For some time I have been wanting to write this article, and I know a lot of people have been not so
patiently waiting on it. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to get it written, it’s simply that there are so many
things I wanted to put into it that I frequently would sit down to work on it, take a look at everything I
was trying to pull together, put everything back away, and go on to something not quite so mind
boggling. The fact is, one of the most important decisions you will make in getting a hedgehog is where
you get it. Sometimes this is decided for you, and I tried to look into this a little in the “special
circumstances” section, and there are exceptions to every rule, meaning that sometimes truly wonderful
hedgehogs do come from awful circumstances. Most commonly though, this decision will directly
affect the health and temperament of the hedgehog you end up sharing your life with.
In trying to organize all the information I want to share with you, it seemed to work best for me to
divide it into sections. In the first section I tried to cover things to look for and questions to ask
anywhere that you want to consider buying a hedgehog, as part of deciding if it is somewhere (or
someone) that you want to do business with. In the second section I covered what you need to look for
as far as health and temperament when trying to pick a specific hedgehog, some things that really
shouldn’t be a major part of your decision, and also some things to avoid. The third and last section is a
compilation of bits and peices of information and some questions to ask that are specific to a certain
kind os seller or situation, as well as some things to think about if you’re considering rescuing, taking in,
or buying a “hand me down” hedgehog. If there is anything you think I’ve missed, PLEASE feel free to
let me know. Now that I’m finally getting it written I would like to make this article the best I can.
What kind of conditions is the hedgehog kept in?
Something that will tell you a great deal about the place you are looking to buy your hedgehogs
is the conditions their animals are kept in. Is the area where the animals are kept relatively clean and
well organized? This is a good sign that the person in charge is willing to make the time and effort to
keep things taken care of overall. A little dust on the shelves or cages with a bit of mess in them aren’t
signs of a bad store or breeder, but filth, overcrowding, or severe disorganization can be. Do the
animals have clean food and water? While bowls and bottles aren’t always going to be full to the top,
empty waterbottles or food bowls are something to be concerned about. Are cages properly furnished
for the animals in them? Animals should have the cage furnishings needed for them to enjoy their home.
While a petstore or breeder will not be in the position to keep their animals in perfect luxury, there
really is no excuse for animals not to have their basic needs, including plenty of space to exercise in and
environmental enrichment (somewhere to hide, something to climb, toys to explore) met. Hedgehogs
should have a place to hide and something to amuse them. Any other animals should at the very least
appear to have their basic needs met.
What information is the seller able to give me?
One good way to find out a great deal about any place you want to get a hedgehog is to ask for
more information about their care. Any place you are considering buying an animal from should be able
to give you good basic care information. Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions, even if you know
the answers, it will tell you a great deal about how much the person or business selling the animal has
taken the time to learn. It is also important to ask questions about the particular animal you are
interested in. A pet store may only be able to give you a general idea on age and where they purchased
the animal. A breeder should be able to give you birthdate, parents names, why they chose to breed
those two animals, and preferably more extensive pedigree information on most animals.
What questions should I ask if the seller doesn’t offer the information?
Any person or store in the United States selling hedgehogs is required to be USDA licensed.
While this does not inherently make a good breeder, it is a relatively simple process and shows that a
breeder or store has cared enough to make the effort. They should be able to give you their license
number, which will be a two digit number, followed by the letter A or B most likely (C licenses do exist,
but are more for educational programs, zoos, etc.) and then by four more numbers. (More information
about USDA licensing can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/ and listings by state of licensed breeders
can also be found on their publications page) Asking about their vet is also a good way to find out
more about how they care for their animals. Even a pet store should have a vet they are familiar with
and are comfortable recommending. Any one USDA licensed has to have a vet they work with, and
should be able to let you know who that vet is. While it is less likely from a pet store, most breeders
have some sort of health and/or temperament guarantee in place, and should be more than happy to tell
you what it is. Along with this, it is always good to ask what kind of after sale support is offered if you
need help, and if the seller is willing to help out if at some time you are no longer able to keep your pet.
A seller who truly cares more for their animals than for profit is going to do everything in their power to
help you to make things work. They are also going to be willing to help you if for some reason things
change and you can no longer care for your pet.
What potential problems should I be on the look out for?
There are several things that should make you think twice about buying a certain animal or from
a certain seller. Wherever you are looking to buy should be open and honest about where the hedgehog
came from and what they know of it’s background. While with a petstore some answers may be “we
don’t know”, they should know who to ask. Always be VERY cautious of any seller who is evasive or
has NO records kept on their animals. You should also be concerned about a breeder who is unwilling
to let you meet any of their animals or to see where they are kept. There are sometimes good reasons
for this, such as liability insurace limitations or a female who is with new babies or due any time, but
make sure any reason you get makes sense, and if you’re not comfortable with the situation, DONT
Any seller who is less concerned with whether this is the right pet for you than they are with
making the sale should make you not only think twice, but six or seven times. A good seller who really
cares about their animals will want a good match, will be willing for you to take a reasonable amount of
time to think things over, and may even have a hold policy in place. The same excessive concern for
profit that leads a seller to push the sale can also lead them to cutting corners in a hedgehog’s care
before it is sold which can have long term effects on it’s heath and well being.
One way of cutting costs that is unfortunately found is the selling of babies before they should be
away from their mother. While there are varying opinions on exactly how long a baby should be with its
mother, and how long they should stay with the breeder before being sold, general concensus is no
sooner than six weeks. There is a certain look about all baby animals, whether a kitten, a puppy, or a
baby hedgehog. If you have a sneaking suspicion that the hedgehog you are looking at is too young to
be on its own, there is a good chance you are right. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of age, as a baby
separated from its mother extremely early has a higher chance of having developed issues before you
take it home.
The other really big thing that should be a danger sign is a seller who insists that a hedgehog is
only huffing and popping because you are new to it. Any hedgehog with a temperament that will make
it a good pet should relax and be interested in exploring within a matter of minutes at the most. If it
doesn’t, you should consider looking elsewhere, unless you are willing to take on a project and accept
and love whatever temperament you end up with, which takes us to our next important section....