Posted: January 13, 2012, 6 a.m. EST
Q: My hedgehog is so grumpy when I go near him that he rolls up into a ball, hisses and clucks. I want to be able to play with him like I used to. What am I supposed to do? I've tried all the things I could think of. Do you have any other things I could try?
A: It sounds like your hedgehog was relaxed at one time, but he is now grumpy. I assume that your hedgehog is in good health. A relaxed, socialized hedgehog that suddenly acts grumpy might have something going on physically. Thus, a trip to the veterinarian may be in order, especially if his eating habits have changed, and he seems more lethargic.
Also you did not mention your hedgehog’s age. If you got your hedgehog when he was very young and he starts acting crabby, it might be due to quilling, which is a stage hedgehogs go through until about six months of age. The growth of new quills can cause your hedgehog to be irritable. All hedgehogs might huff and click for a second or two until they are in your hand, but once there they usually calm down, relax, unroll and explore. If your hedgehog stays rolled in a ball when you pick him up, try the following suggestions.
Hedgehogs are nervous by nature, and they are very scent-oriented. To help your hedgehog recognize your scent, place one of your old T-shirts in his nest box, but make sure that it doesn’t have loose threads. Also, wash your hands before picking him up to remove any scent of food, hand creams and other substances.
Your hedgehog needs to know that he can trust you, so carefully pick him up a few times a day, and let him sit in your hand or, if he’s very nervous, on your lap. Be sure to have his favorite treats (e.g., dried crickets, mealworms) on hand when you take him out, and only give them to him during these sessions so that he has positive associations with the experience.
With time and patience, your hedgehog will overcome his fear and enjoy his time out with you.
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