What Does It Mean When A Hedgehog Foams At The Mouth?

Caring for a new pet hedgehog is not always a straightforward task. Hedgehogs can be very low maintenance pets, but this does not mean that they can’t exhibit strange behaviour when confronted with a new and alien environment.

If you have noticed your hedgehog contorting its body or even foaming at the mouth – then you may be concerned about your spiky friend’s health and well-being. However, a foamy mouth is not always a cause for concern.

That is why we have compiled all the information you need to know about hedgehogs and the various behaviours they can exhibit. By following this guide, you will be able to identify why your hedgehog may be foaming at the mouth and what you can do to help it. 

Why Does My Hedgehog Foam At The Mouth?

Hedgehogs can exhibit various strange behaviours, but arguably the strangest is when your bristly pet suddenly twists their body around and starts producing a foam-like substance from the mouth. 

Although this performance can be an amazing thing to see, it can also be a little scary and leave you wondering if your hedgehog is unwell or injured. However, this behaviour is completely natural and all hedgehog species are known to exhibit it. 

So if you find your hedgehog writhing around on the ground, while trying to coat its body in foaming saliva – then you can rest assured knowing that this is just something that all hedgehogs do. 

What Is Self-Anointing

This particular process is called self-anointing and it is common among all species of hedgehog. Self-anointing involves the hedgehog producing a foam from its mouth, which it then uses to coat its body.

To make sure that it reaches every inch of its body, including the shoulders and back, the hedgehog will begin to contort itself into various shapes until it is completely covered. 

The duration of this process can last from a handful of minutes to almost a full hour. And the hedgehog won’t be satisfied until it knows it has anointed every part of its body.

We understand that self-anointment can look very alarming and distressing when you have never seen it being performed before – but we assure you that it is completely normal. 

If you own a pet hedgehog or see a hedgehog in the wild performing this process, then you should leave them alone until they have finished coating their bodies. Hedgehogs do not appreciate being interrupted during this process, so it is for the best that you let them finish. 

Why Do Hedgehogs Self-Anoint?

Although many specialists recognize anointing as a normal part of the hedgehog’s nature, we still don’t truly know why these cuddly critters perform it.

Many people believe that anointing is caused by the hedgehog reacting to a strong smell. And this particular theory has been backed up by hedgehogs often performing self-anointing in the presence of aromas such as cigarette smoke and paint fumes. 

However, some hedgehogs have also been known to anoint themselves upon being introduced to water, which leaves many to believe that smell is not a primary factor.

For a long time, the process was associated with sexual behaviour, with many people believing it to be a mating ritual performed by males. But it has since been recorded as a phenomenon that takes place throughout the year. 

In some cases, it has been theorized that the process is used by the hedgehog to alleviate stress or to protect themselves from predators. However, there is still no concrete reason why this process takes place or how it benefits the hedgehog. But it is still common behaviour and something that your beloved hedgehog may exhibit. 

Do Other Animals Self-Anoint?

The fascinating thing about self-anointing is that it has only been recorded in a small number of animals around the world – with the process being particularly popular among various branches of the hedgehog family. 

Beyond hedgehogs, the process of self-anointment has also been recorded in several species of monkey, species of deer and even among giant pandas. However, this does not mean that specialists are any closer to discerning why this process takes place. 

It seems the reason why animals self-anoint themselves will always be a mystery – just know that the process is natural and is something that benefits your hedgehog in some way.