Do Hedgehogs Hiss? Dealing With a Stressed Hedgehog


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My friend recently bought a hedgehog, but the hedgehog kept hissing at him. So, he asked me for advice. I knew it could happen but wasn’t sure about the reasons. So, I decided to research and write about it here. This is what I found out.

Do Hedgehogs Hiss? Dealing With a Stressed Hedgehog

Do hedgehogs hiss? (TLDR)

Hedgehogs do hiss and especially when you have recently adopted them. Hedgehog hissing is mostly related to the stress of the new environment. [1] There could also be other reasons like illness, general irritation, lack of sleep, etc.

Some sites suggest you let your hedgehog sleep beside you to relieve them of their stress. This could be hazardous. Read the article completely to find out why.

Why do hedgehogs hiss? (Longer answer)

Hissing is natural for hedgehogs. It is common for them to hiss, chatter, snort, and soft growl to express themselves. It may be a general reaction, but hissing like a snake is generally a sign of aggression. [2]

Hedgehogs hiss due to several reasons, including stress due to quilling, stress due to new environment, bad treatment by the previous owner, complications due to illness, etc.

We will go through each of the situations one by one to understand all aspects of them.

Quilling in hedgehogs

Quilling is quite a troubling time for hedgehogs. It irritates and makes them grumpy like it does when babies gain their teeth. Here, they all alone, and they understand what’s happening to them. Why are they losing and gaining these quills.

Touching them during this season is advised with caution, but in case you do handle them avoid the new coming quills.

Irritation and illness

Hedgehogs can also hiss due to irritation in their body, and they don’t like anybody touch them. If that is the case, visit a vet to find out whether there is something wrong with your hedgy or not.

New environment

A new environment is one of the biggest stress reasons for newly adopted hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are prey animals, and they dislike change. When a lot of things change, like smells, sounds, food, etc., hedgehogs can get stressed.

 

How do I get my hedgehog to stop hissing?

Do Hedgehogs Hiss? Dealing With a Stressed Hedgehog 1

The easiest way to stop hissing in hedgehogs is to find out the reason due to which they are doing this behavior. If it is due to stress, treat that else if it due to injury/illness. Visit a vet to figure things out.

 

Are there any other signs of stress in hedgehogs?

Stress can result in them having a rude behavior, eating less, being inactive, hissing, and popping (making weird sounds), and even biting. [3] So, you should make sure to reduce their stress and therefore help them out.

Do hedgehogs poop as well when scared?

Yes, they do. Hedgehogs poop a lot when they are scared. Sometimes, some hedgehogs won’t hiss or huff but rather roam around while pooping everywhere.

So, how to reduce this stress and bond with your new hedgehog?

How do you reduce stress in a hedgehog?

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To relax a hedgehog, follow the steps below.

  1. The first way is to match the previous environment of hedgehog. If they had an igloo, provide an igloo, and so on. Provide them the same food and similar enclosure while they are at your place for the first few weeks till they are comfortable, and then you can slowly change things your way.
  2. Do not change their food often for at least 4 to 5 weeks. Ask the breeder or the pet store what they were feeding to him and keep doing that while moving slowly to your desired food.
  3. Keep the lights on dim in their room. You don’t need to shut them off completely, but as Hedgehogs have weak eyesight, keeping them in a highly lit room can cause stress.
  4. Do not allow new members or relatives to come near them for a certain amount of time. New members may scare them both intentionally and unintentionally. Talk to your family members and let them understand that doing pranks, shouting, etc., can cause stress to your little friend.
  5. Sometimes, new owners do not understand that hedgehogs are nocturnal (they roam around in the night and sleep during the day). Allow hedgehogs to get their full sleep, and do not disturb them just to have your playtime. Not having a complete sleep can also severely stress hedgehog.
  6. If your hedgehog is a female and is breeding, this is a stressful time for her. If that is the case, practice caution while they are pregnant.
  7. Hedgehogs can also be stressed due to mites as they can be responsible for a lot of quill loss in them. Products like Revolution can help with mites.
  8. Quilling is one thing you can’t do much about. You can slightly lessen their stress by giving them an oatmeal bath, but that’s it. You have to be patient for the next 3-5 weeks till they complete the session.

 

How do you bond with a scared/stressed hedgehog?

Be patient

If your hedgehog’s new to your place, it must be irritated or perplexed from new smells and sounds, therefore giving some time to adjust. Be patient with your new hedgehog, and it may come around.

Hold them daily

Keep having contact with the hedgehog even if it hisses at you. If you get scared by their hissing, it may reinforce their behavior, and they may never become close to you. Hold them for at least 30 days every day.

You can do it twice or thrice in order to reduce the per session time. Sometimes grumpy hedgehogs don’t like to be held for long, so 3x 10 minute sessions should be fine or two 15 minute ones.

Make your scent pleasant to them.

The easiest way to bond with a hedgehog is to place a used, recently worn T-shirt in the hedgehog’s sleeping place. This will help him associate your scent with lovely things like sleeping and eating.

Keep a schedule

Scheduling is vital with hedgehogs. You should schedule a time for feeding, cleaning, taking them out, etc., and keep it constant so that hedgehog understands your activities.

Take the example of lighting in their room.

Hedgehogs have a particular body clock, and therefore they need a scheduled lighting time in their area. If you’re turning up and offering the light anytime you want, this could disturb them. Keep a regular schedule of lighting safe from 8 AM to 8 PM. And, this could really help out.

Keep them near you

You can also give them a play area near the place where you sit to watch your TV or to your entertainment. Even if they are not in your hand or in your lap, they are constantly observing and understanding that you are not a threat to them.

Sleeping bag chest or blanket

Another way to bond your hedgehog with you is to use a sleeping bag while letting them sleep on your lap. By doing this, you are providing the grump hedgy a place to hide while nurturing him to understand you as a parent.

Letting them sleep near you or on your bed is not a good idea. They could get hurt when you turn or even can die with your weight. Hedgehogs have very tiny fragile organs and you don’t want to put any wright on them.

Bribe them

Hedgehogs love mealworms, and if you can give them some mealies to your hand, it may increase your perception in their eyes.

Caution: Don’t allow the scent of meals to stay with you. Please wash your hands properly, or hedgehog may bite your finger, thinking of it as food.

Make your odor/scent friendly.

Please do not use any item that blocks your scent like gloves while handling them. In case they are curling up and using their quills to stop you from doing that, use a fleece blanket that does not block your sent. Making them acquainted with your sent is the best thing you can do here.

Temperature

You can also provide them with a heating pad to control their temperature at a suitable and comforting temperature like 75°F. Anything below can change things in a hedgehog’s body, and that could increase the hissing.

Background tunes

You can also keep constant music/radio on low so that they can get acquainted with the surrounding noises and don’t hiss, puff at every noise you make.

Take them out for a trip.

Whenever you go out – any nearby place, shopping mart, etc­­­ – keep your hedgehog with you. It will help him get accustomed to human environments, smells, noises, etc.

Confident handling

Hedgehogs can understand when you lack confidence while you handle them. Show confidence when you scoop them up.

Don’t overreact or scold

Scolding a hedgehog or overreacting to their bad behaviors results in nothing. The hedgehog doesn’t know what wrong he did and can start associating you with a bad feeling, resulting in long term bonding problems.

Build trust

By associating positive experiences with your arrival or when you hold them up, you build trust. And, trust grows with time and constant good associations. Once they understand that you mean no harm to them, the bonding will be much easier.

How much time to bond?

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All hedgehogs are different with different personalities. Some can bond with you in weeks, while others can take months.

There are also times when a hedgehog might still keep hissing.

Is the Hedgehog still hissing?

If they continue to hiss, then either you haven’t diagnosed the problem rightly, or they are one of those always angry grump hedgehogs. You can keep trying to bond with them, but there are chances that they will be like that forever.

That’s why you need to check out things before you adopt them. Read our detailed post on doing that here.

Related questions

What about popping?

Popping is always not aggressive behavior. Hedgehogs can also pop sound when they are happy. It should be seen in context.

Mild popping is generally after a long run on the wheel. Extra popping with hissing is generally an anxious behavior.

Can Hedgehogs bite when stressed?

Yes, hedgehogs can bite you when they are stressed/scared. Hedgehogs have to view few defense mechanisms when they feel threatened, and therefore a bite is natural when they sense danger.

But biting can also be a sign of curiousness, hunger, communication, attention requirement, etc.

Is huffing similar to hissing?

Hissing is not an aggressive behavior. Hedgehogs do it quite often. It is just to show you that you are bothering them.

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Rahul C Pareek

I love all animals. I think they deserve to live on this planet as much as we do. I personally own several pets including the tiny rabbit, a hedgehog, and a small cat. I would love to share my experiences with others.

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