Hedgehogs on Display

A room with elegant green carpeting, pure white tablecloths and golden chairs would be the last place you’d expect to find hedgehogs running around but that was the setting for the Midwest Hedgehog Rendezvous where two new permanent grand champions were crowned.

On April 16 about 40 hedgehog enthusiasts gathered together at the Roadway Inn in Milwaukee to have their pets judged, enter into a costume contest, race as well as listen to a presentation by Dawn Wrobel, a leading hedgehog expert.  The event was sponsored by the Hedgehog Welfare Society and the International Hedgehog Association.

At the judging, Gromit  — who later went on to win best in show — and Kenmore became the 19th and 20th Permanent Grand Champions.  For this to happen at a single event is “truly remarkable” according to Floyd Aprill, a hedgehog show veteran, since thousands of hedgehogs that had been shown since the events started in 1995.  Both were from the same household: that of Jim and Linda Woodring. Following the judging was a presentation by various hedgehog experts, headlined by Wrobel.  They covered proper hedgehog care, tips, and how to insure your hedgehog.  There was also a little information given about the Hedgehog Welfare Society and the International Hedgehog Association.

Later Miss Pickles, owned by Jennifer Hack, won both the costume contest — dressed as a hula dancer — and the hedgehog race.

Hedgehogs aren’t the most common pets but they are becoming more popular.  There’s a larger show held in October where about 100 hedgehog owners show up for a three day event in Colorado (http://hedgehogrendezvous.com/).  “It’s this show on steroids,” said Aprill.

These are the two primary hedgehog shows of the year with this being the more regional event and therefore smaller averaging only about 40 to 50 in attendance.

Hedgehog Judging, Presentations, Costume Contest & Race

Wrobel was the judger who said she looked for a flat back line and would then hold the hedgehogs in her palm on their backs so they’d look at her and she’d judge their facial structure.

“She’s practicing to be an acupuncturist” Wrobel said on judging one of the hedgehogs.  Some hedgehogs were more receptive than others to being picked up.

Most of them were visibly nervous with the owners needing to clean up the colorful blankets and cloth pouches in which the animals are carried after the judging.

Following the judging was a presentation by Wrobel as to proper hedgehog care.  This was the longest portion of the event with a few other short presentations following including Linda Woodring talked about how to insure your hedgehog.

Linda stated there are only a few places that you can get your hedgehog insured and that you really need to because the medical bills can be as high as larger animals.

After her presentation Kristen Zorbini Bongard gave a presentation for the Hedgehog Welfare Society.  Their main goal is to help people with their pets through an active online community of owners as well as to give those that want to adopt rescue contacts.

Bongard mentioned a little about the Arlington, TX exotic animal seizure from 2009 saving of about 700 hedgehogs (the largest exotic animal rescue in U.S. history) and how many of those rescues were placed into homes through the Welfare Society.  Many of those rescued were at the event.

Aprill then closed out with a brief presentation of the International Hedgehog Association, an organization with the same goals as the Welfare Society.

After the presentation was the costume contest and the race.  One of the hedgehogs didn’t even run, it simply sat at the starting line in its pink plastic ball.

The winner of both was Miss Pickles whose hula outfit was directly inspired by her owner who used to dance Hawaiian.  “She had to dress like her mama,” Hack said.

Hedgehog Care Presentation

Wrobel began with a little background about herself of how she‘s been interested in “hedgies“ since 1991, she’s been breeding them for 10 to 11 years and currently owns 7.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and they needed to be woken up for the show, explaining their agitation.

Hedgehogs have only been recently domesticated — within about the last 20 years.  The subculture of hedgehog owners is steadily growing as more people are finding out about them.  While the hedgehogs aren’t the easiest animals to get a hold of, “If you really want one, you’ll find one,” said Hack.

Hedgehogs live on average four to five years.  Generally you stop breeding them around age three.

Feeding she said is important because the hedgehog will starve itself to death rather than eat something it doesn’t want.  There are hedgehog foods but Wrobel does not recommend them.  Instead she suggested a mix of good quality cat food, insects and some baby food.

Transitioning into health, she said that hedgehogs don’t need vaccinations but their veterinary bills can be almost as much as larger animals.  They are prone to mites because of stress and other health problems.

It was recommended that the hedgehog’s weight be checked regularly because a fluctuation can signal a health issue.

Wrobel gave a few closing thoughts on care such as a vinyl coated wire cage with a solid plastic bottom as well as making sure there is a solid-bottomed wheel for exercise — some would run anywhere from five to 10 miles a night.

“My hedgehogs recycle my junk mail,” said Wrobel as she mentioned her personal trick of how to line the bottom of the cage.  She said shredded paper works the best and they “love it.”

Wrobel also mentioned to not put males and females together, nor two males.  Both combinations will end up fighting and probably injuring the other.

Proper caging and things inside are important as hedgehogs are known for running of the ends of tables as well as falling off standard ramps — nobody is sure exactly as to why.