Monday, 24 February 2014

Introducing Mr Pickles!

As I'm sure many of you will already know thanks to the hundreds of pictures of him I've already taken, on New Years Eve Ash and I became the adoptive parents for the most adorable little African pygmy hedgehog, Mr Beaker Pickles! He stole our hearts within minutes, and I think it's easy to see why.

I've had a lot of emails and messages since we got him from people who saw him and want a pet hedgehog of their own asking for tips, but who also then decide a hedgehog isn't for them once I send them a few links with further information - so I thought it might be helpful to do a little post about caring for a little hedgie for anyone considering it. Please note this is purely my experience, and as we didn't have Mr Pickles from a baby I think he might be a bit extra grumpy since he's not used to people, and as he's also a rescue he wasn't exactly from a reputable breeder. I've included links at the end of the post to other, more informative places which I'd definitely recommend checking out if you're looking to adopt a spiky friend of your own!

We actually got Mr Pickles (Beaky for short) because his previous two owners just unfortunately didn't have the time they needed to dedicate to him. His original owner found him being sold by the side of the road in a tiny box full of hoglets and decided to ring RSPCA straight away, but while she was waiting for them to arrive one little guy popped his head out the top and she couldn't resist taking him home. A year later and she decided she'd like to go travelling, so after a brief stay somewhere else, he came to us for his permanent home.

We've been told finding a good breeder is so important, because a good legitimate breeder will have already given the hedgehog the right amount of handling and the correct food from birth, which might help their temperament a little. Mr Pickles came to us after a year of not really being handled and not being on the best food (they have very strict diet requirements), so we're still getting him on the right track! I'd always prefer to adopt pets from rescue centres and sanctuaries rather than breeders since there are so many animals there already looking for homes, but I think that's a very personal choice.

Hedgehogs have an average lifespan of 3-8 years, but tend to live around 5 - making them very different from hamsters, even though they're often compared to them as pets. This means if you're thinking about adopting one, please do think about it in the long term. Hedgehogs can have a personality change if they move home due to the stressors of changing environment and having a new person take care of them, so it's important to ensure a hedgehog is definitely the pet for you, and not something you'll change your mind about a few years down the line. 

Despite what we read before getting him, we've found hedgehogs are anything but low maintenance pets! He's very fussy with food, needs to be kept a constant 22-25 degrees all the time or they might hibernate (which is fatal and so obviously something I stress over a little too much since we live in the cold north) and his cage needs cleaning pretty much daily - it still baffles me how someone so tiny can poop quite so much! Thankfully we're more than happy to fuss over him as much as possible, including giving him his own little cardboard castle to roam through, lots of toys and hidden treats since he's an adorable little burrowing machine.

I absolutely love Mr Pickles, but I can see how they might not be for everyone - they do require quite a bit of time and are very fussy. If you want a pet that you can show affection/will show you affection and one you can play with, a hedgehog isn't really the best choice because so far we've found that to be pretty rare! Hedgehogs don't yearn for human interaction and generally won't automatically come to you, but regular handling is recommended to help get your hedgie used to you. One of the main things I've been asked is 'is he not prickly?' to which I tend to reply he is a hedgehog haha! Even when his spikes are laid flat, it can still be a little bit like handling a cactus, but it is something you get used to. 

We tend to give him his own space as we've learnt we have to do things on his terms to help keep him calm since he's scared of everything - something I definitely bonded with him over, since I'm a giant scaredy cat myself! The last thing we want is stress the little guy out, so we tend to keep our distance to whatever level he's comfortable with that day - he has let us stroke him once a twice now and occasionally we get to handle him without layers of fleece. He can be a little bitey every so often - apparently biting is a way for them to communicate rather than an aggressive act, but I'm still glad it's only happened to Ash so far ;) 

It is also worth mentioning that they are nocturnal, so you've got to be up late to play with them, but that's never been a problem for us since we both basically work from home and are definite night owls anyway - so he's been the perfect fit! We do keep him in the living room rather than bedroom though, as he doesn't like to be walking around inside his cage if people are around so we like to give him privacy after a certain time to make sure he gets plenty of time to play - especially as he can be a little loud on his wheel through the night too, but it's really important they have one to ensure they get as much exercise as possible!

I really hope that people research any pet they're considering getting in depth beforehand, because nothing breaks my heart more than seeing how many people seem to try to re-home pets because they can no longer find the time/patience to care for them or they got another animal without thinking about their existing ones. I hope people put more thought into caring for a living animal beyond wanting to own something cute and realise there is an amount of work and time involved in caring for any pet, regardless of size or temperament.

If you do a search online there are loads of websites that offer helpful tips and things for keeping African pygmy hedgehogs as pets, making sure they're the right pet for you and helpful information on how to keep them as happy and healthy as possible. Hedgehog Central was definitely invaluable to me when we first got Beaky (and even now) because it's just so full of indepth information and answers to any questions you may have.
Other useful websites:


  1. Thank you for this, gave me and my boyfriend a lot to think about xx

  2. Awwwww now I just love him even more!! xxx




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