What are Hedgehogs?
**For a brief intro to hedgehogs check out this video**
African Pygmy Hedgehogs, called such due to their small size even though they are not pygmy animals, originated in Africa. Pet hedgehogs kept in the US is a hybrid of two different species: the Algerian Hedgehog and the White-Bellied Hedgehog, and are usually fairly small, slightly smaller than a guinea pig.
Hedgehogs look similar to rodents, but are actually insectivores. They have a soft fine fur on their faces and bellies with their backs covered by quills or spines that lie flat (like hair) when they are relaxed. When feeling threatened a hedgehog can tense the intricate muscles of its back which causes the spines to rise up in various directions so that they are held-fast and noticeably sharp. They are able to roll into a complete, tight ball as protection against predators. Hedgehogs shed both fur and quills (much like a dog), but cannot eject quills at will and the quills will not come out if you happen to get pricked.
Wild hedgehogs are not social animals. They do not live in groups, but instead explore and forage food materials on their own. They are quite independent little critters that enjoy exploring and foraging. Domesticated hedgehogs can be grouped together (females, usually if raised together). It is not recommended to house two males together as they will bicker, unless they were raised together from a young age.
Hedgehogs are excellent pets for individuals or families who don't need an animals to constantly be paying attention to them. Most of the entertainment hedgehogs provide is just by watching their curiosity get the best of them. While many of hedgehogs are interactive and playful with their owners, most are more content to entertain themselves with small cat toys or running in their wheels.
Anointing is a common practice for many animals, although not many anoint themselves. Self-Anointing involves the hedgehog producing foam after licking or chewing on something that is interesting to it, and then twisting itself to lick the foam onto its quills. This is a natural behavior, and does occur fairly often.
Hedgehogs really do make great pets with their ability to entertain themselves and those watching as well as the somewhat less intense level of care required (when compared to other exotics). They are ideal family pets, pets for individuals, educational class-room pets, and fascinating, wonderful additions to your family.