Is Hedgehog Anointing Bad? 5 Reasons Why It Can Be Good For Your Hedgies!


hedgehog scavenging grass but Is Hedgehog Anointing Bad?

The sight of a hedgehog anointing for the first time can be strange for many of us because it may give a false illusion of distress. Once it happens a couple of times, there comes a point when it becomes clear that anointing is just one of their weird habits but many of us cannot help but wonder if it can have repercussions for hedgehogs.

This article answers the question “Is Hedgehog Anointing Bad?” by revealing the potential reasons behind the weird behavior in hedgehogs and common scenarios that may trigger it. We also conclude whether interfering in their anointing sessions is a good idea or not.

Is Hedgehog Anointing Bad?

Anointing does not seem to have direct repercussions on hedgehogs and may ward off potential predators. It is normal hedgehog behavior so give them space to anoint whenever they feel like it. However, hedgehogs may look dazed immediately after which can leave them vulnerable to potential threats.

Always provide your hedgehogs the privacy to anoint even if the sight of them going through different emotions during the process can be intriguing. If you have a camera installed in their cage area, watching the live video instead of being in their space when anointing can be a great idea.

What is Self-Anointing in Hedgehogs?

hedgehog in the garden as owner asks What is Self-Anointing in Hedgehogs?

Anointing is a sudden halt in physical activity to lick their quills while foaming at the mouth among hedgehogs. They show amazing physical dexterity as their bodies are positioned at some of the strangest angles to enable licking every inch of their quills.

Hedgehogs often get fully engulfed in the anointing process and signs of dazing immediately afterward may be displayed. It is not uncommon for first-time hedgehog parents to mistake anointing for some sort of seizure or even a rabies episode.

What Do Hedgehogs Self-Anoint With?

Hedgehogs typically self-anoint with their saliva and the resultant foaming at the mouth provides enough quantities to cover every inch of spine on their bodies. The mouth-foaming continues until the hedgehog’s whole body is covered with saliva.

Do We Know Why Hedgehogs Self-Anoint?

Unfortunately, there are no explicitly confirmed triggers for self-anointing in hedgehogs. Many in the hedgehog community have theories about common triggers based on their experiences but they remain theories at this point with no absolutes.

Self-Anointing Triggered By Strong Scents

Have you recently changed your perfume or switched to a stronger bathing soap? The probability of triggering self-anointing in your hedgehogs can be high after making physical contact. Washing your hands with scented soaps could also encourage hedgehogs to self-anoint.

Hedgehogs are notorious for their terrible eyesight just like many nocturnal and crepuscular animals that rely more on their alternative senses. Not only do they have powerful ears but their sense of smell can be amazing too.

If you’re fond of handling your hedgehog after dramatic changes in body scents do not be surprised to see them anointing themselves immediately after. Applying unscented hand washes may work best if you’d rather not see your hedgehogs anoint.

Self-Anointing Caused By New Scents and Tastes

Hedgehogs may be used to the scents and tastes of a few nutrition sources including breast milk and cat food during their time with a breeder or pet store. Discovering new tastes and new scents after arriving at your home can trigger anointing episodes.

This may not be restricted to specific scents or tastes because they seem to get triggered by the smell or taste of anything new after exposure. Since the probability of offering new foods from time to time can be high, self-anointing could be inevitable.

In some instances, they may anoint just by tasting or smelling new food for the first time but put up a fierce resistance when it is offered to them again in the future.

Self-Anointing As A Form of Protection From Predators

It is widely believed that some hedgehogs anoint themselves as a protective shield to repel predatory attacks from larger animals. Sure, hedgehogs can always curl into a ball to ward off pounces from many of their predators.

However, subtle animals like Eurasian Eagle Owls are able to attack hedgehogs during the night by silently flapping their wings when hunting. The lack of warning noises can deprive hedgehogs of the ability to curl into balls before getting attacked. (Source)

Hedgehogs may anoint their skins with venom from poisonous frogs and other animals to provide another line of defense against predatory attacks. They’re resistant to most toxins found in the wild which enables them to eat various poisonous animals with minimal risk of losing their lives.

Any predator that makes physical contact does not only get poked by the sharp quills but could also get poisoned.

This can be critical to the survival of hedgehogs in the wild where predators are always hunting for vulnerable prey. Anointing occurs even in caged breeds like the African Pygmy Hedgehogs.

Sexual Attraction From Self-Anointing

2 hedgehogs frolicking in the wild as self-anointing increases sexual attraction

A cross-section of folks in the hedgehog community believes anointing is one of the ways females attract males sexually. Many studies have shown that their quills retain scents that can attract males to initiate sexual contact with females.

This behavior is likely to be more typical in the wild since most domesticated hedgehogs are caged in solitary habitats with no contact with the opposite sex unless they’re intentionally being bred. Female hedgehogs do not have periods so figuring out their reproductive cycle can be hard but many folks believe physical contact with males stimulates ovulation.

Self-Anointing To Camouflage Themselves

Self-anointing can also be used to camouflage themselves with their environment. Covering their quills with saliva may help mask their scents to closely resemble their habitats which can be an effective tactic to stay off the radar of most predators.

This could explain why pet hedgehogs anoint after arriving in a new home with an unfamiliar scent since they’re unsure of what lies ahead and whether any predators exist in the new environment.

What Do Hedgehogs Anoint Themselves With?

Hedgehogs may anoint themselves with varying substances at different points in time depending on their circumstances. A few common anointing “oils” include:

  • Saliva
  • Venom from poisonous animals
  • Poop

Conclusion: Is Hedgehog Anointing Bad?

Self-anointing is normal hedgehog behavior that seems to offer loads of benefits. From discouraging predatory attacks by covering their quills with saliva or poison to enhancing their sexual attraction, various theories are out there.

Self-anointing also enables hedgehogs to try new foods to determine whether they like the taste or not. The procedure is often triggered immediately after tasting the new diet and they may decide whether to eat it in the future or not.

While we cannot be entirely sure of the reasons why hedgehogs self-anoint, it is clear that the behavior is not harmful to them in any way. Allow your hedgehogs to anoint whenever they deem appropriate without inhibitions.

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