Do Hedgehogs Make Good Pets for Kids?
For several years my oldest daughter was intent on having a pet hedgehog. She learned about them from books at the library and watching educational programs about the cutest baby animals. Unfortunately though at the time hedgehogs were not permitted in Arizona. Owning a pet hedgehog is legal in Canada and most of the United States but it wasn’t until the end of 2015 that Arizona was added to the list of states allowing hedgehogs as pets. Our daughter couldn’t wait to use the allowance and all monetary holiday gifts she had been saving to purchase her own baby hedgehog. Over two years later she is still just as excited about her pet hedgehog, Skittles, and they share a remarkable bond. The most asked question when anyone finds out we have a pet hedgehog is, “do hedgehogs make good pets for kids?” Please note this post is intended to help you decide if a hedgehog is a good pet for your child, not to serve as a purchasing guide.
I recently found an essay in my daughter‘s backpack she had written at school during for a writing assignment. Her “What It’s Like to Have a Pet Hedgehog” essay contributed most of the information in this post so you can have a real perspective from a child with a pet hedgehog. When Skittles the hedgehog was new to our home we did oversee all activities and responsibilities. Now that Skittles has been in our home for a couple of years, our daughter fully takes care of her pet hedgehog by herself.
Before purchasing or adopting a pet hedgehog, make sure your state allows them.
The African pygmy hedgehog is the most common domesticated hedgehog. Hedgehogs can be purchased for varying prices depending on where you live. Overall hedgehogs are relatively inexpensive to maintain as pets. Just like having a hamster as a pet for kids, most of the cost will be upfront in purchasing the hedgehog and living arrangement. Hedgehogs typically cost $150-$300 and the ongoing costs include bedding and food. Veterinary care is not a big factor unless you need to seek assistance in caring for your hedgehog. Cages can be simple one level structures or more complex. Common cages are big plastic tubs and this is where our hedgehog lived when we first brought her into our home. Last year we upgraded her home to a multilevel wire cage. Avoid metal cages with metal bottoms because hedgehogs prefer to be warm.
- ventilated cage
- cage liner, we use fleece!
- sleeping area
- wood or paper shavings are suggested but our hedgehog has been happy nesting in fleece
- plastic running wheel
- food and water dishes
Hedgehogs are nocturnal pets so they are not most active during the day. It is important you take the time to bond with your pet hedgehog. My daughter’s pet hedgehog is very snuggly with her but does not act the same if someone else is holding her. Hedgehog quills are very sharp and dangerous if they fall out on the floor (yes, I’ve stepped on one!). The quills are up and sharp when our hedgehog is not comfortable but relaxed when she’s content.
Food & Water
Our hedgehog eats cat food daily and enjoys an occasional mealworm treat. Hedgehogs are prone to obesity so it’s important they are not overfed without the opportunity to exercise. We leave a small bowl of food in our hedgehog’s cage with an automatic water bottle.
Being nocturnal, most of our hedgehog’s exercise happens at night. She runs in an exercise wheel for hours every night. That also means her wheel needs to be cleaned everyday. We have two wheels to alternate between cleaning.
Hedgehogs are messy and need their cage cleaned often. It’s easy to spot clean daily then do a deep clean weekly. A friend recently messaged me reminding of the dangers of owning a hedgehog. She’s right, hedgehogs can transmit salmonella so it’s vitally important anyone in contact with your pet hedgehog washes their hands. Keeping the hedgehog cage clean is important for the hedgehog and owner too.
Hedgehogs are solitary in the wild and do not need hedgehog companions in captivity. Like all animals, they have their own personalities and can be quite different. Hedgehogs typically do not bite but their quills are very sharp potentially making it a challenging pet for a young child. A poke from hedgehog quills is not extremely dangerous but may cause some tears. My daughter was seven years old when baby Skittles the hedgehog became her pet and we haven’t had any challenges.
I’ve read varying information on the life expectancy of a pet African Pygmy hedgehog but it seems to be a range of two to six years and some sites reference pet hedgehogs living up to eight years.
When choosing a pet, it’s important to consider the value the pet will add to your household. There is always that added layer of parental responsibility if the child is not able to fully care for the pet on their own. Be sure you are ready to be a pet owner just as much as your child.
- Hedgehogs are playful and can learn trained behaviors.
- Once tame, they enjoy being held and played with.
- They are great companions and can help with self-esteem.
- Caring for a pet is a great way to teach responsibility.
Pros and Cons
Especially when choosing a pet for a child, the pros must outweigh the cons.
- Hedgehogs can be tamed, and become quite loving and social.
- They love to play, and they are fun to watch.
- Hedgehogs are fairly low maintenance, yet rewarding.
- They are relatively inexpensive.
- Hedgehogs teach children responsibility.
- They don’t take up a lot of space.
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal presenting the opportunity for your child to have a companion in their room at night if they get lonely.
- Hedgehogs are prickly and have sharp quills. This could be problematic for young pet owners.
- They require daily interaction to be comfortable with their pet owners.
- Hedgehogs carry human disease risk like salmonella.
- Heat and cold extremes influence behavior so it’s important to maintain a consistently warm environment.
Do hedgehogs make good pets for kids? We vote yes but remember every hedgehog and kid is different so each pet experience will be unique.
Read Do Hamsters Make Good Pets for Kids? if you’re considering a pet hamster for your child!