It’s always exciting to welcome home a new family member! If you’re a new hedgehog owner or if you’re having trouble bonding with your new hedgehog, you’re probably looking for ways to make bonding easier.
But never fear, there are a lot of different methods you can try, as different things working for different hedgies. As hedgehog breeders, we get a lot of questions from people who want to create good relationships with their hedgehogs, as we have a lot of experience in this arena!
Here are some questions to ask yourself, as well as some tried-and-true tips for bonding with your new prickle pal!
How to Best Handle Your Hedgehog
One of the most important ways to bond with your hedgehog is to spend time handling them - we recommend at least once a day in a relaxed setting for 20-30 minutes. This is the bare minimum time you should spend handling and engaging with your hedgehog each day. As with any relationship, time invested matters. When handling them daily, make sure you remain calm and confident; handling while sitting on the floor can help if you’re nervous about accidentally dropping your hedgehog. Don’t act hesitant or scared - hedgehogs are pretty intuitive little creatures- and that creates an energy they can read and makes them more anxious. Don’t shy away from your hedgehog just because they’re hissing, clicking, and popping, as that can encourage bad behaviors. Also, as with other pets like cats and dogs, some hedgehogs are naturally more vocal than others.
Tipping their nose downwards can encourage unballing. Handling them in the bath can also encourage unballing, and gets them used to your touch.
Could They Be Quilling?
For hedgehogs that are under one, grumpy behavior and being difficult while handling could be stemming from temporary discomfort caused by quilling. Baby hedgehogs go through several rounds of quilling, and this can make a previously sweet hedgehog a grump and a half. If you see lots of new quills poking through the skin, this can be a sign that your hedgehog is quilling.
Both a soothing warm bath and some Coconut Quills can help. It can be hard to know if your hedgie is just going through literal growing pains or if being a bit grumpy is just their personality, so be sure to have lots of patience with your new hedgehog.
Could Your Hedgehog be Sick?
Sometimes hedgehogs become grumpy when they don't feel good, so make note of any possible symptoms and consider taking your hedgie to a qualified exotic animal vet. A good warning sign would be a change in your hedgie’s eating and drinking habits. We recommend weighing your hedgehog weekly as it’s a great indication of general health.
Is Your Hedgehog Overweight?
Being overweight can also take a friendly hedgehog and make them a grumpus. The easiest way to tell if a hedgehog is overweight is looking at them from above: if they're perfectly round, they're too fat. They should be tear-dropped shaped when unballed. If they are too heavy, keeping their weight down by counting kibbles will help. Our Really Good Hedgehog Food is also perfectly formulated to be everything a hedgehog needs to be healthy. We also include instructions on how to feed a hedgie that is prone to over-eating. Adding a wheel to their enclosure and a lot of exercise outside of their enclosure could be a good way to make sure they keep active.
Could Quill Chill Help?
Quill Chill is a product we offer that can help with anxious hedgehogs and alleviate some of the discomfort of quilling, as well as improve overall mood and regulate appetite. This is a real customer testimonial from one of Quill Chill users and the difference it made with their hedgie:
Quill Chill might make it easier for a hedgie who's terrified of humans to be able to relax enough to truly get the bonding process started.
Have You Talked to Your Breeder?
If all else fails and you adopted your hedgehog from a breeder, it might be good to reach out to them and let them know that you're having some issues. Not all hedgehogs are friendly, and it's possible you have a hedgehog that isn't very interested in human interaction. Most breeders will offer the opportunity to swap out your hedgehog for a better match after you've explored all other options. But giving them a head's up first will help make sure they are aware you're having a problem, what steps you're taking, and if nothing gets better, they should be able to work with you to select a hedgie with a better personality.
We hope these tips have been helpful! It's important to remember that each hedgehog is their own individual, and what has worked with one hedgie will not necessarily work for another. The most important thing to remember is to have patience with your new hedgie, and to have fun as you start your new journey together!