How To Handle a Hedgehog

Holding a baby hedgehog
Holding a baby hedgehog. Getty Images/Kimu_tae

Many new hedgehog owners are nervous about handling their spiny pets. Hedgehogs can be handled (they are not too prickly), although some patience is required to make sure your hedgehog is both safe and comfortable in your hands. Follow these steps to start handling your hedgehog.

Steps to Handle a Hedgehog

  1. Start handling your hedgehog in the evening when they are most likely to be awake. A sleepy hedgehog can be grumpy which will make this task practically impossible.
  1. Allow your hedgehog to sniff your hands so that they will recognize you each time you handle them.
  2. Place your hands palm side up on either side of the hedgehog. If necessary, you can gently corner your hedgehog in their cage so they will be more likely to have to walk onto your hands.
  3. Gently push your hands underneath your standing hedgehog. You can even scoop up a bit of bedding to protect your hands a bit more if you are nervous about getting pricked.
  4. Cup your hands and lift your hedgehog up while they are cradled in your hands. Keep your fingers together and out of the way of your hedgehog's belly in case they decide to roll into a ball (a finger trapped in the middle of a balled up hedgehog is not fun).
  5. Your hedgehog may huff or roll into a ball. Try to persist unless your hedgehog is unduly upset and you aren't making any progress. It's okay to scoop him or her up if she has rolled into a ball.
  1. Hold your hedgehog (try cradling your hedgie on one hand or forearm and placing the other hand gently over his or her back for security) or place him or her in your lap. Most will unroll fairly quickly if they feel safe and will begin exploring.
  2. Feel free to resort to bribery if necessary. If your hedgehog rolls into a ball offer a treat such as a tasty mealworm as soon as they unroll. Your hedgehog will probably decide quickly that being picked up is a good thing since they get rewarded for it. Reserve this treat for times when you are handling your hedgehog.
  1. Once your hedgehog has unrolled from their ball allow them to explore your hands and lap at their own pace. Don't try to pet your hedgehog until they have relaxed.
  2. A relaxed hedgehog will lay down their spines. Once the spines are laying flat (not poking up in various directions like they are when your hedgehog is rolled into a ball) you can try petting them in the direction the spines lay. Avoid trying to pet your hedgehog's face initially as they don't typically like it.
  3. Offer special treats intermittently while handling your hedgehog to tell your hedgehog that being handled is a good thing. Hopefully your hedgehog will recognize that being handled and getting treats isn't scary but fun.

Tips for Handling Hedgehogs

  1. Hedgehogs will recognize you by smell. Wearing gloves will only confuse your hedgehog. Hand lotion or heavy perfumes may also confuse your hedgehog. Placing a t-shirt that you have worn in their cage may familiarize them with your scent.
  2. If necessary, a thick towel can be used to pick up a a stubborn hedgehog at first, rather than gloves. You can more easily slide the t-shirt away than you would be able to take off a glove and then continue to hold your hedgehog with your bare hands.
  1. Do not grab your hedgehog from above.
  2. Remember, the spines are not barbed nor do they come out like porcupine quills so if you do get poked it will hurt but not be unbearably painful.

Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT