Physical Characteristics | Behavior Characteristics | Socialization | Gender Differences

Gender Differerences

Physical Gender Differences  

  • Male hedgehogs are called boars. Their penis is retracted within a penile sheath that is located in the mid-abdominal region of the hedgehog.  The external portion of the sheath most closely resembles a belly button.  The testicles are located in the abdomen and are generally not seen.
  • Female hedgehogs are called sows, and their vulva and anus are very close in proximity to each other.  They have five pairs of mammae or teats.
  • Male and female hedgehogs should be housed separately from the time of weaning and should only be allowed contact for breeding purposes. 
  • Hedgehogs can breed as early as 8 weeks.  Breeding at this age can be very dangerous for the female and is highly discouraged by most breeders.
  • Male hedgehogs can get bedding or other material inside its penile sheath.  You will need to check this area daily to make sure there is not blockage or irritation.  Most irritations can be freed during a normal bath but if a problem persists then a trip to the veterinarian will be necessary.
  • There are no odor differences between males and females.
  • Neither males nor females scent mark.
  • Females do not have obvious menstrual cycles.

Temperament Gender Differences  

  • I, and a majority of hedgehog owners and/or breeders, do not believe there are major temperament differences between males and females.
  • Females cohabitate better than males. We have seen signs that some of our female hedgehogs prefer to have a cage mate, but it is not absolutely necessary in most cases.
  • Males can self-stimulate, but this practice is not typically a complaint of male hedgehog owners.

Cohabitation and Gender Differences  

  • It is common knowledge that hedgehogs are solitary creatures in the wild.
  • However, we have found through our own experience, research, and customer feedback that some hedgehogs actually do quite well together.
  • Baby hedgehogs, especially females, cohabite quite well throughout their life.
  • Female hedgehogs have a tendency to cohabitate better than males because they do not have the testosterone and risk of aggression during their sexual prime. 
  • Males that are raised together and are never exposed to females may also cohabitate nicely.
  • All cohabitation should be monitored throughout the hedgehog’s life and one should be prepared to separate the hedgehogs if signs of dominance develop.
  • Adult males, not raised together, and/or exposed to females have the greatest risk for fighting and are not recommended for cohabitation.
  • We have seen signs that some of our female hedgehogs prefer to have a cage mate, but it is not absolutely necessary in most cases.

Gender Differences and Health Care  


  • Male and female hedgehogs obviously have different reproductive and urinary tract systems and their main health care concerns are related to these differences.
  • A male’s penis is contained in the penile sheath and is only exposed during urination, breeding, and on occasion self-stimulation.
  • Hedgehogs are relatively low to the ground therefore their extended penis is even closer to the ground.  There is a chance that bedding can stick to the extended penis and be drawn up into the penile sheath.  One can be certain that this problem is both irritating to the hedgehog as well as a potential for infection or other damage.
  • Good bedding choices and daily monitoring of your hedgehog dramatically reduce the incidence of serious problems.
  • The first sign of irritation is redness and/or swelling.  A bath and gentle cleansing of the area may be sufficient treatment. 
  • Veterinary care may be required for more serious irritations.


  • A female hedgehog’s urinary and reproductive systems and the associated problems appear to be closely related.
  • Again, a female hedgehog is close to the ground which most likely contributes to the potential of urinary and reproductive tract issues.
  • One obvious indication of a urinary tract infection is visible blood in the stool.  Change in eating, elimination habits, and general decline in health are also potential signs of a problem.
  • Female hedgehogs are induced ovulators, meaning their reproductive cycle is stimulated by the presence of a male rather than cyclic ovulators like humans.
  • Some hedgehog owners and breeders believe that having a male and female in the same household without breeding the female increases the risk of uterine cancers.
  • On the other hand, breeding drastically increases the risks of problems during pregnancy, birth, and post natal care.
  • Some veterinarians recommend preventative spaying of females.  However, there are risks with every invasive procedure and use of anesthesia.  Proactive spaying is not yet widespread among owners of female hedgehogs and is not recommended by all veterinarians. 
  • At this point in time no studies have been done showing the advantages and disadvantages of preventative spaying.  Since veterinarians tend to only see hedgehogs with problems it is hard to get a good idea of what percentage of female hedgehogs in the pet population actually need spaying.
  • Most veterinarians and breeders DO recommend spaying at the first sign of urinary or reproductive issues.  It is much easier to treat a small problem than try to fix a larger problem later on.


  • It is our experience that neither males nor females make a better pet.
  • We suggest finding an experienced veterinarian in your area and consulting with them if you have any concerns regarding owning a female.  Having a good relationship with a veterinarian is not only beneficial before buying your pet and for routine care, but will be critical when dealing with a pet that needs emergency care.
  • On many occasions we have had customers come for one baby hedgehog and after handling several decide that they would like to go home with two.
  • We typically show them females if a customer does not have a gender preference for this reason.