Hedgehogs. Despite their prickly appearance, there’s just something about the humble hedgehog which is so cute.
In recent years they’ve even taken off as an in demand exotic pet, weedling their way into countless people’s homes, bathtubs and of course – Hearts (I couldn’t resist).
Of course if we’re going to welcome these prickly little balls of joy into our homes, we’ll want to be armed with the information needed to provide them with the best quality of life possible.
Exercise requirements, dietary habits, sleeping arrangements – as with any pet there are a million things a would-be hedgehog parent will need to know.
And two important yet perhaps often overlooked aspects of that puzzle would be the questions – Do hedgehogs get lonely ? Do hedgehogs get depressed? And if they do, what can we as hedgehog parents do to help?
Perhaps not the first thing you think about when setting up your hedgehog house, scouring the web for hedgehog toys and deliberating between premium hedgehog foods sounds like far more fun. But important nonetheless.
So! In this vain we’ve taken a look at these questions, hopefully shining a bit of light on what is quite a murky topic, along with providing some solutions should your beloved hedgehog come down with a case of the blues themselves.
Do Hedgehogs Get Lonely?
Well, I suppose the correct answer would be – We can’t know for sure whether hedgehogs get lonely or not
What we can do however is analyse the hedgehog’s behaviour, both in wild and domesticated settings and extrapolate our answer from there.
Wild Hedgehog Social Behaviours
We know that hedgehogs are solitary animals by nature. Two hedgehogs will rarely spend extended periods of time together in the wild outside of two important events in the hedgehog lifecycle – Mating & Raising their young.
For a female hedgehog, this marks a period where she will inevitably be around other hedgehogs – her children, or ‘Hoglets’ as they are known. Once born however, this period of intermingling is very brief, lasting up to around a month before the hoglets leave the nest to pursue solitary lives.
For male hedgehogs, this period of hedgehog-socialising is even smaller. Once mating is complete he will usually leave, taking no further part in the rearing process.
It seems clear then that in the wild, hedgehogs live almost entirely solitary lives, coming together only to carry out the necessary evolutionary process of mating, before continuing on alone.
Thus we can likely assume the answer to the question ‘Do Hedgehogs get lonely?’ would so far be a resounding – Probably not.
Domesticated Hedgehog Social Behaviours
And it seems the story remains the same in the world of domesticated hedgehogs.
Although some success has been seen with the careful introduction of companions to solitary hedgehogs, this seems to be an exception rather than the norm.
Usually, when introducing a second hedgehog into a habitat, fights will pretty quickly ensue, obviously endangering the health of both the hogs involved.
Female combinations have shown the highest levels of success, but it’s strongly suggested that introductions are made very, very carefully. And even when all precautions are taken, these matches mostly don’t work out for anybody.
So! On the balance of the evidence, the question ‘Do Hedgehogs get lonely?’ – Is likely a firm no.
Do Hedgehogs Get Depressed?
So, moving onto the next question – Do hedgehogs get depressed? Again, without a human-hedgehog translator app at our disposal, we’re going to need to take a look at their behaviour in order to make a qualified guess here.
Wild Hedgehog Depressive Behaviour
We can find no evidence for depressive behaviour in wild hedgehogs, so are unable to say whether this is a common occurrence in the wild. It’s completely possible of course that this behaviour has been missed by researchers, animals are inevitably more difficult to study when in their own backyard as compared to a domesticated setting.
Either way, hedgehog depression seems far more likely to be observed in pet hedgehogs for a whole host of reasons, so we’ll jump right into that arena and see what we find.
Domesticated Hedgehog Depressive Behaviour
Having spoken to a number of people very experienced in the keeping of hedgehogs, the answer to the questions ‘Can hedgehogs get depressed?’ seems to be a resounding – Yes.
Many long-time hedgehog owners, both individuals and sanctuary workers have noted the following depressive behaviours in hedgehogs as a result of a variety of negative experiences:
- Excessive Sleeping
- Refusal To Eat
- Repetitive Behaviour
- Destructive Behaviour
These are common depressive behaviours seen amongst domesticated animals, and are often the result of unsatisfactory living conditions.
Perhaps the most serious among these behaviours would be self-mutilation, which if not addressed could lead to some very nasty outcomes.
Excessive chewing or scratching, as well as rubbing themselves against cage walls to the point of drawing blood are the most commonly witnessed forms of this behaviour.
So, it seems that hedgehogs can get depressed. The main question for us hedgehog parents in this situation would I suppose have to be –
What can we do to avoid / treat depressive hedgehog behaviour?
It appears that most depressive behaviour comes about as a result of less than ideal living conditions.
So, as responsible hedgehog owners, the first step to preventing a hedgehog from feeling depressed would be to provide a healthy, stimulating environment for them to live in.
Ample living space would be the first prerequisite. 4x4ft seems to be the agreed upon minimum area for a single hedgehog to have enough space to stretch his or her legs, however bigger is always going to be better here. The hedgehog home needs to have enough room for at the very least:
- A Wheel
- Nesting Box
- Litter Tray
- Eating area
Although extra space allows for extra stimulation, which can only be a good thing in keeping your hedgehog pal from getting a case of the blues.
Wild hedgehogs can roam for miles each night, naturally taking in a lot of different sources of stimulation along the way. Therefore, if we’re going to keep our hedgehogs in a smaller space, it’s only fair that we provide them with plenty of fun things to pass the time with.
The list mentioned above is a great place to start, however there are so many other goodies you can introduce for little to no money which will enrich your hedgehogs life greatly. Consider the following:
- Tube Tunnels
- Cat Toys (Where Appropriate)
- Stuffed Animals
- Treat Balls
- Critter Balls
- Toy Cars
The list goes on and on, but you get the point! More suitable toys give your spiney little pal more options to spend their time enriching their lives, rather than getting frustrated and eventually, depressed.
Wrapping Things Up
So, it seems that while hedgehogs probably don’t get lonely due to their solitary natures, they very likely do get depressed, especially when subject to a less than ideal living situation.
Luckily for us, there are lots of ways to enrich their lives and keep them happy and healthy. A large enough living space kept clean and sanitary, with enough sources of varied stimulation to keep them occupied can go a long way to preventing this from happening.
Anyhoo, as always I hope this guide has been useful. If you’d like to be kept in the loop of whatever comes next from us here at the EcoGeeks then please feel free to subscribe below.
Have a great day.