Despite their prickly appearance, hedgehogs can be wonderful pets. Before you bring one home, however, it is important for you to take a few steps to make certain the hedgehog you select is a healthy one. This way, you and your new pet can live a long and happy life together.
Choosing a Healthy Hedgehog
Since hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, it can sometimes be difficult to inspect them for good health at the pet store. Even if the little guy looks nice and comfy all curled up in a ball, wake him up before you make a purchase. Watch him as he moves around, making certain he appears to be aware of his surroundings and free from obvious pain. If he is wobbly or limping, these are signs of injury or sickness and that particular hedgehog should be avoided.
You should also check around the hedgehog's eyes to make certain they are clear and free of discharge or agitation. The fur around the hedgehog's eyes should be dry and clean, while its eyes should not be sunken or partially closed. You should pay similar attention to the nose, ears, belly and anal area.
A feature of particular concern when it comes to hedgehogs is its skin and quills. The quills should not be frayed or broken in any way. Rather, they should be shiny and there should be no bare areas on the hedgehog's skin. Furthermore, the skin should not be flaky or scaly in any way, as these are both signs of parasitic infection.
Handling the Hedgehog
If the hedgehog appears to be healthy, you should take a moment to handle it before you make the final decision to take it home. Many first-time hedgehog owners are nervous about holding onto these prickly pets, but there really is nothing to be afraid of.
Ideally, you should first attempt to handle the hedgehog during the evening when it is already awake, as a hedgehog that is woken up can be a bit cranky.
If the hedgehog huffs a little or rolls into a ball, don't be alarmed. This is a normal reaction and the hedgehog will likely do this to you several times until it gets more comfortable with you. Just be certain to keep your hands cupped and your fingers together so your new friend doesn't fall out. If possible, you should then sit down somewhere and allow the hedgehog to walk around on your lap so it can relax. Recognizing a relaxed hedgehog is easy, because he will lay down his quills. Now, you can pet your new prickly friend - just make sure to stroke in the same direction as the quills so you don't accidentally get yourself poked!