When we looked at buying an hedgehog, we looked at the various options available to us. We knew we had to be very careful when buying one as if it was not done properly there could be a whole host of additional unexpected costs.
How much are hedgehogs? Hedgehogs can cost as much as $350 or more when bought from specialist independent pet stores and specialist hedgehog breeders. Hedgehogs can be bought from classified ads for much less with baby hedgehogs costing as little as $100.
We found the specialist breeder option gave us a lot of advantages compared to the other options.
With the hedgehog craze, there are so many unscrupulous people trying to jump onto bandwagon so it’s’ absolutely essential to buy a hedgehog from a reputable source to ensure there are no surprises. Ending up with a large veterinarian bill later from a load of avoidable health issues or even premature death can be avoided by following a few simple steps.
How much does a Hedgehog cost?
We paid around $350 for our hedgehog, we had seen other breeders offering hedgehogs for much less but we felt the breeder we eventually settled on was reputable and knew what they were talking about.
They had a depth of knowledge and it became apparent very quickly from initial discussions they were adept and knowledgeable about not only breeding hedgehogs but also looking after them. Where the hedgehog is bought from also influences the price paid for the hedgehog.
Where can you buy a hedgehog?
So, where can you buy a hedgehog? The typical ways to buy a hedgehog include the following:
- Major Pet Stores ($$$);
- Independent Pet Stores ($$$$);
- Breeders ($$$);
- Private seller adverts ($$); and
- Rescue centres ($).
I’ve included a rough guide to cost with $ signs, with the Independent Pet Stores being the most expensive and the Rescue centres the cheapest. We bought our hedgehog from a local breeder and did initially check on our local pet shop to see if they sold exotic pets like hedgehogs but they were more the run of the mill pet store.
1. Pet Stores
Our first port of call was our local pet stores but as stated earlier they didn’t stock exotic pets like hedgehogs and as part of a larger chain, they concentrated on the popular pets like reptiles, fish, rodents and other small mammals.
However, there were some independent smaller pet shops we saw on the internet that did do hedgehogs however many of these were quite far away and we were little hesitant to have any support we may need so far away.
2. Independent Pet Stores
The smaller independent stores will tend to charge more than the larger chain pet stores for pets and this holds true for hedgehogs (if the larger chains do sell hedgehogs) as they don’t have the luxury of being able to absorb costs as well as the larger chains.
This doesn’t also necessitate a higher level of knowledge and experience in hedgehogs and for that, you need to look at hedgehog breeders.
Buying from a breeder tends to be more expensive than buying from a pet store especially if the breeder is reputable. Breeders can, in theory, make a good choice for sourcing better bred hedgehogs (as long as the breeders are reputable) as they will generally tend to only concentrate on hedgehogs and will also have years of experience.
We ended up buying from a local breeder who had a good reputation both word of mouth and online, as well as being very knowledgeable and this put our mind at ease. It’s important to deal with someone who knows what they are doing, as this support will also give you the knowledge needed to look after hedgehogs and the support we received helped us out a lot.
Some jurisdictions require breeders to be licensed and if that applies where you live, then make sure any breeders are licensed as not only will the breeder be guilty or selling hedgehogs without a license but you could also be guilty of buying from an unlicensed breeder.
4. Private Sellers
Classified adverts in newspapers and online from private sellers offer an opportunity to source hedgehogs at a decent price but there is a need to be careful that you’re not buying a hedgehog that’s ill, inbred or being neglected or mistreated.
Neglect also includes hedgehogs that have been incorrectly fed and have become obese or underweight.
5. Rescue centres
Where my cousin lives they have a local hedgehog rescue centre where injured hedgehogs of the European variety can be taken for medical treatment including abandoned baby hedgehogs and surprisingly African hedgehogs that have been abandoned by their owners.
These owners have underestimated what’s required to look after a hedgehog or what type of pet a hedgehog really is when compared to other pets. I think it’s a good idea to seek out abandoned hedgehogs and give them a loving home.
What questions do I ask before buying a hedgehog?
We asked a load of questions to make sure Hynee was the right hedgehog for us and I would strongly advise in having a list of questions drawn up to ask prospective sellers of hedgehogs to ascertain whether they are reputable or not, know what they are doing and aren’t selling you an animal that could end up being costly in the long run.
General questions to ask
1. What type of bedding have you been using for your hedgehogs?
It’s important to ask the type of bedding being used to keep the hedgehog as the wrong choice can cause hedgehog health problems with some problems that can become fatal later on.
Bedding using certain types of wood shavings (cedar in particular) or shavings with oils or dyes in them could cause health problems later on.
Bedding with odour control to mask the smell of their poop and urine could also include scents that cause distress (hedgehogs have an excellent sense of smell), so buying a distressed hedgehog could make it difficult for them to settle.
2. If the hedgehog doesn’t settle, what is the return policy?
What if you’ve made the wrong choice for a pet, you need some reassurance you can return the hedgehog and even if you don’t get a refund or partial refund, the welfare of the hedgehog still needs to be considered.
I’ve read some heart-wrenching situations where owners haven’t been able to return their hedgehogs and have foolishly released them into the wild including urban areas where the likelihood of them surviving is substantially reduced especially if the climate varies from being hot and cold.
3. Any health issues with the mother or father or in any of the litters produced?
Wobbly leg syndrome is a serious problem in hedgehogs where the hedgehog progressively loses the ability to stand and ultimately dies as they are unable to feed themselves. There’s not much information about what causes wobbly leg syndrome but many people believe it could be a hereditary condition.
We had the reassurance of being able to see both the mother and father for our hedgehog Hynee and they looked in great health.
Some form of guarantee of a hedgehogs health can bring peace of mind and this probably won’t be a lifetime guarantee but maybe six months or even a year could still help filter out the reputable sources from the charlatans.
A guarantee might not necessarily be a refund, it could also be an exchange for a hedgehog from a different litter, but from a personal standing, I would look at a different source if the first source has sold a hedgehog with health issues.
It’s good practice to check online reviews and word of mouth reviews about any supplier of hedgehogs be they, breeders, to pet stores to provide some sort of confidence they are selling healthy hedgehogs and not inbred hedgehogs or hedgehogs with hereditary conditions otherwise, there could be expensive veterinarian bills on the way.
4. How are the male and female hedgehog housed?
Generally, this applies to hedgehogs older than three months (sometimes they can be sexually mature at an even younger age) to make sure the female isn’t pregnant if you are looking at buying a female hedgehog.
In this instance, it’s good to check the male and female hedgehogs have not been housed together, to avoid the risk of getting a pregnant female and a young pregnant female may not be able to produce a healthy litter as even though she’s sexually mature she just doesn’t have the personality maturity to deal with new-borns.
Pet Store questions
The larger pet stores should, in theory, have a more robust and reputable supply line and if they sell hedgehogs this could, in theory, mean there’s less to worry about. It’s still important to ask questions about where they source their hedgehogs to make sure they are not just cashing in on a craze to make money and leaving you to care for an unhealthy hedgehog.
Even with some form of health guarantee and possibly low-cost veterinarian care options wouldn’t necessarily put my mind at ease if they couldn’t validate the quality of the breeding being done from their source.
If they’ve used reputable sources, to ensure the hedgehogs haven’t been bred in environments that hinder their life expectancy by introducing totally avoidable health issues, such as mental distress from being housed in small cages to being fed an incorrect diet would make me feel more confident about the hedgehog.
To me, the downside of pet stores, be it a chain or independent owner, is their level of knowledge and expertise to help. They may just be a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none’ and sometimes when we’ve asked questions, we’ve not been instilled with any confidence in the responses we’ve received and this isn’t very reassuring.
Hedgehog Breeder questions
Breeders, in theory, offer the opportunity of dealing with someone who should be very knowledgeable in hedgehog care however this isn’t always the case and there are plenty of charlatans out there masquerading as breeders as there are good quality breeders, so it’s important to be vigilant.
We bought Hynee from a breeder and we asked plenty of questions before we decided to buy him. Prior to selecting the breeder we did phone around a few breeders and ask them a few questions to see if they could instil a level of confidence in us about them knowing what they are doing.
Any answers we found woolly made us assume the breeder didn’t really have the knowledge in hedgehogs we would expect, otherwise, if they could answer our questions to a decent standard, then it made us feel they weren’t just doing this to make a quick buck without thinking about the consequences of what they were doing.
Again checking online reviews and word of mouth reviews is also an essential part of establishing a breeder’s reputability.
We asked the following questions:
- Do you have a license to breed hedgehogs? (if they need one in your jurisdiction)
- Would I able to see the license?
- How many litters do you breed each year?
- How old are the hedgehogs you sell?
1. Do you have a license to breed hedgehogs?
A reputable breeder should have a license (if it’s required).
2. Would I be able to see the license?
They must be willing to show the license to any prospective buyers, if they won’t show their license then they probably have something to hide.
3. How many litters do you breed each year?
If they mention much more than two (or even three) then they are probably just trying to cash in and trying to maximize the number of baby hedgehogs they can produce. This will inevitably put their breeding hedgehogs under a lot of stress and they may end up with many babies who just don’t survive.
4. How old are the hedgehogs you sell?
If they are selling hedgehogs younger than seven weeks old then they probably don’t know what they are doing and are just cashing in. We didn’t pick up Hynee till he was nearly three months old, so he’d had time to be a mummy’s boy and learn a few things.
We first saw him when he was about five weeks old but the breeder advised us it would not be a good idea to sell them at this age, so we waited a few months.
Private Seller questions
If I was buying from a private seller I would need to find out:
- why the owner was selling their hedgehog?
- does the hedgehog have any health issues?
This is important as a health issue could result in high veterinarian bills later on and a lot of heartaches if the issues prove to be life-threatening. I would need a lot of reassurance from the seller that the reasons for the sale are genuine, maybe they’re not able to provide the care the hedgehog needs because of their lifestyle or they have learned that ahedgehog isn’t the right pet for them and they would like a traditional pet instead.
It’s best to see if you can check whether the seller is actually a breeder in disguise and by checking previous classified adverts, you can see if they are a serial advertiser and thus someone who is actually illegally breeding hedgehogs or is a genuine seller.
When adverts appear on a website, a simple search on google for a few keywords from an advertisement can bring up similar searches and these may include previous adverts.
I’d also ask what else is included in the sale, so maybe, I will be able to get the housing, toys, and heating for a knockdown rate. This will also let me see if they are just breeding hedgehogs as they may be reluctant to sell the hedgehog paraphernalia if they are breeding otherwise if they have genuine reasons for selling then the additional hedgehog items serve no purpose.
Check to see if the hedgehog is healthy
It’s important to check any hedgehog you intend to buy to see if they are healthy. I would check the following:
- Quill health;
- Skin Health; and
- Body Health.
Quill health is an important indicator of general health and any infestations. Quill loss can indicate a poor diet (lack of chitin from insects in their diet), mites, infections, and generally in poor health.
The veterinarian costs to treat issues that lead to quill loss can be expensive and in some cases dangerous, as veterinarians not skilled in exotic pets have given medicines that whilst safe for normal pets have induced a fatal reaction in hedgehogs.
Skin health checks to make sure their skin isn’t overly dry or cracked or even oozing (blood or pus) can point to poor care of the hedgehog by the owner. Mites and other infestations can also cause dry skin and the accompanying irritation causes the hedgehogs to try and scratch, causing skin wounds.
Skin cuts could indicate the hedgehog has been housed with another hedgehog and been involved in fights, this would indicate the owner has no care or consideration in looking after the hedgehog properly. Hedgehog’s houses this way would also have suffered huge emotional damage and they may become overly aggressive.
Body health checks must include assessing whether the hedgehog isn’t overweight or obese, whether the hedgehog doesn’t suffer from neurological conditions (wobbly leg syndrome) that make it difficult for them to stand up, walk or run.
I would get the owner to put them on the floor to see if they can scurry and run across to find a hiding space. Their eyes, snout, whiskers, feet, ears, and mouth need to be checked to see if there’s nothing suspect.
If the hedgehog is female, I would check to see if they aren’t pregnant, normally a bump across body could be an indication of this (not always the case though), as I wouldn’t want to end up with a handful of hedgehogs instead of just one unless of course if I was a breeder.
Should you buy a baby or an adult hedgehog?
Generally, it’s best to buy them as babies when they are between six or seven weeks old to about three months old, as they can tend to adapt to their new owner’s surroundings better.
Older hedgehogs may come with a bunch of issues from health-related to personality traits and this may cause problems. We bought Hynee at about three months old and we had first seen him when he was about five weeks old and still a mummy’s boy.
If you are interested in breeding hedgehogs then buying adult males and adult females are more apt but do make sure any hedgehogs you buy have some sort of pedigree.
This isn’t some legal status just a bit of common sense on how to buy, such as appreciating healthy hedgehogs will in all likelihood cost a lot more. A breeder’s license may also be required depending on your jurisdiction, so it’s best to find out about this first before making any purchasing decisions.
Are you ready to own an hedgehog?
Our main motive for considering a hedgehog was we had researched them as being hypoallergenic. This is was very important for us as my daughter Jinnee is allergic to many pets, including cats and dogs. Rather than missing out on the responsibility of owning a pet during her childhood, we decided to check out a hedgehog.
Can I touch or hold the hedgehog to see if I’m allergic to them?
Fortunately for us, the breeder let us handle a hedgehog to make sure there weren’t any reactions before we decided to buy. This is important as it shows the breeder cares and they were also able to answer many of our questions.
Essentials before buying an hedgehog
Before we bought Hynee we found about the essential information below:
- knowing how to look after hedgehogs;
- understanding they’re nocturnal and they’re not social like other pets;
- finding out what to feed hedgehogs;
- appreciating they need to be handled every day, for them to get used to us;
- knowing they need their cage cleaned every day for poop; and
- understanding they need a bath every two weeks or so.
This made it easier to prepare for Hynee’s arrival and for us not to get any shocks from not knowing about the essentials and finding out later after we’d brought him home.
Can you keep hedgehogs as pets?
The first thing we did, was to check to see if it was legal where we live and fortunately for us, there were no restrictions on keeping hedgehogs as pets. Some jurisdictions do not allow owners to keep hedgehogs as pets such as some states in the United States and countries like
- Australia, where all hedgehogs are illegal to import as they are classed as exotic pets;
- Singapore not allowing any species of hedgehog to be kept as a pet;
- Canada (except in Quebec I think); to
- Turkey not allowing any species of hedgehog to be kept as a pet.
Whilst many European countries allow hedgehogs but have strict laws on other species predominantly the European hedgehog which is not allowed as a pet. Countries like below allow hedgehogs to be kept as pets:
Are hedgehogs legal in the UK? Keeping an hedgehog in the UK as a pet is legal if it is the African pygmy variety but there are certain laws that need to be met including the Animal Welfare Act. Owners must ensure hedgehogs can display their full normal behaviour when kept as a pet and they as the owner can meet all the hedgehog’s welfare requirements.
So if a pet hedgehog is regularly woken up in the day time instead of them being allowed to lead the nocturnal lifestyle they are used to, then this could be counted as a contravention of the Animal Welfare Act.
Why is it illegal to have a pet hedgehog?
In some jurisdictions owning or even bringing a hedgehog into the jurisdiction is considered illegal and this is down to their being a concern over either disease the hedgehog may be carrying.
These diseases could be risk factors for other animals especially livestock, to upsetting the local wildlife ecosystems where the hedgehogs could wipe our other smaller animals, insects, and amphibians upsetting the delicate balance.
What states can you own an hedgehog?
Generally in the USA, it’s legal to own a pet hedgehog in most states with the exception of Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, New York City (all five boroughs), Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. The other States such as New Jersey, Wyoming, Wisconsin may require a permit or license to own a pet hedgehog legally.
It’s best to always check to see if where you live allows hedgehogs as pets or not, whilst other states will have a blanket ban with no exceptions. I found this list that could help in finding out where hedgehogs are legal and not.
California has made owning a pygmy hedgehog illegal because they have a law which lists animals that can be owned legally as pets and pygmy hedgehogs are not on the list.
So by default pygmy hedgehogs have become illegal until a time the Department of Fish and Game of California decides to add them to the list. In the meantime, the animal welfare departments of the state of California will confiscate any pygmy hedgehogs.
It’s a shame, as California has a decent environment for pygmy hedgehogs as it’s warm all year-round and I can’t see what environmental threat pygmy hedgehogs would be other animals.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s five-year review in 2019 concluded in the ‘Live Wildlife’ section of Article 4 that pygmy hedgehogs are no longer illegal to own, stating:
“The Department is aware of some confusion in regards to the hedgehogs. In December 2013, the rule was amended to remove the African pygmy hedgehogs, and hybrids of same, from the list of restricted live wildlife. The African hedgehog, Atelerix genus, is native to Africa. Adults range between 7 and 9 inches in length and weigh between 12 to 35 ounces.”
Georgia has a list of animals classed as exotic pets that cannot be kept as pets in which they state the following are not allowed to be kept as pets:
“Insectivores (shrews, moles, hedgehogs, tenrecs, etc.); all species”
They also mention the department can be consulted before any exotic animals that are not domesticated are acquired, which is probably to save prospective owners face on finding out earlier they can’t keep a pygmy hedgehog instead of after they have brought one and it needs to be confiscated.
Hawaii has a list of exotic animals that can be kept as pets and pygmy hedgehogs do not appear in this list, so are presumed to be illegal.
Are hedgehogs protected by law?
Depending on the jurisdiction there can be laws applying to wild hedgehogs and animals that can also apply to pet hedgehogs. Examples such as:
- ensuring the animal is not put under any undue stress;
- animals are allowed to live their life without impediment (so stopping them from being nocturnal would be illegal); to
- the animal is kept safe (so they are not put in situations such as in cages with other hedgehogs where fighting could injure or kill them).
What costs are involved in keeping hedgehogs?
The purchasing cost will be probably the large chunk of owning a hedgehog, other costs will include housing, exercise wheels, heating, and toys. As well as regular running costs to maintain hedgehogs health such as heating costs, veterinarian costs to food costs.
Hedgehogs need a large area to live and a cage or a vivarium with is at least three feet in length and over two feet wide is required. Starter Kits are a popular option, containing the essential items necessary to get going.
We have a large cage with a plastic igloo house inside for him to sleep and hide in.
2. Exercise equipment
They need some form of exercise and letting them run around your house for a couple of minutes a night isn’t going to be enough. Exercise wheels can provide them with ample opportunity to exercise and remain fit and healthy.
Our hedgehog Hynee spends a couple of hours a night running on his wheel and sometimes I think he’s probably running a half marathon in one night.
Heating is a must as they need to be kept warm to stop them from falling into hibernation. Hibernation can be fatal to them as they won’t have enough fat reserves to survive and will starve to death.
We have a heat pad mat that we keep under his igloo house so he can sleep and hide in a temperature-controlled environment.
They need a few toys to stimulate their mind and a ball with a bell inside allows them to push the ball around and hear the sound it makes. We also have a fabric-based tunnel for him to crawl through and a plastic tunnel too.
Regular food is required and this isn’t necessarily that expensive as we have found out by feeding our hedgehog predominantly dry cat biscuits with occasional treats including insects (mealworms and crickets), chicken (unseasoned, roasted with no oils or butter), certain fruits (bananas, apples, and blueberries) and vegetables (steamed unseasoned broccoli).
Before deciding to buy a hedgehog it makes sense to check any allergies against them, as it would be pointless buying one if you ended up with a rash or sneezing fit every time you handled one.
This is exactly what we did as my daughter suffers from a number of allergies and reacts very quickly to other pets especially cars, dogs and rabbits.
Before deciding to buy we went to see a reputable breeder and my daughter handled the mother hedgehog. The babies of which one we would buy were about five weeks old, so the threat of the mother becoming stressed and eating them had diminished somewhat.
We were also told not to try to handle the babies as the scent we could leave on them may make the mother reject them.
We all made sure we cleaned our hands before we picked up the hedgehog just in case of not spreading anything to the babies via the mother. We cleaned our hands after we’d put her back down in the cage,
In the US and some other jurisdictions, buying a hedgehog isn’t necessarily a local affair and there may be a need to transport them back to your house.
If there’s a need to travel on a plane then consideration needs to be given to ensure the aircraft has a suitable cargo hold as most pets will be confined to the cargo hold by the airlines and not allowed to travel with their owners in the cabin.
The cargo hold needs to be equipped to carry ‘live’ pets as it should be pressurized and temperature controlled just like the main cabin would be. I used to think the cargo hold in a plane would be un-breathable and very cold, as cold as the air outside.
However, this is not necessarily the case, as some or all of the cargo hold on large planes can be pressurized and temperature controlled.
On smaller planes, this might not be the case and this is probably why many of them don’t allow pets on-board in the luggage hold as the pet would freeze to death.
Many airlines limit the number of pets allowed in the temperature hold at any one time, so as to reduce stress between pets. This can sometimes make it difficult to get space in the hold if there are more pet owners than normal on the flight, so it makes sense to plan the hedgehog pick up well in advance.
You’ll also need to take a carrying box to transport the hedgehog from where it’s purchased to the plane, along with a little food and a few blankets to keep the hedgehog warm.