Have you ever looked at a hedgehog and wondered how they feel to the touch? When you think of a hedgehog, the first thing you notice is its spines.
These spines can also be referred to as spikes or as quills. This article tells you what you need to know about these spines as you hold your hedgehog.
What Are Hedgehog Spines Made Of?
Hedgehog spines are the defining trait of their appearance. Someone may have told you hedgehog spines are poisonous when you were a child, but this isn’t the case.
Unlike porcupines, their spines are on their back, and they can’t detach at will. So, you don’t have to worry about petting your hedgehog and getting their quills stuck in your hands.
Hedgehog spines have from 5000 to 7000 quills on their back, all of them made of keratin. These little spines are made of the same material as our hair and nails,
Why Do Hedgehogs Have Quills?
Quills are a hedgehog’s only defense against predators. They’re not particularly fast, nor do they have good eyesight, so they don’t have many options to fight back when they become prey.
But you might wonder how they can use these as a defense?
When threatened, a hedgehog relies on its quills. If a large bird comes to swoop down and grab them, or a carnivore tries to put them in their mouth, they’ll curl into a ball.
When hedgehogs curl into a ball, their quills will spread out, considering they can go up to 3 centimeters in length. It’s not a pleasant experience for any hungry predators.
These quills cover their entire body. Hedgehogs will tuck their head, legs, and tail into a ball to secure their belly.
When a hedgehog curls into a ball, their spines are tougher. So it’s the best way to get a predator to let go of them and for the hedgehogs themselves to return to safety.
Contrary to popular belief, they can’t roll when they’re like this.
What Do A Hedgehog’s Spines Feel Like?
If you have a comfortable hedgehog around you, you’ll find that their quills aren’t hard to touch.
They’re only tough when you do something that makes them feel threatened. You should stroke your hedgehog in the direction of their backside.
If you stroke them in the wrong way, it will be an uncomfortable experience for you and your pet.
Some owners have compared the spines to a bunch of straws or the bristles of a hairbrush.
You don’t have to worry about them poking you because, in this position, their weight is evenly distributed.
As you stroke your hedgehog, its spines will lie evenly across your hands.
When a hedgehog curls into defense, though, it is a different story. Once they curl into a ball, their quills spread out across their body.
Some owners say that it’s like being pricked with many toothpicks. While it won’t cause you any severe damage, it will feel more uncomfortable.
When handling a younger hedgehog, you may notice that their spines are sharper because they haven’t developed yet.
However, it’s important to note that all hedgehogs will have quills that feel different. Many hedgehog spines will vary across the type of hedgehog you’re handling.
How Do I Hold A Hedgehog?
While new owners may feel threatened by their hedgehog’s spines, it shouldn’t get in the way of handling them.
If you’re nervous, you could even get some resistant gloves or a towel to ensure that you feel more comfortable when you first handle them.
It’s best not to use gloves all the time, though, as hedgehogs rely a lot on their sense of smell.
They should eventually recognize your scent if you handle them enough and not become threatened anyway.
To get your hedgehog to trust you, you should make sure it knows your scent. You can do this by holding it or putting items that smell like you in their cage.
But if you want to hold your hedgehog, it’s best to do this in the evening. Hedgehogs are naturally nocturnal, so they’ll be more alert when you do this at night.
When you pick them up, make sure they can see you. Don’t pick them up from behind them, or they’ll curl up immediately.
You should pick them up by holding your hands out to them, palm sides up. Place each hand on either side of them, and scoop them up from the bottom.
Make sure your fingers are close together because if your hedgehog is spooked, they will curl into a ball, and you probably don’t want your finger trapped in them.
Now that you’ve done this, you should be able to scoop up your hedgehog and hold it.
Can You Trim A Hedgehog’s Quills?
No matter how intimidated you are by their quills, it’s best to leave them alone. Quills are their only defensive mechanism, and you’ll just be making them more vulnerable when doing this.
Can Hedgehogs Lose Their Quills?
It’s common for a hedgehog to drop a few quills when they’re spine shedding, but when they’re young, they go through a process known as quilling.
If your hedgehog is under a year old and getting irritable while losing some quills, it’s probably because its body replaces its baby spines with new ones.
How long this lasts usually depends on the hedgehog, as it can occasionally take weeks, while others may take months.
If your hedgehog is losing many quills when they’re older, it is best to consult your veterinarian.
There are a few reasons why this might happen, including poor diet, mites, or even stress. Overall, if their spines aren’t growing back, it’s best to consult your vet.
Now that you’ve read this, you should know more about hedgehog spines and their functions. They’re not dangerous and shouldn’t be a factor to worry about when handling your pet. After all, they’re what we all associate with hedgehogs when we think of them.