How to Tame a Hedgehog

Three Parts:Picking a Hedgehog That You Can TameSetting Up a Hedgehog HomeLitter Training a Hedgehog

African pygmy hedgehogs can be domesticated, but they are usually sold “wild.” They are nervous animals that can strike out and hide near loud noises or bright lights. Talking to your hedgehog, handling it regularly and giving it a safe environment are the best ways to tame a hedgehog.

Part 1
Picking a Hedgehog That You Can Tame

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    Ensure you have an African hedgehog, rather than a European one. These are the type that is used as domesticated pets. It is small and lighter colored than European varieties.
    • It is illegal in most places to own a European hedgehog. However, it may also be illegal to own an African hedgehog in your state or country.[1]
    • An African hedgehog is sometimes called a “pygmy hedgehog.”
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    Make sure you can keep the hedgehog for seven years, which is the average lifespan.
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    Avoid buying a hedgehog if you have small children or you want a pet you can cuddle with. Chances are it will bite when it is wild and young.
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    Look for signs of tearing or crusting around the eyes, ears and nose. It is likely unhealthy. Missing patches of quills are a sign of mites and should be treated immediately.
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    Recognize normal behaviors, such as hissing and curling. They will also bite if they feel threatened.

Part 2
Setting Up a Hedgehog Home

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    Buy all of your supplies, including a cage, food, water bottle, litter pan and bedding in advance. Set it on a flat surface with at least two square feet of roaming space.
    • Ensure that the floor is not made of wire or wood. Wire is hard to crawl over and wood can be unclean and infested with mites.
    • Find cages at pet stores that are meant for rabbits or guinea pigs. You can use an aquarium or plastic tub as long as it has places to enter and exit and some airflow.
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    Set the cage in a place where you frequent, such as a bedroom or a living room. Smell is key to taming a hedgehog, since it is their strongest scent. You can even put an old unwashed t-shirt in or near his cage to help him get familiar with you.
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    Place him in his cage for a few days. He should be left alone to feel safe and secure in this place before you take him out or let him roam.
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    Bring him out of the cage, but close to it and place him in your lap. Talk to him quietly and stroke him lightly to put him at ease. You may need to try this several times before he sits still and stops curling up.
    • Repeat for one month so that he gets used to your voice.
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    Feed him mealworms if he is still uncomfortable outside his cage. If he associates you with food, he is more likely to accept you as a friend and trainer.
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    Give your hedgehog a hiding space, such as an igloo, where he can hide. As he becomes tamer he will start to use it for napping, rather than hiding. Try adding short toilet paper rolls as play things.
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    Buy soft toys without internal stuffing. Try cat toys without catnip and teach your hedgehog to play with them and you. They like to crawl and tug them, so they are an excellent way to domesticate a hedgehog further.
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    Introduce a new thing to your hedgehog when there aren’t loud noises. Allow him to smell and taste it. If the hedgehog spits on a new toy, that is a good sign, because they are anointing it with their smell.[2]
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    Consider adding a wheel, PVC piping or ferret tunnels to your system. This will make your hedgehog’s home more desirable and give him plenty of exercise. If you don’t have paper towel tubes, igloos and tunnels, the animal may hide under furniture or dig into carpets and plants.
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    Handle your hedgehog every day. This will keep him tame once you have domesticated him.

Part 3
Litter Training a Hedgehog

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    Start litter training right when you bring your hedgehog home. Consistency is key.
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    Place the animal in a clean cage or area. Don’t set the wheel in the area until he is litter trained. It can be a distraction, since hedgehogs regularly defecate and urinate on their wheels.
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    Watch where your hedgehog decides to go to the bathroom. Pick up the droppings and place them into a litter pan. Place the litter pan in that spot, where he is likely to return to do his business.
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    Choose a litter pan like those used with ferrets. It should be shallow in front and back with higher sides. Fill the litter pan with shavings, such as Aspen or Carefresh.[3]
    • Although some people use non-clumping cat litter, other people say this can be harmful to hedgehogs.
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    Don’t give negative reinforcement, as it is unlikely to work. The time it takes to litter train a hedgehog depends upon the hedgehog. It can take a few days or a few years.
    • Even if your hedgehog is well trained, they don’t always use the litter tray.
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    Clean the litter pan regularly. Move it if your hedgehog starts using a different spot.
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    Don’t stop the hedgehog from using the bedding in the litter pan as a dust bath. It is natural for them to do this. They may need a bigger litter pan where they can use a portion for their litter and a portion to roll around.[4]
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Things You'll Need

  • Cage
  • Water bowl
  • Food
  • Bedding/Pet-safe shavings
  • Wheel
  • Ferret tunnels
  • Mealworms
  • Igloo
  • Soft toys
  • Litter pan

Article Info

Categories: New Pets