Hedgehogs are charming pets that appeal to many people, particularly those who prefer a pet that is somewhat exotic yet still handleable. I’ve never been without hedgehogs since 2001, and I very much enjoy their company. However, one trait of hedgehogs deters many prospective owners: They are nocturnal. Waking a hedgehog during the daytime usually means you’ll be picking up a hissing, puffing ball of spines that wants nothing to do with you, at least for a few minutes while it wakes up. But what if you could accustom your hedgehog to being awake during the day? Some owners say it’s possible, and even relatively easy.
Transitioning Hedgehogs to a Diurnal Schedule
First things first: Yes, it’s possible to cause a hedgehog to become diurnal, but no, I’m not convinced it’s necessary or wise. Hedgehogs are creatures that have been relatively unchanged for several million years of evolution, and they’re nocturnal by nature. Science still does not fully understand the role of sleep and circadian rhythms in promoting health in humans, much less their pets. Therefore, I choose to err on the side of caution with my hedgehogs, and allow them to remain nocturnal. I do, however, wake them for attention and exercise during the day if I’m not anticipating enough free time to let them out in the evening.
If you really feel you must make your hedgehog diurnal, you’ll need to be absolutely consistent about waking it as often as possible during the day for a period of at least several weeks. This is to ensure that the hedgehog is as active as possible during the day, and tired enough to sleep at night. To successfully cause a hedgehog to become diurnal, you will need to wake it and encourage it to be active at least three times every day at different times of day until it begins waking up unassisted and expecting attention and exercise during the daylight hours.
Keeping a Nocturnal Hedgehog Friendly
I choose not to force my hedgehogs to adopt a diurnal schedule. Instead, I teach them to accept attention whenever they are held. If I must wake a hedgehog for attention during the day, I always offer it a mealworm or a piece of cooked chicken breast once it wakes up. Hedgehogs are not brilliant creatures, but they’re not stupid: A hedgehog that gets a mealworm or two each time it’s woken will be more apt to enjoy being woken up during the day. After offering a treat, I gently hold the hedgehog on my lap until it seems to be wide awake.
If you refrain from pressuring or harrassing your hedgehog until it’s fully awake, you won’t get quilled. If your hedgehog sleeps in a spiny ball, use work gloves to initially remove it from the cage. Respect your hedgehog’s privacy and moods, and it will respect your desire not to be stabbed with very sharp little spines!