Eddie W. Hedgehog died on Sunday, May 20, 2012 between the hours of 11:00am and 3:00pm. He was up the night before eating and wheeling as usual. I noticed that he did not eat all his food by morning but heard him hiss at me when I checked in on him. When I returned home in the afternoon he had crawled out of his igloo and passed on. Wow, I can’t tell you how sad I am. Ok, he was not a cuddly pet. He was not one that I even held often because I wanted him to stay his snarky self to show children and adults how hedgehogs curl themselves into a tight spiny ball for protection. But Eddie had a special place in my heart.
I acquired Eddie on March 14, 2011 from a gal who could not keep him any longer. She thought he was about 2 years old. She said he was friendly and liked being held but I found that he was not fond of me. He was healthy, but overweight weighing a good 1 pound. Now for a 5-6 inch animal, a pound is a lot! So, I put him on measured food instead of “free form” and slowly over 6 months he lost several ounces. He adjusted to living with a male roommate and then another in October.
People love hedgehogs and want them as a pet only to realize they are not great pets. They have changed little in over 15 million years. They are solitary animals that forage for food at night. They get together with the opposite sex only to breed. Their defense mechanism is rolling up into a spiny ball to discourage predators from eating them. Strong stomach muscles help pull them into that ball and muscles at the base of each spine allows the hairs to go in different directions like a pin cushion. In captivity, they need a solid exercise wheel. A wheel that is open mesh, like for hamsters, is not good for a hedgehog because of their small feet and they don’t have the grasping capabilities like a hamster. As they wheel on and off during the night, they deficate in the wheel making a smelly mess by morning. So, their wheel needs to be washed daily. On occasion, the hedgehog will need a bath too from the feces collected on their feet or in their spiny hairs. One reason they just don’t make great pets.
If you get a hedgie when it has been weaned at 6 weeks old, then you will be able to handle it often and get it to trust you, so it doesn’t roll into a ball. Then it makes for a better pet but you have to talk and hold your pet daily. I prefer to have my hedgehogs roll into their ball for educational purposes. I will however talk to them and they therefore know my voice. I don’t think they have the intelligence for feelings and seek companionship from you like other pets. Most hedgehogs are passed from one owner to the next which make them anti-social.
Everyone loved Eddie. They loved how he would stick his face out when I tickled the back of his head. I don’t have but a few photos of him because it was difficult to take a photo while holding him. I tried to take one through his tank glass but it was fuzzy.
Eddie started losing too much weight by February of 2012 which alarmed me. He was down to about 11 ounces. That’s 5 ounces in almost a year. I knew he would be turning 3 years old in March, but had hoped he would surprise me by living past 4. I removed him from life with Pinto and Spike, his roommates, and placed him in his own cage. I tripled his food and took away his exercise wheel allowing him to wheel once weekly. Eddie was obsessive when it came to wheeling. He was on it more than the others, which is why they gained weight. This way, I could see if he was getting his portion of food. His weight was up and down the last few months but I guess age just caught up with him. When it’s your time, it’s your time. He was at 11.5 ounces when he passed. After examination, I found that he had quite a few teeth missing which is what I suspected when he would tip over his dry food dish when I had first put him alone in March. I would give him wet cat food, crickets and mealworms which were easier to chew.
From experience working at a zoo and raising hedgehogs for the last 10 years, I know that they can die young from wobbly hedgehog syndrome, from cancer, from unknown causes or just from age. I’ve only known one hedgehog (at the zoo) to have surpass age 3 and I think he was at least 6 and also an excellent breeder. He must have had good genes or just good luck.
Eddie will be missed. His last educational programs were May 3rd and May 10th at the Pember Museum educating children on African species. They sent me a couple good photos of him upon request to post here on his memorial page. They were taken by a wonderful teacher Anne Corrigan.