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When your new hedgehog comes home…

Some hedgehogs handle change very well, while others find it difficult to adjust to a new
situation. Some hedgehogs never seem to notice anything even changed and take their move to
a new home totally in stride. If your hedgehog is like this, kiss his/her little nose (if 
s/he'll let you) and count your blessings! Otherwise, here are some ideas based on our 
experiences about how to help a hedgie feel comfortable in a new home. 

1. Smells: Hedgies get a lot of their information about the world through their sense of 
smell. They can't see very well, which is probably why they are so inclined to duck and 
snuffle when strange blurs come at them. But if that strange blur smells familiar, it'll 
be less threatening. There are a couple of ways you can help your new hedgie get used to 
your smell. 
    
     Give it bedding that smells of you; wear a T-shirt and then give that to the hedgie, 
     or tuck its hedgebag under your pillow for a few nights before giving it to the 
     hedgie to cuddle in. This way your smell gets associated with a safe place. Don't use 
     gloves. If your hedgie is real prickly, use a towel (preferably one you've handled
     a lot or tucked under your pillow for a couple of nights) and pick up the hedgie, then 
     set it in your lap. We've had hedgies that were supposed to be totally intractable 
     that were won over by patiently doing this every day for several weeks, and offering 
     the occasional mealworm to the huffling ball. 
     If you have a new smell on you, like if you've just handled some food or you've used a 
     new perfumed soap, expect that curious hedgies may want to taste. We handle this in 
     different ways. Some people use the same laundry, bath and hand soap and the hedgies 
     are used to it, and don't nip. We have so many different critters and smells in our 
     house that we try to expose them to as many different things as likely to be on our 
     hands (patted dog, dog food, ferret, etc…). Either way works fine, it's just a matter 
     of personal preference.
     They usually lick before they taste anyway, so you'll likely have the chance to move your
     hand out of the way and get them familiar with your smell without being tasted. 

2. Exploring: Some hedgies want to explore everything when they get to their new home.
Others just want to sleep. Both are normal. Usually it's best to give the hedgie a few days
without much handling while it starts to adjust, especially if it's being real shy in it's new 
home.
Some thoughts on this:  

     If it wants to explore, give it a hedgehog proofed area to play in where it can run around,
     and just sit and talk to it. You can offer treats, and this may help it to think of you as 
     the bringer of good stuff. Some hedgies will run right to you, knowing that yummy things 
     may come from you, while others don't seem to notice even if you drop a mealworm between
     their paws. 
     If your hedgie wants to hide in it's nest box or hedgebag, then sit outside the cage and
     quietly talk to it. The more it gets used to your voice and presence, the more it will get 
     used to you. Once you notice the hedgie seems a little calmer, start offering treats to 
     help cement the idea that you are indeed the bringer of good things. 

3. Personality: One of the really neat things about hedgies is that each one has it's own
special personality. To some extent, we control temperament through carefully breeding only
those hedgies that have good temperament and avoid inbreeding. Then we help enhance this
with early handling. But still, there seem to be a few basic personality categories that most
hedgies fall into. Understanding what sort of hedgies seem to like being interacted in what 
way may help you to relate a little better to your hedgie, whether its an adult who is already 
set in its ways, or a baby whose personality is still being formed. 

     The snuggle bunny: These hedgies like to be held. Some will curl up at your neck, others
     like your lap or the crook of you arm. But these hedgies are usually pretty calm and 
     content to be held quietly. Some hedgies who initially huff up and roll into a ball and 
     refuse to come out at first can tame into real sweet little snuggle bunnies once they 
     discover that you don't intend to make them lunch. They may also let you pick them up 
     with spines completely down. 
     The runner: These hedgies just don't want to sit still. They are perpetual motion machines,
     and squirm like crazy when you try and hold them in your hands. They do well with lots of
     things to climb on and under, and lots of room to roam. Try laying on the couch and letting
     them use you for terrain. They usually think you're pretty neat to climb, and may want to
     sample your hair. Though, watch out the ones who explore armpits, they usually think the
     scent of deodorant warrants a taste. These hedgies may also have spines down the whole
     time, or have them at half-mast for a minute, or two, after being picked up. 
     The scaredy cat: These hedgies may unball and snuggle or may explore, but it seems like
     the slightest thing scares them and they instantly snap into a ball at the tiniest noise 
     or movement. They usually need a lot of patience and understanding, and with time may learn
     to be a runner or a snuggle bunny, though some will always retain that high-strung
     tendency. A few tend to come around, and it's probably an excellent help for survival 
     in the wild, though it's a trait we're trying to reduce in the domestic bred hedgies. 
     The hermit: Some hedgies just want to be grumpy and hide in their hedgebag or burrow
     under the laundry pile, or sack out under the couch. A good way to get these guys
     interacting with you is to put a blanket over yourself, and then turn them loose to hide
     under there. They'll usually end up curled next to you when they go to sleep, because
     you're warm! They may not want to snuggle with you without some protective blanket
     hiding them, but they can be real sweet when they feel safe. They're sort of like grumpy 
     old men (or women) who just need a little understanding. 
     The pick-me up!: These hedgies will come out of their bags when they hear you in the
     room, and may even walk straight into your hand and try to climb up your arm! Like the
     runners, they often don't want to sit still, but are more likely to come and try to crawl 
     up your leg when you set them on the floor than to run laps of the room. They are 
     certainly a rare and delightful treasure! Both of us are blessed with this type of 
     hedgehog and we hope that there will be many more in the future. There's nothing like a 
     hedgie that will follow you around and come to you if they know you are about! 

4. Treats: Hedgies usually have one of three reactions to new foods: ignore it, gulp it down, 
or annoint with it. Sometimes you have to introduce a food to the hedgie several times before 
it will actually try it. But once you've got something that you know your hedgie likes, it 
can help it to associate you with good stuff if you give it a treat every time you get it out
for handling, and each time you put it back in its cage. Of course, too many treats are like 
if we had a diet of nothing but chocolate, so you don't want to overdo it. But giving treats 
in moderation can help add variety to a hedgie's diet, as well as helping the two of you to 
bond. Some treats our kids like include mealworms, crickets, low fat diary products, bits of 
fruit, or bits of cooked meat.  

5. The "elimination" problem: Although this isn't the most pleasant of topics, it is one of the
most common questions that we answer. Almost all hedgehogs will poop/pee on you while being
held. Lots of hedgies will do both at the same time for double the mess! Juvenile hoglets are 
the worst, with the older ones being less of a problem. Once you have awakened your hedgehog 
for playtime, it doesn't take him/her long to feel the urge to eliminate. Be aware that the 
snuggle bunnies can fool you, too. They usually don't give any signs and the only way you know
that something has happened is either by the warmth of urine or the smell of poops! This can be
remedied by some of the following suggestions. 

     Always have some type of clean up material close at hand (paper towel or toilet paper, wet
     cloth, etc.) The BEST thing to do is have an old shirt on, or be willing to change clothes.
     One great word of advice: NEVER hold your hedgie for playtime if you're going out! It's
     almost inevitable that you will be "awarded" with a smelly present and have to change
     clothes. 
     As soon as you wake the hedgie up and say hello, place it in an area blocked off where
     there is a tile or linoleum floor, or plastic mat. This makes clean up easy. Most hedgies 
     are not modest and are known to run right into the mess several times if you haven't 
     gotten to it first. They can track it everywhere, not to mention getting it all over 
     themselves. After s/he has "taken care of business", it's time to snuggle. 
     If your hedgehog becomes extremely squirmy, while being held, check it's tail. This
     happens with the explorer/runner types quite a bit. If the little stub is up and sticking 
     out, more than likely turds will follow! It's a very good idea to have a paper towel handy 
     for these occasions. We have been known to rush to the toilet, or trash container,
     when this happens! We hold them above the opening and let their little hind end stick out. 
     It works for the poopies. 
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Hedgehog Valley

nannyogg@mailcity.com
Water Valley, MS