To bond with your hedgehog, first put away all fear that your hedgehog will not open up to you.
Hedgehogs seem to be naturally nervous creatures. It’s why they sometimes begin to furrow, make huffing noises and puff out their spines.
Hedgehogs are near-sighted so they cannot clearly see what is in front of them until it is very close. They mostly discern their world through smell, sound and touch.
Hedgehogs can sense fear and anxiety in a person’s voice or manner of touch. When a hedgehog senses fear in a person as they touch them (perhaps because they are afraid of being poked), it is more likely to react with nervousness — huffing and puffing.
It is best to approach a hedgehog with no anxiety about hedgehogs yourself. This boils down to two basic anxieties to be addressed.
First, make sure you have resolved in yourself that being a caretaker of a hedgehog is about the hedgehog and not about you. While having a pet can certainly be fulfilling, it is also full of downsides and sacrifices. Having a pet hedgehog can be especially trying for those who buy a pet just because they want the affection of an animal.
Hedgehogs need a lot of unconditional love to open up to you. If you are overly anxious for your pet to respond to you in a friendly, fulfilling way, your hedgehog may sense your anxiety when you are around it. Relax and decide to tame your hedgehog for its own benefit — because having a human friend is fun.
Second, you should take charge of your hedgehog’s anxiety. This means that when your hedgehog reacts to you with huffing and puffing you should not become anxious yourself. This can lead to a cycle of anxious hedgehog, anxious owner, anxious hedgehog….
Instead, speak to your hedgehog in a calming manner. Don’t react to its huffing and puffing with reprimands or by being overly sympathetic. Just let your hedgehog know there is nothing to fear. Don’t let your hedgehog’s feelings of nervousness control your feelings. You are a happy hedgehog owner.
It is best to try to pet your hedgehog in a way that calms its natural tendency to anxiety. Try this:
Place your hedgehog on your hand stomach side down and let it uncurl. Don’t pet your hedgehog unexpectedly on its back. Instead, let it smell your fingers and then begin to rub its nose, up to its forehead quills and then to its back. Don’t be timid when you pet your hedgehog, but do be gentle.
It is also important to spend a lot of time cuddling your hedgehog in a snuggle sack or carrying it around in your pocket so it gets to know your smell and voice.
Someday, you may even be able to give your hedgehog a nosey quill kiss. Put your nose next to theirs and rub it up their face the same way you would if you were petting them with a finger, but end with a kiss on their forehead quills.
Animals can sense your demeanor and your confidence. Be confident about holding and petting your hedgehog and you will help to put them at ease and open up.
Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.