You'll have to leave the Americas to find a hedgehog in his native environment. Though he's native to Africa, Asia and Europe, he's also found elsewhere as an exotic pet. There are more than a dozen species of hedgehogs, all members of the subfamily Erinaceidae. The African pygmy hedgehog, popular in the exotic pet world, is in the Atelerix genus.
Erinaceidae: The Hedgehog Family
According to Animal Diversity Web, there are five genera of hedgehogs:
- Atelerix, or African hedgehogs
- Erinaceus, or woodland hedgehogs
- Hemiechinus, or long-eared hedgehogs
- Mesechinus, or steppe hedgehogs
- Paraechinus, or desert hedgehogs
A Wild Life
The hedgehog's name reflects how he searches for food, snorting as he roots through hedges and undergrowth to find small animals that comprise his diet. Worms, insects, frogs, mice and snakes are among the critters he'll happily eat. He has poor eyesight, but his coat of stiff spines serves as a useful defense mechanism, allowing him to curl up in a tight, prickly ball to ward off predators. If home is a cold climate, he'll hibernate and in hot deserts, he'll sleep through the heat; in more moderate locations he'll stay active throughout the year. A hedgehog weighs between 14 and 39 ounces and is 5 to 12 inches long, depending on his species.
The hedgehog beloved by pet owners is the African pygmy hedgehog a crossbreed of the white-bellied hedgehog and Algerian hedgehog. The International Hedgehog Association states that 92 colors of hedgehogs are recognized in two classifications: Algerian and white-bellied, based on the two species that make pet hedgehogs. Hedgehog color categories include:
- Algerian snowflake
- Algerian white
There are a variety of colors within each category. For example, white-bellied hedgehog colors include brown, chocolate and apricot while chocolate chip, silver and charcoal are among the color choices for a snowflake hedgehog.
Hedgehogs as Pets
In addition to being a unique pet, the hedgehog is considered a relatively clean, low-maintenance pet. Like his wild relatives, a captive hedgehog will be more active during the night hours. In the wild a hedgehog experiences a four- to six-year life span, however a pet hedgehog may live up to 8 years since he doesn't have to contend with predators. The International Hedgehog Association recommends keeping a pet hedgehog in a cage with a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space, outfitted with wheels and tunnels for him to use as exercise.
As an exotic pet, hedgehogs are not welcome in all states. If you are interested in owning a pet hedgehog, verify he's welcome in your state as well as your municipality.