Hedgehog Temperament Scale

About our Temperament Rating Scale ~

Here at Dreamflower Meadows we think that temperament is just as important as health in a quality hedgehog – What is the point in owning a pet you can’t handle easily? For this reason we price and list our hedgehogs according to temperament. Since temperament shows up best in older babies we do not take pictures of our babies and post them on the website until they are at least 5 weeks old which we feel is the best age to determine a baby hedgehog’s temperament before they start their final “quilling” at 6 weeks which often masks their true temperament for a couple of weeks.

The scale below is provided as a guide for new pet owners to have an idea of the temperament of each hedgehog that we breed and is based on our experience. The method of how we determine the temperament comes from years of experience, but is subjective and, thus, cannot be to compared with what another breeder may be listing as the temperament of their hedgehogs. Every breeder will have different standards as to how they determine temperament based on their personal experience. For example, a newer breeder may list a hedgehog as “Extremely Friendly” because that is the friendliest one they have ever handled, whereas, a breeder like myself who has handled far more hedgehogs over a longer period of time will not consider that same hedgehog nearly as friendly as the newer breeder who has not handled or seen as many hedgehogs to be able to make the comparison as well. Ten years ago the friendliest baby hedgehogs that were born here at Dreamflower Meadows we would now list as just “Friendly”. Over the years we have been able to keep more and more of our friendliest hedgehogs and breed more selectively for temperament. However, temperament is not genetic alone. Baby hedgehogs must be handled when they are young or their genetic temperament will not shine through. With that said, a hedgehog that is not as friendly can always be handled more to get them to be friendlier over time – no matter how old they are. These hedgehogs that are naturally more shy just take more handling than the ones that are genetically prone to be friendlier. The following scale reflects both genetic and environmental temperaments since both these factors end up going hand-in-hand here at Dreamflower Meadows. All of our babies are handled from the time their eyes open at 2 to 3 weeks old until they leave for their new homes.

To help decipher the following scale a person who has never met a hedgehog in person needs to know the following about all hedgehog’s natural and instinctive behaviors. There are certain behaviors they exhibit when they are nervous about a new smell, sound, sight, or situation. These behaviors are not done because they do not like you, they will get to know you and like you if you show them that they have nothing to fear and you can be trusted. These behaviors are self-protecting and in the wild would keep them alive. A hedgehog that is NOT nervous will have all of its spines down, will not be rolled up in a tight ball, will not be making a hissing/rattling sound, and will not be making a popping/clicking sound. The four levels that show a hedgehog’s nervousness when first picked up (or continue to be held in the case of hedgehogs that are not well socialized) are as follows in order of least nervous to most nervous (based on when they are first woken up to be handled):

  1. First they put up their spines – they crisscross them and make them stick out – and hide their faces
  2. If they are still nervous, they will roll up in a tight ball while still having their spines up
  3. Then they will make a hissing or rattling sound while still doing the first two things
  4. If they are still nervous, they will make a popping or clicking sound that results in the hedgehog’s body “jump” up slightly and making the spines prick you more if you are holding or trying to touch them, all while still doing the other things.

These behaviors will continue until the hedgehog is confident he is not in danger any longer. Often people will want to pet the hedgehog to help calm them or soothe them, however, in the animal world this is not soothing if they think they are about to be eaten. It often will cause the hedgehog to get more nervous and take longer for them to calm down. When you are first meeting your new hedgehog, you should just hold them calmly in your hands with your fingers out flat. When your fingers are closed around them, they may feel like you mean them harm – like the grasp of a predator. Once your new pet has calmed down, put their spines down, and is starting to crawl to go exploring (which is a hedgehog’s favorite thing to do), you must resist the temptation to touch their face. They need to get to know you and trust you over a few days to weeks (depending on the temperament) before they will trust you to do this. When you think about it, even us humans do not like or allow complete strangers to touch our faces – so why do we not think animals would be any different! Another human behavior that many new pet owners do is to make kissing or clicking sounds to try to calm down their new pet. This also has the same effect as trying to pet them. Hedgehogs are VERY sensitive to high pitch noises, so this is definitely NOT the thing to do when meeting your new pet. Again hold them in your hand calmly and quietly and let them figure out that you are not going to hurt them and then they will quickly learn to trust you and your new smell. For these reasons, I highly encourage parents who have younger children (under 5 years old for sure and some children under 8 who are loud and cannot sit still) to make arrangements for these younger children to not come with you when you first meet and pick up your new hedgehog to take home. And once the hedgehog is brought home, the children must be taught how to handle or act around the hedgehog. Hedgehogs do very well in homes with young children, as long as the hedgehog is respected, handled gently and correctly (not like a toy), and given time to sleep in a quite room during the most of the day.

Below is the temperament scale developed here at Dreamflower Meadows and was designed to give every new pet owner an idea of what to expect from their new baby when they first meet them. Every hedgehog is “evaluated” when they are woken up from a long nap which is when most pet owners handle them since hedgehogs usually do not wake up and start moving around their cages until it is night and the lights have been turned off. Almost all new pet owners come here to meet and take home their new pet during the daytime – and the lights are on when you meet them, so to a hedgehog it is daytime now matter what the hour is. Remember that baby hedgehogs do go through a “quilling stage” between 6 – 10 weeks of age during which time they are often grumpier than when we evaluated them before 6 weeks of age. Keep handling them during this time, so that they don’t forget that you are to be trusted. But it is not good to pet them during this time since their skin is more irritated. Please see the Handling Hedgehogs page of this website for more information on handling and “quilling”.

Temperament Rating Scale of Dreamflower Meadows’ Hedgehogs ~

Please Note: These ratings are set while the hedgehog is in a familiar environment. When any hedgehog is taken to a new home or environment, their temperament will not be quite as good for a week or two until they become familiar with their new surroundings. This is also true for young hedgehogs who are in their last “quilling” stage.

5 – Amazingly Friendly – Rating: ★★★★★

Does not roll up, hiss, or pop at all when first awakened and puts its spines down quickly (if they are up at all) – within seconds to no more than a couple of minutes after being woken up.

4 – Very Friendly – Rating: ★★★★☆

Does not pop or roll up tight at all, but will put up its spines and hiss a little when first awakened, but will lower its spines and stop hissing within 5 minutes of being handled gently.

3 – Friendly – Rating: ★★★☆☆

Will put up its spines, hiss, roll up, and may pop some when first awakened, but will lower its spines, unroll, and stop hissing and popping within 15 minutes of being handled gently.

2 – Shy – Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Will put up its spines, hiss, roll up, and pop more than above when first awakened, but will lower its spines, unroll, stop hissing, and popping within 30 minutes being handled gently.

1 – Very Shy – Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Will put up its spines, hiss, roll up tightly, and pop a lot when first awakened. It may take up to an hour for it to lower its spines, unroll, stop hissing, and popping.

0 – Grumpy – Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Will put up its spines, hiss, roll up tightly, and pop a lot when first awakened. It may take more than an hour for it to lower its spines, unroll, stop hissing, and popping if not several hours.

In summary ~

  • A 4 – 5 rated hedgehog will make a very good and easy-to-handle pet for anyone of all ages – Even homes with other loud pets. This is also the best option for a Classroom pet.
  • A 2 – 3 rated hedgehog will need more work, but could become a 5 if handled enough – Not the best option for a home with younger children or other loud pets.
  • A 0 – 1 rated hedgehog will need someone with a lot of patience and a lot of time to handle this hedgehog for it to become a 5 rated hedgehog (if ever) – Definitely not a good option for a home with young children or other loud pets.
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