Pet hedgehogs are barking (mad)

The Daily Telegraph and Mail have both carried articles today about pet hedgehogs – in the name of quirky news they report that they are “stealing the hearts of rich women…ousting designer dogs like Chihuahuas from their handbags.”

So I was pleased that they have allowed me to rant a little …

It happens every year – cute photo makes story … and at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, we are hamstrung – not supposed to comment as our remit is  ‘British hedgehogs’ – and despite repeated arguments at board meetings, I have failed to get a substantial change in the way we address this. So the BHPS can put out a generally concerned response to all requests … luckily I speak (rant) independently – and will continue to do so!

And just as an aside – have you noticed that there are THREE hedgehog stories in the press at the moment. Not just the pet-farrago, but there is a story about a fat hedgehog in a rescue centre that needs to go on a diet (they had that story last year) and a report from Gardeners World showing yet more evidence of a decline in hedgehog numbers (a story that is very upsettingly repeated year on year). So – hedgehogs remain a massive draw for the media … which can only be a good thing for me!

5 thoughts on “Pet hedgehogs are barking (mad)

  1. At least the pet hedgehog in the US has been around for a while (I believe they were brought in during the late 70s or early 80s). They aren’t domesticated quite like dogs and cats, but are domesticated unlike snakes and spiders. Much of their socialization relies on good breeding and handling techniques.

    One reason I wanted a pet hedgehog was so I could be in care and contact with an animal that I wouldn’t have a chance to interact with otherwise. Through that experience I learned so much about these fascinating animals as I researched their natural history and behavior, and eventually fell in love with the whole family. If I had my own English garden, I tell you, all I would need are some tins of cat food and a hibernation house and then there’d be no need for an African pygmy hog in my house.

    It really is awful though, how there are fad-animals and fashion pets. All my videos on youtube support a pretty long disclaimer about the responsibilities of pets, that usually and unfortunately seem to fall on deaf ears. I’m considering taking some of my videos down due to all the comments and messages I have received from people who really want a hedgehog or just bought one without knowing how to care for it and are asking me, of all people: someone on youtube they don’t personally know, for advice!

    The rescue organization we adopted our guinea piggies from had similar concerns when the G-Force movie came out. Fad pets are an awful thing, and a lot of responsibility lies on the parents. Sadly most simply buy the pets to satiate and busy their children and don’t realize they will most likely need to take up care for the animals when their child becomes bored with it. Then again, most parents don’t realize that it’s their responsibility to teach their children how to properly care for the animal in the first place, and even an animal as seemingly as simple as a guinea pig actually has a lot of needs most people don’t attend to.

    One person I knew in high school had a parent that bought them a hedgehog when they were a child. As a child keeping it her room, she thought it made too much noise at night and couldn’t sleep. She put the cage in her closet, and promptly forgot about it for a week. You can guess the result. I was shocked they even told me this story at all, as if they found it amusing or anecdotal. The poor animal.

    Of course I could go on ranting for a long while about what parents do to avoid actually spending time with their kids and instead of taking them outside every once in a while. Something you seem to be doing right with your kids!

    As you can see, I am making an effort to read all of your blog posts one-by-one!

  2. A small continuation, the problem also can rely on the breeder.

    There are many breeders that are not quite as loony as a hedgehog “whisperer” and most will not adopt their hogs out to just anybody with a cage. Some breeders will focus on only breeding rare colors and making money and will even stoop as low as selling their stock to pet stores and mass-breeding to the point their hedgehogs are bitey and unsocialized (i.e. Hedgehogs by Vickie in Chicago). While others focus on the passion of raising animals, sharing their research, diets, care needs, trips, and trials with other breeders and carers to make sure all hedgehogs are being well cared for (i.e. most breeders on hedgehogworld dot com).

    It reminds me of this one tattoo parlor that was on my campus that can be used as a metaphor for good and bad hedgehog breeders (how odd). Some parlors will tattoo anyone, with anything, just to make a buck. The one I would trust for all my piercings (no tattoos yet) would refuse to tattoo people if they wanted a “dumb” tattoo. What was their idea of a dumb tattoo? Fraternity logos that they know you won’t care about anymore in 4 years, Japanese kanji when the person clearly doesn’t speak or read Japanese and simply think it ‘looks cool,’ etc. etc. They cared more about their reputation and their customers than specifically making money wherever they could.

    Of course everything in the world can be a double-edged sword. And I am finding way too much time during class to get sidetracked!

  3. Jess – thanks for your thoughts. I did meet many wonderful and responsible hedgehog pet keepers in the US. My big worry, and the reason why I am so keen to talk up the stranger extremes of that world, is that people in the UK would start to get hooked into it – and that would spell all sorts of chaos here – with wild European hedgehogs getting traded by unscrupulous dealers and also pets being discarded by their bored owners …

    and now it must be time for your first tattoo! A hedgehog I presume.

  4. To be brutally honest, I think I might be getting defensive since I’m afraid you might just lump me with all the other US pet hedgehog nuts since my start in hedgehog fandom began with a small pet that introduced me to the wonders of the Erinaceinae. But I swear I am not like them! We must all get our start somewhere, and there are really few options available to me in the New World. Think of my trek to England to see the wonderful Western European hog as similar to your trek to China to find Hugh’s hedgehog. It’s just rather unfortunate I never had a native species to get to know first and is something I am willing to go halfway across the globe for!

    Do agree, responsibility and regulations are key since many pet fads get out of hand and you unfortunately can’t put as much faith in all petowners as you’d like.

    My first tattoo has actually been pondered for quite some while to be scientifically accurate periodical cicada wings across my back shoulders. I think they are majestic, especially with the intricacies of the veins being on par with the beauties of butterfly wings without all the glitz and glam.

    Of course, a European hedgehog nestled in some fall leaves has been on my mind, but where to put it is the question!

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