Hedgehog Bites! Why & How it Happens
How to React when Your Hedgehog Bites You
Hedgehogs can make great and unique pets. TheNew York Timesreports that the popularity of hedgehogs as household pets has soared 50%-70% in the last three years.Their cute features are quite adorable but their bites are not. There are a number of ways to identify why, and to prevent, a hedgehog’s bite.
Reacting To A Bite
Try not to react violently.You may accidentally harm your hedgehog if you react too strongly. This may cause you to drop or throw your hedgehog. This is easier said than done, but try and hold your composure.
Never hit or flick your hedgehog!This will not only harm your hedgehog, but also conditionally teach it to fear you.
Avoid verbal reaction.A verbal reaction like “Ow!” or “Oh!” (or maybe even a swear!) will verbally condition the hedgehog that it will get a response from you because of a bite. This may teach the hedgehog to bite you further to elicit a response.
- Further, a loud verbal response might scare your hedgehog.
Blow a puff of air at your hedgehog after a bite.This is a gentle way to discourage your hedgehog from its behavior. This will not harm the hedgehog and will teach it that biting is not something it should be doing.
- Try distracting your hedgehog if it is nipping you. This could be gently moving your hand or trying to gets its attention with a soft verbal cue. Remember, hedgehogs are curious so it may just be exploring and not biting!
Resume normal behavior.Do not immediately put the hedgehog back in its cage.This teaches the hedgehog that it can go back to its safe space after doing something mean.
Do not withhold food or water as punishment.This is cruel to your hedgehog and may hurt his health. Always feed and water your hedgehog appropriately.
- Your hedgehog should always have a supply of clean water.
- You should be feeding your hedgehog a high protein, low grain diet.
Understanding Hedgehog Behavior
Know when your hedgehog isn’t feeling well.Your hedgehog may bite or nip at you if it is not feeling well. Learn to recognize hedgehog illnesses by watching for these symptoms:
- Losing quills
- Lumps on or under the skin
- Wobbly walking
- Loss of appetite
- Green poop
- Red and/or itchy skin
- Tattered ears
Recognize emotional responses.A hedgehog may bite because it is emotionally upset. There can be a number of stimuli that may startle your hedgehog into biting.
- Loud or sudden noises
- New or strong smells -- lotions, other animals, perfume, etc
- Wrong time of day -- hedgehogs are mostly nocturnal. If you wake up your hedgehog in the middle of the day to handle it, it may bite
- Fear -- it may be not fully tamed or not used to you
- Sudden temperature change -- hedgehogs must be kept in a warm environment (75-80 degrees fahrenheit, or 23-26 degrees celsius)
Understand behavioral responses.A hedgehog can ‘’learn’’ to bite if conditioned to do so. Be careful not to accidentally teach your hedgehog to bite!
- If you respond verbally after your hedgehog bites you, it may learn that it can get a similar response if it continues to bite.
- You feed it treats to train it, it might bite to get a treat. Be careful not to reward your hedgehog for unwanted behavior.
Train your hedgehog to be more tame.Getting your hedgehog to be more comfortable with you can reduce the risk of being bitten.
- When holding him, talk quietly and make slow movements.
- Avoid fast, jerky movements that might startle him.
- Give him treats if he is acting appropriately. Do not reward for bad behavior, but you can give a treat (like a mealworm) to get him to trust you.
Recognize nibble vs.biting. Hedgehogs are naturally curious creatures that use their strong sense of smell and taste to get to know their world. One way they do this is by nibbling and/or licking an unknown area. Knowing the difference between these two actions is critical in behavioral training.
- Nibbling is usually accompanied by not using pressure with teeth and licking the area.
- Biting can be quick, sharp, and painful. It might be brought on by a stimulus.
Preventing Future Bites
Make sure your hedgehog is well fed.If your hedgehog is well fed and watered, it may be less likely to bite out of hunger or thirst.
Keep your hedgehog healthy.Keeping your hedgehog healthy will reduce stress on both you and the hedgehog. It will reduce the reason for bites.
Handle your hedgehog with care.Always be gentle when holding your hedgehog. Do not squeeze or grip it tightly. Do not handle it high up in the air or that may give it a chance to fall and hurt itself.
Respect your hedgehog.Hedgehogs have moods too! It may want to sleep, eat, or exercise. Be sure to not interrupt its daily routine just because you want to hold it. This may irritate it into biting.
Consider changing hand lotions or scented soap.Hedgehogs have extremely strong senses of smell. You may want to avoid using harsh-smelling soaps, lotions, or body wash to make it easier for your hedgehog’s nose.
Learn to read hedgehog body language.Using the tips above, you should be able to learn what your hedgehog may do before it bites. Watch your hedgehog and learn its personal behavioral traits to know when it is the best time to handle it.
- One tip is to watch its quills. When a hedgehog is in a relaxed pose, its quills will lie evenly against your hand and will not be sharp. If it is in a defense pose, its quills will stand on end and be sharp!
QuestionDoes it mean a hedgehog hates me if she bites?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerNo. It means she feels threatened, and biting is her means of defending herself. Hedgehogs learn that if they nip, the hand gets pulled away, and therefore tend to bite in anticipation as a means of making something scary go away .Thanks!
QuestionAre hedgehog bites dangerous?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerIn theory, hedgehogs can transmit rabies, but in practice, this doesn't seem to happen. They can carry diseases such as Yersinia (the plague), hemorrhagic fever, and Mycobacterium, but these are rare in pet hedgehogs, so the risk is rare. Just like any animal bite, there is a risk of bacterial infection of the wound, as the hedgehog's mouth is not a clean place. If you are bitten, wash the wound well, apply disinfectant, and seek medical advice.Thanks!
QuestionDo hedgehogs bite and does it hurt?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerHedgehogs are not aggressive but, like any animal, may nip if startled or frightened. Their front teeth are strong and the nip can hurt, although it is unlikely to cause serious damage.Thanks!
QuestionCan a hedgehog's spikes hurt you?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerThe spines of a hedgehog are sharp and make for an uncomfortable experience against human skin. Much like trying to handle pins or needles, the pricks can pierce the skin and draw blood. Careful handling is recommended as is wearing thin gloves.Thanks!
QuestionDo hedgehogs like to be petted?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerThis depends on the individual hedgehog. If they are well-socialized and used to people, they may well enjoy a fuss. However, a hedgehog that isn't familiar with people will be stressed by petting and roll up or try to hide.Thanks!
QuestionWhat happens if a hedgehog bites you?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerHedgehogs have sharp incisors and can give a painful nip. Immediately wash the area with soapy water. If there is any pain, heat, swelling, or discharge from the wound, then see a physician.Thanks!
QuestionHow frequently should I bath my hedgehog?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOnce or twice a month is good. If you bath them too often, they can develop flaky skin.Thanks!
QuestionI've had my hedgehog since she was 6 weeks old and she is 13 weeks old now; within the last 2 weeks she's hissing and jumping and now biting. I don't know what is going on with her! What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerShe is going through "quilling". A baby hedgehog has very small quills, and as they grow, they lose their baby quills and larger ones come on. The skin isn't used to having something so thick push through it, so it hurts a lot, making the hedgehog very cranky. This happens at about 2 months, and then again at about 4 months. Once the quilling period is over, her mood should improve.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do they eat? Do they like hamster sawdust?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThey eat high-quality cat kibble with less than 15 percent fat and around 32 to 35 percent protein. They do not like sawdust.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if the hedgehog bites a shirt?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThat's completely normal - she's just finding out if it's food or trying to get the scent into her saliva, so she can anoint with it. Your hedgehog is in a relaxed, inquisitive, and playful mood when she's exhibiting this behavior.Thanks!
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