by Nathan Stout
This is an epitaph of sorts for our hedgehog Saffie who, at the ripe old age of 3 passed away last night. Saffie is survived by her four thousand brothers and sisters (probably since we bought her from a breeder).
Three years ago my wife Candice wanted to a hedgehog. Why, I do not know but I indulge her so I let her have one. There are many different types of hedgehogs. There are wild ones all over Europe that can get pretty large. The ones you see people keep as pets are a special breed called African Pygmy Hedgehogs. They are tiny and only live two to three years. Here is a picture of our Saffie (that was in a local newspaper in their 'summer of Wise County pets' article):
She was the size of a softball when rolled up (which is something they do to protect themselves). Hedgehogs have these spines on their back which are called quills and they are very sharp. If you try to pick them up (and they don't want you to) they will jerk, jabbing you. They will also huff loudly to warn you stay away. The quills only cover the upper half of the body. The underside is a kinda rough fur. When you handle them the part that is covered with quills feels like they are wearing a mat of spikes that sits on top of their skin. As if someone has wrapped them in a Brillo pad.
Hedgehogs are mammals and omnivores. Saffie ate this fancy cat food and sometimes meal worms (which are like not-so-gross maggots). In the wild they eat insects mostly.
Saffie had a lovely split container home with her house igloo and food bowl on one side and her running wheel and litter pan (aka Frisbee) in the other container. Hedgehogs are nocturnal so they will run all night on a wheel if you let them. When you look at them they have these little stubby legs but if you ever watch them run, they stretch out really far. Hedgehogs can haul ass when they want to. Their toenails will grow very long and it will make it difficult for them to run on their wheel so you have to keep them trimmed up.
Hedgehogs have one annoying feature; they will hibernate if they get too cold. When I say too cold I am talking about somewhere in the 70's. Candice had to 'revive' Saffie several times when the house got too cold. Basically the hedgehog's body temperature will drop and they will go to sleep (for months apparently). The only danger is starvation. All you have to do is warm her back up and *poof* she is as good as new. This meant we had to have a heater in the general vicinity of her cage all the time. We used to have her cage in our master bath so it was always in the 80's in there.
You can't really cuddle with hedgehogs but you can hold them and if they have the right temperament they will stay still and enjoy being petted (usually on the forehead since they have the quills).
Saffie was quite an interesting pet and we hope we provided her with a wonderful existence.