The African pygmy hedgehog is the species of miniature hedgehog most commonly kept as a pet.
Hedgehogs are not rodents, they are seventeen species of small animals in their own family.
They can be found in Europe, Asia and Africa, and they are an invasive resident of New Zealand.
Hedgehogs have coarse hair on the face limbs and underbelly, and spines over the back and sides.
The spines, also called quills, are modified hairs that are hollow and hardened.
The hedgehogs quills are controlled by muscles running the length of the back.
When threatened, the little hedgehog will raise its spines to look larger.
If the threat continues, the hedgehog will tuck it's head and feet and roll up, leaving a prickly ball for confused predators to deal with.
The spines are sharp, and can effectively deter less determined hunters, but eagles, owls and weasels are their most common predators, and are willing to withstand a few piercings for a meal.
African pygmy hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures that sleep during the day.
They come out at night in search of an assortment of foods including frogs, worms, eggs, fallen fruit and other vegetation.
They are voracious eaters and root about through leaves, soil and sand for their favorite insects, grubs, roaches, beetles and larvae.
African hedgehogs in the wild also eat allot of berries seasonally.
Hedgehogs are solitary animals and only socialize during mating season.
Then they will pair off for what is often a very noisy courtship. A hedgehog male need the females full cooperation to avoid being pierced during mating.
It sometimes takes several hours of circling eachother during which they will be quite vocal, snuffling, chuckling and squeaking.
If another male comes along, sparring may occur, and this is even louder. Damage is rare, but males will head butt, jaw and even wrestle like cats.
The mating itself is careful with the female staying very still and the male climbing cautiously aboard.
Both males and females may have multiple partners during breeding season.
The female is pregnant for about 4 weeks, and has a litter of 4 or 5 babies typically.
Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets, and they are born with their quills just below their skin to prevent injury to the mother.
Within an hour or two of being born, the baby hedgehogs spines actually break through the skin, and within a day or so they are hardened and quite sharp.
Baby hedgehogs stay with their mothers for about five weeks before heading out on their own.
In recent years hedgehogs have become very popular pets.
The African pygmy hedgehog is actually a hybrid of two species, the North African or Algerian hedgehog, and the white-bellied or four-toed hedgehog.
They have been bred in captivity for many years and are effectively domesticated animals.
Hedgehogs as pets are pleasant and attractive but they are quite shy, and don't have the outgoing personalities of rodents like rats and degus.
They are fun to watch, however, and with patience can come to enjoy being handled as well.
African hedgehogs do well in large cages with exercise wheels provided.
They are very active and curious, however and enjoy getting out to explore.
Some people have even trained their little hedgehogs to walk on a harness and leash.
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