter was an African Pygmy Hedgehog and we needed to know if she could form a bond with her pygmy hedgehog. Including what she needed to do to make it easier to bond with him.
Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs bond with their owners? African Pygmy Hedgehogs can bond with their owners especially if they are baby hedgehogs, with older hedgehogs requiring more time and attention to get used to their owners smell and sound, with some owners using old clothing placed in the cage, as a way to get used to them.
In the rest of this article I will take a detailed look at what can be done to strengthen the bond with a pygmy hedgehog.
1. Let them get used to their surroundings
The first part of any bonding was for him to get used to his surroundings particularly the smell of his cage and the noises around him.
We let him explore and get used to his cage for the first week before trying to make any contact with him. We also had to make sure he realized the dog barking next door occasionally wasn’t a threat.
2. Let them get used to your smell
The first step to bond with your hedgehog is to make sure they get used to your smell and the easiest way to do this is to place a piece of old clothing which you’ve worn and haven’t washed into their cage.
Make sure this clothing doesn’t have anything on it which could hurt your hedgehog-like ribbons or loose thread which could get their limbs trapped and cut.
Using a T-Shirt is a good idea and this is exactly what we did, with my daughter wearing her T-Shirt when she went to bed and then the next day we put it into our hedgehog’s cage. We knew the following day he’d trawled through the T-Shirt when we took it out, as he’d left a present for us inside, some poop!
We carried on doing this with any old T-Shirts we had which were not being used anymore, we’d wear them for one day and then the next day uses them as bedding for our hedgehog. After a while we stopped doing this as we found he didn’t hiss as much when we put our hands near him, proving he was getting used to us and realizing we were friends.
3. Don’t use gloves for handling hedgehogs
Don’t make the mistake of using gloves all the time to pick your hedgehog up as we did. This doesn’t allow the hedgehog to get used to your smell as all they can smell is the gloves.
This can stress out your hedgehog as they don’t know what the smell is and they will try to bite the glove. Worse still it just makes it take longer to build a bond with your hedgehog if they can’t recognize who you are from your smell.
4. Introduce your smell first before pickup
It’s important early on, to not startle pygmy hedgehogs and to slowly introduce yourself. We used to before trying to pick him up, put our hands close to him so he could pick up our smell and know it was us.
Now, because he’s so tame and at ease with us, we just pick up our hedgehog quickly by putting our hands on either side of him and scooping him up.
There’s no fuss from him, no hissing or wriggling, the only exception is if he still wants to poop then he will wriggle and we just put him back into his cage and let him do his business. The bond between us and him is strong and we’ve mutually built this up over many months.
5. Talk to your hedgehog
I do talk to our hedgehog and so does my daughter, sometimes I speak to him for a while before going to pick him up. Maybe this could be why he lets me pick him up without hesitation or fuss or maybe it’s one of the many factors like the smell as well which has allowed me to bond with him.
I have noticed that whilst my daughter is cleaning the cage and there are all sorts of noises going on such as the vacuuming, the cage-rattling etc. our hedgehog flinches every time he hears these noises but when I speak to him, he doesn’t react this, almost a though he recognises my voice or more likely the drone of my voice.
6. Retain regular contact
It’s important to retain regular contact with your hedgehog and the easiest way to do this is to spend time with them each day. This will allow them to get used to you and relax them in your presence.
As they are nocturnal, late evening is generally the best time to start building a bond with them. Make sure when you do wake them, you do it gently, we slowly roll him out of his pouch and then give him about fifteen minutes to get used to his surroundings, eat and have a poop and a pee.
We remove everything from the cage except his food and water after we’ve woken him up, as he’ll try to find somewhere to hide and go back to sleep if given the chance.
On the first few occasions we woke him up, he’d try to crawl back underneath his cloth bedding, so we decided to remove this from his cage as soon as we’d woken him up.
7. Know when they are ready
We know when he’s ready to be held because he’ll go into a corner of the cage and either curl up or just stay stood, with his face to the cage wall. At this point, we scoop him up and bring him into our main room.
We’ve taken care to dim the lights in this room (this gets a bit more difficult in the summer with longer days) and we just sit down watching with him in our hands.
With your own hedgehog at the start once you have picked them up and they are in your palms, don’t try to do anything more. This is what we initially did, we just carried on doing what we were doing, which was generally watching TV whilst he curled up in our palms. Over time this allows the hedgehog to bond with you as they get used to you.
Make sure you haven’t handled any food when you try this as they might bite if they smell food and this happened to my daughter a few times. When she forgot to wash her hands after putting food in his food bowl and then picked him up, only for him to bite her.
How you approach your hedgehog when they are in their cage is important as they don’t have particularly good eyesight so seeing a large object to them is intimidating and they may jump to cause this object to move away. This object may be your hand and it’s important to not scare them and instead come in from the sides when you try to pick them up.
8. Slowly introduce bath time bonding
It’s inevitable your hedgehog will need a bath because they’ll have dried poop on their feet and their fur and this could be a stressful experience for both parties.
Bathing allowed us to increase the bonding process with our hedgehog. We waited a few weeks before we decided to give our hedgehog a bath and he didn’t like this at all.
We didn’t use too much water, just enough to clean his feet and fur and then we put him back in his cage, taking care to dry him as much as we could. Over time bathing has become easier because he’s used to us and we have established a good routine of washing and rinsing the water.
Bonding takes patience
Don’t expect to bond quickly with your hedgehog it’s a patient process and whilst this may be frustrating at first, it’s more important to remember your hedgehogs well being is paramount and you don’t want to stress them out. Be rest assured the wait is worth it when you’re hedgehog becomes used to you and is totally relaxed in your company.
Don’t introduce other people to your hedgehog early on, let them get used to you first and bond with you before you bring other people around. When my daughter’s friends come round for a sleepover because our hedgehog has bonded with my daughter so well, he doesn’t overly go all grumpy when her friends come round and try to pick him up.
We do warn her friends to be careful and make sure he gets a good smell of their hands first to work out their scent before they try to scoop him up and this has worked well.
We’ve not had any incidents by adopting this approach. When we first brought him into our house, we wouldn’t let anyone other than us get close to our hedgehog.
Simply because we had not bonded with him and he was still quite nervous around us and so would be very stressed out if we introduced other people to him who would be complete strangers to him.
After a few months of owning our hedgehog, both I and my daughter would allow him to crawl up from our laps taking care we didn’t wear anything with short sleeves, as he’d try to crawl into the gap and this whilst initially causing a tickle could also hurt from his prickly spines. This was just another way of him getting used to us and relax.
African Pygmy Hedgehogs hissing and jumping
Our hedgehog Hynee was initially very grumpy and who could blame him, he’d been taken away from his mother and his siblings and now was in completely alien surroundings. Hynee would hiss and jump a lot when we got near him.
It can be quite distressing to watch a hedgehog hissing and jumping but using the following tips, this will subside dramatically. Leading to a calmer pygmy hedgehog who likes to cuddle up in their owner’s hands.
It’s important to appreciate just like people, hedgehogs aren’t all the same and different hedgehogs exhibit different personality traits.
The difference in personalities can affect how the hedgehog bonds with you and the time taken. Be rest assured though, what looks like a grumpy hedgehog at the start may still bond with you over time, it’s just that the time taken will be a lot longer than a hedgehog who’s a lot less grumpy.
Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs like to cuddle? Once a bond has been established with your hedgehog, they will most likely feel relaxed with you and can like to snuggle up in your hands or on your body.
Can African Pygmy Hedgehogs be affectionate? Yes, they can be affectionate and our hedgehog does like to rub his head against our hands when he’s relaxed and content.