When we think of affectionate pets, a hedgehog may not be the first animal that comes to mind. These critters are adorable, though, and those interested in welcoming one into their home may be wondering if hedgehogs like to cuddle.
In the wild, hedgehogs are solitary animals, preferring to keep to themselves. If you’re looking for a pet that will be affectionate right away, a hedgehog is not a good choice. It takes plenty of time and patience for your new little friend to warm up to you.
Hedgehogs can be affectionate, but this is largely based on how they are raised and their individual personalities. Even if you have a friendly hedgehog, it doesn’t mean they will be affectionate or like to cuddle. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have a happy, healthy pet that enjoys spending time with you.
Do Hedgehogs Show Affection?
Hedgehogs are aloof, solitary animals. While many are not quick to show signs of affection, some can and do. It depends on the animal’s upbringing and personality.
If you have a new hedgehog or are considering getting one, early socialization is the key to getting them to warm up to you. Many hedgehogs shy away from being handled, but they can learn to trust you over time if you are patient and willing to work with them.
Socializing your hedgehog from a young age gives you the best chance for success. If you are adopting an older hedgehog from a rescue — and there are plenty in need of loving homes — it may take a long time for them to feel comfortable and safe around you. Some may never fully warm up to you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be cared for and loved.
A hedgehog isn’t a pet that you should expect much from in terms of cuddles, but they are rewarding in many other ways. Just remember that in the United States, it’s illegal to own one of these critters in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, all the boroughs of New York, and Washington, D.C. Always check your local ordinances and regulations to make sure you are allowed to own a hedgehog before acquiring one.
Do Hedgehogs Like to Cuddle?
Typically, hedgehogs don’t like to be touched by humans. Some may tolerate petting, but others shy away from hands completely. It’s also difficult to cuddle hedgehogs because of their spiny bodies. These spines, made of keratin, are sharp and can be painful to humans. Hedgehogs use these spines to defend themselves against predators. Adult hedgehogs have between 5,000 and 7,000 spines covering their bodies.
Since hedgehogs are solitary by nature, they don’t instinctually bond to other animals or humans. However, you may be able to build up a bond with your hedgehog over time.
How Do Hedgehogs Show Affection?
Some hedgehog owners think that when their pet licks them, it means they’re showing affection. Others disagree and say that the licking is only leading up to a nibble because the curious hedgehog likes the way you smell. Licking should be curbed before it turns into biting. This is not a behavior that should become a habit.
If a hedgehog feels affection for you, a simple way that they show this is by not running away when you try to pick them up. While you’re holding them, hedgehogs may curl into a ball and take a nap. They may appear eager and interested in interacting with you and will settle onto your shoulder or in your lap to relax. When you pet your hedgehog’s head, they won’t shy away if they’re being affectionate.
How to Socialize a Hedgehog
Hedgehogs don’t have good eyesight, as they are nocturnal creatures. They lack sophisticated vision because there isn’t much to see in the dark. They also do not have good depth perception, and they need to be close to objects to be able to see them.
New noises scare hedgehogs easily and can cause them to roll into a ball to protect themselves. Since they can’t see well and don’t like new sounds, socializing a hedgehog will take a while. Patience is the key when socializing any animal and trying to form a bond with them.
Here are a few tips to remember when trying to bond with your hedgehog. Remember that each hedgehog will adjust at their own pace.
Once a hedgehog is used to their environment, socializing them will become easier. If you just brought a hedgehog home, give them time to settle in and get familiar with their surroundings. Too many new things at once can overwhelm them. Give your hedgehog at least 2–3 weeks to settle into their new home.
Schedule Your Time
Socializing a hedgehog requires a time commitment that must be scheduled every day. Skipping days or only trying to socialize your hedgehog when you feel like it will set you up for failure. Some hedgehogs bond to their owners quickly. Others can take up to a year to truly feel comfortable around their owners. Still others never warm up at all.
In order to begin the bonding process, you will need at least 30 minutes every day to dedicate to hedgehog interaction, and that’s just the minimum. The more time you can dedicate to your hedgehog, the faster they will learn to trust you.
Sense of Smell
Since hedgehogs can’t see well, they rely on their sense of smell to navigate their surroundings and learn what things are. Once a hedgehog gets used to your smell, they will have an easier time relaxing around you. You’ll be familiar to them.
The easiest way to do this is to sleep in a shirt for several nights and then drape it over part of your hedgehog’s cage. If you buy a bed for the hedgehog, sleep with it in your own bed for a few nights before giving it to them to use. New lotions, perfumes, or shampoos can confuse your hedgehog and make it take longer for them to learn your scent.
Sense of Hearing
Hedgehogs are sensitive to new sounds, so give them time to get used to the sound of your voice. Talk to them often. Play a radio on a low volume for them each day to help them get used to new noises.
Using the same greeting for your hedgehog each time will help them know that it’s you and get familiar with you quickly.
Holding Your Hedgehog
The bond will grow between you and your hedgehog the more that you touch and hold them, but some hedgehogs may be resistant to this at first. Human touch is not something that they seek out, so they have to get familiar with it slowly.
If you notice that your hedgehog is hissing, puffing up, rolling in a ball, huffing, or running away, they need more time to feel comfortable with touch. Give them a few minutes to relax and explore on their own terms. Let them get used to your hand before you attempt to touch them or pick them up.
When your hedgehog is comfortable being picked up, hold them with both hands against your chest so they can feel your heartbeat. Holding them while you watch TV, for example, gives them plenty of time to relax.
Once the hedgehog falls asleep or is visibly relaxed, you may be able to pet them easily. Keep a towel or blanket close by so the hedgehog has a place to hide if they feel uncomfortable.
Playing With Your Hedgehog
Gather toys and treats, and head to a quiet room with your hedgehog. Lay them out on the floor, and set your hedgehog down with them — make sure that the room is safe for them and that there are no hazards. Sit on the floor, and let your hedgehog explore however they feel comfortable. As your hedgehog wanders around, they may climb on and explore you too. This will help them get to know you.
Interacting like this with your hedgehog is an effective way to show them that they can trust you. Reward your hedgehog with treats for letting you pet or hold them.
Manage Your Expectations
Socializing your hedgehog takes patience. Don’t expect too much from them too soon. Each individual adjusts at their own pace. Trying to force them too soon could result in them fearing you or biting you. Approach the situation slowly and give them time.
If your hedgehog is socialized but never becomes cuddly, then that’s your animal’s personality and nothing can change it. It’s better to accept your pet for what they are instead of what you’d like them to be in order to keep your relationship the best that it can be. A hedgehog that likes you but isn’t affectionate is much better than one that fears you and hides when you approach.
Hedgehogs aren’t affectionate by nature. They are solitary animals that prefer to go through life alone. However, with patience and time, you can show your hedgehog that they can trust you. Early socialization is critical in helping your hedgehog learn who you are and form a bond with you.
Some hedgehogs will never be as affectionate or cuddly as you may like, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy and content. We hope that you’ve learned a little more about hedgehogs and what to do if you decide to adopt one of these cuties in the future.
Featured Image Credit: Jenn Huls, Shutterstock