So, a hedgehog walked into a house
September 22, 2016 10:59 PM   Subscribe

What to do, (if anything,) about a hedgehog trying to get into the house? About 6 weeks ago, a hedgehog took up residence in my garden. A couple of weeks ago, I went out to dinner, forgetting to close the door from my kitchen to the garden and he apparently wandered in. After I found him, I left the door open overnight so he was back in the garden by morning. Now, he tries most evenings after dusk to get back in, scratching at the door and making my dogs crazy. I'm starting to suspect he may be a domesticated variety that was simply dumped. If that's the case, I'm a bit worried about him come winter. What do? Is there any way to easily tell if he's wild or actually an abandoned pet?

He first showed up on the stairs leading up to the small apartment complex behind my garden, seeming lethargic and confused. I thought he may be sick or starving so I gave him some bits of hot dog and a few cherry tomatoes, all of which he devoured. I've also left a small amount of dog kibble out for him once in a while after I've shut the dogs in for the evening.

When he came into the house, he wouldn't have found any accessible food on the floor, or in his reach (because, dogs) so I have no idea of his motivation to get in. My reason for suspecting he might be an abandoned pet is that he'll curl up into a defensive ball if the dogs are near, but the few times I've encountered him outdoors, he seemed pretty relaxed to my presence.

Obigatory critter pics here:

Note, I'm in southern Switzerland, very close to the Italian border.
posted by Expat to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how you could tell if he was domesticated, but hedgehogs are certainly native to your area. It seems like you are not the only person to experience this, and there is a hedgehog sanctuary in your area. Maybe set out a live trap and take him in :)
posted by ananci at 11:09 PM on September 22, 2016

Best answer: he may well simply be looking for winter quarters. Hedgehogs need a place to spend the European winter (from October to April), and actively look for shelter this time of year. Where I live (Austria) there are several hedgehog sanctuaries, and they all offer tips on what type of shelter to build for them (eg rat and cat proof). And before they begin the dormant winter period they eat as much as they can. So from your description I think he is simply prepping for winter.
A friend who has these visitors every year in fall had good success with making such a house - now they do not try and enter any more but occupy their house in her garden.
What she did on a couple of occasions was take the hedgehog to her local (hedgehog friendly) vet, to make sure it is not too thin to survive (one was also injured, with the vets help she nursed him until he was fat enough to survive) but all those were wild, not pets.
This link is in German, but I think you will find this info also for Switzerland in various languages
posted by 15L06 at 11:52 PM on September 22, 2016 [19 favorites]

This one looks not entirely fullgrown to me; clearly his first winter. Possibly he thinks it would be so much nicer to get indoors where there are cherry tomatoes and hotdogs, than to look for a suitable pile of leaves or some other place to hibernate. Hedgehogs are stubborn (which can be mistaken for lethargic...unless of course they are sick, because they -- for instance -- have eaten poisoned insects) and they're naturally un-shy (because: spikes) which may make them seem domesticated, which they are most of the time not.

Maybe just lift him into a box and drive to that Sanctuary? You don't want to have a hedgehog in your home during the winter. Inside, it's too warm and they don't sleep, they eat a lot and poop all over the place (successful hedgehog-hibernator speaking).
posted by Namlit at 12:58 AM on September 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Great answers! I kind of like the idea of the little guy being around, so I'll look into the house option (buy rather than build as I'm bad at DYI.) Quite a menagerie in our little garden now - my 2 wolf-wannabes, the neighbors' 3 cats, a tortoise and now a hedgehog.
posted by Expat at 5:45 AM on September 23, 2016 [15 favorites]

In a week you'll be back with a "name my hedgehog" thread
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:56 AM on September 23, 2016 [80 favorites]

Please do take him to a vet to check to see if he's domesticated (which he looks to be, from the photo). If he is, I don't think he'll survive the winter outside. The domesticated hedgehogs (aka African Pygmy hedgehogs) are very different from their European cousins and can catch pneumonia and die if they get chilled.
posted by Amy NM at 8:00 AM on September 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

OMG this is such a cute question and thanks for the pics.

My attempt at being useful: any chance that Sonic could be a missing pet, rather than dumped? Would you consider putting up "found hedgehog" flyers?
posted by foxjacket at 8:10 AM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

OMG he's adorable and this is the cutest problem! I do like the idea of first taking him to the vet or giving a call to the sanctuary to confirm he's not a domesticated hedgehog and if it's all ok, buy/build him a little house.

Please share photos of the little house at some point. :)
posted by vivzan at 10:15 AM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's another link to a Swiss hedgehoggy organization that might be useful:

Pygmy hedgehogs have white fur on their stomach, but this one seems brown + too big = common European hedgehog, and not a pet, or not a legal one, see below.

In Switzerland the hedgehog belongs to the protected species (see below on the page here), and it is actually not allowed to keep them. What it says there is that you are allowed to take them in temporarily if they seem in need of help, but you're required to get in touch with one of the hedgehog protection centers as soon as possible.
posted by Namlit at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with Namlit and 15L06: it looks like a local wild hedgehog scoping out winter lodgings -- European hedgehogs are usually a protected species in European countries -- and you could either put out a hibernation box for it, or find a local rescue / sanctuary.

(I once had to move a hedgehog that managed to sneak into a pub. Definitely un-shy, definitely spiky.)
posted by holgate at 2:58 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To follow up:

He may have been trapped in the garden. I reexamined the gate through which he came and he may not have been able to climb back up. I fixed that a few days ago and it seems he's still here as I see his droppings when I'm cleaning up the dog poo.

I've built him a little house from a plastic planter with an entrance cut into the front and a few ventilation holes drilled into the rear. I was able to butt it against a south-facing wall in the garden and built a tunnel entrance to keep the cats from reaching in. Pic here:

The house will be buried with garden clippings over the next few days to provide insulation, then I'll stake a tarp down over the whole thing to hold the insulation in place.

Thanks for all the excellent answers!
posted by Expat at 2:16 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cool house! And fixing the gate is good too: there's been a push in the UK to help suburban hedgehogs do their rounds by creating hedgehog highways between fenced-in gardens.
posted by holgate at 9:01 AM on September 28, 2016

Response by poster: A final update:

It appears the house is a success. I blocked the entrance with a light whisk broom last evening after I shut the dogs in the house for the night. Checking this morning, the whisk was down, so it seems he's found and is using his house.

Judging from his droppings I find when I do my treasure hunts for what the dogs leave, he's been gorging on the figs that fall from the tree overhanging my garden wall. I'm also finding far fewer slugs than I have been, so it appears he's eating them too. That should help him fatten up for hibernation. Kinda nice to have the little guy around, although the dogs go batshit when he occasionally scratches at the door.
posted by Expat at 12:06 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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