Hedgehog Pet FAQ

Do Hedgehogs Quills Hurt to Touch If Bare Handed?

If you’re thinking about getting a hedgehog as a pet, you may undoubtedly be wondering whether or not they hurt to touch.

They can seem frightening and fragile at first, but once you become accustomed to the right way to handle a hedgehog, you should find his quills very tolerable to touch!


First, what are these quills exactly?

These quills are technically spines and are hollow, modified hairs.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs, the most common type on Earth so far, have between 5,000 and 6,500 of these quills!

These hollow spines lie on top of two (2) back muscles that allow the hedgehog to curl up and extend his quills as a defense mechanism when threatened.


So, do hedgehog quills hurt to touch?

A hedgehog’s quills will feel different to the touch, depending on whether the hedgehog is relaxed or curled up in defense.

Let’s discuss a bit further these two (2) points:


Relaxed position

Though the spines come to a point, they are not sharp when relaxed.

When you hold a hedgehog who is not in an alert position, the quills will lie evenly across your hands.

Somehow, they will also distribute the weight of your hedgie, meaning that the quills will not poke into your skin.

Some owners describe the feeling as touching a bunch of straws or a hairbrush.


Defense position

When a hedgehog curls up because of a threatening feeling, the distribution of quills changes.


Their quills become more spread out, ready to do harm if required.


Since the quills are more spread, they will become sharper to the touch.

Though the quills should not break through your skin, they could be more painful to touch.


Some owners describe the feeling as touching a bunch of toothpicks.


There is always the possibility that your hedgehog could go from relaxed to threatened in your hands, so to avoid any surprises:

– Make the hedgehog feel familiar and comfortable with you.

– Use puncture-resistant gloves the first time if you need more experience holding them with your hand.

Although it may cause some discomfort from suddenly raising his quills, it should not cause any serious pain to you.


Other notes on hedgehog quills

Baby hedgehogs will have sharper quills than adults since the quills are smaller and not fully developed.

– Quill sharpness can also vary depending on the species. Some hedgehog’s quills can feel a bit more awful than others to touch.

– Always pet the hedgehog from head to tail – in the direction of the quills. Like stroking a dog’s fur, petting backward feels much rougher, both on your hands and your pet!

– The more comfortable your hedgehog becomes being around you and its handlers, the more they will stay in a relaxed position with the quills down.

– Most owners say that although the spines initially seem frightening, you will quickly become accustomed and comfortable with the feel of the quills!


19 thoughts on “Do Hedgehogs Quills Hurt to Touch If Bare Handed?

  • Thank you that was a lot of helpful information

    • You are very welcome, Jennalee – glad you found it helpful!

      • omg that was very helpful and cute i like baby four-toed hedgehogs

  • Hey this was really helpful on a lot.

  • I am just getting a hedgehog for my birth which is December 24th people are saying that you need to buy special gloves is this true?

    • It is better if you just use a blanket or towel because using gloves can interfere with the bonding process. If you use a blanket while he relaxes and move to holding him in exposed hands, you probably won’t get poked as much, and it won’t interfere with the bonding process as much.

  • I really what a hegdehog for Christmas

  • i love hedgehogs, sonic and tails sega genesis is pretty sweet

  • I’ve had my hedgehog for about 3 years. Whenever I first got her she was hiss and make her quills rise & point. Touching them doesn’t “hurt” but it isn’t a good feeling either. Whenever the quills are down you can pet the quilts from head to toe and it just feels like rubber plastic and doesn’t hurt at all!

  • Thank you for the information, I finally convinced my parents to let me have a hedgehog, but they want me to research them first. I’m writing everything down so I can show them everything I know, plus I want to be sure I take care of it the right way.

  • Very helpful since I became a hedgie
    adopted father I now share my home with a rescued adult thanks for all the helpful information.

  • You are awesome!!!! I just read this cause i am getting a hedgie soon. So Helpful!

    • So glad to hear this was helpful Julia!

  • heggies are cute

  • thank for the heads up about not to handle them when they are tired I was gonna it is really helpful thank you!

  • the palms of my hands sting and tingle in the places where the quills have touched during and after holding the hedgehog. am i allergic, or do they have a slight toxin in them?

    • Hi Tracie,
      the quills are not toxic, however if they are not clean and somehow penetrates your skin, then you could generate get an infection. It is always recommended to handle them up while they are in a relax state.

  • Thank you Meghan now I know the sugar glider quills don’t hurt to touch when in calm position thank you very much

    • Hi John,
      no worries.

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