Hedgehogs have been compared to animals as different as opossums and porcupines, but they really are their own little creatures. Hedgehogs' quills, for instance, aren't extremely sharp and don't have barbs like porcupines' do. Meanwhile, hedgehogs' faces resemble opossums', they don't climb trees or have have flexible prehensile tails. Hedgehogs are mammals, but they aren't marsupials.
Marsupials are mammals who give birth to babies rather than lay eggs. If the definition of marsupial ended there, it would be logical to place hedgehogs in the marsupial category. But marsupial babies aren't usually fully developed when they're born. Marsupials have pouches that typically house their babies after they are born and while they continue to mature and develop. This is where hedgehogs get counted out. Hedgehogs are called "placental" mammals. Their babies are born looking like mini hedgehogs and are pretty much developed.
Hedgehogs are insectivores. The small mammals feed mostly on insects. In the wild, hedgehogs dine on ants, beetles, centipedes, earthworms and grasshoppers, and they've been known to eat small rodents, bird eggs, snakes, groundnuts and even fruit. Don't let the hedgehog's diet put you off if you are considering adopting a hedgehog. Domesticated hedgehogs do well on a diet of dry cat food, or mink and ferret food, with occasional treats of cooked chicken, boiled eggs, fruits and vegetables.
You may be under the impression that hedgehogs are nocturnal, keeping the night-owl hours that a hamster does, but that's not the fact. They are actually diurnal, being awake parts of the night and parts of the day -- a lot like housecats. You may find that your hedgie is most active in the late part of the day and after dark, but at least he will be active at some of your waking hours, allowing you to interact with and enjoy him.
Hedgehogs as Part of a Mixed Family
Adopting a hedgehog into a family that already has other animals might make you wonder whether everyone will get along. Dogs, cats and other small animals like guinea pigs and hamsters, for the most part, get along well with a pet hedgehog if everyone is introduced properly. That's best accomplished by holding your hedgehog while allowing the other animal to inspect the new housemate. Dogs and cats usually learn to respect hedgehogs once they get a a poke in the nose with the hedgehog's pointy but harmless quills. It isn't advisable to allow unsupervised interaction with dogs and cats, but hedgies usually play well with guinea pigs, rats and some other rodents -- thoughthey have been known to get along, keep ferrets and hedgehogs apart except under supervision. No matter who shares the house with you and your hedgehog, he must have his own living quarters, never sharing a habitat with anyone. This will allow him privacy and rest when he needs it and will eliminate chances of someone injuring someone else, seriously or not.
- Hedgehog image by yellowj from Fotolia.com