Small pet boasts big personality

Story and photos
by Callie Sterling

While many college students choose dogs, Mackenzie Vangilder chose something different as her pet, a hedgehog. The University of Central Arkansas student describes her companion, Archie, as a low maintenance pet with a big personality.

“I was looking for a pet that was different and unique,” Vangilder said. “You don’t see a lot of people with hedgehogs, like you often see dogs and cats as pets.”

Although Vangilder grew up with hamsters and gerbils, they were not pets she could truly call her own. “I knew I wanted something different for a pet, but similar in size,” Vangilder said. “I began looking up videos and photos on the internet of hedgehogs, and I fell in love with them.”

Although the initial cost of $250 that Vangilder paid for her hedgehog in February 2015 may seem costly, the everyday maintenance to care for a hedgehog is relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to dogs and cats. Archie’s diet consists of cat food and mealworms. Due to his small size, he becomes full easily after eating, and his food supply lasts a substantial amount of time. “He doesn’t require a lot of food,” she said.

Vangilder cares for Archie by feeding him, bathing him and changing his bedding regularly. “He drops food in his bed a lot, so I have to change his bedding quite often,” Vangilder said. “I also bathe him in the sink. He is so cute when he is in the water. He floats and swims in the sink during baths. Feeding him and filling up his drinking water are the other main things that I have to do to care for him.”

Unlike cats and dogs, most hedgehogs do not require regular annual veterinary care. The unique pets also do not require heat lamps; room temperature is ideal for hedgehogs.

“Hedgehogs do not have to have shots, and they don’t have to visit the vet unless they are ill,” Vangilder said. “They don’t require regular visits like dogs and cats. They also don’t have to maintain a certain body temperature like many other exotics.”

Archie may be petite in size, but his personality is quite sizeable. He is occasionally nervous and often playful.

“He can be mischievous; he likes to hide and hoard his food under his igloo, and he pretends that he eats all of it,” Vangilder said. “I will feed him, and then he gets fed a second time by my mom by accident because he hides his food. He tends to be nervous around my parents’ dogs, and because he is scared, he tends to hiss when they bark loudly. Overall, he is playful, and he likes to sit on my shoulder. He also attempts to burrow himself in my lap or in blankets.”

It may surprise some to know that hedgehogs are nocturnal. “Sometimes he wakes me up at night when he is awake,” Vangilder said. “He usually is pretty quiet, but sometimes he makes noise at night. He also freezes when we turn the lights on. It is really funny to watch.”  

Vangilder encourages parents with young children to consider hedgehogs as a pet for kids. She describes them as an ideal pet for a child because they can help teach responsibility but do not require as much care as other pets.

“I would say they would be a perfect pet for a child,” Vangilder said. “Many parents wouldn’t consider a hedgehog because they are rarer, but they truly make perfect pets. They also create minimal small messes, unlike larger pets. They definitely help teach the owner responsibility, no matter what their age may be.”