Posted: August 13, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I am doing a project for school. I am 9 years old. I chose hedgehogs for my project. Can you tell me some unusual information about pet hedgehogs? Also any information you thing might help me with my hedgehog project.
A: The domestic hedgehog of today is amazingly similar to the ones that roamed the planet 15 million years ago. The African pygmy hedgehog has only been kept as a pet in the United State for about 20 to 25 years. This species is a hybrid of two other species: the white-bellied hedgehog and the North African hedgehog. The domesticated hedgehog does not hibernate like its cousin, the European hedgehog, so it must be kept warm. Hedgehog quills consist of hollow hair made stiff by keratin. They are about a half-inch long on an adult hedgehog, and they are not venomous or barbed. When threatened, a hedgehog can roll into a tight ball to protecting its face, eyes, limbs and belly.
Hedgehogs are induced-ovulators, which means that female hedgehogs only produce an egg when mating. When a male comes in contact with a female, he will sing to her with a high-pitched voice.
Hedgehogs are born with quills that lay just under the skin. After a few hours, the quills start to emerge. The mother hedgehog takes care of her babies with no help from the male. In the wild, they live a solitary life. However, in captivity, two females may share the same cage, provided that it is large enough.
Hedgehogs have some interesting behaviors. They will self-anoint when they encounter an unfamiliar smell or taste. Self-anointing occurs when a hedgehog licks and chews an object and then, with its long tongue, spreads saliva over its quills. Scientists are not sure why hedgehogs self-anoint, but theories suggest parasite control or for protection.
Another, interesting fact is that wild hedgehogs have enough resistance to toxins to allow them to eat poisonous snakes.
Hedgehogs are very unique critters. They make nice pets, but do research to find out about their care and maintenance before you bring one home.
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