This is an interesting question. But I think, more importantly, we need to first answer the question of what exactly constitutes intelligence. How do we decide what parameters worthy of use to measure the intelligence of animals? I mean… It will be totally unfair to judge hedgehogs by the standards of dogs.
The following parameters can be used to judge intelligence in animals:
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Hedgehogs are solitary animals. All pieces of evidences have shown that they prefer to be on their own. But in the end… it has also been proven that when hedgehogs are socialized early enough, they can make very good companions.
They generally don’t like to be handled… but hedgehogs who were introduced to their human family early enough are often comfortable enough with being handled. This show if nothing else that they are smart enough to learn how to appreciate, and love… maybe even crave the touch of humans.
Hedgehogs that get to meet humans early enough are more likely to display a more relaxed behavior around humans.
Hedgehogs are known to be very communicative when it comes to their needs. In the wild, hedgehogs are loners. But in captivity, there have been questions on whether they are able to communicate effectively with their owners and handlers.
Hedgehogs might not be able to scream, bark or meow like other pets but they do have their own way of communicating. Take, for instance, some hedgehogs have been known to nibble and maybe even bite their handlers in response to discomfort. Hedgehogs even make a low purring sound that can signify happiness or contentment.
It is a no-brainier therefore when we say that hedgehogs definitely have the ability to communicate. In fact, some hedgehog owners have reported their Hedgehog running to them, licking their hands, their faces, rubbing noses with them, uneven anointing themselves right after. It has never been a question of if hedgehogs can communicate or not, rather it is a question on whether we can understand their language.
Hedgehog owners have reported that their hedgehog ignored them for a while after they returned from vacation. The hedgies would exhibit behavior such as turning their backs on their owners, refusing to be handled or snapping, nibbling or even biting when the erring owners try to handle them. This pouting is also not uncommon when something that they really enjoy is withdrawn.
All of these little facts have shown that hedgehogs do have the ability to show emotions their pleasure (through that low purr like sound) and displeasure (through screeching and snapping or biting).
Another parameter through which we can know if hedgehogs are intelligent is history parameters of the hedgehogs.
Do hedgehogs recognize their owners? And if they do, do they respond to or interact with these owners?
The answer to this question can be easily seen in the responses of dog owners who have made it very clear that dogs seem to understand and recognize them. Because dogs are such quiet animals we can’t actually be sure what they are thinking or how they’re feeling. But in such situations like the one, a Hedgehog owner described… her hedgehog went to her whenever he felt threatened or was in public in the company of strangers.
In her own words, “Snarf had been a hissing, huffing ball of quills when he moved in and quite frankly, I had accepted that he and I would never really ‘get along’ and he was just not a social hedgie. No biggie…just the way he’s made, right?
Then we went to the vet (two weeks later) and the vet wanted to see him walk. I put Snarf on the floor and stepped out of the way…Snarf walked to me…I stepped back…Snarf walked over and tried to sit on my foot. I didn’t think much of it until the vet said ‘He sure knows who momma is!’ That’s when I realized he might actually know who I am! And might even like me a teensy bit. It’s amazing how popular you become when a hedgie feels his life is in danger”
Pet hedgehogs recognizes its owner
Multiple hedgehog owners admitted that their hedgehogs seem to recognize them and run to them in fact whenever they feel threatened in a public place like on a visit to the veterinary. It’s clearly that hedgehog even though they ignore human beings a lot of the time actually recognizes human beings can tell them apart. They can tell who their owner is, who just lives in the house, and who is a total stranger all apart from each other.
From this, it is obvious hedgehogs if nothing else is smart enough to recognize their owners from other people.
Yet another parameter by which we can judge the Intelligence level of hedgehogs is their response to:
There is always that instinct in every animal that seems to tell them when they’re in danger or when they’re safe. This instant is what determines how the animals react or how they try to get out of the stressful situation. Hedgehogs have a variety of ways through which they express their fear and try to escape the source of fear.
When their owners are nearby, hedgehogs are very likely to run towards their owners and try to hide behind them on their bodies in their clothes or somewhere close to their bodies. However, when hedgehogs are in the wild, there go to response is to call into a tight ball and expose their spines to whatever predator is close by. Female Hedgehog sometimes eats their babies when they feel threatened. The logic behind this is that, the hedgehog mother usually expel in a lot of energy and go through a lot of stress to give birth to their young. Having a later for Hedgehog is dangerous and they are prone to complications.
It would be a shame to go through all of that stress only for a Predator to eat up the young-lings. If the predator successfully eats the hedgehog’s babies…it would have been a severe waste of time, energy, and risk. In order to prevent this wastage therefore, hedgehog mothers often eat their young ones in order to prevent the predator from eating them. That way at least they get to have some food in their bodies to take them through a few days. It sounds morbid…but when you think about it… it is pretty smart.
Will I ever see my hedgehog do something smart?
Now to be honest… you will almost never witness a hedgehog doing tricks or actively making you laugh. Whatever pleasure you derive from having these spiky prickly animals in your home will be born purely out of the love you have for them. But you will definitely get those moments when it feels like these tiny creatures are actually pretty intelligent.
Depending on the temperament of your hedgehog… you might never witness a smart behavior. Or you may actually witness more than a few in their lifetime.
When you think of it, even among animals that are generally considered smart and intuitive, you are still likely to find some that are more dumb than you could ever imagine. The mere fact that hedgehogs have been able to convince humans that they are worthy pets is smart on its own…Funny, huh?
Think about it… they have us waiting on the hands and feet… getting them food and drinks…cleaning their cages out and making sure that that they have those toys that they nearly never show interest in…and all the while sleeping all day and doing nothing but think about all the weird things they are going to do to send us into panic mode. They earn our love and devotion by doing absolutely nothing. And we… the supposedly smartest species are out here…adopting them and serving them through their lives.
The verdict is…
By other standards, however… we can definitely agree that hedgies are pretty close to the bottom of the intelligence scale. Hedgehogs generally will not learn rules… They won’t learn tricks no matter how simple they are; hedgehogs won’t learn or remember their own name, and they even seem to be so nonchalantly self-destruct as they will gladly walk off ledges with no regard for their own safety.
Hedgehogs pretty much run in their own poop for hours, sleep in their cold ceramic food bowl instead of the numerous expensive fleece blankets and pouches available to them. They run so fast that they head butt their own igloo, and will right after that self-anoints and almost roll backward off the settee if someone doesn’t have amazing reflexes to catch them with. And to make matters even worse, they will ball up at a live insect instead of eating it, like… this is their main meal.
All they are really good at is sleeping all day long. Curled up and looking cute. And in the end… they are really smart in this aspect because they did manage to steal our hearts by being cute, didn’t they?