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Hedgie Hide-and-Seek

I have often wondered if hide and seek is one of the most-loved hedgehog games. Hedgehogs are certainly accomplished escape artists, and it’s really scary to find an empty cage where you expect to see a little bundle of quills snoozing away! Fear not, though… there are a few tricks to help the hedgeslave win the game.

Before hedgie makes his or her first daring escape, you can hedgehog proof the house. This can be as simple as making sure there is nothing dangerous in the room for hedgie to escape into (stoves, recliners) or out of (dryer vents, doggie doors). This can be done by placing foam blocks, cardboard, or wooden barriers across any areas that look like they might be risky, or just getting in the habit of closing the doors to rooms with potential hazards. We currently live in a two bedroom apartment, and close the outer door to the bedroom when we aren’t present, so as to minimize the chance of a hedgie getting out and getting stuck behind the refrigerator or stove.

Once you discover that your hedgie has eloped, the most important thing to remember is DON’T PANIC! First, you can calmly check areas that might be conducive to hedgie naptime. Our first hedgehog was free ranging, and we learned from her that laundry piles, closets, and dark areas under upholstered chairs have particular hedge-appeal. They may also hide behind boxes or shelves, or under any handy shelter.

If you check all the obvious places and you still can’t find hedgie, the next thing I do is to place a food and water dish near the cage area. Hedgies are creatures of habit and will typically retrace their steps. If hedgie is eating and drinking (I have yet to find one that can resist this lure), it’s reassuring to see that hedgie is alive and well, just awol. If you have a large house, you can close off each room and place a food and water dish in each area, to narrow down just where the hedgie is hiding. Hedgies are not particularly shy about people once they get a taste of freedom, and will eventually waddle right out in front of you! Some people have reported placing paper bags in their house, so that the rustling will alert them to hedgie’s presence.

Of course, no article about hedgehog hide-and-seek would be complete without legends of Hedgehog Valley’s truly talented hide-and-seek artists. Our first hedgie, Nanny Ogg, would play this game with me daily since she was free ranging. The funniest places I ever found her were in the bottom of one of my boots and sleeping in a t-shirt belonging to a house guest who had left his clothes next to the couch when he retired for the night. Boy was he surprised when he picked it up!

Dachande had the distinction of the longest time on the lam. I hadn’t latched her cage well enough when I ran to get a phone call in the middle of cage cleaning and when I returned, she was gone. I put out food and water, but did not find her that night. I was determined to look for her the next night, but alas, I went into labor and delivered my beautiful baby girl the next night. Two nights later I got home from the hospital to see that Dachande had been eating and drinking the food that Lance had left out for her, but no Dachande. I was starting to worry at how long she had been gone, when the next night I practically stepped on her when walking into the hedgie room to check the dishes. Boy was I happy to see that wiggly little nose!

Our most daring escape distinction goes to Lily-of-the-Valley. She was residing in a sterlite container with a wire panel on the side, which was placed on a shelf that is eye-level to me. Lance had fed hedgies the night before and when I went to check on her the following day (she was due to have babies), much to my horror, she was gone! Somehow the lid hadn’t been snapped on entirely tight and she must have shimmied up the wire, pushed up the lid with her nose, leapt to the cages below, and from there to the floor. I decided to check the obvious places before panicking and lo and behold, she had 3 newborns that she’d birthed beneath a garbage bag that sat in the center of the room. Mom and babies were returned to the cage and the rest of their childhood went without incident.

Our most clever escape award goes to Miss Gizmo, a 5 year old rescue hedgie who reportedly never escaped in her life, even though she’d been kept in a cage with sides that most of my hedgies would scale in a heartbeat. I figure it was the 3 yappy dogs that the prior owner reported having that kept Gizzy in her place. Within 48 hours of moving to our home, Gizmo was escaping that cage on a nightly basis. I moved her to a blow-up wading pool, figuring that would give her room to roam, and would be too high to scale. Five months went by without event, then last week she managed to scale the wading pool and was gone! I put her food, water, and litter pan (she’s litter trained) in the bathroom, slightly under the cabinet ledge where I wouldn’t knock it over, and waited. Two nights went by and I couldn’t find her in any of the obvious places, behind the cages or the freezer. She was eating, drinking, and using the facilities, so I knew she had to be there. Much to my surprise, on the third night I was sitting on the floor, next to her litter pan, and she suddenly appeared, as if out of thin air! Clever Gizzy had found that there was a gap under the bathroom cabinet (I sure didn’t know it was there) and had been living in the cabinet the whole time!

The wading pool finally met its demise with the hilarious escape of Zinnia. Zinnia was an overweight pog who needed extra room to roam. I figured she was too fat to scale anything. One morning I went to check her water (it was in a dish so it had to be checked a couple of times a day to make sure it was clean) and found that the top ring on the pool was popped, and Zinnia was gone! And, she had taken her hedgebag with her. I quickly located her hiding behind the chest freezer (with her hedgebag), and figured it wouldn't hurt to let her roam the room until I got home that night. Much to my surprise, when I got home I found Zinnia back in the pool, curled up in her hedgebag, patiently waiting by the empty food and water dishes!

In conclusion, hedgehogs do sometimes escape. Planning ahead can prevent tragedies if and when escapes do occur. If you’ve taken reasonable precautions ahead of time, then it’s typically just a matter of figuring out where the rascally hedgie is hiding, or waiting until he or she decides to show up. Most of all, don’t panic!

Hedgehog Valley

Iola, KS

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This article was originally printed in Animals Exotic and Small magazine . It is copyright and may not be used in part or whole without giving credit to the author, and may not be reproduced for profit.