Bringing Your Hog Home
When you go to pick up or purchase your new hedgehog, you should have a safe carrier for the ride back. A hard-sided cat carrier is safest for all car travel. If you were in a crash, hard sided carriers are less likely to collapse and crush your hedgehog, and are easily identifiable as pet carriers so the emergency response team can be sure to save your pet as well.
If you have your hedgehog traveling in a purse or other small, soft sided carrier, you could lose your pet as they will probably not make rescuing your fancy bags a priority. Packing the carrier full of cozy blankets so your hedgie can burrow down and sleep will help keep him warm, comfortable, and safe. If your car won’t be kept at 73F or above, you might want to add a hand warmer or two. Finally, if you have a long trip back, try to just let your hedgie sleep through it. Chances are you’ll be driving during the day when he would be sleeping anyway, and he won’t be interested in stopping every short while to be offered food and water. Some hedgehogs easily get motion sickness in cars, so making the process as smooth and uninterrupted as possible is best.
Make sure you get a few weeks worth of the food your hedgie has been eating, or purchase the same brand and formula so you can slowly switch foods when needed. Until your hedgie is settled in, you should be feeding the same food he was eating before. This helps prevent stomach upsets during this stressful time. Don’t be alarmed if you see any bright green poop - this is normal and should go away within a few days. If it doesn’t, make sure you keep your hedgehog hydrated and get to the vet. You will want to check what he is used to drinking from, a water bowl or bottle. If it’s different than what you’ll be using, you may have to teach him how to use his new bowl or bottle. Some hedgehogs can get green poop and upset stomach from changes in water. Tap water quality varies greatly from place to place, and it might help to get a jug of water that he is used to when you pick him up if you think the change in water will be significant.
Keys to Settling In
The main concern once your hedgie comes home is minimizing his stress as much as possible to provide a smooth transition into his new home.
Bonding is a big part of hedgehog ownership. You will want to stick to a routine of handling your hedgie every day. This can be as easy as letting him sleep in a hedgie bag on your lap, holding and petting, or supervising play in an escape-proof pen. Getting your hedgehog used to your scent is the most important part of bonding. Once he has associated your scent with safety and security, he will likely become more outgoing and be more comfortable with handling. Until your hedgie is more comfortable in his new home, try not to overwhelm him with long periods of time socializing or introducing him to too many new sounds and smells at once. Remember to do things gradually.
New owners are often understandably nervous about picking up their hedgie. Until you are used to the feel of the quills, it’s safe to pick him up with a baby receiving blanket, small fleece blanket, or a hedgie bag (a fleece pouch). Also, try sitting on the floor or on the couch where, if he decides to take a flying leap or scares you into dropping him, there is a short ways to fall. There’s no reason to use gloves when you can just hold with a blanket.
Quilling is a stage where young hedgehogs shed baby quills and grow in new ones. This occurs several times as nursing babies, again at 8-9 weeks and for some, a light quilling at 1 year. This can last for as little as a week to several months. If you get a baby hedgie, do not be discouraged if your sweet pet suddenly turns into a hissing, grumpy ball. It is very uncomfortable for them to have the quills growing through their skin, and the best way to help them through it is to give oatmeal baths to sooth the skin, and handle very gently. Don’t let your hedgehog scare you away with its attitude. If you leave him alone because you are afraid of the big huffy display, you are teaching him that being grumpy gets you to go away. You don’t want your hedgie to get used to not being handled, it may have a negative effect on his temperament later in life.
One thing that many new owners are not prepared for is the messy wheel. Hedgehogs don’t understand the concept of running on the same track of wheel over and over. Running in the wild, pooping is no big deal- just leave it behind! They don’t make the connection that they poop and run over it again two seconds later. In the morning, owners are greeted by a delightful excrement mixture caked on the surface of the wheel and the feet of their hedgie. Cleaning for some is no big deal, others throw a fit at the thought of scrubbing anything covered in fecal matter. You’ll get used to it quickly, and cleaning will become a habit. Soaking the wheel in the sink or spraying it with a water/vinegar solution will help loosen most of it up and can speed up the process.
Don’t be concerned if it seems like all your baby does is sleep and poop. Babies will often sleep 22 hours a day, getting up to eat and drink, and possibly run for a bit. They are growing and will become more active when they are older. Also, babies have a short digestive tract and limited bowel control. You will probably want to hold your hedgie in a blanket or something easily washable, because they like to poop and pee at the most inconvenient times. Most hedgies grow out of this, too.
You may notice your hedgie sometimes frothing at the mouth, contorting into strange positions, and spreading this foam on his quills. This is completely normal, called “anointing”. Your hedgie doesn’t have rabies and is not sick.
If you get itchy hands after handling, or have small red dots everywhere your hedgie’s quills touch, chances are that something on the quills is irritating you when the quills poke through. You usually get used to this after spending more time with him. It can help to give your hedgie a bath. That will remove most of whatever is on the quills from anointing or rolling around at night. If the problem continues, you may have an allergy that unfortunately will probably only grow worse with time.
Sometimes hedgies will stop eating for a few days when they first get to their new home. This is fine for a day or two, but if he isn’t eating anything after three days, it’s imperative to get food into him. Talk to the previous owner or breeder for suggestions to get him to eat or talk to your vet. You can leave a few pieces of food in the igloo or wherever he sleeps if he doesn’t seem to be eating. Some are shy at first and will only eat in the security of their hiding place.