Hedgehogs aren’t natural biters. However, just because they don’t usually bite, doesn’t mean they won’t.
Hedgehogs don’t bite unless there’s a reason behind it. As the owner, you’ll want to solve this problem quickly to keep your fingers intact.
Why Is Your Hedgehog Biting You?
You can’t stop a biting hedgehog without knowing why s/he’s biting. You have to first find the underlying cause. What the hedgehog does before biting can help you determine the reason behind why your hedgehog is biting.
Here are the common reasons a hedgehog will bite.
1. You Smell Yummy
Your hedgehog is most likely biting you because of how you smell. Hedgehogs find the smells of food, soaps, lotions, and hand sanitizers yummy. Sweaty hands taste salty, and your hedgehog will be tempted to bite.
Hedgehogs will definitely bite smokers. Smokers sometimes complain about their hedgehog biting them, however, the hedgehog doesn’t bite at all when in an environment without the tobacco smell.
Your hedgehog will lick you before biting if you smell good.
This is the easiest cause to deal with.
You can use a technique called response prevention. If your hedgehog licks you or shows any other signs that s/he might bite, move your hand away.
You can also prevent getting bit by washing your hands with unscented soap.
Your hedgehog could be trying to tell you something by biting you.
Some hedgehogs who don’t normally bite will bite you if they’ve been handled for too long or if they are in a noisy environment. Your hedgehog could feel uncomfortable if you are too close to its face, are trying to restrain it, or if they are afraid.
Some hedgehogs don’t like it when a lot of people are around. They might bite you to tell you they are uncomfortable in a crowded place.
An uncomfortable hedgehog will squirm and make it known that it is uncomfortable before biting, so pay attention.
Some hedgehogs are explorers. They are curious and adventurous, and they waste no time exploring their environment.
Young hedgehogs also nibble and bite on things as a means to better understand their environment.
This is normal hedgehog behavior. A few things they may be tempted to bite are:
- Rings and piercings
- Artificial nails
- Bracelets and watches
- Polished nails
You should only try to stop this behavior if there is a chance that the hedgehog will harm itself or others, or if the hedgehog has gone overboard in this exploring behavior.
To discourage this, use the “air puff” technique. Watch your hedgehog and, as soon as it opens its mouth to bite, blow air at the hedgehog. The natural response would be for the hedgehog roll up in a ball or close its mouth. It shouldn’t take long for the hedgehog to get that it’s bad to bite humans and stop biting.
Your hedgehog will express its disappointment and frustration through biting.
Why is your hedgehog frustrated?
- Is the owner away?
- Did you change your hedgehogs normal routine?
- Is this the right time for bonding? Some hedgehogs don’t like being handled at certain times.
- Is your hedgehog disappointed for not getting the amount of treats s/he wanted?
- Did you handle another hedgehog first? Your hedgehog might be jealous.
These are a few common things that can frustrate you hedgehog, but since every hedgehog is unique, it could be something else. You know your hedgehog best.
4. Hormonal Reasons
This is more common in males, but can also be present in females. Your hedgehog could be under hormonal stress if there are hedgehogs of the other gender nearby.
If you don’t plan on breeding your hedgehogs, it’s a good idea to have the male neutered.
6. Accidental Biting
You hedgehog might accidentally bite you when trying to make a nest in your shirt.
Some hedgehogs just like to have something to carry in their mouth. This is a rare habit that some hedgehogs have. Give your hedgehog a piece of fleece to carry around. A small soft toy will also work.
However, don’t give your hedgehog something small enough to choke on.
7. Health-related Problems
Your hedgehog might be biting you because it isn’t feeling well. If you suspect that your hedgehog has a health problem, take it to the vet.
How To Discourage Biting?
A few hedgehogs are consistent biters for no apparent reason. If this is the case with your hedgehog, you can discourage biting with the following techniques:
- The “air puff” technique. If you sense your hedgehog is about to bite, blow a puff of air at its face. If you don’t catch the bite before it starts, you can blow after the hedgehog has bitten.
- Shout “No!”. Hedgehogs don’t like loud noises. This method is better used when your hedgehog already trusts you. If your hedgehog is still getting to know you, you might make it fear you by doing this.
- The “Push” technique. Normally, when you get bit, you’ll want to pull your finger away. Instead, push gently. This is uncomfortable, and your hedgehog will let go of your finger.
- Use a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. After your hedgehog bites, tap its nose with the Q-tip. The hedgehog will learn to associate the awful smell of rubbing alcohol with biting. Be careful not to touch the hedgehog’s eyes or mouth with the Q-tip.
It will take time to train your hedgehog not to bite, but with patience, it will increase the enjoyment you have with your hedgehog.
What Not To Do After Your Hedgehog Bites
You might be mad after your hedgehog bites, but you should never be aggressive towards your hedgehog.
- Never flick or hit your hedgehog.
- Do not put your hedgehog in its cage immediately after the bite.
- This teaches your hedgehog that biting is a way to get back in its cage.
Are Hedgehog Bites Dangerous?
Pet hedgehog bites are usually not dangerous. Most bites don’t draw blood.
However, depending on the reason behind the bite, hedgehogs might break the skin.
Some hedgehogs can carry diseases such as hemorrhagic fever, Yersinia (the plague), and Mycobacterium, but these are rare in pet hedgehogs.
However, hedgehog bites can get infected. To avoid this, rinse the bitten area and apply a disinfectant.
Do Hedgehog Bites Hurt?
Hedgehog bites don’t inflict excruciating pain, but they do hurt.
Well, it all depends on why your hedgehog is biting you. If it’s just curious, the bite won’t hurt that bad. However, if your hedgehog is mad or afraid, the bite will hurt much more.
Have a question I didn’t answer? Ask in the comments below.