Hedgehogs Biting

It is often asked if hedgehogs bite. My answer to this is, “Anything with a mouth can bite.” However, hedgehogs do not use biting as a primary defense like some other small animals (i.e. hamsters). Their first instinct when nervous is to put up the spines on their forehead and if really scared they will roll up very tightly in a prickly ball and crisscross all their spines on their backs. Because of this unique defense, hedgehogs rarely bite out of fear. As stated in the section above on “Self-Anointing”, they usually only bite when curious or excited about a smell which is not much different than a puppy, kitten, or even a human baby. Hedgehogs have teeth like a dog or cat and not like a rodent (i.e. hamster). A rodent has two very sharp, long teeth on top and bottom of their mouths that continually grow making a very painful and deep bite. Hedgehogs have sharp canine teeth and because they are more on the side of their mouth their bite is not as painful, although it can draw blood in some cases. But when a hedgehog bites out of curiosity they really don’t bite down that hard. It more startles the unlucky person more than anything. Often people react by putting the hedgehog down right away which is not the best thing to do. If at all possible, just set the hedgehog down in your lap (especially if they bit after licking first), wait a couple of minutes, and then put them in a boring travel container or box while you go wash your hands. By putting them in a travel box or cage instead of their own cage or putting them down on the ground where they can explore, you are not rewarding them in any way for biting you. If you did put them back in their cage right away or let them explore on the floor, then you might be teaching them to bite to get those things in the future. It is very important that you handle the hedgehog again after you wash your hands so they are not rewarded by biting. If you are nervous about handling them again, then put on leather gloves so that if they bite it is the gloves they get and not you. Some hedgehog (usually only when they are young) do seem to be biters, but this is a rare few. Usually a baby will out grow this behavior by 4 – 6 months of age. Should your hedgehog bite more than once, then I recommend always holding them wearing gloves for awhile until he no longer tries to bite for at least a month. Please see some of the tips above in the “Self-Anointing” section for other ways to help discourage biting when related to the self-anointing behavior. If you have an older hedgehog that bites then it may take longer for them to learn not to bite, but I have seen the method of always wearing gloves work on the most persistent older hedgehogs as well. Also, as stated in the “Feeding” section, do not feed your hedgehog out of your hands since this too can teach a hedgehog to bite.