The Life of A Pygmy Hedgehog

If you are looking to get yourself a pygmy hedgehog or you are just interested in the little critters in general, please read on!

Owning a pygmy hedgehog was always something I dreamed of doing but never thought it would turn into a reality. Pygmy hedgehogs are  quite hard to come by, so I guess you could say my luck was in!

Rewind back to July 2014. One lazy Sunday, James and I decided to visit the local RSPCA purely for something to do. I do love to look at the animals and imagine in my head that I could take all of them home. We walked round to the area where the rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets were kept, when I saw a rather large cage which contained… a PYGMY HEDGEHOG! I immediately beckoned James over and started jumping up and down with excitement!

It turns out Honey’s previous owners were nothing short of cruel and callous. My poor little baby was abandoned in a public toilet, freezing, where she was found by a kind stranger who took her to the RSPCA. The volunteers told me that they had never had a pygmy hedgehog before which excited me even more. She must be mine

After getting the go ahead from my landlord, I signed the paperwork and it was official. I now owned Honey and I was SO excited. I spent rather a lot of money online buying her the best cage accessories I could.

It would be mad to think that everything would be a bed of roses. Because we now owned a rescue pet naturally Honey came with quite a lot of baggage. She was extremely timid and hissed constantly. This was understandable because of her poor history with owners. The first day we brought her home, I sat by her cage for half an hour purely plucking up the courage to just pick her
up.

Over time, Honey came round to being handled. The RSPCA told me that they thought Honey would never be handled with bare hands but I proved them wrong – 2 weeks was all it took before we held her. She still prefers not to be held but that’s ok, she can run around on the floor instead. Everyone always says ‘isn’t she prickly?!’ Well, yes, of course she is. The trick is to pick her up from underneath as she has the cutest lil fluffy belly. Cuuuute.

Not a lot of people know this, but pygmy hedgehogs do not hibernate. Unlike wild hedgehogs who hibernate every year and can bring themselves out of it, pygmy hedgehogs are unable to do this which can have fatal consequences. Honey is an African pygmy hedgehog (APH) and APH’s were originally born and bred in hot countries. Because of this, it is sooooo important that we keep Honey warm, especially in the winter, so that she doesn’t hibernate.

Unfortunately, Honey has tried to hibernate a few times therefore this has led to a few vet visits. There was one time in particular when I thought I had lost her and it was traumatic to say the least! Her poor little body went into spasm and I had to warm her up with a hot water bottle and my body heat for a good couple of hours. Luckily she came out of it ok, and was absolutely fine by the time we got to the vets (typical).

Finding a vet for Honey was quite difficult. As she falls under the ‘Exotic Pet’ category, there was only one choice on the Isle of Wight – Green and Forster. Admittedly, they have been very good with her although each vet she has seen has assumed she’s a wild hedgehog (how?!)

Honey eats a lot, drinks a lot and goes to the loo, a lot. Pygmy hedgehogs go to the toilet when they are running (weird, I know) so we clean her wheel every day. She has a litter tray that she uses when she feels like it, but because she is adopted, we had no chance to litter train her from birth. Pygmy hedgehogs run roughly 5 miles per night so it was important that we got a wheel that would make the least amount of noise! We ended up getting a ferret wheel (because of it’s size) from a local pet store that cost roughly £30.

Honey’s favourite foods include strawberries, banana, apple and cucumber. Pygmy hedgehogs can’t eat anything acidic, so no grapes or oranges allowed. They’re also allergic to lactose, so milk is a no go! If you see a wild hedgehog in your garden, please give them water and not milk. You’ll be doing their little tummies the world of good.

I personally think that Honey is ridiculously easy to care for. She self cleans so we only have to bath her once every few months or so. If we bath her too much, it causes her skin to become dry and her spikes (quills) can fall out. Whilst one of us is bathing Honey, the other one puts a towel in the tumble dryer and gets it warm and ready for as soon as she gets out. It’s really important that Honey is warm and dry straight away otherwise she could catch a chill. This could potentially lead to *whispers* hibernation, which we certainly don’t want!

Pygmy hedgehogs live between 4-7 years, and Honey is coming up for her 4th birthday this June. We’re hoping she lives longer than 4 years, but because of her horrible background we aren’t expecting much. She has a cataract in one of her eyes and a fatty deposit in her underbelly – all signs of getting old. We love her to bits though and wouldn’t swap her for the world. We’re just extremely happy that we’ve been able to give her a good life after being so badly mistreated. She has gained her trust back in humans and is a funny, loveable pet. She is the best company when I’m feeling down and she is just as sensitive to emotions as any other animal. I was crying watching the TV before and she crawled from my lap up to my chest and just sat there, looking at me, probably thinking what a strange human I was. I would recommend owning a pygmy hedgehog to anybody who is looking for a pet who is a little out of the ordinary, but still shows you love and affection (of the prickly kind!)

Love,

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