Hedgehogs gaining popularity as pets, but they’re not a fit for all

hedgehogsHedgehogs are growing more popular as pets, but some states include the prickly animals on their list of illegal exotic pets. Proponents of hedgehogs as pets say the animals are a good choice for people with allergies, and they can be handled as long as they’ve been socialized from a young age. However, opponents say owning a hedgehog does a disservice to the animals, which are nocturnal and may be forced to interact with owners when they should be sleeping. ABC News (2/25)

They’re cute, quiet and surprisingly controversial. One of the most popular pets trending across the United States is actually illegal in some cities and states.

They’re hedgehogs.

With their pointy noses and porcupine-like quills, the Lilliputian pets have seen a spike in popularity in recent years due in part to the prevalence of websites such as Cute Emergency and Instagram accounts like @biddythehedgehog that affectionately refer to them as “hedgies.”

But some say the exotic animals have no place being domesticated.

“There always are ethical and moral issues with keeping exotics,” Dave Salmoni of Animal Planet told ABC News. “In the case of hedgehogs, one of the big cons is that it is a nocturnal animal. So the pet owner either lets it sleep all day or takes it out of its enclosure to interact with it at a time in the day that the animal should be resting. Exotic animals as a general rule do not make great pets.”

New York City health code, for one, considers hedgehogs wild animals and therefore unsuitable to keep in the home. For similar reasons, some states, such as California and Maine, have also designated them illegal. Still, a permit can sometimes be obtained for educational purposes.

“Every state is different in how their laws are set up,” said Salmoni. “The laws and regulations also change often, so getting in touch with your local Fish and Game official may be a great place to start.

Another issue that can make hedgehogs tricky to domesticate is socializing them at an early age so that they are receptive to being held by humans.

“A socialized hedgehog will not mind being picked up and will lay its quills flat as a gesture of trust,” longtime Massachusetts-based hedgehog breeder Jill Warnick writes on her website. “If it does not unroll after a few seconds and begin exploring, this animal has probably not been socialized at a young enough age, and will probably not make a good pet.”

Those with sensitivities to dander from other animals may find that allergen-free hedgehogs can offer a cuddly pet alternative with relatively low maintenance. Just don’t expect to go on walks together.

“For people who want something that they can play with, a hedgehog is not for them because they don’t do much,” Amanda Munz told the New York Post, referring to her 3 1/2-year-old pet. “Gizmo cuddles and sleeps and that’s it.”

Salmoni put it more bluntly.

“If you can’t have a hedgehog, you can always bury a pin cushion in some wood chips,” he said. “Due to the hedgehog’s nocturnal behavior, you will get the same level of interaction. Otherwise, maybe a hamster might suit you.”

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