While most people that want a pet stick to the tried-and-true species, there are a huge number of different animals available. Some make good pets, some are relatively harmless but not suitable for most households and some are potentially dangerous. Hedgehogs probably fit into the latter 2 categories.
No…hedgehogs aren’t sneaking out of their cages and attacking people as they sleep. Rather, they can carry a variety of microorganisms that can be transmitted to people. There have been a few reports describing infections associated with hedgehogs, particularly Salmonella and ringworm. An excellent report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases highlighted the diseases hedgehogs have been shown to, or could, transmit to people. Hedgehogs don’t have to be sick to be a source of infection.
Hedgehogs have been available for years, but they may be a fad pet at the moment. One breeder is quoted as saying “They are going up these last two months we actually have a waiting list about twenty people,” said Sarah Roberts a breeder in Mansfield. “That’s never happened in the year’s of breeding we’ve done.”
While any pet could transmit infections to people, certain pets are higher risk. Overall, species that are rare or ‘fad’ pets may be of greater concern because we simply don’t know much about them (i.e. what diseases they can transmit, how to reduce risks…).
These small creatures can probably be safe pets in some households, but are they really better than other species? You probably should not have a hedgehog if you or someone else in the household has a compromised immune system or if you have small children. If you do have a hedgehog, don’t let it roam freely in the house and wash you hands after handling it.