Hedgehogs are growing in popularity as pets, especially in the UK. If you’ve got a cat, you’re likely wondering if cats like hedgehogs. The last thing that you want to happen is for your cat to attack or kill your hedgehog.
Cats and hedgehogs don’t get along well because your cat sees hedgehogs as prey. Your cat may sniff at/paw the hedgehog, or even launch an attack, but the hedgehog will curl up into a spiky ball to avoid harm. A hedgehog will be nervous and stressed around cats.
Hedgehogs can defend themselves against cats because they are able to curl up into a spiky, defensive ball. So, keeping hedgehogs and cats as pets is surprisingly safe. For this reason, it’s equally unlikely that any harm will come to a hedgehog if a cat encounters one in your garden or yard.
Do Cats Like Hedgehogs?
Cats and hedgehogs aren’t natural friends. Hedgehogs are a small, scurrying animal, and cats can see them as a form of prey.
However, that doesn’t mean that your cat’s first reaction will be to attack the hedgehog. Your cat’s first reaction to a hedgehog will likely be curiosity, because it won’t have seen one before. The cat will probably sniff at the hedgehog, or perhaps bat it gently with its paw.
This is your cat’s way of learning whether the hedgehog is a friend or a foe. You will have seen this reaction before when your cat encounters something new it doesn’t understand yet. As you will have also seen, the cat will eventually become more comfortable.
Whether your cat gets used to your hedgehog depends on its personality. Some cats are more skittish, and these are likely to remain unsure of your new pet. Others are more aggressive, so they would be likelier to attack. Others act aloof, and don’t care about the hedgehog either way.
But however your cat acts, you can’t leave it alone with your hedgehog. Its instinct to attack small, scurrying animals like hedgehogs could kick in when you don’t expect them to.
Will Cats Attack Hedgehogs?
Cats can attack hedgehogs, although it’s rare. That’s because hedgehogs have unique defenses. But the cat’s instincts are hard-wired to view small scurrying animals as potential prey. Hedgehogs are small. They are the same shape, and move in the same way as rodents, which can trigger your cat’s hunting reflexes.
This applies to all cats, including those that are normally well-behaved around other animals. No matter how well-trained a cat is, it’s still a cat. Your cat could attack your hedgehog in different ways. It could:
- Turn a regular game into a real attack
- Sneak up on the hedgehog as if it were hunting in the wild
- Attack from what seems like out of nowhere
According to National Geographic, your hedgehog would curl into a ball to display its prominent, spiky spines.
This will make it almost impossible for the cat to attack it because when cats attack, they go for the back of the neck or the throat.
But the hedgehog’s head and neck would be underneath its body. This means that the cat can’t do anything to hurt the hedgehog without getting hurt, itself, on the hedgehog’s spikes.
The issue is the cat’s short mouth/nose. Other animals have long snouts, which allows them to bite at a hedgehog without getting spiked too badly. But a cat’s short mouth/nose means it will get badly hurt if it tries to bite a hedgehog. Most cats will realize this and avoid it completely.
Do Cats Eat Hedgehogs?
When the hedgehog is balled up, the cat can’t attack the hedgehog’s neck. This means the cat can’t kill it, and so can’t eat it. However, if the cat could somehow surprise the hedgehog, then it could attack and kill it.
House cats don’t usually eat the prey they catch. Instead, they play with it. The cat may sit with the prey under its paw, or between its paws.
The driver behind this behavior is that your cat is hunting for pleasure, not food. Your cat gets enough food from what you feed it.
Can Cats Get Used to Hedgehogs?
There’s no saying how your cat will react to hedgehogs. They are rare pets, and what’s even more uncommon is to keep them with cats. As such, there’s only limited evidence for how they would get along over the longer term.
According to BBC News, a cat in Russia adopted a family of baby hedgehogs (hoglets). The mother was killed in a gardening accident at a zoo.
When the zoo keepers tried to feed the hoglets with a bottle, they refused it. As a last resort, the keepers paired the babies with a cat that had recently nursed kittens. Apparently, the cat was happy to nurse the hoglets too, and they survived into adulthood.
While this is a strange story, it does indicate that cats and hedgehogs can get along even in strange circumstances. So, your cat may get along with your hedgehog better than you expect.
Do Hedgehogs Like Cats?
Hedgehogs don’t like cats. They won’t want to become friends with one, or spend lots of time around one. That’s because a prey animal’s natural instinct is to avoid spending time around big prey animals.
But that doesn’t mean that the hedgehog will necessarily be frightened of the cat. If the cat bats at it in curiosity, for example, the hedgehog may not like that. But instead of running away, it may turn its face up towards the cat and move towards it quickly.
This is common body language in small animals which means ‘Back off.’ Alternatively, your hedgehog may curl up into a ball so that your cat hurts its paw on the hedgehog’s spines.
Are Cats Frightened of Hedgehogs?
Whether your cat is curious, frightened, or aggressive depends on its temperament. It is possible that your cat will be scared of a hedgehog because:
- Cats can be frightened of things they don’t understand
- Hedgehogs can scurry about quickly, which may spook your cat
- Hedgehogs have sharp spines which could harm your cat
If you have owned your cat for a long time, you can likely guess what its reaction to a hedgehog will be: whether it’s curious, frightened or assertive.
Can Hedgehogs and Cats Play Together?
Hedgehogs and cats can safely be in the same room, and they may play together in a sense. But they will have difficulty understanding each other, which may lead to fighting. So, you shouldn’t let them play.
Each animal has its own way of socializing with other members of the same species. Body language, different behaviors, and different vocalizations all make sense to others of the same species, but not to ‘outsiders’.
But other animals don’t understand each other. That’s especially the case with animals which are more different: less closely related, or prey vs. predator. These animals understand each other less.
Cats and hedgehogs can’t play together because they’re too different. All the ‘games’ that cats know how to play are different from those that hedgehogs know how to play. For example, the cat may be playing when it chases your hedgehog, but the hedgehog won’t know that.
Can Cats Live with Hedgehogs?
Cats and hedgehogs can live together, but only if you take special care. They will never be friends, but you can at least ensure that the pair don’t fight. To prevent fighting, follow the guidelines below.
Keep Your Hedgehog and Cat Apart
Hedgehogs kept as pets need enclosures to live in. You can pick either a cage or a glass enclosure. But whatever you pick, you have to put it in a place that the cat can’t reach. You could:
- Keep it in a room that the cat isn’t allowed in
- Keep it on a high-up surface that the cat can’t reach
This is vital because it prevents your cat’s negative behavior. It stops the cat from sitting and watching the hedgehog, which will make it uncomfortable. Cats enjoy doing this with animals/pets they consider to be potential prey.
It also stops your cat from accessing the enclosure. If the cat is determined to pester or attack your hedgehog, it could try to reach into or even get inside the cage. Once inside, it may attack and kill your hedgehog without you being there to stop it.
Monitor Your Hedgehog During Play Time
All animals kept in cages need playtime. You can either take it from its cage and allow it to run around the room, or put it into a special pen you’ve bought or made for the purpose. This gives your pet the necessary exercise, but also the stimulation of new sights, sounds, and smells.
If you have a hedgehog and a cat, though, you can’t do this any time you like. If you did, the cat could come in and disrupt your hedgehog’s play. It will definitely make your hedgehog nervous, but it could even attack.
As such, you have to shut off the room and make it cat-proof before taking your hedgehog out. You must:
- Keep your cat in another room. If somebody can stay with it, so that you know where the cat is at all times, that’s even better.
- Keep doors and windows shut. You should keep the door locked to prevent your cat from trying to barge its way in.
- Block off the gap underneath the door, which a cat’s paw could get through, or a hedgehog might squeeze through.
Then when you do have your hedgehog out of its enclosure, monitor it. It could try to hide somewhere, or even escape.
If it does, and you aren’t monitoring it, you won’t know where it is. If that happens then your cat could find it before you do and attack it.
How to Introduce Cats and Hedgehogs
It is not a good idea to have your cat and hedgehog play together regularly. But if you do plan on keeping both of them in the same house, you should allow them to meet so that they know of each other. Plus, your cat may surprise you, like in the story of the Russian cat above.
If you do want to introduce the pair, you must do so using the guidelines below. These will minimize the chance of anything going wrong. Otherwise, your cat could hurt or even kill your hedgehog.
1/ Keep Both Pets in Their Carriers
When you first introduce your pets to each other, don’t let them access each other. To do so would make an attack more likely. Instead, keep them separated by having them in carriers or enclosures when they first meet.
What you want is for the pair to sniff each other, without attacking each other. You can only guarantee this if you keep them physically separated. So, you could:
- Put them both in their respective pet carriers
- Put your cat in its carrier and place it near your hedgehog’s enclosure
- Have the pair on either side of a barrier, e.g. a pet barrier on the stairs
Doing this will get rid of the shock-factor when the pair first meet.
2/ Monitor Your Pets Meeting for the First Time
Once the pair have sniffed each other, put them back in their rooms/parts of the house. Leave them for a while so that they can relax. This is important for your hedgehog, which will be stressed out by being near a cat.
The next day, introduce your pets in the flesh. Pick a neutral room, i.e. not your hedgehog’s room, and not the room your cat’s bed is in. This will to an extent prevent the pair from fighting over territory.
Bring your pets into the room and allow them to sit comfortably for a moment before introducing them. Crucially, you have to monitor them both at this point. Keep an eye on your pets to check that:
- Your cat doesn’t get aggressive when it sniffs/bats at the hedgehog
- Your hedgehog doesn’t seem nervous around your cat
- Your hedgehog doesn’t try and hide somewhere you can’t reach it
Keep your pets together for a few minutes at most. Your hedgehog will likely feel uncomfortable, and to keep it in such a situation for too long will make it feel very stressed.
To ensure that the pair is as comfortable around each other as possible, introduce them a few more times over the next few days.
3/ Don’t Have Your Pets Play Together Regularly
Once you’ve introduced them and they seem more comfortable together, you may take that as a sign that you can have your cat and hedgehog play together all the time. But you shouldn’t.
Far better is to keep them apart almost all of the time. The purpose of introducing a cat and hedgehog is to familiarize the pair with each other, and teach your cat that the hedgehog is not to be attacked. It’s not to have them play together as friends.