The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

October 10, 2013

I own a hedgehog named Hodgepodge

Thursday, October 10, 2013 — In an effort to dispel the long-ignored myths surrounding that ever-elusive animal, the hedgehog:

It may not be world peace, or the economic state of the country, but we can make room for the small things, right? Hedgehogs deserve a voice, too, you know. They have too long been misrepresented.

In order for you to understand my authority on the subject of hedgehogs, the first myth I’ll have to dispel is this: It is illegal to own a hedgehog.

Not true. It is legal to own a hedgehog everywhere in the United States except in California, Georgia, and Hawaii. Everywhere else you can either own a hedgehog or get a permit to own one.

Hedgehog ownership became legal in North Carolina about 10 years ago. No permit is required.

So it is that I have, quite legally, come to own an adorable diva of a hedgehog named Hodgepodge.

Don’t ask me how I got it into my head to buy her. I never watched Sonic or played the video games. But hedgehogs are just so darn cute. How could I pass one up?

“Well, Shannon,” one might say, “they are rather painful.”

Which moves me onto myth number two: Hedgehogs are like porcupines.

It never fails. The second reaction I get when I tell people I have a hedgehog is, Can you even hold that?” (The first reaction, of course, being, “You own a what?”)

Somehow everyone is under the mistaken impression that, like a porcupine, hedgehogs can throw their quills, or at least stab you with them.

Again, not true.

In fact, porcupines themselves don’t even throw their quills. They shake them at predators and occasionally one may get stuck in some unfortunate bobcat’s face, but they can’t fire them at will.

Same goes for the hedgehog. However, unlike the porcupine, hedgehog quills are rather short. They won’t stab through your hand and leave you bleeding.

While some folks use hedgie handling mitts to hold their hedgehogs, it’s not necessary. I hold Hodgepodge everyday without any sort of gloves. Yes she prickles. They are quills after all. But when she calms down, her quills lay down and she’s quite easy to hold.

Another mistaken impression folks get about hedgehogs is that, like porcupines, they are rather large.

“Does it roam around your house” some ask.

“Does it use a litter box?”

Again, a hedgehog is not a porcupine. The reason it has shorter quills is because it’s a smaller animal.

While European hedgehogs can get to be the size of a small cat, most domesticated hedgehogs are a breed called African Pygmy. They don’t get any bigger Guinea pig.

I keep Hodgepodge in a large rodent cage. As far as the litter box goes, there’s no actual box but she’s very good about using the same spot to do her business every night, which is convenient.

Warning: This does have exceptions though.

I don’t know if this is true of every hedgehog but as several of my friends have experienced, Hodgepodge is  under the impression that anyone who isn’t me needs to get peed on.

I like to think of it as a hedgehog anti-burglaring system.

This isn’t to say that hedgehogs are all fun and easy sailing. Myth number three: Hedgehogs are pets for everyone.

They’re not.

First of all, hedgehogs are nocturnal. This works for me because I’m never at home during the day anyways. But it doesn’t work for everyone.

Hedgehogs also require a lot of patience. They’re naturally afraid of people and so they have to be handled every day if you want them to be friendly.

Even then they aren’t “playful.” They won’t scamper up to you, or ask you to pet them. Mostly they’re just fun little personalities who like to do their own thing.

While I watch TV, Hodgepodge scampers around the couch trying to burrow under pillows. If I pull her away from her all-important excursion and she’ll get a upset and snuffle at you. I mentioned she was a diva didn’t I?

But in spite of, or perhaps because of, their personality quirks, they’re endlessly entertaining.

What other animal would try to climb out of a flower pot butt first and end up rolling down the sidewalk? Or burrow into your sister’s hair and try to make a bed there?

No myth, my friends. That’s the absolute truth.

To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at shannon@stanlynews

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