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Should I Get a Friend for my Hedgehog?

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Pokey - African Pygmy Hedgehog

Pokey - African Pygmy Hedgehog

Photo © Julie
Question: Should I Get a Friend for my Hedgehog?
African pygmy hedgehogs have long been considered solitary, but some owners have found they can get along under some circumstances and have written about their experince online. This leads to the question of whether hedgehogs should have the company of other hedgehogs.
Answer: Hedgehogs do not seem to crave the companionship of other hedgehogs, so it is fine to keep a single hedgehog. In fact, if hedgehogs do not get along, they will fight, somtimes inflicting serious damage to one another. For these reasons, it is generally best to stick with one hedgehog per cage.

Historically, african pygmy hedgehogs were considered solitary and the recommendation was to always house pet hedgehogs singly (one to a cage). Some people have found that they will sometimes accept companions (usually females kept together), though there is no guarantee that a hedgehog will accept a cage mate, and introductions must be made with caution. If this is something an owner is considering, there are several factors to keep in mind:

  • If you wish to try keeping multiple hedgehogs together, stick with females. Females are more likely to accept other females (though not tguaranteed), but males are not as likely to accept another male (due to competition for dominance). A young hedgehog can sometimes be paired with an older hedgehog. Of course, male-female pairings are to be avoided except by committed breeders).
  • Make sure they have lots of space. Cramped cages or any competition for food or other resources (toys, best sleeping spots, etc.) are likely to lead to sqabbles.
  • Introduce hedgehogs slowly. You'll need to at least have a temporary cage for the second hedgehog until you are sure they can get along. Put their cages side by side, so they get used to one another (you could even try swapping a bit of bedding or litter back and forth between the cages to get them used to one anothers scents).
  • Arrange a few meetings on neutral territory (e.g. out of their cages) to get an idea of how they will get along. Once you are sure they will tolerate each other, you can try them in a cage together.
  • Once you have put them together, keep a close eye on things for a few days. Snuffling and mild nudging is okay; more serious fights mean separation is in order. Fighting can be serious, even fatal, so watch for signs of escalating aggression.
  • Be prepared to house them separately if things don't work out.
Interestingly, som owners report that hedgehogs that have lived harmoniously with other hedgehogs may show signs of depression if separation becomes necessary.

So, while hedgehogs can live together under some circumstances, African pygmy hedgehogs will also be fine if kept singly; don't feel you have to get an African pygmy hedgehog a companion.

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