Adriana Robinson says she’s always loved hedgehogs, and she can’t pin down the exact reason why. She says it likely has something to do with how different they are from other pets with their spikes and nocturnal nature, as well as their tiny yawns and noises. “They’re adorable, and I wanna give them the best life that they can have,” she says.
But she was still cautious about getting one for the first time, because she knows that taking care of them properly is of the utmost importance. Her sense of responsibility outweighed her desire to own a hedgehog.
As luck would have it, Adriana’s first hedgehog came to her from a family member who was not able to take proper care of his hedgehog. Wanting to give the little animal the best life she could, Adriana agreed to take on the exotic pet, and she set about learning everything she could and ensuring that Timmy (named after a stuffed hedgehog she got at age seven or eight) would have the best life.
Timmy was timid at first due to his lack of socialization, but he soon came around and began enjoying being held by Adriana and her boyfriend, Jack. Sadly, Timmy was later diagnosed with wobbly hedgehog syndrome, which is a fatal disease in hedgehogs.
“I think it was 2021 in August he started to show signs of his back legs not being able to hold him up so much, and then he started to wobble a little bit, and then it went to full-on paralysis of the back two legs,” Adriana recalls. “So he was dragging them behind him, and he wasn’t able to move at all. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t drink water on his own, so I would feed him in a syringe and give him water in a syringe.”
A visit to the vet revealed the culprit behind the symptoms. They gave him medication for the pain, but then all that was left to do for him was take care of him for his remaining days. On November 2, 2021, Timmy passed away.
Now knowledgable about the care and keeping of hedgehogs, Adriana and Jack decided to get another one after seeing an ad for one on a Facebook page.
“This one young girl was going to college, and she couldn’t take her hedgehog with her, and her mom didn’t want to take care of him,” Adriana remembers. “He was three years old, and she wanted to find a good home for the hedgehog.”
So Adriana adopted Rico, a cute little critter with two different-colored ears.
“Rico was the sweetest boy,” Adriana recalls. “He had the best temperament out of all of them, so if I were to be around and make noise at all, he would stop what he was doing, come to about the middle of his enclosure, and then he would just look his little head up and try and see where I was, and I would put my hand in there, and he would just climb on it. He wouldn’t get into a ball at all. All of the veterinarians that he went to loved him and said that he was the only hedgehog to let them do examinations. He was the sweetest hedgehog that they’ve ever seen.”
Right away, however, she noticed that he had a “little bump on one of his left toes.” Little did she know, this bump was the foreshadowing of the end of Rico’s days as well.
“I took him into the vet, and they did some X-rays, and they biopsied that toe. They said there were some bone growth, and then they found out that it was cancerous.”
Rico was believed to be cancer-free and was mostly symptom-free for the rest of his few months of life, but in the last month, he lost about 200 grams (hedgehogs are typically 400-500 grams) and wasn’t eating or drinking well. Adriana took him to the vet, who believed he had leukemia, but he was so far gone by that point that there was no point in testing or treatment.
Adriana’s third hedgehog, Remi, joined the family while Rico was still living, but male hedgehogs are very aggressive toward one another, so the two were never kept in the same area at the same time. Remi is a rambunctious little guy, curious and “sweet but sassy.”
“If your fingers smell like any type of food at all, he’ll nibble them,” Adriana laughs. “If I wear a sweatshirt, he loves to get into my little wrist opening up here. He’s a he’s a funny guy.”
She adds, “He likes to get behind couches and he likes to explore there typically, and we have a maze for him too.”
Adriana says her hedgehogs have been like sons to her and also that they’ve provided her great emotional support. She loves the sound of hedgehog snuffles in her ears.
Because she cares so much about hedgehogs, she advocates for their proper care and hopes that her story can help people learn more about the proper care and treatment of hedgehogs. While she appreciates the unique and exotic nature of this animal, she doesn’t want anyone to adopt one just for the aesthetic and hopes that all future hedgehog owners will do their research before committing.
Here are some tips Adriana has for people who’d like to be responsible hedgehog owners:
- Use recycled paper, fleece, or flannel for bedding – never cedar
- Use flat-sided enclosures rather than wire cages to prevent falls
- Hedgehogs love to run on wheels, but there shouldn’t be anything in the wheel that could irritate their feet
- Hedgehogs mostly eat insects like mealworms and roaches, but they can also have small amounts of fruit, tomatoes, eggs, applesauce, chicken, and other foods
- Hedgehogs often poop when stressed or irritated, so get ready for that possibility during baths, nail trimmings, or other care tasks
- Hedgehogs need environmental temperatures between 79 and 83 degrees, so a heat lamp is necessary
- Oatmeal, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil in the bath can help keep their skin from drying out
“Hedgehogs are not an easy pet,” Adriana warns. “They’re adorable, but they’re not like a low-maintenance pet. They definitely require a lot of attention, and exotic pet vets are expensive, and they’re more nocturnal too. They’re not typically like the loving type, so they’re not good for younger children. It’s good to gain some knowledge before you jump into owning a hedgehog.”
It can be even harder to take care of a hedgehog if you live in a cooler climate, like Michigan, where Adriana and Jack reside, or in a rural area without specialized vet care for exotic animals. However, Adriana and Jack say the extra work they have put into keeping their “sons” comfortable has been worth the effort for the all that they’ve brought to their lives.
Jack sums it up simply enough: “Hedgehogs are so worth it.”
Hedgehogs can live for five to ten years in captivity, depending on their environment and genetics. Although Timmy and Rico both passed early and tragically, Remi’s ancestry indicates he could live several more years, and we know they’ll be happy ones with Adriana and Jack as his parents. Best of luck to this adorable little family and to any of our readers who may wish to own hedgehogs in the future.