One day I wanted to give Shadow a treat. He didn't really like many fruits or veggies, but I decided to try and feed him a grape tomato. I put it in his cage and he sniffed it. He kept on sniffing and sniffing, and soon began to start eating it and sucking the tomato juice right out of it! He was really enjoying it. All of a sudden, he started foaming at the mouth and licking his quills, wiping all of the white foam all over himself!
I literally thought I was having a heart-attack. Did he have rabies?! Was he choking?! Was he allergic to grape tomatoes?! I wasn't sure what to think.
I emailed my breeder right away. Thank goodness she was so quick with responding to my email.
After speaking with her and doing some research, I discovered that my baby was self anointing. This is when a hedgehog smells or taste something they are not familiar with. After smelling or eating the new 'thing' they are becoming acquainted with, they will create a foamy lather. They will then contort their bodies and dispense their foamy saliva all over their quills. Sometimes, they will get so enhanced in their anointing that they will actually fall over and go into a sort of daze, completely unaware of their surroundings.
That sounds scary!
And it IS scary!
So, why do hedgehogs perform this ritual? Nobody knows. Really. It's completely unknown as to why hedgies do this. Some believe it's to mask their original scent from predators. Others believe that it acts as a sort of poison or toxin if predators come into contact with the foam on their quills. Maybe they just really like the scent and want it all over their bodies! The world may never know!
Regardless, anointing is completely normal for hedgies. In fact, it can even be fun to watch!
*Photo courtesy of Hedgie Mama, on their care sheet.