People always ask us if our African Pygmy Hedgehog Hynee gets lonely and whether he needs to have another African Pygmy Hedgehog for companionship. It makes sense as he’s all by himself and maybe a friend could make his life better.
Can African Pygmy hedgehogs live together? African Pygmy hedgehogs can live together but the chances of success being very limited to mostly keeping two females like mother and an adult daughter together. Keeping two hedgehogs can be very dangerous as there have been a number of instances where hedgehogs have killed each other.
I’ve tried to look at the different options below, including looking at the ways some owners have tried to make it easier for pygmy hedgehogs to live together and why living together may not be suitable at all, as it can put pygmy hedgehogs at risk of serious injury and harm.
Do you really want to keep two African Pygmy Hedgehogs together?
It’s not a simple decision to decide to keep two or even more pygmy hedgehogs together, there are some very important issues that need to be considered first.
These issues include the legality of putting pygmy hedgehogs together and the safety of keeping hedgehogs together. Consideration also needs to be given to why putting them together might go against their nature.
The following points need to be considered before deciding to put pygmy hedgehogs together:
1. Is it legal?
Where I live there are laws on how animals are kept as pets and these concentrate heavily on their well-being and safety. If a pet’s welfare is put into jeopardy then I could end up being prosecuted under the law or in extreme cases incarcerated by being put into jail.
The former seems harsh but there are some pretty nasty pet owners out there that end up abusing their pets from beatings to starving them.
Putting a pygmy hedgehog in danger would be classed as an offence under the animal protection acts and this could lead to possible prosecution.
Putting a pygmy hedgehog in danger can be as simple as putting another pygmy hedgehog into their cage, as pygmy hedgehogs could fight with each and this could end up with either party or both being seriously injured or even result in a fatality. The law would not look too kindly on this and my advice is to not to put pygmy hedgehogs together.
If you are still intent on keeping pygmy hedgehogs together then you should check the applicable pet and wildlife laws where you live to make sure keeping pygmy hedgehogs together isn’t illegal.
2. Injury and death
The risk of injury with pygmy hedgehogs living together is always there, and the problem with an injury from a pygmy hedgehog attacking another pygmy hedgehog is that it may not be apparent until it’s too late.
Most of these attacks will happen when the owners are not there, as they will probably be asleep when the pygmy hedgehogs are out at night in their cage. Waking up in the morning to find a lifeless pygmy hedgehog in a cage after a fight is not something I would want to experience.
This is the major problem with keeping two (or more) hedgehogs together, you may not even be aware of an attack and by the time you are, it could be fatal. A bite from one pygmy hedgehog on another could lead to severe bleeding and death within a few hours. It’s an awful way to die, all alone.
3. Solitary by nature
Let’s not forget, the African Pygmy hedgehog is a solitary creature by nature and in the wild, they will lead their lives alone, with the only interruption for their solitary nature being mating, which will be very brief and then they’ll be back to their lives as a loner.
They don’t really need another pygmy hedgehog for companionship and they seem to live as long as those pygmy hedgehogs who have successfully accepted living with other hedgehogs. So why force something on them that they are naturally not inclined to do anyway?
Option 1: Two male African Pygmy Hedgehogs
Males are the least likely to be willing to live together in the same cage and share with other males, as one will try to be the alpha and try to dominate the other.
This tends to lead to fighting as neither will back down and accept being at a territorial disadvantage. When there’s a failure from one party to back down, this only ends up one way and that is a fight to the death.
Even if the hedgehogs have previously lived with each other peacefully as siblings when they were born, the chances of them living together safely as adult hedgehogs are still very limited because of their male inclination for dominance.
Brotherly love is a foreign concept for many pygmy hedgehogs as they grow older, so it’s best to keep all male hedgehogs apart from other male hedgehogs.
In the wild male, pygmy hedgehogs will fight when in close proximity of each other and this is instinct simply cannot be turned off by domesticating them.
Option 2: Two female African Pygmy Hedgehogs
So male hedgehogs can’t live together but can two female pygmy hedgehogs live together? With males getting on with other males being very remote, the same can happen with two females and they too can start to have territorial issues.
This can be less pronounced if the two female hedgehogs know each other, as may be the case if they are siblings and have grown up as hoglets together, spending time with each other before becoming adults.
They may be accustomed to each other scents from childhood and this may allow them to tolerate each other more but that being said, it still might not be a guarantee as they may have a personality clash.
Just like humans where siblings can clash over different personalities, pygmy hedgehogs may do the same. One pygmy hedgehog may be more temperamental than another and this could cause fighting over trivial matters.
With female pygmy hedgehogs that aren’t siblings and have not spent any time together before being introduced to each, there is a high likelihood they will not get on and will fight. More so, if they have been used to their own space and now are being forced to share it with a stranger, this could lead to a change in behaviour to become more aggressive to their new cage mate.
Option 3: Male and Female African Pygmy Hedgehogs
So the same-sex pygmy hedgehogs may find it difficult to live together, what about different sex pygmy hedgehogs? I suppose it makes sense a male hedgehog and a female one could live peacefully together, however, this is not a guaranteed case.
If both have been used to having their own space then sharing with another hedgehog who in their mind is an intruder simply might not work and they could still end up fighting.
The only time it seems ideal to put a male and female pygmy hedgehog together is when it’s done for breeding and in such a scenario the time they spend together is limited, as the females can become pregnant surprising quickly.
More breeders don’t even wait for the female to start putting on weight and assume she’s already pregnant from the limited interaction she may have had with the male hedgehog. At this point, the male hedgehog is removed possibly as a precaution against stressing out the female hedgehog during the delicate time of the hedgehog babies growing inside her.
Neutered or spayed
If the end goal is just for a male and female pygmy hedgehog to live together without producing any offspring then there is a possibility of either spaying the female or having the male hedgehog neutered, to avoid any pregnancy.
This seems to be a risky expense (and it is expensive) as it doesn’t necessarily mean when they have been respectively spayed and neutered they are going to be able to live together in perfect harmony.
Option 4: Mother African Pygmy Hedgehog and offspring
Generally, a mother and her offspring can live together peacefully especially when the offspring are still young as they are when they are babies but problems can arise when the offspring grows into an adult.
If the adult offspring isn’t self-sufficient and still relies on the mother, this could be a problem and fighting between the mother and her offspring could persist.
There is a risk of the mother eating her babies especially when she becomes stressed, so it’s important to keep an eye on mothers and make sure they are not being put into stressful situations.
There is also consensus they may eat their offspring if there is an abnormality in the offspring and this can sometimes occur even when the offspring looks fine and healthy, so maybe there’s something the mother can sense or see that the owners can’t.
The mother may even see the chances of survival were better if she eats one or two of her offspring maybe in cramped conditions, to increase the survival chances of the other offspring.
Old mothers tend to have a higher risk of abandoning their babies and eating them, so it makes sense to limit the chances of older female hedgehogs from becoming pregnant.
When we first went to see our breeder and saw a pygmy hedgehog for the first time, we saw the mother hedgehog with her babies, of which one was Hynee.
We were told by the breeder to be careful in not spooking the mother and whilst we were not able to hold the offspring, (as we may leave a scent on them that the mother could construe as foreign and cause her to eat the baby), my daughter did stroke the mother for a while and both of them were very calm.
The babies were about six weeks old and the breeder told us for the first three weeks they don’t go anywhere near the mother and her babies, as the chances of spooking her may cause her to eat her babies. However, from experience, they found the mother is a lot calmer after about five weeks, so having contact with her doesn’t cause any cannibalistic reaction to her babies.
The mother hedgehog didn’t hiss once when she was stroked gently, as she was probably reassured from the scent of her owner is nearby. The owner was able to pick the mother up and put her briefly on my daughter’s hands, again without any hissing or irritation.
This was an extremely calm hedgehog but this may not be the case with all mothers so I would strongly advise not picking them up when they are with their babies.
Option 5: Mother and adult daughter African Pygmy Hedgehogs
I have read about some success with a mother being able to live with her adult daughter across some of the popular hedgehog forums with the general consensus of success being attributed to the daughter being able to feed herself and not being sufficient on her mother.
I think the chance of success with a mother and daughter pygmy hedgehog being able to live together is a little bit better than two unrelated females, maybe because the mother knows the scent of her daughter and this familiarity helps them to get along, instead of a foreign scent spelling an intruder and leading to fighting.
Option 6: Mother, offspring and their father African Pygmy Hedgehogs
Whilst it’s generally accepted a mother pygmy hedgehog can live with her offspring when they are young, the father of the offspring should not be in the same cage or vicinity if babies or young hedgehogs are present.
Firstly, if the offspring are babies then as stated earlier the pygmy hedgehog mother can eat their offspring if she becomes stressed and having the father of the offspring in the same cage, may act as a stress trigger.
She may feel threatened for her babies and instinct will make her eat them as she will be able to use their protein for another little. I know it sounds sick but this is how animals can instinctively behave.
I can see no reason to have the father pygmy hedgehog anywhere near his offspring when they are babies when they are young or even when they are grown up. When they are babies, he may also try to eat them as they are a source of protein, so it’s best to keep him away.
Option 7: Young and old African Pygmy Hedgehogs
Some owners on the many pygmy hedgehog forums out there have reported some success with younger pygmy hedgehogs being able to live with older pygmy hedgehogs.
Maybe this could be down to the older pygmy hedgehog not being seen as a threat and therefore the younger pygmy hedgehog doesn’t need to feel aggressive and territorial or the younger pygmy hedgehog accepts the older pygmy hedgehog as dominant, so there is an understanding and contention between the pair.
Again, no one really knows why some older and younger pygmy hedgehogs can successfully live together however there have been cases where there have been fights.
A mother and daughter pygmy hedgehog living together has already been discussed in this post but two unrelated females could be a possibility. I don’t think two male pygmy hedgehogs could ever live together there’s just too many hormones combined with instinct involved for this to ever work.
My concern will always be something as simple as a quick bite from one pygmy hedgehog to another over a simple disagreement becoming fatal, especially if there’s blood loss. At the time it’s discovered one of the pygmy hedgehogs was bitten the will already be dead.
Tips to help African Pygmy Hedgehogs together
Owners who have successfully kept pygmy hedgehogs together in the same cage have usually taken a number of steps to maximise the chances of the hedgehogs being able to live together.
The first step is to use the quarantine method to ensure any new pygmy hedgehog doesn’t infect the other pygmy hedgehog. One can never be too sure if the new pygmy hedgehog is carrying infections, mites or other nasties.
Keep apart for a time
The pygmy hedgehogs are kept apart for a while with regular checks on both to see if they are healthy. It makes a lot of sense to keep the hedgehogs in separate rooms in most cases, as sometimes things can spread through the air especially if the air is recirculated around the house.
The new pygmy hedgehog also needs time to acclimatise to their new environment and adjust themselves for the different sounds and smells around them. They don’t want to do this at the same time as trying to acclimatise to another hedgehog, as this will create even more stress for them.
2. Limit cross-contamination
Bugs can still spread through cross-contamination and owners can limit this by ensuring they wash hands thoroughly before picking up and handling each hedgehog, as this could also cause the spread of infections, mites and other nasties through these remaining on their hands when they pick up the other hedgehog.
Other cross-contamination infection points could be the owners clothing especially if the hedgehog has been allowed to crawl in the owners lap and by changing their clothing before handling each pygmy hedgehog could be a good way of keeping this risk to a minimum, especially as hedgehogs like to look for a place to hide and will try to wriggle around an owners lap, arms and chest area.
3. Staged introduction
Smart owners won’t introduce the hedgehogs to each other after the initial stages instead they will start by doing a staged introduction where two separate cages are used to house each pygmy hedgehog individually. These cages are put next to each other, so the pygmy hedgehogs become aware of each other by picking up the scent and sounds of the other.
They won’t be able to see each other, as they have poor eyesight but their sense of smell and hearing will definitely make up for this. It’s important to understand some plastic cages may not provide an effective way of dispersing the scents from one pygmy hedgehog to another as the plastic is a barrier.
With many plastic cages only having an opening at the top (with a grill), in such cases, the alternative of swapping toys between the cages could be a gentle introduction to each other.
If we decided to introduce another hedgehog cage next to Hynee and swapped his toys with the new hedgehog, we would use a camera to check how each of the pygmy hedgehogs reacted to the swapped toys.
We have an infra-red wildlife camera, we use to take automatic videos of Hynee at night as the camera picks up movement and takes a video even in the dark. By studying these videos we could determine how they reacted to each other’s toys with any aggression highlighting areas of concern.
4. Neutral territory
It may make sense to introduce pygmy hedgehogs to each other on a neutral territory as they may feel more threatened by an outsider in their space and will most likely see the other pygmy hedgehog as a threat and not a friend.
A neutral territory where neither pygmy hedgehog has ownership or has left scent marks (to make it as though it’s their territory) could be a better way to see how they react to each other.
Using a freshly cleaned blanket as bedding with a perimeter made of metal grill barriers (the grill bars need to be safe for the pygmy hedgehogs and not cause them to get themselves or their limbs caught and injured in the gaps between the grill bars), could make a space for the pygmy hedgehogs to meet each other.
Putting food in the centre to coax them to move around could help in them getting to pick up each other’s scents and noises.
When there’s gentle nudging between each other when they meet, could be a sign they are checking each other out and find each other not to be a threat. However, if they start fighting or making unfamiliar sounds, you are not used to, such as loud squeaking or screaming then take the one making the most noise out of the penned area immediately and move them back into their own cage.
By keeping an eye on their chest area will give an indication of their state, as their chests moving rapidly up and down is usually a sign of any tension they feel, when their heart’s start to beat faster, their chest moves up and down rapidly as a result pointing to them being tense and stressed.
This would mean immediate separation of the pygmy hedgehogs and them being put back in their own cages, with the understanding they won’t ever get on it’s just too risky.
Where I’ve read of there been cases of success in keeping pygmy hedgehogs together it seems there has been a need to duplicate some of the items in the cage, as this seemed to stop any contention and fighting.
Duplicating items in a cage inevitably results in needing a much bigger cage to house the additional duplicated items and let’s not forget the two hedgehogs themselves.
The size of the cage needs careful consideration as if it’s too cramped for both hedgehogs then this could lead to tensions rising and the possibility of fighting breaking out over the most trivial matters.
Duplicating items will need to include:
- two exercise wheels (put them near each housing area);
- two food bowls;
- two water bowls (keep the food and water bowls near the housing area of each hedgehog);
- two heating sources (if using heat mats);
Anything that could cause contention between the hedgehogs must be avoided, this is why having two feeding bowls means the chances of them fighting over food will be reduced but that said, they may still fight if the other is feeding as they may not be able to distinguish between who’s feeding bowl belongs to who.
With so much stuff in the cage, if you’ve used a litter tray for your hedgehog then this might have to go as cage space will be a premium and having a litter tray or even two litter trays will just make the cage too cramped.
Bathing them together could also be problematic as some hedgehogs don’t like bathing, so putting two hedgehogs in the same bathwater might cause their anxieties to boil over at bath time.
Don’t do it, let them remain, solitary creatures, the risk of them becoming injured or worse still dying as a result of something as innocuous as a bite or a fight are just too great. As I’ve said a few times in this post, the time when the damage will be done will be at a time when you’re not there, that’s in the middle of the night and by the time you find out, it will be too late.
The poor hedgehog will in all likelihood have died alone, in pain during the night from their wounds and I would not want any hedgehog or any animal for that matter to have suffered so much when their pain and death are totally avoidable.
Where to buy an African Pygmy Hedgehog? You can generally buy pygmy hedgehogs from pet stores (specialized stores), from independent stores, from breeders and from private sellers classified adverts such as those in newspapers and online websites.
Can two female hedgehogs live together? It is possible for related pygmy hedgehog females to live together, such as a mother and her adult daughter but for non-related pygmy hedgehog females the chances are less and they will probably fight.