Tobias: The awesome hedgehog of awesome

Tobias is finally starting to mellow. We spent a couple of hours last night watching Leverage, much of which Tobias spent being as lovable as an aggressive pincushion. I got bit a couple of times, finally. But this is just what hedgehogs do; they are small, they don’t have much in the way of defenses, and you’re unfamiliar and smell strange.

So they curl into a ball, make themselves large, and bounce around and nip at you until they no longer seem edible.

Tobias isn’t to the stage, yet, where he can actually be held; you sort of wrap him up in a towel and set him on your lap to avoid being cut up by spines or teeth. From there, all you can really do is make yourself available to be cut up by spines or teeth while seated in a comfortable position where you’re less likely to drop him from a great height. But if you aren’t willing to make yourself vulnerable to the possibility, this just reinforces the idea that being aggressive is working, and that makes them even more nervous, since why would they need to be aggressive if you weren’t a threat?

So for a while, it was like petting a steel hairbrush.

But after the first hour or so, he finally started getting tired. It’s a lot of work, being a stressed-out rage-ball (I know this from experience). So I took advantage of this and started using both hands. One to pet him with and another to hold over his eyes and face. Strange thing about hedgehogs, having a brain the size of a sunflower seed; if they can’t see you, you’re probably not there.

This started him licking my hand. This is generally where you get bitten, and sure enough, I got a little test bite a couple minutes later. When this produced no response, he REALLY bit me. This is one of the true tests of hedgehog ownership; all you can do is deal with it. If you respond, they’ll just keep biting you. Sometimes they do that anyway.

I didn’t squeal like a boiled pig, though, and he eventually gave up on that, too.

Eventually, he relaxed and the spines on his back laid down flat, so I could pet him properly. Eventually I got a hand under him and rubbed his belly a little and he didn’t curl up into a ball. Later, I put him back in his bin and fed him some chicken.

Tobias likes chicken.

And that’s what amazing progress with a hedgehog looks like. It’s still weeks before we’ll be actual friends. But I’m getting there.

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  • Comments (10)
    • jane
    • June 28th, 2010

    ooooh, that’s good! mucho hedgehoggery. you have to be awfully patient.

      • Max Bell
      • June 28th, 2010

      The weather here is still disappointing as all get-out. I’ve given up on the idea of it being nice this year. It is what it is.

      I go to see the social worker this Thursday; when I finally have social security, I’ll build a real web site with Drupal or Diaspora or something. This is just a temporary solution so I don’t disappear altogether.

    • jane
    • June 28th, 2010

    our weather is set to change, which is a shame. I read a long term forecast yesterday that said 3 weeks of this and more – now suddenly it’s not going to be like that … I was looking forward to more sailing. oh well.
    looking forward to seeing a full-blown website!

      • Max Bell
      • June 28th, 2010

      The nice thing about Diaspora is that it’s designed so that Diaspora-based web sites automatically communicate with each other. So if Joe creates an account on Site A, he can still talk to Walter, who only has an account on Site B.

      Isn’t released, yet, so I can’t say if it’s as good as Drupal or not. Drupal is really, really good, but it’s not designed to let web sites communicate like that.

      Ideally, each web site should glom together to act like one, big web site, though. Which is sort of what Facebook is, except that it’s designed to make money for Facebook, so it won’t talk to Twitter, etc. — which is stupid, since neither Facebook nor Twitter nor Tumblr etc. make any more money because they don’t talk to one another — they just make you have separate accounts for each one. I want to create a single openID and use that to connect with anywhere I want to post to. If I want to rant at somebody on the Washington Post? I shouldn’t have to fill out the same stupid web form I was required to enter when I created on the New York Times. It’s repetitive and unnecessary.

  1. thank sounds like good process! what are his other favorite things? igle liked tea tree oil. i think you understand better than most how dangerous it can be to wear tea tree oil chapstick around a hedgehog. it’s cute to have one lick your lips until.. the biting starts! then the annointing! the 1st time i ever saw igle annoint was after chewing on peter’s coat (about the tobacco pouch pocket!) i do sort of miss having a pet, but this place is so small..

      • Max Bell
      • June 29th, 2010

      He doesn’t have much interest in eggs or, oddly enough, mealworms, although the latter may be due to being stressed out — he’s either hidden or been balled up except for the brief description I wrote here when I’ve actually been around.

      In his way, he’s less social than Iggle was — and A LOT more vocal. I’ve been careful to give him a lot of space as a result. I’ll hear him up and running his wheel or eating, for example, but only when I’m in bed and the light is out. Otherwise, he keeps hidden.

      Tonight I’ll give him a toilet paper tube and see what he does with that.

      Want to get a picture of him with a ruler for you — he’s about as big as hedgehogs get — easily as big as some of the larger european ones. I get the impression he was a lot more social when he lived with his previous owner and just isn’t sure how to take us, yet — the dog and cats are new to him, for example, and the place certainly smells like them.

  2. igle was more social with you than he was with me. and the 1st time i gave him mealworms he was tramatized by them – i ended up having to flush them down the toilet! did igle ever let you watch him bathe? i was allowed to see him eat and drink (though he usually did it when he was alone) but i only ever heard him wash himself. it made such an interesting little rustling noise, that noise like wind in bamboo!
    gosh, the petting farm at the zoo this weekend made me miss animals. they had a lovely bunny. he did not even bite. if some strange person touched me, or lots of them, i’d bite like hell!

      • Max Bell
      • June 29th, 2010

      I had no idea hedgehogs DID bathe, actually. I’ve never seen such a thing. I usually give them a bath every couple of months or so with shampoo, conditioner and a scrub brush. Then every three weeks or so, I set them up a dust bath (pumice) like you do with chinchillas — which I have seen them bathe with. I didn’t figure that out until after Iggle had passed, though.

      I learned a lot watching Prozac and Xanax together — they just aren’t social creatures, even with each other. The first time they ever fought was on Thanksgiving, and it was like watching them wrestle; eventually Xanax got Prozac by the ruff and pinned her, after which she lost interest and wandered off. They scrapped a few more times after that — usually Prozac “won”, but then I finally split them up — got a nice, big, multilevel ferret cage. Not ideal — their feet would get caught in the mesh, but at least they could get away from each other.

      I did, briefly, consider getting a rat — hedgehogs went up in price to $200 or more. But having an animal certified by the IHA or whatever it is became a big deal due to problems with inbreeding, which left them cancer prone. Both Prozac and Xanax had that problem and wound up dying from facial cancer — it even wound up in the same place. Tobias is certified, though, so hopefully he doesn’t have the same problem. Hedgehogs are impossible to euthanize humanely due to their size (or so I have been told) so I’m going to get a cheap .22 at some point. Sounds pretty cold blooded said out loud, but it’s much more humane than waiting months for an animal to die from cancer.

  3. yes.. most animals humans have as pets are social in the wild. they live in some sort of community. but hedgehogs don’t. they pretty much avoid each other except for mating and child rearing, and even then i imagine those little teenage hedgehogs get kicked out of the nest as soon as they are old enough to get a fake ID! if you are going to have a pet that is antisocial in the wild, it is not likely to be terribly social with you, even if it does learn to live with you. that’s just not its way. but that’s ok, i am prickly too. and grumpy. especially if you wake me up at nap time! crunch crunch, back away from the kibble.

      • Max Bell
      • June 30th, 2010

      Exactly. Mine have gotten progressively more friendly with me over time — I think the antisocial aspect is overwhelmingly a survival instinct, but in the same breath, I don’t think it can be completely overcome, nor would I try. The great thing about hedgehogs is that if you don’t want to spend time with them on occasion, it doesn’t hurt their feelings.

      What really blew me away is how little we actually knew about them before they became domesticated — at one time, the life expectancy of a hedgehog was believed to be about five years in the wild, but this was due to assumptions about diet and environment. Nowadays, we know that it’s actually closer to one year, something that’s apparently finally been verified through observation. Another thing I’ve come to believe is that all hedgehogs have mites — when Iggle and Siili started losing their quills, I was afraid that I wasn’t keeping them clean enough. Since they’ve all gone through this, however, I’ve come to suspect that it’s just that as they age, they become more vulnerable to the mites they carry with them.

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