They may look prickly and have a maligned reputation for being grouchy, but hedgehogs actually make interesting and gentle companion animals with proper care and nutrition. Hedgehogs are considered exotic, and some states have restrictions on selling them as pets. However, if that's not the case where you live, a hedgehog might be just the pet for you.

For the best hedgehog experience, there are a few things you should know about them:

  • When fully grown, they weigh between one-half to two pounds and are six to eight inches in length. While there are exceptions on both sides, they typically live two to five years in a well-cared-for environment.
  • Their characters are much like that of a hamster's in that they don't come when called or behave affectionately. With daily handling and attention, however, they can be very attentive.
  • Hedgehogs don't make loud, obnoxious noises, but they do communicate vocally. As babies, which are known as hoglets, they chirp and squeak. As they grow older, these pets show their contentment by purring, whistling, or grunting. If your hedgehog is huffing, sneezing, popping, or clicking, it's likely irritated and becoming defensive.
  • A hedgehog's spines are sharp, so learning how to handle him or her safely is important. Spines are their main line of defense, and when the hedgehog rolls into a ball, their spines crisscross to protect their skin and body. When calm, their spines lay down. Be sure to pet him or her in a front-to-back direction.
  • In the wild, hedgehogs are basically insectivores, but they also feed on other protein sources, like carrion or bird eggs. To keep your pet healthy, provide a well-balanced diet of protein, fat, and vitamins. Your veterinarian or pet care provider can help you find the mix that's best for your animal. Don't forget to provide lots of fresh water!