Skip to main content

Instagram’s cutest pet has an unsettling reality

The best word to sum up hedgehogs: Instagrammable. These cuties have positively taken over the internet and social media as brand ambassadors, influencers, and viral pick-me-up video stars. But, like so many famous animals to come before them, there’s a lot more that goes into hedgehog keeping and breeding than posing them in cute hats.

As Noelle Mateer noted in “Looks that Quill,” hogs are one of the more difficult pets to care for and can come with a number of health issues, made worse by some unethical breeding practices. Still, if you’re committed to raising hedgehogs as pets, we get it! Research them first, so you know what you’re getting into and can create a loving and successful bond with your little guy. 

Little kid holds their pet hedgehog
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Check your laws

You might think by looking at them that we could lump pet hedges in with rabbits and hamsters, but that’s not how the law sees it. Many states, and even some cities, have rules against exotic pets, which will likely include these precious spiny balls of love. In some cases, it’s more than just preventing residents from owning them; you can’t even bring a hedgehog when passing through. “Pennsylvania is the scariest word you can say to an American hedgehog lover,” says Mateer. Know your local restrictions, check with your HOA or apartment rules, and thoroughly look into any places you may travel to before choosing this companion.

Find an exotic pet vet

If you have other critters in the home, you may already have a veterinarian on call, but that doesn’t mean she’s equipped to care for your newest addition. Only certain vets will see exotic pets, and those professionals may be scarce in your area. We recommend getting in touch with someone before you bring home your pet, although your local breeder or rescue group may have some suggestions too. 

Watch for signs of illness

Sadly, part of the reason you need a good vet is that hogs may have some underlying health conditions. Mateer states that about 50% of hedgehogs have tumors by the time they’re a few years old, and that’s not the only affliction they can have. Watch out for wobbly hedgehog syndrome, which is likely genetic and can’t really be cured. Discuss your animal’s parents before selecting him to see what their health has been like. Hedgehogs also come down with the usual ailments (such as worms) that can be cured provided you have a good pet doctor to help you. 

Hedgehog sits outside on a blanket
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Prepare for their care needs

Try to head off any sickness at the pass by taking really good care of your new creature. For starters, he needs lots of exercise and space to move around. As with a hamster, you can install a wheel to keep him running (and follow other happy joggers). Because your small pet is almost certainly an African pygmy hedgehog, he likes it warm but not too hot. Get a heating lamp and thermometer to maintain the right temperature, around 75 degrees. This species needs lots of protein, which they mostly get from bugs in the wild. While you can definitely give them some insects, most owners choose to provide commercial food supplemented with some fruits and veggies or cooked eggs.

Get ready for the hours

Your new hedgehog will stay up much of the night, possibly cruising on his new wheel. That means he’s loud late and needs to eat after your dinner time. Additionally, you’ll want to devote some attention and playtime to him in the evening hours as well. If nighttime doesn’t work for you, skip the hogs and go for a diurnal four-legged friend. Hedgehogs also prefer the solitary life, and that, combined with the unusual hours, means it might take some time to bond. Once you do though, you can get right to taking those adorable pics and dressing in matching outfits. 

Final thoughts on hedgehogs

Do you still really want a hedgehog? There’s one thing you can do with a clear conscience: rescue one! Because many owners don’t understand what really goes into care, some hogs are abandoned early on, even as babies. Find a local organization or shelter that takes exotic pets and put yourself on the list. Then start getting ready. By over-preparing for his arrival, you won’t run into some of the issues that have caught others unawares. Buy everything you’ll need in advance and set aside vet money (you’re gonna need it). Then read up on your critter, and yes, follow those trending sweeties. Remember, there’s a whole community of hedgies out there to help you on your journey. 

Editors' Recommendations

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
Is my rabbit pregnant? 5 telltale signs you should know
Look for these signs to confirm your rabbit will soon have babies
Baby rabbit being held by owner

What's better than one pet rabbit? An entire litter of bunnies (as long as you're prepared for them, of course). If you've been wondering, "Is my rabbit pregnant?" now is the time to find out for sure. After all, you don't want to be caught unaware and suddenly have a whole new colony of animals in your hutch.

Sometimes, lady bunnies can take on the behaviors of expectant mamas, but it's actually a false pregnancy. The best way to find out if your rabbit is pregnant is to take her to the vet and have them confirm it. However, when you're figuring it out yourself, you should look for the signs that a rabbit is pregnant. If you spot these behaviors, be sure to call your animal doctor.

Read more
What you need to know about sugar gliders before you get an exotic pet
Follow these steps to set your sugar glider up for success
Sugar glider clings to their owner's thumb

Choosing a small pet involves almost as much deliberation as selecting a breed of dog. While there are a lot of factors to take into account, a sugar glider might turn out to be the perfect fit with their curious personality, attachment to your family, and fondness for pockets.

Like any exotic pet, gliders require expert care plus some dedicated research to choose the right breeder or pet store. But with the right prep, your new mammal will fit in perfectly and bond with the whole family. Keep reading to find out if sugar gliders are good pets.
What are sugar gliders?
Unlike most little pets, sugar gliders aren't rodents but marsupials. This gives you a few distinct advantages, as they behave differently from hamsters, guinea pigs, or gerbils. For starters, these are highly social creatures and they will bond with every member of the family and even other pets in the house. Because gliders don't smell like the animals your cats and dogs like to chase — rats, gophers, and bunnies, to name a few — many bigger pets can get along with your new friend. You'll need to introduce them carefully, but they can form lifelong attachments to each other.

Read more
3 reasons not to give pet rabbits, baby chicks, or ducks this Easter
Things to consider before getting or gifting small animals this holiday
A baby chick sits in the grass next to a broken egg

Peter Cottontail isn't the only one hopping down the bunny trail this April. Tons of baby animals are opening their eyes to the world for the very first time, and it's oh-so-hard to resist the cuteness. From bunnies to chicks and even ducks, these animals are the perfect symbols of spring.
Sometimes, these animals make great pets, too. But is a holiday the right time to gift a pet? We think all potential pet owners should consider some important, realistic facts, especially if they're considering owning or gifting a baby animal for Easter. This is a big decision, after all! Here's what to know first.

Pet ownership is for their whole life, not just the baby phase
As precious as baby chicks and ducklings can be, they'll grow up into chickens and ducks one day. You'll only get a few months of babyhood to enjoy, though even those early months will be filled with chores and messes of all kinds. Remember, caring for a baby animal is still caring for an animal!

Read more