Quill paradise: Thailand’s hedgehog cafe

My husband and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand. One of the city’s hidden tourist gems is Harinezumi Hedgehog Cafe.

Being the hedgehog fanatic I am, we booked a guest house just a block or two from the cafe so we could visit several times during our week’s stay in the heart of the city.

The cafe is managed by a local Thai, but is part of a hedgehog cafe chain from Japan, where animal and pet cafes have soared in popularity in recent years.

We were early to the cafe the morning after we arrived and peered through the windows at hedgehogs in glass cages next to a counter where you could sit and eat next to them. I was stunned because I saw peeking through the glass what looked like Ginger‘s Siamese twin!

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This cutie (Ginger’s Siamese twin?!) drew passersby into the cafe.

We were greeted by cheerful employees who obviously dearly love their hedgehogs. You can either order a drink or waffle and sit and watch the hedgehogs in their cages or pay a little extra to enjoy your drink and waffle and interact with a hedgehog.

We paid 300 Baht (about $10 USD) for the two-person deal: two drinks, two waffles and two hedgehogs would come out from the back room to play with us.

While we waited for our food, the servers seated us at a table where we could play with the hedgehogs they brought out from their back room. They brought out mealworms we could feed them, gloves if we thought their quills were a bit poky and there was hand sanitizer at the table to wash your hands before eating.

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This is Harry, a prized hedgehog at the cafe. He might be a bit overweight, but he was friendly.

When they brought out our food, they moved us to the counter where we could watch the hedgehogs in cages at the front of the cafe scurry or sleep while we ate scrumptious waffles with fruit and ice cream.

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The food was amazing – a variety of waffle flavors and toppings, with ice cream! And lots of flavorful drink options….

When we were finished, we went back to playing with our hedgehog playmates while we finished sipping our drinks. I ordered Thai tea and my husband had coffee.

Since we were the only early birds that morning, the manager of the shop brought out some of her other hedgehogs for us to see.

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The hedgehog cafe has about 30 hedgehogs they rotate from the cafe to their homes in the back of the building where they can rest. 

She said the shop has about 30 hedgehogs in the back. They take turns interacting with humans. I found the hedgehogs to be quite socialized and willing to interact with humans, as far as hedgehogs are concerned. It seemed like they had gotten used to trusting humans strangers as long as their keepers were around to gently reassure them and give them a break when they needed it.

The shop also has guinea pigs that you can interact with. My husband Andrew prefers guinea pigs over hedgehogs, so he fed them some grass for breakfast.

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You can also choose to interact with a fluffy guinea pig if quills aren’t your thing.

We visited the hedgehog cafe later in the week as well, both in the evening and afternoon, since hedgehogs are nocturnal. The cafe was busiest in the afternoon. We discovered that we could eat our waffles next to our hedgehog playmate if we requested it. Separating food and hedgehog interaction time appeared to be a default measure to help western tourists, who are not used to animal cafes, be at ease. Contrary to popular belief spread by an overprotective CDC in the U.S., hedgehogs rarely carry salmonella and animal cafes take precautions to keep their animals from contracting salmonella, just as western petting zoos do.

If you ever get the chance to visit, I would recommend it. The cafe was clean, the hedgehogs were well-loved and customers were given options as to how they would like to enjoy the hedgehogs and their food.

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This is almost paradise – Thai tea with a hedgehog!

The cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. year-round; you should check their website for updated information: http://harinezumi-cafe-chiangmai.com/. By the way, harinezumi is Japanese for hedgehog.

Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest. 

Birthday blessing: Miraculous appearing of a pet hedgehog

On my prayer list for August 2016 is listed a petition for a miraculous appearing of a pet hedgehog. It may have been a bit facetious, but God was listening.

About a month later, I was praying about something else and randomly opened my Bible. My eyes landed on Isaiah 14:23: “I will make it a possession of the hedgehog….” declares the Lord of hosts.” (ESV)

God was responding to my prayer for a pet hedgehog! Never mind that the context of the passage was about God bringing justice to those who had been mistreated by making their attacker’s land desolate and filled with hedgehogs, a desert creature. He was bringing His Word to life in response to my childlike prayer.

I started saving and researching hedgehog breeders. The only thing was, I really wanted a blonde girl hedgehog. I’d had a traditional salt-and-pepper (white with black bands) boy hedgehog as a child and wanted to mix it up. Blonde hedgehogs are not albinos; their quills are white with cinnamon and ginger colored banding due to a recessive gene, just like blonde-haired people.

I decided to sign up with a breeder that would put me on a waiting list for the next blonde girl born. I inquired with Otsego Hedgehogs in Minnesota a few days before my birthday in January 2017. I got on the waiting list a few days after my birthday. I knew it could be months since they couldn’t guarantee when another blonde girl would be born. Also, quill color and sex are not determined until the baby hedgehogs are a few weeks old.

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Ginger’s litter, February 2017.

But a couple weeks later the breeder sent me a text saying that it appears there were two blonde hedgehogs born in a litter of four January 29.

That was my birthday!

A week later, she let me know they were girls. I picked up my Ginger a few weeks later, a tiny prickly ball of a miracle.

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Ginger on her first day home, March 2017.

The playful way that God answered my childlike prayer for a miraculous appearing of a pet hedgehog is something that reminds me that He is listening when I am waiting for answers to more difficult things.

He might not always answer our prayers in the way or the timing that we would like, but we can be sure He is listening and cares about us in a way that we can’t fully comprehend.

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Ginger, a tiny miracle.

Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest. 

Nature therapy: How to let your pet hedgehog explore the great outdoors

Get your spiky friend out of the house and into the great outdoors for some nature therapy and enrichment.

African pygmy hedgehogs were bred for domestication from two types of wild African hedgehogs during the 20th century. They’ve still got some wild in them.

Although hedgehogs are kept as pets inside cages, you can increase your hedgehog’s enrichment by giving it numerous chances to explore the great outdoors. Enrichment is key to animal mental and physical health.

Here’s how to make sure your domesticated hedgehog has a fun and safe time outside in the late afternoon and evening:

No. 1: Monitor their temperature. A hedgehog’s environment needs to be kept at 72 degrees indoors, which means they should explore outdoors when it is 72 degrees or warmer. You can also keep your hedgehog warm in a pouch next to you if going on an adventure in weather 65 degrees or warmer. Hedgehogs can also enjoy going outside their pouch for short periods (5-10 minutes) when it is 65 degrees or warmer. You can monitor your hedgehog’s preference by noting at what temperature they curl up or aim to sniff and explore. Getting in some nature therapy whenever possible is important, especially if you live in a colder climate like Ginger does.

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It’s a nice warm day to enjoy the garden.

No. 2: Keep an eye out for gopher holes. Hedgehogs love scurrying about in the grass, exploring hedges and burrowing in leaves. It is imperative that you keep an eye on your hedgehog at all times to make sure they do not go into a gopher hole or deep into a hollow log. That being said, let your hedgehog have some free range. Exploring nature will likely increase your hedgehog’s mental and physical health, just as engaging with nature does for humans.

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Ahh, the aroma and rustle of old oak leaves.

No. 3: When your hedgehog finds a fun place to burrow, let them stay there for a bit. Hedgehogs are naturally burrowers and diggers. Their fun is in scurrying about and finding a unique place to burrow. It is exciting to watch your hedgehog explore and find a place to burrow. It is a bit boring to watch them snuggle into the leaves and then just sit there. But this is part of the fun for them. Let them take in the scents and textures. This is their nature therapy.

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I’m really enjoying the ferns, can I just stay in here for a while?

No. 4: Speak to them when it’s time to go inside. Just like children need a five-minute warning when it’s time to leave the playground, let your hedgehog know it’s time to go. Being in the great outdoors can decrease the natural anxiety hedgehogs are prone to but swiftly removing them from their cozy outdoor spot may mitigate their nature therapy session. Your hedgehog primarily senses the world through scent and sound, so talk to them. Let them know it’s you. Tell them it’s time to go inside for some mealworms.

Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.

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