Hedgehogs ate my Hamster!

No matter what your Granny told you about hogs and fleas, milk, cows, there's a pretty good chance she was just repeating what she'd been told without checking whether it was correct. Plenty of myths have perpetuated ill-treatment of hedgehogs over the years, hopefully I can confirm or deny a few.

Hedgehogs are full of fleas

I handle hundreds of hedgehogs a year. So far I've had 3 that were 'full of fleas' and they were sick. Yes hedgehogs get fleas. Dogs and cats get fleas, even people get fleas but you know what? Hedgehog Fleas are specific to Hedgehogs. They won't live on you, your dog, cat, gerbil or in your home. They are the wrong size for anything other than a hedgehog. So please, before you go telling me a hedgehog gave your dog fleas, try considering that maybe your dog already had the fleas and he's given them to the hedgehog.

Hedgehogs like Bread and Milk

I like sticky cakes covered in double cream with chocolate sauce all over it. That doesn't mean that it's good for me. Dogs will happily polish off a large lump of fruit cake left unguarded. Sultanas, currants and raisins are poisonous to dogs. I have a stray cat who is very fond of chocolate despite the fact that chocolate is highly poisonous to cats.

The point here is that yes, give a hog a dish of bread and milk it will eat it, but it shouldn't. Bread fills the hog up. It contains no nutrients whatsoever but because it's full, the hog won't go looking for other food so it's not getting what it needs to survive. Add to that a nice dish of milk which is full of lactose when the animal is lactose intolerant and you have a recipe for disaster. The hedgehog gets diarrhoea and enteritis. That leads to dehydration and death if the hog isn't found and treated.

Please, only give a hedgehog meat and water.

Hedgehogs carry fruit on their spines

You what? Why on earth would a hedgehog want to do that? This is an old wives' tale from back in medieval times supposedly to do with table decorations. Something similar can still be seen today when people shove cocktail sticks with cheese and pineapple into a half a grapefruit. If you happen to see a hedgehog with an apple stuck to its back, please remove it, the hog really doesn't want it there.

Hedgehogs steal milk from cows

Now this might just be true but the cow would have to be lying down or have incredibly low-slung udders.

Hogs are opportunist feeders so if a cow happens to leave an udder carelessly unguarded and lying around on the floor, it's quite possible a hog will take advantage.

You won't find the hog sitting on a milking stool with a bucket stealing pints of it though so all the associated farming tales of Hedgehogs affecting milk yield would appear to be ridiculous.

Hedgehogs can't have fish flavour food


This came about because some brain of Britain believed that if you got hedgehogs used to fishy food that they would start diving into ponds to catch your goldfish after they have been released.

Now there are a number of reasons why this is completely and utterly barking mad:

  1. If you have ever seen a hedghog swimming you will realise they are not exactly the most agile of things, they just about manage to stay afloat, and the only way they would ever catch a golfish is by accident if it swam into the hog's mouth.
  2. Hedgehogs are often found on beaches scavenging washed up dead fish. See Countyfile from December 2019 on the beaches in Alderney
  3. Hedgehogs don't like getting wet

Most large long term rescues feed fish flavoured food if that is what has been donated. Some of us deliberately give it to hedgehogs with nasal damage as they can smell the food more easily.

Hedgehogs can forecast the weather

I'm fully prepared to believe this one.

Certainly the hogs I overwinter seem to be able to do the weather forecast a darn sight better than the Met Office. All I have to do is watch what they're up to with their nests and if it involves grabbing everything in sight and shoving it in there, you can bet your bottom dollar that in 10 days time it's going to be flaming freezing.

I wouldn't recommend you keeping a weather forecasting hog around though as some of them get it spectacularly wrong, which is why we get tiny babies arriving in December.