I repeatedly get a number of questions and concerns about Regina and hedgehogs in general. I’ll attempt to address some common ones here!
Q: Why is she fat?
A: Regina has not always been fat. Her weight gain came after she had to be spayed due to uterine issues. She began to have discharge from her lady parts, and the vet tested it, and found that she had some possibly pre-cancerous cells in her uterus, and recommended that we spay her immediately. She was spayed in February of 2012, and rapidly gained weight after that.
Q: Does she see the vet?
A: Yes, Regina is monitored by a veterinarian, and receives regular checkups. She has seen two different veterinarians, who both say she’s in good health except for her weight problem. However, they both agree that the best thing to do is to just gently encourage exercise, but it may not be possible to make her lose weight.
Q: Why don’t you just feed her less?
A: Regina eats one tablespoon of high quality, low fat cat food each day. This is the minimum daily amount of food a hedgehog should get. Reducing her food intake could lead to Fatty Liver Disease.
Q: ANIMAL ABUSE!!! REPORT IT!
A: At first these comments bugged me, but then I realized that if I were to see a picture of an obese animal without knowing the back story, I would probably assume some sort of neglect, abuse, or overfeeding was occurring. I appreciate that people care enough to point it out or at least question why she’s overweight, because it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to animal welfare. So, while Regina is anything but abused, I still encourage people to keep an eye out, and if you see something that doesn’t seem right, speak up!
Q: I want a hedgehog! What are they like?
A: Hedgehogs are adorable, but make sure to do extensive research before buying one. Hedgehogcentral.com and the Hedgehog Welfare Society are great resources. Some general information:
- Hedgehogs are temperature sensitive, and need their environment kept between 74-79 degrees, meaning that a heat lamp and thermostat are necessary for their cages.
- They need a wheel, but wire or mesh wheels are NOT okay–they need a solid running surface, or else they run the risk of having a toenail ripped out, or worse. The best wheel to get is the Carolina Storm Wheel (http://www.carolinastormhedgehogs.com/), but a Giant Comfort Wheel (http://www.superpetusa.com/product-list/comfort-wheel-giant.htm) works too.
- Hedgehog food sold in pet stores is generally very bad for them–they should eat a blend of high quality cat foods. Lists of good foods for hedgehogs are available at hedgehogcentral.com.
- They also can have upper respiratory issues from bedding like wood shavings, so it is recommended to use fleece liners for their cages.
- Hedgehogs are solitary, shy creatures. Most of them are not as relaxed or as friendly as Regina. It can take a lot of socialization (months and months of daily handling and play time) before a hedgehog feels comfortable enough to let you pet them without huffing.
- They need large cages (glass aquariums are not good), and a regular light schedule.
- Also, because they aren’t as common as pets, many veterinarians are unfamiliar with them. They can run up vet bills VERY QUICKLY, so it is important to make sure you are financially able to provide vet care should they need it.