Hedgehogs and cats – how do they generally respond to one another and fare in each other’s company? Can these both be kept as pets and left together? Here is all that you need to know!
So, do hedgehogs get along with cats? With a lot of time and patience, hedgehogs and cats can co-exist, but it is unlikely that they will ever form a strong bond due to their solitary natures. While cat attacks on hedgehogs are rare, cats are predatory animals, so they should never be left with a hedgehog unattended.
Hedgehogs have a big advantage over other small pets due to their incredible defense system.
However, as prey animals, they can still become stressed very quickly, which is detrimental to their welfare.
They need to keep themselves safe, after all.
Hedgehogs are therefore naturally wary of cats, and as such, introductions between these two species must be done very slowly and carefully.
Add this to the fact that both cats and hedgehogs are known for their stubborn independent natures, so it may take a while for your companions to get used to each other.
Add into the mix individual personalities and temperaments, and you soon realize that monitoring any interactions closely is essential!
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at the relationship between these two very different animals and how you may be able to keep them both as pets!
Can Hedgehogs And Cats Live Together?
Cats and hedgehogs can live together, but only if you take the appropriate precautions. Saying that you should NEVER leave both animals unattended in the same room, even if they appear to ‘like’ each other.
Cats are highly territorial and prey-driven, so you can never rule out the possibility of an attack.
Similarly, you should refrain from allowing your cat to sit and watch your hedgehog as this is stalking behavior, which could put your spiky friend under a lot of stress.
There are numerous domestic moggy breeds that have a relatively docile nature, so these are the cats that are more likely to accept a hedgehog in their home.
Hybrid breeds like Bengals have a much higher predatory drive which means that extra care and attention is needed when hedgehog and cat are in the same room.
Cats are actually fairly smart predators and will rarely attack something that has a defense mechanism as efficient as a hedgehogs’, and if they do, they probably won’t try again!
However, just the act of stalking or watching is enough to cause your hedgehog to experience a high level of stress.
Signs of stress to look out for include hiding away, twitching or shaking of the head, or even hissing.
It may be a little disappointing to hear, but the best course of action with these two animals is to keep them apart as much as possible and ensure your hedgehogs’ cage is placed somewhere that the cat cannot easily access.
Dogs, on the other hand, have become fully domesticated and love the attention of others.
In contrast, cats have retained most of their natural behaviors and are much more ‘self-sufficient.’
This means they are much more likely to resist the presence of a new roommate and view it as more of a plaything than a friend!
You must also consider that cats and hedgehogs communicate very differently in terms of their vocalizations and body postures, so even if they do accept each other, they won’t really understand each other.
This could lead to misinterpretations and potentially detrimental situations for either participant.
Are Cats A Danger To Hedgehogs?
Cats are generally a danger to hedgehogs, both in terms of how a hedgehog will perceive them and how a cat will respond to them in their presence.
Cats are naturally playful and curious predators, so, at the bare minimum, your kitty will probably be intrigued by the spiky new arrival, especially kittens.
However, this does depend on the personality of your cat.
Issues can arise when a cat decides to take the next step by intently stalking your hedgehog or attempting to bat it with a paw.
These behaviors may appear cute to us, but they are actually predatory, which can be frightening for a hedgehog.
For this reason, you must always ensure your hedgehog has access to hides that he can use when feeling threatened or nervous.
The main problem is hedgehogs are small animals that move in a very similar way to a mouse.
This alone can be enough to trigger your cat’s built-in instinct to hunt.
The good news is that cats are quick learners when it comes to a hedgehog’s defense system, so they will probably accept defeat once they discover the pain a hedgehog’s quills can cause!
Some predators successfully kill and eat hedgehogs, such as badgers, foxes, and weasels, even if the hedgehog is curled into a protective ball.
This is because these predators have long snouts, which allow them to bite at the hedgehog without getting spiked too badly; cats have short noses, so they are more likely to be harmed.
The secret to getting these two animals to live together amicably is through a very slow introduction process which should continue until you are certain both animals are comfortable in the presence of each other, and never forget that cats are predators at heart.
The truth is that we cannot say for certain how a cat would react to a hedgehog.
Although hedgehogs are becoming increasingly popular as pets, they are still relatively rare, so there is not much available data on how these animals get along.
It is really down to individual personalities and temperaments.
In 2019, an unusual story broke out surrounding the miraculous survival of eight orphaned hoglets at a zoo in Vladivostok, Russia.
After their mother was tragically killed in a lawnmower accident, the staff at Sadgorod Zoo tried to bottle feed the tiny hoglets with very little success.
That is until they were introduced to Muska, a cat who had recently raised a litter of foster kittens.
To everyone’s surprise, the kind-natured moggy accepted the brood right away and was able to successfully nurse them for over a week until they were old enough to eat on their own.
Even after the nursing stage was over, Muska continued to keep an eye on her spiky young as any mother would do.
This incredible story shows that it is possible for cats and hedgehogs to get along.
However, incidents like these are the exception rather than the rule.
Are Hedgehogs Afraid Of Cats?
Hedgehogs do not like cats and are naturally very wary of them. Thankfully, an adult hedgehogs’ quills are normally sufficient enough to fend off an attack from an over-eager cat.
Adult hedgehogs can be surprisingly feisty and have been known to run at a cat when being attacked!
This is usually enough to make a cat-back off.
However, hoglets are much more vulnerable.
And at the same time, there is still the issue of the intense stress that can be placed on a captive hedgehog when it is being watched by a predatory cat.
As an owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that all of your pets are comfortable and relaxed in their surroundings, and allowing a cat to stalk a pet hedgehog will impede on your hedgehog’s welfare considerably.
Especially if the behavior is performed regularly over a period of time.
Long-term stress can negatively affect your hedgehog’s physical health, so it is important to monitor all interactions.
Symptoms of long-term stress include decreased activity, excessive sleeping in the evening (hedgehogs are nocturnal), and quills falling out.
If you are concerned, it is always best to seek the advice of an exotics vet but be sure to do your research, as not all vets are well-versed in hedgehog health!
The reaction of a hedgehog to your cat will vary depending on the temperament of your hedgehog and the number of other stressful factors in its’ environment.
For example, if a hedgehog has been kept in the same home for a long time and has built a bond with its’ owner, it is more likely to be confident enough to be assertive.
However, if a hedgehog has recently been introduced to a new environment or is surrounding by noise i.e., a busy family household, then it will already be under stress and so more likely to run and hide.
Can My Cat Catch Anything From A Hedgehog?
Hedgehog fleas are species-specific, which means they are incapable of living on a different host for long. Therefore, your cat is relatively safe. Saying that, other, more generic flea species can live on your hedgehog, too, so it is always best to take precautions wherever possible.
Hedgehogs are famous for being ‘disease magnets’ and can carry a multitude of pathogens and parasites, from fleas and mites to Mange and ringworm.
And they can actually carry hundreds of fleas at any one time without any ill effect, which even led to a popular myth that hedgehogs would die without them!
This has since been proven false; however, there is now speculation that fleas could have other benefits for hedgehogs, such as increased immunity.
Even though fleas are not a significant issue, there are a number of other things that can be passed from hedgehog to cat, including ringworm (which can also be passed to humans too!)
This is why good hygiene is so important after handling your hedgehog.
The most obvious signs to look out for in your cat are patches of hair loss, redness of the skin, and intense scratching.
Ticks can also be passed onto your cat; however, they do not jump between hosts like fleas do.
Ticks feed off a host by digging their mouths into the skin and sucking up blood.
As horrific as it sounds, tick bites are not as painful as flea bites and do not cause the intense scratching that is associated with fleas.
Still, they are not a nice parasite to have.
Once they are full, ticks will drop off their host and keep themselves alive in damp areas until a new host brushes past them and picks them up.
The main danger with ticks is that they can easily spread diseases from host to host, which can be extremely debilitating.
The main disease they carry is Lymes disease which causes loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, lameness, and even breathing difficulties.
You must be careful and thorough when removing ticks and ensure that the mouthparts have been removed, as they can cause an infection or an abscess if they are left behind in the skin.
If you are unsure of how to do this, you can seek the advice of a vet.
Best Practices For Owning Both A Hedgehog And A Cat As Pets
The process of introducing a cat to a hedgehog is actually very similar to introducing a cat to another cat.
The key here is to move forward very slowly.
To begin with, you should keep the animals in separate rooms and just let them get used to the fact that a new smell is in their territory.
You can do this by rubbing each animal’s scent onto a towel or toy and place it near the other animal to investigate.
Only move onto the next stage when both animals appear comfortable with each other’s scent.
The next stage is to allow both animals to see each other but not touch.
There are several ways you can do this; you can either place them both in carry cages, or you can place a type of see-through barrier between them like Perspex or glass.
During this stage, you must allow room for either animal to escape, or at least ensure they are several meters between them.
Every animal is different, so it is difficult to say how each animal will react, but the most important thing is to remove them from the situation if any signs of high stress are exhibited.
If your animals are in carry cages, you can start bringing them closer to each other in stages – do not rush this, though!
If there is a transparent barrier, then perhaps try getting the animals to swap rooms and see their reactions.
Offering treats during this time can also assist the process but be aware that your animals may not accept them if they are on high alert.
Only once both cat and hedgehog appear calm, can you try a session with no barriers – you MUST watch both animals closely and do not allow any predatory behaviors to be displayed by your cat.
If it does happen, you will need to go back a couple of steps and separate them again.
It is essential to recognize that this whole process can take weeks or even months.
Still, if you are committed, then you will hopefully get a positive result at the end of it.
Do not ever leave your cat and hedgehog unattended in a room for any reason, though, as a cat’s predatory instinct could kick in at any time.
Hedgehogs and cats do not generally do too well together.
One is a prey animal by nature; the other is a keen and avid hunter of smaller animals and prey.
You likely know which one is which.
That being said, there are certainly cases and anecdotes of these two animals getting along.
But this is the exception rather than the norm.
Interactions often need to be carefully monitored and controlled.
The truth is if you are looking to own both as pets, it’s generally best to keep them away from one another.
Separate spaces and separate interactions with them.
Cats meeting wild hedgehogs, on the other hand, whether you can even control it – well, that’s a topic for another time.