Henrietta the Hedgehog

Hedgehog birthday party hat

Henrietta and Simon are my two African Pygmy hedgehog rescues, both from owners who could no longer care for them. Henrietta was previously used just for breeding, and she was adopted November 2015.

Henrietta the Hedgehog

Many people ask why I have a hedgehog, honestly wondering what do they do? Since they are nocturnal they sleep during the day, but develop the habit of their owners. Henrietta comes to greet me in the morning and continues to pop out of her igloo through the day, typically spending a few hours on my lap daily while I write blog posts. She is free to roam the house and use the refrigerator as she pleases.

Hedgehog yawn!

Henrietta is my first hedgehog and I had done A TON of research before adopting her in November 2014. Hedgies are considered exotic pets, so ultimately have needs (such as a heat requirement) to keep them comfortable, so my house is nothing short of a sauna. And both of my hedgies are, luckily, litter trained. Their favorite snacks include giant disgusting meal worms, but Henrietta had taken a liking to veggies and apples. Hedgehogs’ primary diets are actually high quality cat food – it being the most nutritious.

Henrietta the Hedgehog

I wanted to talk about Henrietta’s journey, because I began this blog post weeks ago and didn’t have the heart to finish it. She passed away last Monday and her death was one of the most heartbreaking I have experienced. In July 2015, I noticed a lump under her arm – after a few tests it was determined she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. It is unfortunately common in  hedgehogs and, considering she may have been bred to young, was inevitable. With a poor prognosis of only a few weeks to live, I don’t think she would be with me long. I had the lump removed by the vet and, contrary to science, she healed up just fine in a month.

Months passed and she lived a healthy life, running on her wheel and around the house in a Sonic-like manner. The tumor returned in September and she underwent another surgery. I knew this would be the last operation. It was incredibly stressful on me and a bit too much for her little potato body, but she recovered. Even though I knew the cancer would come back, I didn’t know how long until it would resurface. I was just amazed at how determined this little animal was.Hedgehog birthday party hat

In March Henrietta celebrated her 3rd birthday, which is incredible. She had defied all odds and our vet was in shock that she has made it so far. For six months or so she had been on a pain medication to ease any discomfort, and you wold have never guessed she was ill. Most days she would sit on my lap, sleeping while I worked at home, she enjoyed video game nights snuggling on the couch, loved running around with our cats, had a fetish for my new perfumes, and above all, made me smile everyday.

Henrietta the Hedgehog

I loved hedgehogs for years. Upon befriending a real one, I was just over the moon. Whether it was my childhood love for hedgehogs or just that I adore animals, I loved her more than anything. I’ve lost family members and I have had pets pass away, but nothing was more heart wrenching than saying goodbye to her. The cancer had been back for some months now, growing steadily. This last weekend the cancer escalated rapidly and I knew it was time. Suddenly she stopped eating and drinking and I had to have her peacefully leave, without pain.

Our vet, who had done all of her surgeries, put her down last Monday afternoon. I asked to have her brought her back in the room for me to say goodbye. Paleface, lightheaded, and through heaving sobs, I said my last goodbye to my dear little friend.  I couldn’t breathe and the pain was incredibly strong, but I felt the closure we both needed. A piece of me is missing and I know nothing but her can replace it.  I know it will take time but the grieving process has not been easy. Every morning I  still wake up and say hello to her, expecting her to wobble out of her igloo and greet me.



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6 replies
  1. Beautiful story. So sorry on your loss. I can relate to your story in so many ways because my Chewie is my everything. I feel your pain, and I’m sure no words can help take that pain away. You just have to know that hedgies do not have a long life span, but during your hedgies life with you, she knew she was loved and cared for in the best way. You gave her a life of happiness and love. She is watching you over the rainbow ??

    1. Aw, thank you Jenn. And my condolences for your little Chewie. It was so hard to let Henrietta go but she gave me so much joy! Thank you so much for reading – I know hedgehog owners can relate to my heartbreak since it seems they are with us for such a short time, but such special little creatures.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. Our beautiful little friends add a different outlook on life and unreal amount of love into our lives, huh? Although sad to hear about your hedgie’s passing, I’m happy to hear ofThe impact she made on your life.

  3. Hi.. I hope you get this. I read your wonderful story with great interest as well as tears in my eyes. What a little soldier she was keeping fighting on.

    I have five rescues, one of which comes from.a similar background, possibly bred from too early. She came to rescue bleeding profusely, which sadly was ovarian cancer. She had to have her ovaries and womb removed poor thing, but she was such a feisty girl that pulled through ok.

    Sadly a week ago I noticed a red swollen nipple at side of her right paw, then after feeling her chest area I found a large lump size of marble. The vet said first step was to treat as infection and sent her home with Metacam and Baytril.

    A week went by and April seemed ok, but today something felt off. She would immediately lie down wherever you put her and when stood up was wobbling.

    I thought about phoning vet but it was midnight and she was drinking and sleeping comfortably, so I made decision to wait for morning.

    Searching through internet I came across Henrietta’s inspirational story of courage and bravery. It was so beautifully wrote.

    I had no idea these beautiful hedgehogs could get breast cancer, and now I fear for her that she may have to once again undergo surgery.

    We are losing our home and moving into park home due to financial difficulties, I just don’t know if can afford surgery to remove lump or whether it’s fair to put her through this again.

    I was wondering if can remember the cost of removing Henrietta’s lump please and if recovery was difficult?

    Thank you for your help in advance.
    Annette x

    1. Hi Annette, I’m glad my story can help, she was such a fighter. Thank you for sharing as well. It may not be breast cancer in your hog although it is very common, but can also be a mammary cyst, which is what I was hoping Henrietta had. I had my vet remove her lump (I think it was $200-300 or so for the surgery) and have it sent out and tested for cancer. Henrietta ended up with the worst stage of cancer, similar to a stage four in humans. Her initial recovery after the first surgery went well, the trickiest part is keeping them from touching the stitches. I monitored her often and she did pretty well – she also went under anesthesia just fine. The costs add up if you decide to get additional surgeries like I did, but the first surgery and medicines are not bad at all. I do hope that helps, and I highly recommend getting in touch with the Hedgehog Welfare Society if you are not a member – they offer financial assistance for those who rescue hogs. They were amazing and also helped me through this process. Please keep me posted – I’m happy to offer more info if you need it! Anastasia

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