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How to Properly Pick Up and Hold a Hedgehog

By Eddie Chevrel


Updated on

It’s no big secret that a hedgehog has sharp little quills all over its back. They use these quills to protect themselves from predators and animals that might harm them. That doesn’t mean you can’t safely pick them up and handle them if you tame them correctly after they get to know you.

4 methods you can use to pick up a hedgehog properly

Here are the best methods that you can follow to pick up a hedgehog. It starts with simple ones and moves into more advanced ones. Here are all the steps that we recommend for first-time hedgehog owners.

1. The towel method

A good soft clean terrycloth towel is perfect for wrapping around a hedgie and slowly picking it up. They can be flipped over so they have a chance to open up from their protective ball. This towel can be the same that you use when you dry off your hands so your scent is all over that towel.

2. Gardening gloves

These are gloves that are cloth-based but have rubber-coated palms that can also be synthetic rubber or silicone. These gloves should also have your scent in the fabric so wearing them all the time is good for your hedgehog to identify your scent. You can put both hands over the top of your hedgehog and pick it up softly. You can also scoop your hand under their bellies encouraging them to crawl onto your palm.

3. Kitty scoop method

You might think this is sounding odd but using a kitty scoop or a small shovel is one of the easiest ways to pick up and move a hedgehog. It’s not a long-lasting solution but will help when you start handling them in the beginning. You still need to use gloves to keep them from crawling off the scoop but at least you won’t be bitten at first.

4. Barehand scoop

The final test in seeing that a hedgehog is tame is picking them up with your bare hands. You can guide them onto your palm using a treat as their reward. It can take a while to get to this level, but sooner or later it will be possible. As they are getting relaxed with you handling them, they will be tame enough to be held without a problem.

Source: SnowdropHedgie

Can you pick up a hedgehog by the scruff?

You’ve seen a mommy cat picking up her kittens by the scruff of their neck to move them around. If you are extra careful, you can do the same to a hedgehog, although you do have to be very careful. They don’t have sharp quills along the underside of their neck and this skin can be pinched just as easily. After this, you slowly lift them up and move them to where you want them to go. This method can be used for moving a hedgehog from point A to point B, but not for holding them for a long period.

5 practical tips that will help you better handle a hedgehog

The best way to pick up a hedgehog involves a series of steps that you must follow to ensure your safety. This will become easier over time and depending on how familiar your hedgehog is with you. It also depends on how young your hedgehog is when you start handling it.

1. Wash your hands

Your hedgehog is a skittish mammal that is just as jumpy as other pocket pets. A hedgehog uses scent to identify what is food and what isn’t, so you need to have clean hands. If you’ve touched anything that has the smell of food on your hands, this will confuse your hedgehog.

Wash your hands thoroughly with unscented soap, so they can get used to the scent that comes from your skin. This is a special scent that a hedgehog will become familiar with over time and doesn’t represent a threat to them.

2. Have a daily handling routine

You have to follow a repeated schedule that becomes part of their waking hours. This needs to be at least twice a day, but more importantly, sticking to two separate time blocks.

This way, a hedgehog will start to learn they will be handled at certain times. The best time is typically when they are given their food and can support a reward system including treats for being handled.

3. Listen for stress signs

Getting close to a hedgehog in the first couple of weeks will tell you a lot about how much they are used to being handled. Hedgehogs that are bought from a pet store will be more prone to hissing and making noises when you get near them. Privately bred hedgehogs are generally more relaxed and accustomed to being picked up.

If your hedgehog is making defensive noises including hissing or distress calls, it is a warning. They are not comfortable with you being close to them, so you should back off for a few minutes and approach them later.

4. Make slow moves

Don’t be in a rush to pick up a hedgehog, they don’t like sudden movements and will act defensively if you do. Gradually move your hand into their habitat so you can reach them in a calm and unthreatening manner. This way they won’t be afraid of your presence and be less prone to getting spooked.

5. Choose a technique and stick to it

There are just a few effective methods to picking up a hedgehog safely and in a way that won’t hurt you or them. You can use a towel or special padded gloves at first and then move on to methods where you use your bare hands. But no matter which method works best for you, when you gain their trust, you can pick them up without fear of being poked.

Should hedgehogs be handled at all?

It’s OK for hedgehogs to be handled with lots of care and without fear of being poked. It does take getting used to handling these prickly little garden critters. Even though your hedgehog isn’t intentionally trying to hurt you, they do need to be handled in a way that isn’t threatening to them.

It takes time to gain their trust and this is achieved by following a daily ritual of taming your hedgehog. Since each hedgehog is different, some temperaments can be trickier to break so effective handling is all about repetition. Becoming accustomed to you being around them when they are awake is essential.

Without daily handling, they can quickly forget that they should not react defensively. This will include making noises at you in fear, biting you, and even using their quills to poke you. The ultimate goal is to have a hedgehog that readily accepts being picked up and enjoys how carefully you hold them.

Do hedgehogs actually like to be held?

At first, they probably won’t like being held but this is mainly because they are young and skittish. As they grow older and become more comfortable with you, they will gain enough trust for being held. The younger they are when you start holding them, the faster they will become tame.

How long and how often should you hold a hedgehog?

There are two times that you could hold your hedgehog when they are awake. You need to schedule these periods where you handle them and would be best at their feeding times. It could also be when they wake up and before they go to sleep. There should be 15 minutes minimum for each handling so they know these moments are just for being actively picked up.

When they learn that they are getting held before or after their meal, you may use their food as a treat reward system. This is a simple training that works better than any other method since they’re raised to do the trick before betting a treat.

How do you get a hedgehog to want you to hold it?

Using the reward system is most effective at getting a hedgehog to do what you want. This should be a snack item that attracts them to your open palm, or closer to your hand at the opening of their cage. If you do this multiple times until they learn there is a snack waiting for them, you can coax them to walk onto your clean hand.

The snack should be in your other hand so the scent of the snack isn’t in your palm. As a hedgehog is feeling confident in your hand you can start petting its head softly. If they rear up or are head-bopping to try and spike you, it’s too early and they will need more time.

Can you hold a baby hedgehog?

Baby hedgehogs can be held as early as 15 days after they are born. This is what breeders are doing after a female hedgie gives birth. It helps that little baby hedgehogs are held so they get used to being handled more often. You can hold them in your palm with slightly cupped fingers. As they grow they will be more relaxed with standing in your palm.

What happens if a hedgehog pricks you?

Owning a hedgehog is going to result in more than a few pricks from time to time. Luckily a hedgehog quill is just like any other needle and has no barbs on them. If you accidentally get poked, you need to wash your hand and that poked area immediately.

Use isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in the poked area to clean any germs that might be on their quills. Because of the ever-present threat of salmonella they might carry, you always need to wash your hands after handling them.

Why does my hedgehog try to bite me when I hold it?

They will bite if they are scared or don’t want to be held in your hands. If you spook them or grab them too quickly they can get stressed and try to bite. If your hands aren’t clean and smell like anything that is not familiar to them, it might also lead to a bite.

There is also the chance that you aren’t holding your hedgehog correctly and they become annoyed by this. The last reason is perhaps that they are just aren’t in the mood to be held and you avoided the warning signs they previously made from sounds.

Should I let my hedgehog roam freely in the house?

Hedgehogs are more comfortable in their usual cage habitat, so you need to be very attentive when you let your hedgie walk around your home or garden. They aren’t so speedy at escaping but beware of outdoor gardens that can have fleas or ticks lurking in the grass. If you prefer a garden-like setting, use some artificial grass on your floor instead.

Don’t let your hedgehog go unsupervised since you should always make sure they aren’t getting into some kind of trouble. They should also stay away from electrical wires that they may try to nibble.

How do you pick up a stubborn hedgehog?

The best answer is to not try picking them up at that point since this will make them stressed and angrier. If this is your hedgie at home and they’ve escaped from their cage, you should use a towel to pick them up and put them back. You can also scoop them into a cardboard box if they are hissing at you.

How to pick up a scared wild hedgehog

If you find a wild hedgehog that is in trouble or is hurt by the roadside, you need to pick it up. What you can do is use a t-shirt to pick them up and keep them from poking you. You can then find a cardboard box and transport the hedgehog to a vet for treatment. If you don’t have a t-shirt, you can use any article of clothing that you aren’t using.

How to pick up a hibernating hedgehog in the wild and what to do with it

If you come across a hibernating hedgehog in your home or outside, you might want to place it in a safe resting area. They can easily be picked up without disturbing their sleep and taken to an area where the weather is still cool. It should be a space where they aren’t going to be disturbed, like inside a woodshed, garage, or wooden box with a hole to escape from. Until the weather gets better, you can check on them to see how they’re doing.

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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.