Hedgehogs as housepets? Hedgehog breeder and trainer Jennifer Crespo, of Gardner, Mass., holds "Circus," a one-year-old pet hedgehog
Hedgehogs as housepets?
Lexile

They are tiny animals with cute faces. They're covered in quills. They roll into prickly balls when they are scared. The ideal pet?

Hedgehogs are steadily growing in popularity across the United States, despite laws in at least six states banning or restricting them as pets.

Breeders say the trend is partly fueled by the fact that hedgehogs require less maintenance than dogs and cats. They emit little odor in sharp contrast with rodents and rabbits. They are largely hypoallergenic and are solitary, making them ideal for those with a busy lifestyle.

"A hedgehog can hang out all day while you are at work, you can come home, hang out with it for a couple of hours or . you know, put it away," said hedgehog breeder Jennifer Crespo.

Crespo's 4-year-old son, Wyatt, sat on the sofa in their home recently. His arm was wrapped around the neck of a German shepherd named Ares while an African pygmy hedgehog named Jambalaya clambered across his legs.

The attraction to the animals may have started with a video game "Sonic" is a blue hedgehog who runs at supersonic speeds and curls into a ball to attack its enemies but it has grown through people sharing pictures of their pets on social media and elsewhere online.

An Instagram account set up by the owners of a hedgehog named Biddy in Oregon has nearly 370,000 followers. National Geographic Magazine put a hedgehog on the cover of its April edition to illustrate a trend of people owning exotic animals.

Jill Warnick, a breeder in Brookline, Massachusetts, says demand for hedgehogs has grown so much over the years that potential pet owners have to fill out an application form and then wait for their turn to buy them.

"When I first started I might have a waiting list of five people," Warnick said, as hedgehogs slept in hiding spots installed in their cages. "Well, 19 years later, I have a waiting list of 500 people."

Breeders typically begin holding hedgehog offspring in their hands for a short time each day beginning a few days after their birth, in an effort to get them accustomed to humans. That helps make pet hedgehogs bond with their owners, said Warnick, who has sold about 350 hedgehogs.

The animals are banned in six states and Washington, D.C., for reasons ranging from being nonnative species to concerns that they could set up a wild population.

Hedgehogs can also shed the salmonella bacterium, which represents a health risk to young children and older people with weakened immune systems.

Pet owners can minimize that risk by washing their hands immediately after handling hedgehogs, cleaning their cages or feeding them, said Sarah McCormack, a veterinarian at Fresh Pond Animal Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Critical thinking challenge: What is making hedgehogs popular?

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COMMENTS (36)
  • 2AlexL
    6/04/2014 - 09:41 a.m.

    Whether or not a hedgehog would make a good pet is determined by your personality and regular everyday life. Though they are growing in popularity there isn't a lot you can do with them. For people who would like a pet that you can play more with, the hedge hog may not be the best option. Although if you are a busy person who isn't home a lot during the day a hedgehog may be a good option. They don't need a lot of attention. You can leave them at home for the day and they'll be fine on their own. They are also very odor free unlike many other rodents such as rabbits.

  • 2JacobA
    6/04/2014 - 09:44 a.m.

    It sounds as if these hedgehogs would make the ideal pet. apperentally they have little to no odor ver hardy and can be left alone with little to no maitnence. They also are very cute and what i have gathered from the text are docile and freindly. I would defidently like to check into getting one for myself. unfortuanlly it siounds like theres quite the waiting list, due to the popularity in theses new pets. And i can see why. They are cute, and low maitnence, the ideal pet.

  • n.m.11blue
    6/04/2014 - 01:04 p.m.

    Hedgehogs are extremely adorable and I would ove to have one as a pet. They seem so innocent and harmless and they don't seem to cause danger to anyone. I think their so popular because of how they look.

  • KALIANAM-ZDE
    6/04/2014 - 02:34 p.m.

    Hedgehogs are one of the most adorable pets to own and it is easy to see why the demand for them is increasing. They are great for busy people who don't have time for constant care over an animal. They do, although, seem a bit too tame and boring, because they aren't pets you could run around and play with.

  • MAREENAR-ZDE
    6/04/2014 - 03:46 p.m.

    There not common pets so it makes them more exotic in a way. And there cute so people are like ohh thats so cute i should have it as a pet. well people dont realize that they are covered in spines.

  • JACKELINEC-ZDE
    6/04/2014 - 07:04 p.m.

    Hedgehogs are probably so popular at the moment because they are exotic. Since it is exotic it may seem to be more special than animals such as dogs that can be seen everywhere rather than a hedgehog that is rarely seen. The characteristics it has such as being hypoallergenic and not needing to be tended so often makes it an ideal pet. At the same time these animals shouldn't be cooped up in a house all day. They should be able to live freely like they are meant to be.

  • 9BrodyW
    6/04/2014 - 08:06 p.m.

    I think that it is really cool that you are able to own hedgehogs. Ir is very nice to find that their popularity is increasing. They don't really take up that much space, and can spend plenty of time alone. I would not be able to won one, considering I have cats. They probably are not all that hard to take care of. You just have to keep them indoors.

  • KAYLIEC-ZDE
    6/04/2014 - 09:10 p.m.

    Although hedgehogs look adorable, I do not think that they are the right pet for just anyone. I had a friend who had to give hers away because they are a huge responsibility. They smell really bad to so people should really consider if a hedgehog is the pet for you before getting one.

  • CHRISTOPHERQ-ZDE
    6/04/2014 - 09:22 p.m.

    It's a very adorable pet and the growing popularity seems to be reasonable. The only downfall is the salmonella bacterium that they could shed, but if could be contained would make not too many reasons to not own a hedgehog. They're very good for people with a busy schedule and that will attract many people of this era.

  • NIKKIS-ZDE
    6/04/2014 - 10:00 p.m.

    Hedgehogs are so cute! despite the dangers of getting stabbed, hedgehogs seem to be the perfect pet! its a little out there, owning a hedgehog, but seems pretty cool. there is probably a concern for safety, but maybe people just want this cute little critter, simply because hes cute, and have no intention on interacting with it what so ever .

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