Most of the time you will see a hedgehog on their own in the wild. As pets, we are often advised to only get one. Naturally, it leads us to question whether these small mammals get lonely? Do they need companions or the company of others to truly thrive? We explain all here today.
So, do hedgehogs get lonely? Adult hedgehogs do not generally get lonely; they are solitary animals by nature, much preferring to live alone. However, baby hoglets can suffer separation distress if removed from the litter while still too young. Hoglets also typically need the company of others in the litter.
Baby hoglets are naturally quite defenseless.
In some ways, they are pretty hopeless.
It makes sense that they feel much safer in numbers.
But when hedgehogs reach the 6-8 week mark, they are more than ready to go their separate ways.
And the single life begins.
Besides, a group of hedgehogs is a relatively rare sight in the wild.
But do they truly thrive this way?
Do they need some level of interaction for their emotional wellbeing?
What about as pets; does it differ between wild hedgehogs and those kept in captivity.
Let us now explore the topic much further to find out!
Do Hedgehogs Need A Companion?
Hedgehogs do not generally need another hedgehog for companionship; they do very well on their own, and much prefer life this way.
For this reason, if you are looking to keep a hedgehog as a pet, it is more than fine (if not advised) to keep them alone.
At the same time, hedgehogs are not particularly fond of or keen to be in the presence of humans.
Besides, we are a much larger, imposing, and potential threat to their safety after all.
So it certainly takes time and careful interaction for them to gain trust and confidence in their owners.
Many owners often report that it takes considerable time and effort to get to the point where they can hold their hedgehog. They generally do not tolerate it.
Added to the fact that their spines (quills) are a defense mechanism and spike up when they feel threatened or in danger.
Plus, they are known to salivate on their bodies too to ward of predators or any handling.
Rolling into a tight ball is another behavior they resort to as well.
And any owner of a pet hedgehog must be aware of their particular needs.
They are nocturnal after all, going about their business in the darkness of the night.
So, all in all, companionship is not something these mammals are particularly fond of or need.
Either from another hedgehog or a human!
Keeping themselves safe is their utmost priority.
And it appears that a solitary life is the best chance, of such.
Can Hedgehogs Live In Pairs?
Hedgehogs may be able to live in pairs, but it is essential to consider that this is not a natural state for them in the wild. Getting hedgehogs to live together would require careful consideration of the sex, slow introductions, and strategic planning.
We know now that hedgehogs do not require companionship from others.
But it actually goes a step further than this, if hedgehogs do not get along well – they have been known to fight.
And they can yield quite a fair bit of damage to one another.
This is why it is generally advised to house a hedgehog on their own.
That being said, hedgehogs do sometimes accept another companion. If the conditions are right.
But what are these conditions, you may be wondering?
Well, its starts with the sex of the paired hedgehogs.
Females are typically much more accepting of one another than two males.
Two males will likely compete for dominance, and that is when things can get ugly.
Then again, not all females will accept one another. There is an element of context and personality to consider here too.
A male and a female is generally a no-no, too – unless you are looking to breed your hedgehogs.
Then there are ages to consider.
A young hedgehog is much more likely to pair well with an older hedgehog than two of the same age.
Nevertheless, even if you were able to pair hedgehogs together – you will need to do it slowly.
And it is advised to quarantine a new hedgehog when you first get them.
Because hedgehogs are known to carry quite a few diseases.
And you do not want your new hedgehog to pass this onto your existing one.
So, separate cages in separate rooms are advised.
In time, you can look to place the cages next to one another – this way, the hedgehogs, can meet while still being separated and kept at a safe distance.
If and when you do want to make an introduction – you’ll need to do so carefully.
It is advised to do so away from the cages at first, say in an enclosed playpen on the floor where you can intervene if required (but be careful of course – you do not want to get accidentally harmed).
After a few interactions and positive meetings, you can try placing them in a cage together.
And you’ll need to ensure that the cage is sufficiently large with plenty of space. Multiple food bowls, plenty of toys – you do not want any fighting for resources!
Be sure to keep an eye on them – especially in the first few days of being in the same enclosure.
Listen out for shrieks; look for signs of aggression.
If you do notice these, you should separate them at the earliest opportunity.
And remember, be willing and able to keep them apart permanently if things do not go to plan.
Whether you do want to pair hedgehogs is ultimately a decision you have to make.
It’s not required nor necessary, however.
Can Hedgehogs Be Left Alone?
Pet hedgehogs can be left alone, but never for an extended period of time. While they are solitary and do not have the need for your companionship, they are reliant on you to meet their needs for food and water. This is why you should never leave them alone for too long.
Of course, wild hedgehogs are a different matter altogether.
So long as they are not enclosed or trapped, they will go about their business as and when required.
Even if you did leave out a bowl of cat food for them here and there.
But back to pets.
Like most other pets, they should never be left for too long.
You need to be able to check that they have access to food and are generally healthy and well.
If not, you may need to take them, or at the very least, contact a vet.
And being away does not simply allow for this.
Remember, hedgehogs like a free feeding schedule.
Although some owners like to feed them twice per day.
Either way, they need access to food – they cannot go too long without out it.
How Long Can A Hedgehog Be Left Alone?
It is recommended that you never leave a hedgehog alone for more than 6 hours at a time.
That is 6 hours without somebody checking on them and ensuring that their needs are met.
So, if you travel out of the house for extended periods of time, or if you are planning on a trip, you’ll need to get somebody to check in on them regularly.
It could be a family relation, a friend, or even a neighbor.
Or even a mixture of the three.
Either way, they need to be aware of the needs of your hedgehog and thoroughly versed in what they need to do.
Both in terms of feeding, changing the water, and in the case of additional time away, cleaning the cage.
And cleaning the cage can be problematic to an inexperienced individual.
So it is advised that you teach anyone looking after your hedgehog how to do so properly.
Where to put them while they clean, what products are safe to use, where they can find them etc.
Or leave good, useful instructions and your contact number should issues arise.
They also need to be aware of handling, how to give appropriate attention, and so on and so forth.
Plus, you need to trust them in your home!
Ultimately, you can leave the house for a few hours at a time – so long as you prepare for this time in advance and ensure your hedgehog is safe and has everything they need.
Just be sure to check up on your hedgehog upon your return.
Hedgehogs do not really get lonely. They do not crave or require companionship like other pets, such as dogs, for instance.
Instead, they are more than happy on their own. And in fact, keeping a hedgehog as a pet is all about recognizing this and being aware and mindful of your boundaries.
That being said, you can certainly look to interact with your hedgehog.
With time and a considerate approach, you can absolutely look to engage more with them.
As for owning other hedgehogs and pairing them together – it’s not generally advised.
If you do so, it’s going to take quite a bit of work.
And you certainly need to ensure you get the basics of sex pairings, age, and spatial requirements right.
And even if you do everything right, you need to accept that it may not work out.
That’s just how it is.
And part and parcel of owning a solitary animal as a pet.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.