Hedgehogs soar in popularity as pets - WNCN: News, Weather

Hedgehogs soar in popularity as pets

Posted: Updated:

They are tiny animals with cute faces. They're covered in quills. They roll into prickly balls when they are scared. The ideal pet?

Hedgehogs are steadily growing in popularity across the United States, despite laws in at least six states banning or restricting them as pets.

Breeders say the trend is partly fueled by the fact that hedgehogs require less maintenance than dogs and cats, and because they emit little odor - in sharp contrast with rodents and rabbits. They are largely hypoallergenic and are solitary, making them ideal for those with a busy lifestyle.

"A hedgehog can hang out all day while you are at work, you can come home, hang out with it for a couple of hours or . you know, put it away," said Massachusetts-based hedgehog breeder Jennifer Crespo.

Crespo's 4-year-old son, Wyatt, sat on the sofa in their home recently, his arm wrapped around the neck of a German shepherd named Ares while an African pygmy hedgehog named Jambalaya clambered across his legs.

The attraction to the animals may have started with a video game - "Sonic" is a blue hedgehog who runs at supersonic speeds and curls into a ball to attack its enemies - but it has grown through people sharing pictures of their pets on social media and elsewhere online.

An Instagram account set up by the owners of a hedgehog named Biddy in Oregon has nearly 370,000 followers, while National Geographic Magazine put a hedgehog on the cover of its April edition to illustrate a trend of people owning exotic animals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which requires anyone breeding at least three hedgehogs to get a license, says it has no data on hedgehog ownership.

But Jill Warnick, a breeder in Brookline, Massachusetts, said demand for hedgehogs has grown so much over the years that potential pet owners have to fill out an application form and then wait for their turn to buy the weaned offspring.

"When I first started I might have a waiting list of five people," Warnick said, as hedgehogs slept in hiding spots installed in their cages. "Well, 19 years later, I have a waiting list of 500 people."

Breeders typically begin holding hedgehog offspring in their hands for a short time each day beginning a few days after their birth, in an effort to get them accustomed to humans. That helps make pet hedgehogs bond with their owners, said Warnick, who has sold about 350 hedgehogs.

The animals are banned in six states and Washington, D.C., for reasons ranging from being nonnative species to concerns that they could set up a wild population.

In North Carolina, there are many breeders with websites advertising hedgehogs for sale. One, based out of Wake Forest, priced hedgehogs at $175.

Hedgehogs can also shed the salmonella bacterium, which represents a health risk to young children and older people with weakened immune systems.

Pet owners can minimize that risk by washing their hands immediately after handling hedgehogs, cleaning their cages or feeding them, said Sarah McCormack, a veterinarian at Fresh Pond Animal Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press.

  • U.S.More>>

  • Thousands turn out for rally over chokehold death

    Thousands turn out for rally over chokehold death

    Saturday, August 23 2014 3:35 PM EDT2014-08-23 19:35:39 GMT
    Organizers expect up to 5,000 people to attend a march protesting the death of an unarmed black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white New York police officer.
    Thousands of people expressing grief, anger and hope for a better future marched peacefully through Staten Island on Saturday to protest the chokehold death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.
  • Wash. flash floods, mudslides damage several homes

    Wash. flash floods, mudslides damage several homes

    Saturday, August 23 2014 1:37 PM EDT2014-08-23 17:37:28 GMT
    An estimated 10 homes were damaged or destroyed and highways were blocked as heavy rains unleashed mudslides in an area of north-central Washington where hillsides have been left barren by wildfires.
    An estimated 10 homes were damaged or destroyed and highways were blocked as heavy rains unleashed mudslides in an area of north-central Washington where hillsides have been left barren by wildfires.
  • American Ebola doc urges help fighting outbreak

    American Ebola doc urges help fighting outbreak

    Friday, August 22 2014 4:57 AM EDT2014-08-22 08:57:31 GMT
    Dr. Kent Brantly (Samaritan's Purse / EPA file)Dr. Kent Brantly (Samaritan's Purse / EPA file)
    An American doctor who was released from an Atlanta hospital after surviving the Ebola virus says he's glad for any attention his situation brought to African countries fighting an epidemic.
    An American doctor who was released from an Atlanta hospital after surviving the Ebola virus says he's glad for any attention his situation brought to African countries fighting an epidemic.
Powered by WorldNow

1205 Front St., Raleigh
N.C., 27609

Telephone: 919.836.1717
Fax: 919.836.1687
Email: newstips@wncn.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.