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Home > Hedgehogs > Do Hedgehog Quills Hurt? Facts & FAQ

Do Hedgehog Quills Hurt? Facts & FAQ

an adorable hedgehog licking its nose while being held

The thousands of pointed quills covering a hedgehog’s back are a warning sign to most predators that they need to stay away. They can even be intimidating for humans at first. While they do seem a little frightening, the quills won’t hurt you once you adjust to the gentle way that you’re supposed to handle hedgehogs. Of course, that doesn’t mean that accidents happen. We’re here to tell you when a hedgehog’s quill will hurt you, how to avoid it, and some other fun facts about these spikes as well.

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What Are Hedgehog Quills?

The long, stiff quills that you see on the back of a hedgehog are a type of hollow spine. The spines lie on top of two different back muscles that the animal uses to either poke them out or relax them.

A hog’s quills are its best chance at defending itself. They only go into two positions. One of them can hurt you, and the other one can’t.

a close up of a hedgehog in a garden
Image Credit: Mr_SRC, Pixabay

Relaxed Quills

While the spines on a hedgehog do come to a sharp point, they aren’t all that sharp when the hedgehog is relaxed. Relaxed hedgehogs have their quills positioned in a way so that they lie evenly across the skin of your hand. They evenly distribute the animal’s weight and will not poke the skin. It feels somewhat similar to touching coffee straws or a hairbrush.

Defensive Quills

A nervous or threatened hedgehog will curl into a ball when they feel threatened. Curling up changes the potion of the spines. The quills become more spread out and sharper to the touch. While the quills most likely won’t break our skin, they are still sometimes painful to touch. Your best bet at keeping them from hurting you is to establish a comfortable and trusting relationship with the hedgehog. If you’re a little nervous about handling them at first, you can use a puncture-resistant glove to make the process easier on you.

a hedgehog curling up on grass outdoor
Image By: Stemya, Pixabay

How Many Quills Does a Hedgehog Have?

The number of quills on a hedgehog can vary depending on the species that you’re around. In general, most hedgehogs have anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 quills on their backs.

Do Hedgehog Quills Come Out?

While they do have a somewhat similar appearance, hedgehogs are not the same as porcupines. In fact, these two animals are not even related. Hedgehog quills do not willingly come out of their bodies. One of the few ways that they do come out is if they are quilling.

Why Is My Hedgehog Losing Quills?

While they may not be able to get rid of them by force, hedgehogs do still lose their quills for several reasons. Aside from quilling, mites and infections are two reasons why hedgehogs might start to lose their quills. Stress is another factor that sometimes causes this to happen.

In general, most hedgehogs lose their quills through a process called quilling. This usually happens when the animal is still young. It starts when they are between 5 and 6 weeks old and might happen three or four times until they are one year old.

a hedgehog rolled up on grass
Image By: MichaelaThiede, Pixabay

Do Hedgehog Quills Grow Back?

Don’t panic if your hedgehog suddenly loses a lot of quills. Hedgehog quills can and do regrow. However, the rate at which they grow back depends on their age and what caused it. For example, some younger hogs who lost their quills due to mites might have a harder time regrowing them.

Do Quills Get Softer?

The only time that the quills on a hedgehog will ever feel softer is when they are in their relaxed positions. Other than that, there is no reason that the hard outer shell on the quills would soften and feel more like fur. If you happen to find a lot of softer quills, then it could be because of a nutrient deficiency, and you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Can You Trim Hedgehog Quills?

Technically, hedgehog quills do not contain any nerves and trimming them wouldn’t hurt the animal, but that doesn’t mean that this is recommended. This is your pet’s only defense mechanism and losing it would only make them feel like they were in even more danger. Instead, try to appreciate these unique animals in the natural form that they come in.

hedgehog quills standing up
Image By: onefox, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts on Hedgehog Quills

We know that an animal with a body full of spines isn’t the most cuddly-looking creature, but that doesn’t mean that you have to fear them. As long as a hedgehog is comfortable and relaxed, there would be no reason for them to go into a defensive mode and threaten to poke you. Hedgehog quills are unique and beautiful, and learning how to gently handle these animals is the best way to keep yourself from getting hurt.

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Featured Image Credit: Julia Jane, Shutterstock

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