So, I have a hedgehog. (Not to be confused with a porcupine, which is a terrifying creature that can climb trees and spit its quills at you. Have you ever had one of those things chase after you? Because I have. But that's a post for another day.) Yes, I am the proud owner of one of those adorable, spiky little critters, and her name is Sylvia Plath Hedgehog. By now, I'm sure you have a lot of questions, so let's get right down to it.
*Correction: Porcupines do NOT spit their quills at you, but for the sake of drama, I'm keeping this in.
So, for starters, what's up with the name of this blog?
Do you mean, do I have a hedgehog tattoo? The answer, my friend, is no. BUT I SHOULD. I have other tattoos as you can see from this photo of me that resembles a small, giddy child holding an ice cream cone. Except, in this case, the ice cream cone is Sylvia Plath Hedgehog; also known as the greatest hedgehog in the world.
So, why do you own a hedgehog?
Good question, imaginary person who is actually me. I fell in love with hedgehogs many moons ago, although I can't quite pinpoint the actual moment when this occurred. I fell in love with their inquisitive, furry little faces. I saw their quills as a challenge, to see if I was willing to love them despite the elements. If I'm being honest, Sylvia Plath Hedgehog isn't too fond of anyone who isn't me. While I'd like to say that that's an issue, I actually find it to be quite endearing. Also, the fact that they roll into a little ball of spiky love really sealed the deal for me.
Truthfully, I just love animals—cows, lemurs, goats, sting rays, pigs, tigers, dogs, chickens. You name it, I'll cuddle it. My husband and I have a big family: two cats, two dogs, and a hedgehog. If I'm not at home with my furry children, and for some reason get invited to a social gathering, there's a very strong chance that I'll hide in the back of your closet with your cat, hissing at people (only partially kidding).
Back to real life: When I saw a litter of babies who were born in New Hampshire, I quickly made the decision to, behind my husband's back, visit the little, spiky babies. When I held my precious, little Sylvia for the first time, she took to me, and I took to her. She batted her tiny white eyelashes at me, and looked exactly like a newborn piglet. And that was that. I was in love. She became my first "born" child. I carry her with me wherever I go—the grocery store, work, class, dinner, bed. And I talk to her ... A LOT.
What do hedgehogs eat?
Sylvia eats Blue Buffalo "Healthy Growth" kitten chow. Hedgehog feed does exist, but most owners and breeders recommend staying away from it and going for the kitten chow, which is full of nutrients and protein.
She also loves small, live mealie worms as a snack. This sounds gross, but it's actually pretty amazing to see how quickly she scoops those little things up and crunches on them like they're Salt & Vinegar potato chips. Other hedgehogs can eat different kinds of fruits and vegetables, but Sylvia has never had a real interest in human food. She's partial to chicken and sweet potato baby food, however.
What can you expect when you own a hedgehog?
- Lots of questions about hedgehogs, which is what inspired me to write this post. In case you haven't noticed, there's a bit of a hedgehog craze happening right now. This is why I received an abundance of hedgehog-related gifts for Christmas this year (hedgehog earrings, hedgehog socks, a hedgehog Christmas ornament, and a "grow your own hedgehog kit" to name a few).
- Getting poked a lot. When hedgehogs are scared, they raise their quills as a defense, which feel like tiny little needles. Since their eyesight is poor, hedgehogs rely primarily on scent. If they're not used to your scent, they raise their quills. When they are more comfortable with you, they keep their quills down. When I am cuddling/handling Sylvia, 95 percent of the time, her quills are down. I've heard the following comments when SPH's quills are down: "She feels like a bag of uncooked rice!" "She feels like a bristly brush!" "She feels like a beanbag chair!" "She feels like a welcome mat!"
- Huffing. This is what hedgehogs do when they're grumpy or scared and they put their quills up in defense. (They look like they have an adorable Mohawk when they huff, so it's extremely difficult to ever take them seriously.)
- Lots of poop and pee. I'll be honest, the poop is not like the clean, tight little bunny turds you're used to. This is mushy and brown, kind of like small cat poop, but not smelly. (Okay, I swear I'm only going to talk about poop in this one post. Please continue reading!)
- Stepping on quills. I can't tell you how many times I've walked around my house when suddenly, I feel a sharp pain on the bottom of my foot. "Ow!" I usually screech, followed by an expletive or two. Did I step on a needle I may have dropped while hemming the bottom of my jeans? No. no. For the thousandth time, I've stepped on a stray hedgehog quill. Hedgehogs do lose quills from time to time. So watch out for your feeties. Wear slippers.
- Having to keep your hedgie at a temperature of 72 - 75F. This is perhaps the most important thing to know about owning a hedgehog. I will get into this in greater detail in future posts if others are interested in learning more. I have a special radiator and heat lamp that I use for SPH's room (yes, she has her own room!) I also have a heating pad for cold nights when she's hanging out with the family on the couch. Warning: If you do not keep your hedgehog's habitat between this temperature range, there is a chance he or she could go into hibernation, which could be fatal.
- Cuddling. Once your hedgehog knows you, she will let her guard (ouchie quills) down. Hedgehogs love to sleep. They are nocturnal, so you become their #1 sleep buddy during the day. I often fall asleep on the couch or in my bed whilst cradling Sylvia and rubbing her tiny, furry belly (which she loves). At night, they party.
- Being the weird chick who owns a hedgehog. Sylvia Plath Hedgehog has become a bit of a local celebrity. Sometimes, when I'm walking around town, someone will suddenly come up to me and ask, "Hey, bro! Aren’t you that girl who owns a hedgehog named Sylvia Plath or something?" "Yes," I will say quietly. "Oh, that's so weird," the suave-haired young man might say. Okay, truthfully, this has only happened once. But it was enough for me to go WOAH! I need to get SPH blogging because she is clearly meant for the spotlight, unlike her introverted, grumpy, bear-like owner (YEAH, that would be me).
Why did you name her Sylvia Plath?
Here's a secondary question I hear a lot: "Is she going to stick her head inside an oven?" Obviously, the answer to that question is "no," because she doesn't have opposable thumbs. The answer to your other question is: Because I love and idolize Sylvia Plath, and have since I was an angsty teenager (Ahh, The Bell Jar ). When I saw SPH, I knew we would be kindred spirits. I knew she would get me, the way that the real SP would have if we had known each other. And that is all.
Stay tuned for Part II where I answer more technical questions, and any other questions you have about hedgehogs. Also, stay tuned for future posts in which I discuss at length my obsession with animals, love of vegan cooking, and true crime television shows! It's going to be real swell!