David Hasselhog aka Hassel the Hedgehog
Here at Amherst Veterinary Hospital we see a lot of adorable cats and dogs; but we are also entrusted with the care of other types of pets. We have rabbits, hamsters, rats and guinea pig patients as well.
Many animals other than cats and dogs can make great pets, if provided proper care. One such critter is a hedgehog. One of our lovely receptionists Jess has recently adopted a 4 year old female hedgehog; Meet the adorable David Hasselhog, “Hassel” for short. (Yes she’s a girl, and yes her name is David).
Before I introduce you to the newest addition, I thought it would be helpful to share some information about these lovable little creatures.
Hedgehogs have lived in the wild for many years in Africa and Europe, but in North America they have been domesticated for quite sometime. African Pygmy Hedgehogs are the most common type of pet hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are mammals, not rodents but insectivores. They are NOT related to the porcupine, although they do have prickly sharp spines on their back which provide protection against predators. If threatened or scared, hedgehogs will curl into a tight ball.
Hedgehogs on average live for about 3-5 years, they are nocturnal and are generally solitary creatures.
Hedgehogs love to eat. If they are not given ample room to roam and exercise they can easily become overweight; obesity is a problem in pet hogs. They eat a wide range of foods, in the wild mainly insects, snails, fish, birds eggs, mushrooms and grass. Pet Hedgehogs generally feed on fruit, vegetables, mealworms, crickets and commercial pellets as well as cooked meat. Hedgehogs like to catch live prey.
Surprisingly, Hedgehogs are not silent creatures, making a variety of sounds, grunts, squeals, and snorts. Many sounds they make are suggestive of the individual’s mood. When exploring a new environment they will vocalize, making puffs, clicks, or hisses if nervous or upset and will whistle or purr when happy.
Pet hedgehogs will bond with their owners just like any other pets. They will become familiar with their smell and the sound of their voice and even their appearance. It’s important to handle and socialize your pet hedgehog early and often, as unsocialized hogs can become nervous, jumpy and tightly curled.
David Hasselhog, although only 4, has lived quite the full life. Before she came to live with Jess she had another owner, who sadly could not care for her anymore and she was placed in foster care. When she first came to live with Jess “Hassel” was quite shy, staying tightly curled and sleeping for much of the time. As she has bonded with Jess over the weeks she has turned into quite the character.
Hasselhog, true to form, loves to eat. Her favorite foods are dried bananas, strawberries and mealworms. She loves to forage for mealworms hidden throughout a blanket (scavenger hunt!). Hassel is allowed to roam the house, closely monitored of course, which allows for her to have ample exercise. She also likes to run on her wheel, so she can keep her figure trim and slim.
She enjoys watching TV with her humans; she will burrow in between the couch cushions and watch from there. Hassel loves to sleep, as she is nocturnal she spends much of her day snoozing. If woken during the day she can be quite grumpy. She will stay curled in a ball or huff and puff at whoever has awoken her from her beauty sleep.
Hassel has made friends (sort of) with Jess’ dog Scout. Hassel is very curious about Scout, while Scout is petrified of Hassel. Maybe they will eventually become good friends and can explore together.
As you can see, Hedgehogs are quite diverse little creatures. If properly cared for they can be wonderful pets. They are not appropriate for someone who isn’t willing to handle often as they need time, attention, interaction and love. Hassel is lucky to have found a forever home with Jess, who gives her all the love and attention she needs.