Hedgehogs are cute little mammals with spikes covering their backs. If you’ve seen pictures or videos of these prickly pets, you may be wondering – are there hedgehogs in the United States? The quick answer is yes, but not in the wild.

Hedgehogs are popular exotic pets in the US, but they are not native animals.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about hedgehogs and their status in the US. We’ll look at the history of hedgehogs as pets, laws and regulations around owning them, key facts about different hedgehog species, common questions people have about keeping them as pets, and more.

The History of Hedgehogs as Pets in the US

African Pygmy Hedgehogs

The most common type of hedgehog kept as a pet is the African pygmy hedgehog, a domesticated subspecies of the white-bellied or four-toed hedgehog native to central Africa. These tiny hedgehogs are the result of breeding programs that began in the 1980s and were later imported to the United States in the early 1990s for the exotic pet trade.

Breeders selectively propagated hedgehogs with favorable traits like calm temperaments, unusual coat colors, and smaller sizes around 4-6 inches long weighing under 2 lbs. This made them more suitable as pets compared to their wild counterparts.

Their popularity began spreading among exotic animal enthusiasts and hobbyists.

Popularity and Breeding

By the late 1990s and 2000s, pygmy hedgehogs started gaining more widespread attention. Books, websites, and online communities emerged dedicated to hedgehog caretaking and breeding. Their charming appearance and ease of care compared to other exotic pets fueled increasing demand.

From just a handful of US breeders in the 1990s, the number exploded to over 60 major breeders and distributors by the 2010s according to industry analyses. Prices declined from upwards of $800 to between $200-$400 as supply grew.

It’s estimated over 40,000 hedgehogs per year were being bred domestically by the mid 2010s.

Regulation and Legality

Despite rising popularity, hedgehogs face shifting legal status across different US states and municipalities. As of 2022, 5 states (California, Georgia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Washington) prohibit ownership with several others restricting commercial hedgehog breeding operations or pet imports.

Yet they remain fully legal in most areas. Prospective owners should research local exotic pet ordinances in their city and county to ensure compliance before deciding to purchase a hedgehog.

Legal Status for Pet Hedgehogs in USA
Fully Legal 30 states + Washington D.C.
Restricted/Conditionally Legal 15 states
Illegal 5 states

While complex regulations present challenges, most experts think the popularity of hedgehogs as pets continues rising across permitted regions. These captivating little animals will likely remain treasured by owners able to provide proper care.

Hedgehog Species and Breeds

African Pygmy Hedgehogs

The most common type of hedgehog found as pets in the United States is the African pygmy hedgehog. These small hedgehogs are native to central Africa and are the smallest breed of hedgehogs. On average, African pygmy hedgehogs weigh between 0.5-2 pounds when fully grown and are about 5-8 inches long with full body spines extended.

Some popular color variations of African pygmies kept as pets include albino, white-bellied, salt and pepper, and more.

According to the Hedgehog Breeder List, there are over 130 USDA licensed African pygmy hedgehog breeders across 32 states as of 2023. So while these exotic pets are fairly popular, they are not legal in all states.

Pennsylvania, California, Hawaii, Georgia and more have banned possession of African hedgehogs.

European Hedgehogs

Unlike their African cousins, European hedgehogs are not kept as pets in the United States. In the wild, European hedgehogs roam through meadows, forests and suburban gardens spanning across Europe, Scandinavia and Britain.

These hedgehogs are larger, weighing 1.5-2.5 pounds as adults and measuring 8-12 inches long.

There are documented populations of European hedgehogs now living in New Zealand as an introduced species. However, there are no known established wild or domesticated populations of European hedgehogs currently in the United States according to wildlife experts.

Differences Between Species

While African pygmy hedgehogs and European hedgehogs belong to the same biological family of Erinaceidae, they have distinct differences:

  • Native habitat – African pygmies come from central Africa while Europeans originate from Europe/Britain
  • Size – European hedgehogs are larger on average
  • Legality as pets – African pygmies are common exotic pets, Europeans are not kept domestically
  • Coloration – African pygmies have more color variances including albinos while Europeans mainly have brown/grey coat with white underside
  • Quills – African pygmy quills are smoother and thinner compared to thicker European quills
  • Lifespan – African pygmies live up to 4-6 years on average while European hedgehogs live 2-3 years in wild (longer when domesticated)
  • Behavior – European hedgehogs tend to be more vocal compared to the more solitary African species
Species African Pygmy Hedgehog European Hedgehog
Average Weight 0.5-2 lbs 1.5-2.5 lbs
Body Length 5-8 inches 8-12 inches
Native Habitat Central Africa Europe/Britain
Legality as Pet in US Allowed in some states Not allowed

Owning a Hedgehog Pet

Pros and Cons

Hedgehogs make interesting pets with endearing behaviors like anointing themselves with foam and insects. However, potential owners should carefully weigh the pros and cons before bringing one of these exotic animals home.

On the plus side, hedgehogs are quiet, low-maintenance, and don’t require walks. Most are also generally healthy and hardy once settled. Key downsides are that they require specialized care and prefer consistency.

Additionally, each hedgehog has its own unique personality—some are more sociable, while others remain shy.

Costs and Care Requirements

Prospective pet hedgehog owners should be prepared to invest time and money into proper care. The average lifespan of a healthy hedgehog is 4-6 years.

Basic costs include:

  • Purchase price: $100-$300 depending on age, breeder reputation, etc.
  • Cage & accessories: $150+ for a large cage, wheel, hiding spaces, etc.
  • Vet bills & checkups: $100-$300 per year
  • Food: $100-$150 per year for a quality cat or hedgehog food

Hedgehogs also require specific care related to temperature, light cycles, and more. Most experts recommend keeping the cage between 72-80°F. The cage should have a heat lamp as well as areas to nest and hide.

A solid wheel sized for hedgehogs along with tunnels, toys, and other enrichment items are also essential.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many first-time hedgehog owners have similar questions. Below are a few common queries:

Are hedgehogs legal in my state? Check state and local exotic pet laws, as regulations vary widely.
Do they make good pets for kids? Not ideal for young children as they require gentle, patient handling.
How often do they need their cage cleaned? Fully clean the cage at least once per week by replacing litter, washing all surfaces with soap and water, etc.

While hedgehogs are enchanting creatures, they have complex care needs. Evaluating if their uniqueness aligns with your lifestyle is key before obtaining one as a pet. Reach out to an exotic veterinarian or hedgehog breeder for guidance.

Hedgehogs in the Wild in the US

Historical and Current Ranges

Hedgehogs are not native to the United States. They originated in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, over the years some hedgehogs have been introduced into the wild in certain states like California, Oregon, Maine, and a few others through escaped pets or intentional releases (Hedgehog Welfare Society).

Their current ranges remain fairly limited, but small feral populations likely exist in these areas.

Impacts and Interactions

In states where feral hedgehog populations have become established, there is concern about their potential impacts. As insectivores, they could negatively affect local insect species. And as prey animals, their presence could disrupt food chains and lead to increases in predators like foxes and coyotes which might in turn threaten other species (USDA APHIS).

There are also worries they could spread diseases to local wildlife. However, research on their ecological effects is limited.

Conservation Status

No hedgehog species are considered endangered or threatened in the United States. African pygmy hedgehogs have established breeding populations in at least six states but their conservation status remains undetermined (IUCN – African Pygmy Hedgehog).

For European hedgehogs introduced to New York and possibly elsewhere, no detailed surveys have been conducted. Increased monitoring of feral hedgehogs would help evaluate any future conservation needs for managing non-native populations or protecting native species.


While hedgehogs may look like fun and interesting pets, it’s important to carefully consider whether you can meet all of their care needs before taking one home. Their spiny defense mechanisms also make them better suited to households with older children rather than young kids.

In the wild in the United States, hedgehogs do not naturally occur. But thanks to their popularity as pets, these little mammals have found their way into many American homes regardless.

Similar Posts