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Hedgehog Behavior – What is Your Hedgehog Expressing?

By Eddie Chevrel


Updated on

Did you know that hedgehogs have many kinds of sounds to express their feelings towards you and other Heggies? Well for those of us who know a lot about the curious hedgehog, you can learn some new things about them. This guide will give you a better idea of what you can expect from them.

Happy Hedgehog BehaviorUnhappy/Distressed Hedgehog BehaviorHappy Hedgehog SoundsUnhappy Hedgehog Sounds
SniffingBalling upGruntingSnorting
AnointingChallengingChirping Huffing and puffing
ScratchingSneezingChuffing Coughing
Whistling Popping
WeaknessSqueaking Quacking
Weight LossClickingHissing
HibernationDreaming Sounds

Happy hedgehog behavior

1. Sniffing

This is an everyday activity that your hedgehog is going to do. That nose of theirs is going to be half of the fun to watch as it sniffs everything in their path. They also use it to locate food and insects that you feed them. The reason why hedgehogs are heavy sniffers is that they have very poor eyesight but a sense of smell that is very well-developed.

2. Anointing

Anointing is something that a hedgehog does with their saliva which turned into a froth. This froth is then deposited somewhere on their body that they can reach with their head. This means they are proud of the smell they’ve made and want to wear that scent on their body.

Source: Soniqa the hedgehog

3. Scratching

This is a bit like the kind of scratching that you can expect when you wake up in the morning. Hedgehogs will stretch and scratch themselves to their satisfaction showing you they are comfortable being around you.

4. Running on an exercise wheel

Hedgehogs will enjoy running on an exercise wheel to get their daily dose of exercise. The resulting sound is a galloping repetitive thumping combined with the sound of the exercise wheel spinning – it’s also quite a sight to behold.

Signs of an unhappy hedgehog

1. Balling up when touched

There is only one defense move that a hedgehog has and this is to ball up to protect itself. It can curl into a tight little ball further extending its sharp spikes towards animals or from you touching it.

2. Challenging

If you don’t give them the space they want they can get a bit defensive and sound off with a challenging noise. This sounds like a short huffing but goes with a head movement trying to poke at you. This head-bucking can be painful if they poke you in this defensive move.

3. Sneezing

This is pretty common if your Heggie is sniffing around all the time. If they get any kind of dust or dry material in their nose, you’ll hear little sneezes that rapidly repeat until your hedgehog nose is cleared.

4. Biting

Another defense that a hedgehog has is to bite, they will if you do something that they find unpleasant. They can try to bite if you pick them up or get your hand near them. This is only when they are scared or in physical pain and react to you trying to help them.

Abnormal and distressed behavior in pet hedgehogs

5. Sickness

There aren’t many sounds they make if they are sick other than wheezing and coughing. If they have a wet-sounding wheezy noise, they will likely have a lung infection. These noises are a sign you need to get them to the vet.

6. Weakness

If you see they are not being very active, spending more time sleeping, or being lazy, this is a sure sign of weakness. What this is telling you is that they are getting sick or have an internal problem. They might even be attempting to hibernate which can be dangerous if they are kept as pets inside your house.

7. Weight loss

Some illnesses that affect your hedgehog will start showing signs they are losing weight. They will not eat as much if they have ingested food they aren’t supposed to eat or was toxic for them.

8. Hibernation

In the winter if it gets too cold, your hedgehog may attempt to hibernate in its cage. Since this is not the wild, this is not recommended for them to do. They will likely starve since they haven’t had a chance to build up enough food for hibernation in captivity.

Keep them healthy and at a constant temperature. This isn’t always easy to do if you live in colder regions, but you have to give them a general temperature that is good for them – between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. When the room temperature is constant, they won’t try to hibernate at all.

Understanding hedgehog dominance behavior

1. Alpha males

If two males have any kind of aggression toward each other, they will likely fight over food. These fights don’t last very long and are more of a show of strength in the end.

2. Betas

A weaker male that doesn’t win a fight from an alpha male will then become the beta. They won’t challenge that male and have to be subordinate to them. They might challenge those who are weaker or smaller than they are.

3. Female dominance

Females aren’t very dominant and will actually cohabitate with a male a lot easier if you own more than one hedgehog. They make a good cage mate for a male hog as long as you don’t mind having babies at some point.

4. Pregnant behavior

A pregnant hedgehog will not be very aggressive but shows signs that she is going to have babies. She will start to build a birthing nest. She will also be more interested in eating so give her plenty of food.

5. Courtship behavior – Singing

A male will make a singing noise that is all part of the mating ritual. To get the female to mate with him, he begins with a chutting noise and during the mating, he will sing to her with a whining sound.

Sounds of a happy hedgehog

1. Grunting

This is going to be the most common sound you’ll hear that tells you your hedgehog is pretty content. As they go about their daily activities and move around, they will emit soft grunting noises showing they’re having a good time.

2. Chirping

Little hoglets that have been fed and are happy will commonly make these chirping sounds. This is showing how happy they are after eating. It sounds a little bit like whistling at times or long bursts of chirpy squeals.

3. Chuffing

Source: BBC Earth

This is a sound that you only hear from two hedgehogs that are going through their mating season. This will sound just like a chugging train and is intended to lure a female to mate with him.

4. Purring

This is a wonderful sound that lets you know your hedgehog is happy with you and what you are doing. This sound comes when you’re holding them or just being in their company.

5. Whistling

This is the sound that is often compared to a hoglet that is very happy after eating. This is what grown hedgehogs will sound off with a content whistling sound – the happiest sound you can expect to hear from a hedgehog.

6. Snuffling

The best image you can imagine is what a happy hedgehog is doing while they explore. The sound their nose is making is just snuffling around like crazy as they search and sniff everything in their path.

7. Squeaking

This sound is pretty common as they move around their cage or outside in the garden. It’s going to be their way of telling you they are doing fine. It sounds a little bit like a repeated pig grunt mixed with squeaking honk noises.

8. Clicking/Kissing

When you hear sounds like tiny kissing sounds, this is your hedgehog telling you they are satisfied with you. It can be from giving them treats or being happy with something you did for them.

9. Dreaming sounds

They indeed make sounds while they sleep, as all animals do when they dream. They might not be very loud but chirps are going to be fairly common. If they are making these noises while they’re asleep, it’s perfectly normal.

Sounds of an unhappy hedgehog

1. Snorting

This is their way of telling you they aren’t happy with something happening around them. It means they are annoyed, uncertain, or displeased with something. It will sound similar to their puffing sound with short grunts mixed in.

Source: wildaboutimages

2. Huffing and puffing

This isn’t exactly a bad noise, but you’ll hear this when they are unsure of what’s going on. They are most likely letting you know they need their space and are showing they are annoyed.

3. Coughing

Your hedgehog is not the brightest in the world when it comes to sniffing dusty spots outside or from a cage that has leftover sediment. It can also come from accidentally choking on food and will result in coughing noises.

4. Snoring

When your Heggie is sleeping, they generally snore and it’s pretty loud at some points. This might be mistaken for a hedgehog that is dying and has breathing problems. If they haven’t been eating or have been lethargic recently, these sounds are going to follow and it’s time to bring your hedgehog to the vet.

5. Popping

This is a noisy clicking or popping noise that may sound like quick grunting or growling bursts. They will make that sound when they are balling up and defending themselves. It can happen when they are scared or have been provoked.

6. Screaming

This is an immediate sign that your hedgehog is either in pain, in immediate danger, or scared of something. You’ll know they are in trouble when you hear this sound, which is very similar to a crying baby.

7. Quacking

This sound is a lesser kind of concerned noise that is not as loud as screaming. This simply means they are distressed or in moderate pain. They can also make this noise if they are hungry and their stomach is growling, so they’ll let you know by quacking.

8. Hissing

Just like a cat, your hedgehog can also hiss at you if you are approaching too closely. It’s a warning sign to back off and step away from their personal space. This sound is similar to a snake hissing and will be an obvious warning if you push your luck sticking around.

Source: Hedgehog Bottom Rescue

Do hedgehogs get lonely?

In most cases, hedgehogs can live alone in a single cage but recent scientific evidence shows that a male and female are often great for living together. The same can be mentioned for females bonding with females. However, two males will generally fight and it’s better to keep them in different enclosures.

Can you let a hedgehog roam around the house?

Most of the time, it will be fine if you supervise what they are doing. Most owners like to take them out to the garden so they can get fresh air and exercise. They don’t run very fast and will be easy to catch.

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About Eddie Chevrel

Eddie Chevrel is an animal journalist and the founder of ThePetSavvy. He's very passionate about exotic pets and spends most of his free time doing research, meeting, and interviewing people working with animals. Learn more about The Pet Savvy's Editorial Process.