As I currently write this, I’m going through major stress. Trying to sell a house is the worst. Kicked out of your home all the time, waiting in a car with a panicked cat, hoping someone just puts you out of your misery and buys the place so you can have your life back. It shouldn’t be so stressful, but it is. Other than family members dying, this is the most stress I’ve ever experienced. Ok, the kidney stone thing wins. But after THAT, this is one of the worst things I’ve had to do.
We hate our neighborhood. It’s loud. There’s constant barking dogs and 4-wheelers repeatedly blazing past our house only to turn around and do it again. It literally rattles the windows and it goes on for hours sometimes. We get no peace. We get no quiet. We both have extreme noise sensitivities that most people just don’t understand and don’t seem to want to, either. But it is extremely anxiety producing for us. So, when we go through all the effort and labor and trouble to get our house ready to sell and it’s not gaining much interest, we feel trapped. Like we’re going to be stuck here forever, endlessly listening to noise that makes us want to explode.
So yeah. My body isn’t handling it well. I’m grumpy and tired and feel anxiety like I never had before. It’s all I can do to trudge through my day and I’m not used to this. I’m normally a very motivated person who loves to create and work on projects and have goals and things to be excited about. Now, I feel hopeless and lost and stuck in a point of no progression.
However, that isn’t what this blog post is going to be about. Who wants to read my mopey sob story? Not me! So I’m going a bit lighter with this one.
I want to introduce you to Reggie.
Before I go any further, you should be pre-warned. Reggie is dead. There’s no nice way to say it. He died about 4 years ago and I still miss the little guy. In fact, going through and getting pics of him for this post has actually made me want to cry. Pets are the world to me, and it’s brought back a lot of memories.
But no. That’s not what this is about. I don’t want to dwell on the sad shit. Not today. Today I want to remember how wonderful it was to have him in my life. So that’s what we’re going to do.
I first got Reggie around 2014, I believe? I got him for S’s (S for spouse) birthday. S had always wanted a hedgehog since he was a kid.
What? I didn’t mention that yet? Ah, yes. Reggie was a hedgehog. In fact, his full name was Reginald the Hedginald, or Reggie the Hedgie for short. So, anyway, S loved hedgehogs after playing Sonic as a kid and also there was some children’s show with a hedgehog puppet or something he used to watch too. That’s where Reggie got his name, I believe.
I went through great lengths to surprise S for his birthday. It was a lot of work, and in the end I think somehow he suspected anyway. Oh well.
My dad went with me, we had to drive about 45 minutes to get to the breeder, and we went to pick up the little guy. There was a litter and she had me decide which one I wanted. I don’t really know why I chose him out of all of them, but he seemed a little more amiable and I was determined to get a boy for reasons I will soon disclose.
Before I picked my little hog, the breeder sat us down and proceeded to give us a forty minute lecture on the caring of hedgehogs. I think if I’d realized just how much work they can be, I would have thought twice about it all. Glad it happened, but yikes.
Here’s what I learned.
Hedgehogs live anywhere from 2-5ish years. Reggie lived 3. They can get this thing called wobbly leg syndrome and I won’t get into it, but that’s how Reggie unfortunately passed. She told us all about that, and about their care. They actually eat cat food. She had a special blend she used to make sure they had all the nutrients they needed. They also eat meal worms but when I tried that, Reggie refused them, consistently. I used to grind them up in a spice grinder (dried ones!), and put them in his food but then he wouldn’t eat his food, the bastard! Another thing about hedgehogs is–no… You know what? This calls for bullet points.
- Hedgehogs need to be socialized. Especially when they’re young. I had a little pouch thingy I would put him in and keep him on my lap at first so he got used to me when he was little. I don’t think it worked.
- They’re nocturnal. Much more active at night. Consequently, when you wake them up during the day to play with you, they get pissed off. At least, Reggie did.
- They use a wheel, just like a hamster! Only the wheel is much bigger and constantly covered in poo.
- They need it to be warm. Between 75 and 85 degrees at all times. If it gets too cold they hibernate and might not wake up, also known as dying. So, no pressure or anything. We had a heat lamp and always kept the room warm too. Enjoy your heating bill.
- Hedgehogs bite. Especially if you have food smells on your hands. They aren’t trying to hurt you. They’re just trying to fucking eat you. Luckily their teeth are a certain shape so they don’t usually break the skin, it’s more like a wicked pinch. Not like hamsters. Hamsters will take you down.
- When hedgehogs are feeling antisocial, scared, grumpy, whatever, they curl into a spiky ball and make this whiffling noise, huffing and puffing like a Karen trying to return a 2 year old cappuccino maker without a receipt.
- Female hedgehogs are more prone to health issues. If they go into heat they can get infections in that uh…area, and those infections can be fatal. What makes a female hedgehog go into heat? Apparently smoke detector batteries running out. The chirping beep can sometimes sound like a male’s mating call (at least according to the breeder) and she’ll hear that sexy, sexy smoke detector and get in the mood for love. As someone who’s cursed to have smoke detectors regularly need re-batterying, I just didn’t want to take the chance. Therefore I selected a male.
- Speaking of males, she uh…was very honest about stuff in that regard. She said if I ever come upon my hedgehog and he’s squirming and convulsing and then flops over as if dead and just lays there, exhausted, not to worry. He’s probably just finished jacking off and it’s completely normal.
Yeah. My dad was particularly amused by that.
I am happy to say, I never witnessed Reggie in such activities. Thank. God.
- Speaking of male activities-that leads me to the bedding situation. They require certain bedding types or it can get stuck in orifices and cause problems. I always bought the type she’d approved but even so, there were occasions where Reggie needed a little help keeping things clean. You haven’t lived until you’ve taken tweezers and pulled bedding out of the folds of a hedgehog penis. Neither one of us were happy about it.
- Hedgehogs need to be bathed at least every week. They get poopy. So, so poopy. You do this in a sink with a toothbrush and warm water. Some hedgehogs love it. Mine did not.
- Hedgehog nails grow fast and when they do, they curve under and will grow into their paws if you don’t trim them. Guess who hates having their nails trimmed? Guess who will turn into a ball of spikes when you try to trim said nails?
There’s a lot more I could get into in regard to the care of these creatures, but you basically get the point. It’s a mother fucking lot of work. But I loved S, and I wanted his lifelong dream to come true, so the deal was I’d take care of Reggie for him since I had way more time and that was part of my present too.
The day came, I brought Reggie home and S loved him. I mean, in spite of his grumpy, huffly ways, the little guy was adorable. See?
As the days went by, I started to realize just how high maintenance hedgehogs are. First, as I said, he’s nocturnal and we are not. We would get up every morning at 3:45 so bedtime was 8:00. Therefore, when we were awake, he was the opposite. When I held him, he was usually asleep and I’d have to wake him. He was not happy to see me. Ever. I used gardening gloves because his spikies hurt, though S had a way with him and never needed them. He had a little plastic igloo house in his cage he’d sleep in. He’d bury himself in his bedding and hunker in to sleep and when I’d lift the igloo I’d just hear this, “HUFFHUFFHUFFHUFFHUFFHUFF!!!” which is hedgehog for, “What the fuck are you doing!?” Then he’d ball up and cuss me out as I gingerly took him out to socialize or clean, etc.
A couple days into his arrival, something horrifying happened. I was holding him, gloved of course, and suddenly his black beady eyes bulged like they were going to pop out of his head. His long snouted mouth opened, revealing his pinchy little teeth. He turned his head as far to one side as he could, his mouth opened, his tongue stuck out and then….he started foaming at the mouth.
The breeder had NOT warned me about this.
I panicked. What the hell?! He foamed and lathered, spitting on himself as his eyes got bulgier and bulgier. I’d been sold a rabid hedgehog. What else could it have been? I stared in shock at this terrifying specimen in my hand, quickly putting him back in his cage and bolting to google it.
Apparently it’s completely normal. It’s called “self-anointing,” where they try to coat their spines in their saliva. Some think it’s because they’re trying to mask their scent, or they like a smell and it makes them react, etc. No one actually has a valid answer. Here. This isn’t Reggie, but here’s a picture I found online of the incident.
Doesn’t it look possessed? I still am amused that the breeder told me all about their propensity for jacking off, but not THIS.
I never did get used to it.
Besides the whole foamy thing, having Reggie was…interesting. He loved to run on his wheel and every night we’d hear him going nuts on the thing. I usually would stick him on a towel and hold him on my lap while I watched TV. He was always grumpy about it until about 10 minutes or so when he’d finally wake up and be social. Then he’d wander around my lap or nibble my shirt or we’d let him walk around the living room. At the time we had a cat named Misha. Misha loved to sleep on laps. It was pretty much all she did, ever. So she was none too happy to share my lap with Reggie. She’d lay right on him. I don’t know how his spikes didn’t hurt her, but she had rather thick fur. She’d just plop down right on him and you’d hear him huffling beneath her. Eventually they learned to share my lap though. It was rather cozy, save for the fact that he’d pee or poo on me all the time. Hence, the towel.
Speaking of poo, that boy was a rather crusty gentleman. He’d get poop everywhere. His wheel was smeared with the stuff. Hedgehogs often poop as they run so he’d do his business on the wheel and run through it over and over, tracking it everywhere. He got it coated in his spikes, in his bangs (that’s what I called his forehead spikes) on his toes, you name it. I had to constantly clean his belongings via hose in the backyard and give him baths in the sink via toothbrush.
The worst part about Reggie, was the nail trims. Luckily you don’t have to do the back paws, the nails there grow straight. The front ones, however, curve and they are necessary and very difficult to get. No matter what, Reggie never got good at letting me clip him. I had to do it every two weeks or so and it was an absolute nightmare. I had no choice. He’d get hurt if I didn’t do it. He’d ball up in his spiky fetal position, though, and I could not get at his feet.
Then, I got brilliant.
I got a cookie cooling sheet, the kind with holes in it so the cookies can cool from underneath. I put Reggie on that, then put a towel on top of him to keep him from rolling off. I’d lift the sheet up via one of my feet and my forearm, the other hand was held on top of him to keep him steady. Then, his little legs dangling through the holes, I’d oh so carefully use my nail clippers to get just the tips of his claws. It’s a lot of pressure because you can hurt them really bad if you don’t do it perfect. And he does not hold still. There’s a lot of unnatural angles. This is really a job for a contortionist. It didn’t help that Misha would demand to sit in my lap during this too, never one to share attention. As the struggle went, Reggie would get freaked out. And then he’d shit. He’d shit so much. Just gobs of gooey brown turds that would fall through the holes of the cooling rack and onto my lap. I learned immediately to have a towel there. I don’t know how he did it, but those poos were incredibly smelly for how small he was. It was a nightmare. I usually had to give him a bath first to soften his nails and calm him down, then trim them and then re-bathe him to get the poop off again. The whole thing took about 30-40 minutes. A couple times I accidentally clipped too close to his nail bed when he’d spasm, and he’d bleed. Little guys like that can bleed a lot so you have to use cornstarch to stop the bleeding. You dip their little leg in it and it works fast. Then, of course, he has to lick it because it’s new, and he’d start foaming from the cornstarch and look rabid all over again.
I tried my best to recreate what a trimming session looked like.
This is not an exaggeration. I absolutely hated it.
In spite of all the aggravation and how much work Reggie really was, I’m so glad I had that time with him. I wish like hell he was still alive. I wish like hell that I’d learned the intricacies of hedgehog care faster than I did. It was a lot of trial and error to find what worked best for both of us. He was a dear little thing. Grumpy as fuck half the time, curious the rest. S and he got along wonderfully. He was less of a fan of me. Probably didn’t care for the nail clipping any more than I did. Still, someday, when I have the energy again, I’d love to have another hedgehog. This time, I’ll get a girl. No more penis tweezing for me. We’ll name her Regina, and you can bet your ass she will be staying far away from any and all smoke detectors.