Physical Characteristics | Behavior Characteristics | Socialization | Gender Difference

Behavior Characteristics


  • This unique hedgehog activity is made possible by the orbicularis muscle, which runs along the edges of their body (Smith).
  • When the hedgehog is frightened it tightens this muscle, ­­ that acts like a drawstring, and it enables the hedgehog to hide its head, belly, feet and legs in a prickly coat of erect spines.
  • When hedgehogs are nervous, a balled up hedgehog also may snuffle, huffle or snort.


  • One of the most curious and unique of all hedgehog behaviors is the practice of self-anointing.
  • Hedgehogs can self-anoint at a very early age even before their eyes are fully opened.
  • The first sign that a hedgehog is going to self-anoint is they will show a fascination with a particular odor or taste.
  • They will lick or chew the object of interest and create foamy saliva that they will then deposit on various parts of its body.
  • You may see your hedgehog twist and contort in a variety of funny positions as they spread this foamy saliva on their body.
  • Hedgehogs that anoint frequently or that anoint with a particularly colorful or smelly substance may need a bath. 
  • The reasons hedgehogs self-anoint are still unknown, but it is usually related to a new or pleasant smell.
  • Some believe anointing is as a form of scent camouflage designed to cover up their own sent with the new scent in the environment.
  • Others believe the hedgehogs like the scent so well they want it on their body similar to our “perfume.”
  • Hedgehogs are resistant to many toxins and one theory is that hedgehogs spread toxins on their quills as added protection. 
  • Leather and garlic are likely to evoke self-anointing (
  • Male hedgehogs are believed to anoint more frequently than females (
  • Some references refer to self anointing as “anting” (Smith).


  • Any animal with teeth CAN bite.  The only pets we are aware of that never bite are millipedes, goldfish, and earth worms (yes, there are people who raise worms for fun!).
  • Hedgehogs are not typically biters, and their main line of defense is to curl themselves into a ball.
  • We don’t want to make you fearful of a hedgehog bite but we do want to make you aware that it can happen, what to do, and how to understand your hedgehog’s biting.
  • Hedgehogs can nip if they don’t recognize your scent or if they are nervous.
  • They also may use biting as a form of communication since they have limited vocalization skills.  Hedgies will use biting as a way to express their needs, frustrations, feelings, or desires.
  • Biting may start when they are quilling as a means to express their discomfort.
  • Some hedgehogs can be provoked by waking them up too early or by trimming their nails.
  • Other hedgehogs only bite certain people or if their owners have been gone for a period of time.  This type of biting is hedgie frustration or pouting.

Elimination Habits

  • Hedgehogs normally have to go to the bathroom within 20 minutes of waking so it is a good idea to have a litter box or paper towel handy at the beginning of playtime.
  • Young hedgehogs are especially prone to pooping on you, but they typically get better as they get older.
  • Many hedgehog enthusiasts joke that poop is a hedgie gift.  When your hedgehog is not scared of you and gives you a little gift, you can rest assured you have made a friend!

Scent Marking

  • Hedgehogs do not scent mark like other animals.
  • They do self-anoint as described earlier.

Climbing and Agility

  • Hedgehogs will attempt to climb and are often quite adept at climbing up, but their body is not designed for such a task. 
  • Hedgehogs’ paws are designed for walking similar to our feet and not built for climbing or holding on to things like our hands.  Therefore, their descent from a climb is not graceful at all and in fact can cause serious injury.
  • Their body mass is not proportioned for climbing.  Squirrels, monkeys, and other things that climb tend to have long and narrow bodies rather than short and round.
  • Hedgehogs’ limbs do not have the strength to support their round body mass when climbing, and gravity naturally works against them.
  • Hedgehogs will typically roll into a ball when making a descent from various heights.
  • The spines absorb much of the shock from the fall, but the hedgehog can still get injured.
  • We suggest a cage with a secure lock or a cage with slippery sides tall enough to prevent climbing and escape.
  • Hedgehogs will not jump from your hands like a mouse or other animal but they will walk right off your hands.
  • Hedgehogs have little depth perception, so they may fall or walk off of ledges that are too high and their spines can actually injure them internally.


  • Hedgehogs often scratch a bit when they first wake.  One might compare this scratching to fluffing out a “bed head” hairdo.
  • Some hedgehogs scratch when nervous or exploring.
  • Quilling also will cause scratching because it appears to be uncomfortable when the new spines are working their way through the skin.
  • Dry or dirty skin also might cause scratching.  A good bath should help this problem.
  • Mites are the first thing people typically think of when they see their hedgie scratching, but more signs of mites will most likely be present other than just an occasional itch.

Hibernation and Estivation

  • Hedgehogs hibernate in the wild when the temperature becomes too cold.
  • Hedgehogs in captivity also can go into periods of hibernation, which is very dangerous for your pet.
  • Hedgehogs in the wild may go into a dormant period of activity called estivation when the weather is too hot and dry in the summer.  Captive bred hedgehogs should not go through estivation.
  • In the wild, hedgehogs live from their fat reserves during hibernation and estivation.
  • Hedgehogs living in captivity should be kept in a controlled environment to prevent hibernation or estivation.
  • Our Hibernation and Estivation guide goes into more detail about how to notice signs of hibernation and what to do.


  • Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal in nature.
  • Their senses are adapted to work best at night (
  • Some hedgehogs may exhibit crepuscular activity, meaning they are active in early morning and early evening.
  • You may think your hedgehog sleeps all the time, but most likely it is active when you are not!
  • Baby hedgehogs sleep quite a bit, and they have a tendency to sleep more after the stress and unusual activity of going to a new home.
  • Hedgehogs may be gradually become acclimated to daytime activity through routine handling and feeding earlier in the day.


  • Hedgehogs sleep during the day in any dark place they can find.
  • In the wild, they may hide in vacated burrows from other animals, under rocks, or in thick vegetation, but they typically dig a shallow burrow of their own under some form of cover.
  • They enter and exit their burrows headfirst so the burrows or hiding places must be large enough for the hedgehog to turn around.
  • In captivity, hedgehogs still enjoy burrowing and if a hedgehog escapes it will hide in any dark quiet place it can find.
  • Ideally, the hedgehog’s cage is large enough to provide an igloo or other object in which they can hide.  This not only provides hedgehogs with environmental enrichment but with a better sense of security as well.


  • Hedgehogs are normally solitary in the wild, only coming together for breeding and some available information will indicate that hedgehogs should be kept solitary as pets.
  • However, some captive bred female hedgehogs may prefer and even crave companionship and will go to great lengths to be with another hedgehog.
  • Young hedgehogs often prefer to sleep together and do better after the weaning process if they are kept in small groups rather than housed individually.
  • Females that are raised together have shown some bonding tendencies, but it is not absolutely necessary to purchase multiples for companionship.
  • It is best not to house male hedgehogs together because they may start fighting at the onset of sexual maturity.
  • Hedgehog fights may be quite loud, or their quarreling could go unnoticed until one is injured.
  • Raising females together can be a positive experience for both hedgies but one must also be prepared to separate them should trouble arise.