One of the many delights of the hedgehog is how incredibly weird they can be. It’s been said that one of the biggest problems encountered when attempting to do a scientific survey of the species is the difficulty of stating any generalizations about them. The males may be bolder than the females… except for these females. The females may typically be larger than the males, but here are some big boned boys. It seems that the hedgehog endlessly contradicts any attempts at classification. But isn’t that part of their wonder?
Every hedgehog owner has their stories of just how odd their hedgie’s behavior is! For instance, our boy Sebastian has a a very special distinction that none of our other hedgies quite have. When we first rescued him, he was often just a spiky ball of quills. He refused to open up to us – not for treats, not for food, not for anything. We even set him down with one of our females. Would he open up to say hi to her? She licked his quills and he complained in huffs and growls that really, really confused the girl. She eventually gave up. He seemed satisfied then. As satisfied as a ball of spikes can be.
There was only one way to get him to uncurl for any amount of time. The uncurling was important, as it let us feel his belly to see if his fever had broken and touch him more so he could gradually get acclimated to it. Nowadays Sebastian is a very playful, much more gentle individual. He enjoys being held to some degree, enjoys cuddling much more when we don’t touch him. He’s mouthy, much more vocal than the others. He’s still quite a piece of work, but at least now he’s healthy and a good pet. And he’s still extremely, extremely ticklish.
More than any of our other hedgies Sebastian enjoys being tickled. He stretches out into it and uncurls from a ball. He relaxes into it to the point that sometimes his front legs are up above his head and his eyes are shut in an expression of bliss. It works on both sides – between his shoulders and near the base of his spine. It’s utterly ridiculous. He stops complaining when we do it, and sort of flops back and lets us have at it. It’s truly an experience, tickling a hedgehog.
This trick can be especially helpful at the vet. If you have a hedgehog that complains during its annual visit, I recommend you give tickling a try. A tentative try. The spines can be difficult to work your fingers between, but practice does make perfect. Sometimes even just rubbing the tips with your fingers can initiate this sort of response.
I warn that this trick won’t always work, but when it does it’s truly hilarious to see.