A furry little face, soft underbelly, and a patchwork of quills on the back? What’s not to like about that? Or, at least, that’s the way all hedgehog owners feel about their pets.
It’s safe to say the way hedgehogs look is definitely a big part of their charm. The idea of a bristly pet fascinates some people, while others would rather maintain their distance. The internet is literally teeming with questions about what hedgehogs can and can’t do with their prickly parts.
So, can hedgehog shoot their quills? Hedgehogs can’t shoot their quills, even if threatened. Hedgehogs use their quills to protect themselves from predators by rolling into a ball with their quills standing up as a defense. Even porcupines, which are actually not related to hedgehogs, cannot shoot their quills.
If you’re looking to adopt a hedgehog and are concerned about what it can do with those quills, you’ve come to the right place. Join me to discover more about hedgehogs and their fascinatingly spiky anatomy.
Hedgehogs as Pets
There’s a common misconception that hedgehogs are related to porcupines, but they are actually distantly related to moles and shrews. There are 17 species of hedgehog and they can be found in various countries worldwide.
Also, hedgies are classified as insectivores and like chowing down on creatures like slugs, snails, beetles, millipedes, etc. Weirdly enough, hedgehogs can even eat frogs.
THey are nocturnal, which means they like the nightlife and prefer to sleep during the day (talk about being party animals). But, apart from that, these cute little critters are pretty low key, non-aggressive, non-stinky (always a plus), and super-quiet.
Hedgehogs are pretty low-maintenance and can easily be adopted by owners residing in a modest apartment. They do not make good pets for kids because they need careful handling and a patient owner.
However, it’s not all sunshine and daisies with these little guys, and there some pointers you should be aware of before adopting one.
Hedgehogs are big on chewing and digging, so you may not want to leave them on your best rug for too long. They also have 44 sharp little teeth and can use them if the occasion calls for it.
And, here’s the most important bit, hedgehogs can carry parasites on their quills. They can also be a potential source of salmonella infection through their droppings. So, it is absolutely essential that you adopt (or buy) your hedgie from a reliable source to avoid these health concerns.
Can Hedgehogs Shoot Their Quills?
Some animals are naturally nightmare fuel for some people, thanks to their appearance (looking at you, spiders). But that’s not the case with hedgies because they look cute and lovable, despite the quills.
This is what got me wondering why there are misconceptions about hedgies busting a quill, so to speak. Here’s what I found out: quite a few folks mistake hedgies for porcupines.
Granted, porcupines are covered in quills too, but the two animals are different as night and day. To begin with, porcupines are large rodents and are native to North and South America. And, no one in their right mind would want to pick up a porcupine to cuddle with it.
Porcupine quills are very sharp and include barbs. That means once those little spikes are embedded in your skin, you’ll need a doctor to help take them out. But, here’s the thing, even porcupines can’t shoot thier quills!
The only way you can get a porcupine quill stuck in you is if the porcupine backs up into you or you’re just really determined to get pricked.
On the other hand, hedgehog quills are pretty safe in that regard because even if you get pricked by one, it will not get stuck in your skin. In fact, the chances of a hedgie quill even drawing blood are pretty low too. These quills are meant for defense, not offense.
If your pet hedgie decides it doesn’t want to be handled or picked up, the most it’ll do is roll into a ball, making its quills stand up. That’ll make picking up your hedgie pretty uncomfortable, but hardly life-threatening.
How Do Hedgehog Quills Work?
Hedgehogs have a soft furry belly, while their backs and sides are covered in a thick layer of modified hairs (aka quills). Quills are made of keratin, which is what human hair and nails are made of too.
Experts estimate that a single hedgehog has around 5,000 to 7,000 quills, which is not a lot if you compare to the amount of hair on a person’s head (100,000 strands, in case you were wondering).
Hedgehogs quills have sharp tips, but they’re not barbed. Hedgies control their quills thanks to a series of muscles in their backs and tummies. So, whenever a hedgie feels danger is lurking nearby, it utilizes its muscles to roll into a ball, making the quills stand on end.
When the muscles are relaxed, the quills lay flat, which means it’s okay to handle or pick up your hedgie. Even when a hedgehog is in its defensive pose (with its quills standing at attention), you can touch it gently without your hands being poked full of holes.
Nonetheless, you don’t want your hands anywhere near your hedgie when it’s attempting to roll up. That’s because you can get your fingers trapped – and that will undoubtedly be painful.
How to Avoid Getting Pricked By a Hedgehog
If you’re a new hedgie parent and looking for pro tips on how to handle your pet without being cut or poked, then I’ve got you covered. Here are some easy to execute pointers that’ll help your hedgie acclimate to your presence all the better.
1. Early Socialization
Believe it or not, dogs aren’t the only pets that require early socialization training to grow into mature adults. The sooner you hedgie starts getting used to the presence of humans (and specifically you), the better it’ll bond with you.
Typically, a hoglet (baby hedgehog) should be handled and picked up regularly after crossing the two-week mark. That means socialization will generally begin with the breeder. As long as your hedgie is used to being picked up by the time it gets to you, you can work on bonding with your pet pretty efficiently.
And, before you ask, yes hedgehogs are born with quills, but they’re also born with a membrane over the quills to protect the mother (thankfully!).
2. Proper Handling
The right way to pick up your hedgie is by scooping it up by its underbelly to avoid the quills. But, you need to handle a hedgie with care and take your time picking it up. Sudden movements are likely to agitate or frighten your pet.
If your hedgehog is feeling cranky or spooked and rolls up into a ball, allow it to unfurl at its own pace. A well-socialized hedgie will not generally protest at being lifted. Still, they can scare easily and require TLC.
3. Allow Your Hedgehog to Smell You
A hedgehog’s vision isn’t exactly 20/20, so your pet will get to know you through your scent and your voice. Don’t wear gloves while handling your pet to avoid getting pricked because this may interfere with your hedgie bonding with you.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to let your hedgie take a good whiff of your hand before you pick it up. That way, you can build a better connection with your pet and reduce the chances of frightening it.
What Is Quilling?
Quilling is when your hoglet begins to shed its baby quills to grow new ones. The process can start anywhere between 2-6 months and may continue up to several weeks or months.
During quilling, your pet may experience mood swings and be more irritable, possibly because its skin is undergoing a significant change and may be sensitive.
Make your hoglet feel at ease by allowing them out of their enclosure for a little while. Additionally, if you want to socialize your pet, try and lift it gently from its underbelly and hold it in your lap.
You can also try soothing their skin by bathing your hedgehog in water with a drop or two of olive oil to keep its skin moisturized and healthy.
Do Hedgehogs Bite?
Hedgehogs may have 44 little pearly whites, but they like keeping their teeth to themselves mostly. Moreover, hedgie teeth are designed to bite through insects, and they don’t have rodent-like incisors.
While a hedgie’s bite may be uncomfortable, it’s not excruciating. Before you get too worried, a hedgehog will only rarely turn its teeth on someone it doesn’t know. The better your pet is acquainted with you, the safer you are from its mostly harmless jaws.
How Long Does It Take to Bond With a Hedgehog?
Typically, it takes hedgies around two weeks to become comfortable around their new owners. Once you bring your hedgie, make sure to work on introducing yourself to your pet by allowing it to sniff your hand and by lifting it in your hands gently.
Your hedgie may display some moodiness in the beginning and ball up at the drop of a hat, but that’s just because new scents and sounds surround it.
You’ll notice your hoglet loosening up as the days go by and it will learn to trust you soon enough if you keep your calm and be patient.
How Do I Know If My Hedgehog Is Happy?
You’ll be able to tell your hedgie is relaxed and happy by looking at its quills and looking out for certain noises it makes. If your hedgehog’s quills are completely flat on its back, that’s a good indicator of your pet’s comfort level. Another sign of your pet’s happiness is when it lets out a little chirp when you pick it up.
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