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Bonding With Your Hedgehog | Biting


  • Hedgehogs are not typically characterized as “biters” and do not have the reputation that other pets have acquired.
  • However, hedgehogs do have teeth and they can use them.  After all, we humans have teeth and I know my children have all chomped on me a time or two, or more…
  • The best way to combat biting is to understand why hedgehogs bite and what to do about the bite.
  • Hedgies may learn that biting is a good way to get what they want so be careful not to put your hedgehog in its cage or reward it immediately after a biting episode.

Reasons for biting

Defense or Aggression

    • Hedgehogs do not normally bite as a main form of defense or aggression. 
    • When they are scared, frightened, or defensive they traditionally raise their spikes and curl in a ball.


    •  Some hedgehogs simply want to get a taste of something that smells good.  This is common in other animals as well.
    • Hedgehogs will often lick salt or other tempting things off your hands. 
    • My general philosophy with all animals is not to let any animal lick.  Just like kids licking a Tootsie Roll Pop, it is just a matter of time when there is going to be a CRUNCH. 
    • Biting after a lick isn’t a form of hedgie meanness but a natural progression of curiosity.


    • Another reason hedgehogs may bite is because they are exploring their environment.
    • Occasionally hedgehogs will bite just because they are tying to get accustomed to you and their surroundings. 
    • They are simply trying to learn what is acceptable and what not acceptable hedgie behavior is.
    • Young children and animals may try out their teeth on various non-food items simply for the sake of curiosity.

Communication and Expression

    • Hedgehogs may bite as a way to communicate if they are tired, stressed, or uncomfortable.
    • Hedgehogs that are quilling may bite because they are uncomfortable.
    • Some hedgehogs don’t like nail polish and will bite polished nails but they will stop biting when the polish is removed.
    • A few of our customers have reported that their hedgehogs tended to bite smokers but not nonsmokers.
    • Lara Bartel has a hedgehog that will bite only if other hedgehogs are held first. 
    • Another customer told us their hedgehog would bite on the way back to its cage after play time.

Ways to discourage the biting event

  • Try handling your hedgehog at different times during the day.  Your hedgehog may have a time when it is easier for it to relax and enjoy your company.
  • Make sure your hands are clean.  Food, hand soap or lotions may smell yummy to a hedgehog.
  • Watch for signs of sensory overload.  One family told us that their hedgehog didn’t enjoy being around a lot of people but was fine in the company of just a couple people.

How bad does it hurt?

  • Hedgehogs have fairly small teeth designed to crunch insects.  They do not have the typical rodent incisors or the large carnivore canines.
  • The typical bite won’t feel good but won’t cause excruciating pain either.  Imagine cricket crushing strength!
  • The reason your hedgehog bites is will often determine how bad it hurts. 
  • A bite telling you “I’m really mad” is going to hurt more than “I wonder if this is edible?” isn’t going to hurt as much as the “I’m really mad at you” bite.
  • Finger bites typically hurt less than a bite to your softer skin between fingers or an arm.
  • I personally have never had more than a prick to my finger or a bruise to my arm but Nicole Gendler-Martin once described to me an extremely rare but particularly nasty bite that dripped blood.  That particular hedgehog was previously not known to bite.
  • Hamsters or other rodents deliver a much more painful and bloodier bite than hedgehogs.

What to do when your hedgehog bites

  • There isn’t a foolproof way to teach your hedgehog not to bite. 
  • Figuring out why your hedgehog bites will help determine what to do about the biting.
  • The level of pain you experience will also determine your response. 


    • Loud noises are scary for your hedgie so the negative association with biting may be enough to discourage bad behavior.  A loud “NO” may be enough to distract your hedgie.
    • Lori Keller is particularly fond of this method.  She likes to yell, scream, and dance around letting her hedgehog know that biting is not fun.
    • This method of training is best used on hedgehogs that already trust you rather than at the stage where you are just getting to know your new pet.
    • I usually combine the “NO” with the “push” method to reinforce the message.
    • Noise can also be combined with the “blow” method as well.

The “Push”

    • Our natural reaction to pull away when being bitten but this encourages the animal to hold on tighter and follow the movement away from it.
    • Instead, push your finger or hand towards the animal to push their head back and their jaw will then open. 
    • The backward pressure is uncomfortable but not painful and it causes the animal to relax its jaw. 
    • Animals also do not like to have their throat exposed so they will typically let go to bring their head down.
    • We have had much success using this method to train puppies, kittens, and ferrets as well.
    • Many health care workers are also trained to use this method with their patients.

The “Blow”

    • You can blow in a hedgehog’s face. A forceful puff of air up their nose will typically cause them to let go.
    • Several forceful blows in a row may be even more effective.
    • This method can also be combined with the Noise and the “Push” method.

Extreme Methods

    • Should your hedgehog bite and not want to let go you can put your hedgehog under running water.  The sudden stream of water usually causes a hedgehog to let go and look around.
    • A few hedgie owners have suggested using alcohol applied to the nose with a q-tip.  We generally do not recommend this action because it may result in a power struggle and the hedgie may bite more.  Also, by the time you get to the alcohol it is likely the hedgie has stopped biting anyway.

The Reward

  • No one wants a pet that bites so training your hedgehog not to bite will certainly increase the enjoyment you receive from your pet.
  • It may take a couple of weeks or even several months to train your hedgehog not to bite but persistence usually pays off!