Hedgehogs give off an intimidating demeanor thanks to the presence of thousands of sharp spines on their backs. No wonder many folks are quick to believe the numerous myths out there about their ability to attack humans with their quills.
This article answers the question “Are Hedgehogs Affectionate?” by discussing whether these exotic pets are cuddly and like to snuggle up to their owners. We also reveal how hedgehogs show emotions to people they trust.
Are Hedgehogs Affectionate?
Hedgehogs are affectionate little guys that snuggle, cuddle, and sniff around owners they love and trust. Kissing, nibbling, and falling asleep in the owner’s palms are ways hedgehogs show love after trust-building. They may also respond positively to petting or belly rubs as a sign of affection to owners they have bonded with.
Hedgehogs are some of the most paranoid animals in the wild and for good reason because their small-sized nature makes them easy targets for larger predators. With almost every physically stronger animal preying on these small mammals in the wild, independence comes to hedgehogs naturally.
They move through life on their own without relying on other hedgehogs for survival and this is one of the reasons why they have managed to prevent extinction after several hundred million years of evolution.
Hedgehogs arrive in a new home with a high sense of paranoia by viewing human owners as potential predators until proven otherwise. This can take several months or even years of continuous effort on the owner’s part to tone down the hedgehog’s defenses.
Here are a couple of ways hedgehogs show affection to owners after going through the ups and downs of bonding.
Snuggling Their Owners
Hedgehogs love snuggling owners they love and trust. This may seem impossible when one first arrives in a new home when even the presence of an owner seems agitating. But warming up gets easier over time as they get used to the new owner’s scent,
Many folks allow hedgehogs out of their cages for half an hour or so daily to enjoy some fresh air. It is not uncommon for pet hedgehogs to snuggle and roam on their owner’s laps or even under their shirts while seated on the sofa watching a game or movie on TV.
Hedgehogs can also snuggle their owners when found in the presence of strangers. For instance, many owners have reported these guys running toward them during vet appointments which is a sweet sign of affection.
Besides, hedgehogs may snuggle under the blankets of owners when allowed to break free from their enclosures although it is not advisable.
Hedgehogs Kiss Their Owners
Kissing is another common sign of affection hedgehogs display toward owners they love. While it is not recommended due to the potential of disease transmission to humans, it could be an adorable sight.
Vets recommend taking a bath or washing the area of the kiss immediately after it occurs to minimize the risk of transmitting salmonella and other infections. (Source)
Hedgehogs Nibble Their Owners
Hedgehogs may nibble their owners as a sign of affection. This is different from biting, which involves deliberate teeth sinking into the body of strangers. It is not uncommon for owners to be mistaken for strangers, especially when abruptly woken up from deep sleep.
Nibbling is a hedgehog’s equivalent of love bites which is a cute way of showing affection to owners who have taken the time to love and indulge them over several months and even years.
Positive Response To Petting
Hedgehogs often enjoy petting but only from owners they love and appreciate. It is impossible to receive a positive response from petting another person’s hedgehog even as a member of the same household.
Hedgehogs often resist petting attempts from their owners after their first arrival in a new home and it can take continuous effort to garner a positive response. Hedgehogs only show pleasure from petting as a form of affection to the owner.
Positive Response to Tummy Rubs
Just like petting, hedgehogs may or may not enjoy receiving tummy rubs. Strangers do not stand a chance of eliciting a positive response from tummy rubs despite how hard they try but the opposite could be true for owners they love and admire.
If your hedgehog looks happy from those gentle tummy massages, it is an obvious sign of appreciation for you.
How To Socialize Domesticated Hedgehogs
Proper socialization is the only way to stand a chance of receiving affection from pet hedgehogs. It helps build strong bonds which enable the little guy to develop more trust in their owners over time. Here are the best ways to enhance the socialization process.
Allow Them To Settle In New Environments
Hedgehogs take time to settle in new environments because of their natural paranoia which keeps them on their toes after arrival. They can be fearful for their lives during the first few weeks in a new home and while sporadic handling is recommended, intensive socialization may not be the best move.
Instead, allow a 2-3 week settling-in period before the daily grind begins. The process of achieving a positive response down the line is possible when you start on the right note.
Daily socialization is critical to the bonding process with pet hedgehogs once the settling-in period elapses. Sporadic handling often achieves mediocre results because hedgehogs never gain the required familiarity with the owner’s presence.
Instead, make time to stay up an hour or two longer to be able to handle pet hedgehogs before going to bed. This should strengthen the bonding process and increase the level of affection exhibited by the hedgehog.
Get Them Used To Your Scents
Getting hedgehogs familiar with your scent is super important to speed up the socialization process. A smart trick is to place an old t-shirt near their food bowls to provide unlimited access to your scents. This also draws an association between your body scent and good things.
Over time, hedgehogs become excited with your presence and display more affection whenever you make an approach.
Get Them Used To Your Voice
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and spend the whole day sleeping. The main form of recognition for owners is via scents and voice due to their weak vision. Talking calmly to pet hedgehogs is a tried and tested socialization technique.
Experts recommend chatting with pet hedgehogs in a low tone during bonding sessions at night when they are awake.
Learn Proper Handling Techniques
Handling is another important aspect of building strong bonds with pet hedgehogs. They hate physical touch from humans and it can take a great deal of effort to get them used to it. Fortunately, hedgehogs evolve to enjoy physical contact eventually once trust is built.
The caveat is mastering the art of touching hedgehogs without getting poked by their sharp quills. Avoid wearing hand gloves because it could mask your scents which inadvertently interferes with the bonding process.
Create Playtimes With Pet Hedgehogs
Making time to play with pet hedgehogs is another critical part of socialization. Due to their nocturnal nature, adjusting your schedule to stay up an hour or two longer should make fun playtimes possible.
We recommend daily handling to speed up familiarity which provides additional benefits including mood enhancements and excess calorie burning.
Offer Occasional Treats
Bribing hedgehogs with tasty treats could also ease up the bonding process by associating your presence with good things. Dried or fresh mealies, fruits, vegetables, and cockroaches are popular treats these creatures enjoy.
However, go easy on the bribes because the calorie content may expose them to obesity and related issues.
Comfortable Cage Environment
Comfortable enclosures influence hedgehogs to respond positively to socialization attempts and getting the right cage size can be a good start. The cage should feature the necessary accessories including food and water bowls, wheels, hideouts, bedding, and thermometers to detect temperature fluctuations.
Manage Your Expectations
Hedgehogs are not the most sociable animals and it takes time for them to warm up to humans. Your patience will be stretched severally during bonding with these creatures but learning how to manage personal expectations could come in handy.
Avoid expecting too much too soon because it may take over a year for hedgehogs to bond with their owners. Learn to take each day as it comes and offer the best you can without expecting any affection back in return anytime soon.
Conclusion: Are Hedgehogs Affectionate?
Hedgehogs are loners that spend the majority of life on their own and showing affection does not come easily. However, taking the time to bond could lead to good results, particularly among owners with a relentless desire to succeed.
Avoid expecting too much too soon and instead, focus on building a strong bond over time that makes easy detection of your scent and voice possible. Also, spend some time playing with pet hedgehogs daily and stay consistent with your efforts.