Where an owner buys or adopts their hedgehog from will make a big difference in it's health. It can even make an impact on the well being of other hedgehogs in the community.
Shelters and Rescues
Hedgehogs do not tend to enter city shelters often, but when they do, the shelter often has little knowledge of, or experience in caring for them. Some shelters do have dedicated staff and volunteers who are hedgehog knowledgeable, those are the shelters you'll want to gravitate towards.
When looking at a hedgehog from a shelter, observe the care it is currently being given. I know it may seem best to take in a hedgehog from the shelter even if it is sickly, but doing so can have serious consequences. If you have other pets in the home, they could become ill if the new addition is ill or carrying disease. . Some shelters, such as Boston's MSPCA, were very knowledgeable regarding hedgehog care. These progressive shelters are probably you're best bet in finding a hedgehog needing adoption.Keep in mind that a shelter may know little of the animal's history and the animal may be difficult to socialize. For some, this is all part of the fun, building the bond and watching a little one blossom!
Rescues are entities formed by a group of animal lovers joining to take in and adopt out homeless animals. There are not many legitimate hedgehog specific rescues in the USA. There are however, many folks who clam to be rescues but they are not. Craigslist is full of people who are breeding hedgehogs but are claiming to be rescues in order to boost their sales.Some animal hoarders also consider themselves rescues, even though the animals within their care are usually not taken care of correctly.
To operate as a rescue, there must be 3 incorporators (not just one single person) running the rescue AND there must be registration as either/both a domestic nonprofit or a national nonprofit organisation/ charity. Some states also require a permit to operate an animal shelter, even if there is no physical shelter and it's a home based rescue.
Every state has their own laws regarding what licensing you may need to operate an nimal rescue within that state. Thee laws can be asked about by contacting the local wild life service/ AG service/ DEM (every state calls their agency something different, resulting in much confusion when trying to address the topic as a whole).
Real Rescues are wonderful groups that do such positive things in the lives of hedgehogs everywhere! If you are able to locate a permitted rescue that takes in hedgehogs, go for it! You'll most likely be able to Learn about the hedgehog's past and current care. A rescue will be more able to provide you with information regarding the animal's temperament as they are species knowledgeable individuals.
Hobby breeders are breeders who keep under the limit of animals requiring a license. Hobby breeders may or may not provide medical care to their animals . They may or may not keep them sanitary. Hobby breeders are not required to adhere to regulations of animal welfare. Because hobby breeders aren't monitored, we do not know what care they are giving their animals unless they are upfront and transparent. There is a fine line between what makes someone a hobby breeder and what makes them a basement breeder.
There is good news though!
Some Hobby Breeders practice ethical codes of breeding!
A good way to determine the quality of a Hobby Breeder is to ask them for a veterinary reference. Contact the veterinarian and ask when the last time the Hobby Breeder provided care to any of their hedgehogs was.
Ask the veterinarian how many hedgehogs were seen at the vet office and if the Veterinarian knows the animals are used for breeding. Anyone breeding hedgehogs should provide them with yearly checkups, so if they haven't visited the vet in a while for a WELLNESS CHECK, they probably don't practice ethical breeding methods. If the animals have been seen by the veterinarian for a wellness check, the vet should be aware that the animals are used for breeding.
Look for an open minded and transparent Hobby Breeder. The Hobby Breeder should have photos of their animals and cage set ups on their website. The Hobby Breeder should have no issue providing information regarding how they care for their animal, look for a breeder who understands hedgehog biology and provides enrichment along with biologically appropriate diet. Be wary of any breeder who feeds tons of plant matter, no insects, no meats, or just cat foods. Every breeder, no matter the level they breed, should have a complete understanding of the animal's they sell.
Basement Breeder is another word for a Back-Yard-Breeder.
Basement breeders often times breed over allowed (by law) limits and are not licensed. Basement breeders do not track an animal's lineage. They do not provide medical care to their animals, animals purchased from them are often sick.
It is best to avoid Basement Breeders. When purchasing from a Basement Breeder you are directly encouraging them to breed more animals. This hurts animals within the community. A Basement Breeder's animals (that are used for breeding) are similar to the puppy mill dogs that live their entire lives in suffering while their babies get sold. Once you purchase an animal from a Basement Breeder you most likely will never hear from them again.Basement Breeders are "cash and carry". You hand over the cash, they hand you the animal, you never hear from them again.Basement breeders will not usually have a website or social media page. They typically want to stay as under the radar as possible. These basement breeders may also never provide their real name or phone number. Many craigslist ads feature basement breeders claiming to be rescues in order to get more sales based on sympathy.
Some pet shops take phenomenal care of their hedgehogs while others do not. If looking at a hedgehog from a pet shop be sure the pet shop is licensed by the USDA to sell hedgehogs. Any pet shop that sells hedgehogs is required to posses a CLASS B DEALER LICENSE that has been issued by the USDA. Many pet shops that sell hedgehogs are not licensed.
If electing to buy from a pet shop keep in mind that you will not know the animal's lineage and if it is free ( or low in ) of cancers and WHS. Pet shop employees are often not well versed in hedgehog care and may not be able to answer your questions regarding detailed care. Long term support is also not provided by pet shops.
Keep in mind that most pet shops purchase their stock from large whole sale breeders. This means that the lineage is not tracked on these animals and they may be more likely to experience to genetic illness.
Whole sale breeders sell large amounts of hedgehogs to a large number of buyers. Often times both males and females are shipped together (to cut costs) and the females may be pregnant upon arrival to the pet shop. When buying from a pet shop that purchases from a large whole sale breeder, you may also be directly supporting a hedgehog mill. A hedgehog mill is a breeding facility that keeps an astronomical number of animals. These animals are bred as quickly and cost effective as possible This is a recipe for lacking care and is not ethical.
Some pet shops purchase their animals from small locally licensed breeders who take great care of their animals and track lineage. These pet shops are the type a prospective owner should prefer. Employees at these pet shops are often trained by the breeders they buy from in proper hedgehog care.
A licensed breeder is someone who has a federal license that gives them permission to breed and sell hedgehogs. Licensed breeders are required to provide their animals with humane care and provide routine and emergency medical treatment to all of their breeding animals Some licensed breeders hold themselves to a higher standard than the outlined regulations while others only provide the bare minimum.
Be wary of licensed breeders who ask for medical advice online. A breeder should not be asking internet users to diagnose and help them treat an animal's illness. This should only be done by a veterinarian. Licensed breeders are required to provide vet care, a licensed breeder asking the public for medical diagnosis or treatment may not be providing legitimate medical care to their animals as required.
An ethical Licensed Breeder will provide "above and beyond" care to their animals. Vet care will be provided yearly and as needed. Animals within their care will be fed varied and more natural diets. Ethical breeders do not euthanize animals at home without a veterinarian present.
Ethical breeders will have an understanding of hedgehog genetics, they will not state things such as "hedgehog genetics are a mystery". Everyone breeding animals should have an understanding of how that animal's genetics work. Understanding genetics is the foundation of producing healthy animals.
Ethical breeders do not practice inbreeding at all and only work with healthy breeding stock that isn't inbred.
Ethical breeders value their animals as living beings. Their animals are given ample time in between litters and are not bred to the point of physical decline.
Ethical breeders love each and every baby born within their care. They take great joy in handling and socializing babies. Ethical breeders enjoy providing free accessible hedgehog care information to the public. Their concern for hedgehog welfare extends beyond animals they have sold.
Ethical breeders will offer a health guarantee. Genetic health guarantees can vary from breeder to breeder.An infectious disease guarantee is a must. An infectious disease guarantee ensures that the animal you are purchasing is not experiencing an infection that can be spread to it's new owner.
There are many other factors that determine if a breeder is ethical or how ethical a breeder is, but the major and most common sense aspects have been discussed here.
Bringing home a hedgehog for the first time is an exciting experience for a new owner. It can also be a nerve wracking time as you may want to know why your new Hedgehog is acting the way it is. Most hedgehogs enter their new homes and adjust accordingly. Here we will discuss potential mishaps that can happen during transition periods to be sure readers are prepared to deal with any undesirable scenarios.
Young hoglets tend to have easier transition periods than older animals.
Bringing home a young hedgehog
Young animals are often referred to as hoglets. Some professionals consider them hoglets until they are 6-8 months old, when they reach sexual maturity.
Young animals tend to adjust to new homes more quickly. This is because they have not established a territory yet. Young (baby)animals are often housed together at the breeder's facility and still behave as they do in a nest. They share resources and space with little issue due to the hormones involved with sexual maturity not yet effecting their behavior.
This is not to say that all babies transition smoothly. Some are initially fearful to to their lack of understanding of why they are in a new environment. A young hoglet may hide for a few days and only briefly explore it's surroundings. This reservation should change once the animal is familiar with it's now territory.
Hoglets defecate and urinate a lot. Their digestive tracts have not yet matured, they cannot control excreting waste very well. It's important for new owners to understand that their young animal is going to excrete feces and urine on them. Using a blanket on your lap is a great way to keep hygienic while socializing a young animal.
Handling a young animal often, preferably daily, will help it become accustomed to your presence and the routine of a new environment.
New babies may ball up, pop and hiss frequently until they become familiar with being handled by a new owner in a foreign environment.
Bringing home an older animal
Bringing home an older animal can be a great joy. Adopting a retired breeder animal gives the animal the opportunity to be loved exclusively as a pet for the rest of it's life. Adopting an older shelter animal is a wonderful opportunity to show the animal compassion and provide it with the quality care that it may have never before received.
Once an animal has reached sexual maturity they will experience behaviors that may effect their transition to a new environment. Older animals tend to be creatures of old habit and may resist opening up in a new environment. (Others "reset" in a new home and become out going and curious.) This resistance tends to wane as they establish their new territory. There is no time frame in which they will feel comfortable. Every animal is an individual and will open up at it's own pace. Animals that are not predisposed to be outgoing may never fully open up in a new home. They may become familiar to their new territory but retain prey animal instinct that keep them wary of handling.
The adopter of an owner animal will have to dedicate time daily to socialize with their new addition.
Some older animals adjust just well and as if they've never moved locations at all.
Normal scenarios for Hedgehogs of any age
It is normal for a new animal of any age to not utilize it's entire cage space upon entering a new home. Some may refuse to use their wheel for quite some time after adoption. Others may stay in only one area of the cage that they view as a safe zone.
Some may refuse food for the first day. If an animal refuses food for more than 24 hours, it is important to try to coax it to eat. Offer different varieties of food to tempt them. If an animal refuses food more than 24 hours despite being offered a variety of food items, a medical appointment may be in order to rule out Any illness. Animals who refuse food for prolonged amounts of time may enter a starvation state. Many hedgehog professionals call them "hunger strikes". A hunger strike can be dangerous and may lead to liver disease. The best remedy is to prevent one all together.
A change in stool is common for an animal of any age when entering a new environment. This is often stress related. Probiotics made for small mammals may prove beneficial at this time. Ask your vet about over the counter and prescription brands. If strange stools, (green, wet or mucous laden) continue for more than a few days, contact your veterinarian.
Upon bringing a new Hedgehog home a vet visit may be a good idea to create a baseline working relationship with your veterinarian and to examine for any abnormalities.
Bonding with a new Hedgehog
When handling your a hedgehog, keep things slow. Use slow movements and a soft voice. Hedgehogs get nervous of quick movement and loud noise.
Keep interactions positive. Food items can be offered during handling to imprint a positive association on the animal.
Hedgehogs are heavily scent oriented. Washing your hands with the same variety prior to handling is a good idea.
Items such as snuggle sacks and binding pouches can be used to offer the animal some security during handling sessions.
If there are other animals in the home be sure they do not invade bonding sessions.
Some hedgehogs prefer one person over others while some are consistent no matter who handles them.