2017-02-19 / Insight

‘Nara’ the rambunctious hedgehog not your typical pet

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 •


Tony Norton, 22, of Columbiaville, has been the proud owner of a pet hedgehog, named Ragnara the Indomitable, for the past half year. While hedgehog ownership takes effort, research and patience, Norton said the payoff is worth it, and they become great friends. Tony Norton, 22, of Columbiaville, has been the proud owner of a pet hedgehog, named Ragnara the Indomitable, for the past half year. While hedgehog ownership takes effort, research and patience, Norton said the payoff is worth it, and they become great friends. COLUMBIAVILLE — While most people in Lapeer County consider pet ownership to involve a dog or a cat, or perhaps a handful of reptiles, or horses, bunnies, a goldfish in a bowl — few list off a hedgehog as a candidate for cuddles and unconditional love.

And, to be fair, a hedgehog rarely considers it either, opting instead for its human owner to work for its love in a way that makes cats seem like perfectly cooperative members of a family. “When she’s mad, she’ll tense up and use her quills to defend herself,” said Tony Norton, resident of Columbiaville and owner of Ragnara the Indomitable, a 2-year-old rambunctious, mercurial hedgehog. “Hedgehogs have a large muscle group on their backs that allow them to tighten their quills to defend themselves, and when she’s warning you that she’s mad, she pulls them forward and tries to charge you — and when she’s really mad, she turns into a hissing, spiky ball of rage.”

Ragnara the Indomitable, or Nara for short, is a typical hedgehog. There are no native species of hedgehog living in North America, and Nara’s variety of spiny mammal is the white-bellied hedgehog, the most commonly domesticated species. While Nara is domesticated, she isn’t necessarily domestic, but Norton says with proper handling and research, a hedgehog can be a wonderful pet. “Her previous owner was a young lady and it was obvious Nara wasn’t always in the best of care,” said Norton. “Nara (can be) very wary, and every time I want to handle her, there’s a warm up period of 30 minute to an hour, but once she warms up, she’s a cutie.”

Hedgehogs in the wild tend to be omnivorous, eating a wide variety of foods, from insects and snails, frogs and toads, to mushrooms, berries and melons. Nara is no different, though a staple of her diet is kitten food, which is rarely found growing in the wild.

“She’ll eat a lot of things, not really meat but she eats bugs, which is a favorite, scrambled eggs, and dried food cups, and of course kitten food, which has everything a hedgehog needs,” Norton said.

While Michigan has no laws in place to regulate the ownership of small mammals like hedgehogs, other citizens of the United States might not be so lucky. In fact, in some places around the country, hedgehog ownership is illegal entirely. There are several reasons for these bans, but Nara poses no threat to anyone, save for Norton’s fingers occasionally, and usually spends her days either in her cage spinning her exercise wheel or exploring the floors of Norton’s bedroom.

Hedgehog ownership is not to be taken lightly, Norton warned, especially if it was acquired after it had aged somewhat, as bonding as a baby is an important step in establishing trust.

“I wanted a baby hedgie, that way it would bond to me easily and I would have it for a while,” said Norton, referring to the fact a typical hedgehog’s lifespan is roughly five to six years. “But I got Nara, and she was two, so her previous owner was the one she bonded with. It’s been slow going trying to get her to love me, hence the “Indomitable” part of her name.”

If people are interested in having a pet hedgehog, Norton cautioned, knowledge is power. “Research them!” said Norton. “They have sensitive palettes and can’t eat certain food unless it’s prepared, and they have to have certain bedding for their cage because they are prone to urinary tract infections.” But despite the extra effort, Norton says the payoff is worth it, and with time and patience, hedgehog pet ownership can be a rewarding experience.

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