When a hedgehog huffs and puffs even at the sight of their owner, it might seem logical to continue to shelter the hedgehog from the outside world — but the better option is to get that little hedgie out and about.
Hedgehogs have only been commonly bred as pets in the U.S. for several decades, which means they still have some of their wild nature in them.
Part of the exciting journey of having a pet hedgehog is that you actually get to participate in taming your hedgehog. The more hedgehogs are around people, the more they will be calm and comfortable around people.
Hedgehogs are nearsighted, so they analyze their surroundings through sound and smell. Since hedgehogs don’t see well, they can become anxious when they are unsure of their surroundings.
If hedgehogs get used to hearing people and realize they are not human prey, they will learn to relax when they hear and smell humans.
Here are five tips to socializing your hedgehog:
1. Start by socializing yourself with your hedgehog. Sing to your hedgehog when you wake them up. Let them know it’s you. Say, “It’s just me.” Softly call out your hedgehog’s name. I always sing a good morning song to my hedgehog.
2. Spend quality time with your hedgehog on your lap. Hedgehogs need to get used to your voice, smell and feel. Movie time!
3. Carry your hedgehog out and about in a snuggle sack inside a bag or backpack but don’t take them out of it the first few times. Let your hedgehog hear the world before bringing them out into it.
4. Bring your hedgehog to a small gathering of friends or family where they will be held and touched by other people. Explain to your friends or family not to be alarmed if the hedgehog huffs or puffs. Let the hedgehog react however it does without being alarmed and speak in a calming voice to the hedgehog as it meets new people.
5. Take your hedgehog out on the town! Carry them in a snuggle sack and let them get used to the sounds of the environment. Take them out proudly and snap a photo. Let strangers approach your hedgehog and show them how to hold or pet it if they are interested.
Sometimes your hedgehog may actually appear to be friendlier around strangers than yourself. When you take them home they might start to huff and puff after they were so well behaved out and about. This is normal — children do this too, don’t they?
Your hedgehog may be nervous or excited about the new place and people. You become their familiar comfort when they are out and about. At home, their wheel, sleeping hut and cage might be their more familiar comfort. They likely realize they are home when they smell the familiar smell of your house. They might be asking to go back into their cage.
Let them, or if you had home hedgie plans, take a treat and singing break.
The more you take your hedgehog out and about, the more used to you they will become. They will also learn you are their protector in a big world of strangers.
When your hedgehog doesn’t even give a little huff when you take them out of the cage one day, you will know all the socializing has been worthwhile.
Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.