Exotic Life: Meet My New Pets

Monday, January 02, 2017

Hedgehogs have been quite the buzz in 2016 and I, for one, became obsessed with them. Honestly, I wasn't able to research that much about hedgehogs but I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos about them. From then on, I've been baffled with exotic animals and wanted to have them as pets.

I went around looking for places and people where I could get one and found several Facebook groups dedicated to hedgehogs. From there, I began searching for a decent breeder and immediately found one. This is where the my life in the exotics began. It was quite a hit-and-miss and trial-and-error for me since it was my very first experience owning an animal that is very susceptible to stress. I also didn't know what to feed her at first that's why I ended up wasting money on various catfood and dogfood until I settled with IAMS Kitten.

Meet Nala, my 4-month old Choco Tobiano Hedgehog. I named her after Taylor Nicole Dean's famous cheering hedgehog. Sadly, Taylor's cheerful hedgehog passed away due to Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS). WHS is a genetic mental syndrome that has no cure as of this day. It's like Alzheimer's Disease in humans, but the hedgehog suffering from it losses control of its muscles, thus the wobbliness. I would like to discuss more about this but there are research materials all over the internet on this matter and the cure is yet to be found. Another note is that you should not dismiss your hedgehog's wobbliness as WHS. There are multiple other reasons why your hedgehog might be wobbly, one of which is an ear infection.

Nala and I's adventure on this new exotic life has its ups and downs. As what other hedgie parents would say, the first week, or months, will be a struggle. You need the patience to help your hedgehog open up (Literally!) to you. I'd go over on these things from my personal experience on a different post but for now, I'll give you a sneak preview on what to expect when you get your very first hedgehog.

We were doing okay on the first few weeks after I took her home. She was in wood bedding before and I noticed that she was always scratching herself and this alarmed me so I decided to shift to fleece bedding. I was also able to litter train her immediately and she's been doing good since then. But then came the day when she wouldn't eat or drink. The first night I noticed didn't bother me but then I realized she wasn't eating at all, she didn't even touched it. She was also pooping less and then I saw her straining to poop. She would eventually release some out but it was so black and so hard but was so small and found out she was constipated.

I asked people who's familiar with hedgehogs on what to do to help her poop. I mixed dextrose powder with her water to make her drink more and keep her hydrated, syringe-fed her with pumpkin babyfood, and warm baths and eventually, she finally pooped. I wasn't sure what made her feel better since I did all these remedies at the same time. Later on, I found out that it was because I was feeding her dogfood. It was mixed with some catfood and she would always pick the dogfood out. This was the moment that I removed it completely from her diet. Her previous diet was a mix of Catmeal and Beef Pro Puppy. Now, she's on pure IAMS Kitten and doing great. I also give her some mealworms and dubia roaches as treats whenever I take her out to play and she loves them.

This is what her bin set-up currently is. I keep the bin open and she has a large poop tray where she pees and poops every time. I suggest you do the same if you wish to litter train your hedgehogs. I use wood bedding instead of those for cat litter boxes because she might end up eating them and I think she's more comfortable with the wood bedding since it was where she used to poop before. Her litter tray is a mix of wood bedding and some DIY Carefresh paper bedding I learned to make. The brown water is from the vitamins she's currently on because I'm trying to help her gain weight. It's Asumix, a specialized vitamins for hamsters and guinea pigs to increase their appetite and strengthen their immune system. I give it to her three (3) times a week. I've noticed she's been eating more and would finish the food I leave in her food bowl. Things are going A-okay so far and the only problem I have now is her dry skin. I'm trying pure oatmeal bath and I hope it would do the trick.

There's a lot to say about the first two months with Nala but let's leave that on another post and hopefully, better photos of her.

Next up is my new tarantula. It's a Brachypelma boehmei or the Mexican Fireleg. It's a new world tarantula meaning it's a lot more docile and have a different defense mechanism from the old world tarantulas. They have urticating hair that they release if they feel threatened. These are hairs that have spikes on them that make them very itchy when it comes in contact with your skin. I haven't held my tarantula since I got it and has molted last New Year's Eve along with the fireworks. I've only had it for four (4) days now and I haven't fed it anything yet since I have to wait a week or so after molting.

It's roughly around half an inch now and I'm hoping that it comes out as a Mexican Fireleg or else this post would be dumb. Tarantula slings of the same family looks the same and for a beginner like me, the only thing I'm grasping on is the word of the previous owner I got it from. I'll be trying to feed it with lats roughly around three or four days from now and I wish I get to see her devour it. That is one of the joys of owning exotic pets, live feeding. It's on a delicup right now and I'm looking forward to rehousing it once it gets big enough.

One stressful experience we've had together was when her previous enclosure fell and all the substrate was on the table. Luckily, it didn't fell outside and was covered in substrate inside its enclosure. This is why I decided to put it back in a delicup since its smaller and looking for the food I give it would be easier. It also has a small burrow that is not visible on the picture I provided but it doesn't really like to hang around inside it. It's very active and would run around when I check on it. Honestly, owning tarantulas even this small, is a fun experience.

With this exotic life, I began breeding mealworms now and also trying to breed dubia roaches. I recently began with lats as well. This provides me fresh treats for my hedgehog and food for my tarantula. I suggest you do the same if you want the highest quality for them. If you can avoid dried mealworms as much as you can, do so. Mealworms aren't that hard to keep and the beetles are easier to keep as well. Remember that what you feed your feeder insects are what your pets get. The only problem you need to look out for are ants and mites as these would cause stress to your tarantula. Surround your enclosures with water and you'll be free from ants in no time. Just remember to fill it up if you see that it's drying up. I'll try to give a more detailed post about them once I have the time but for now, if you're planning to get an exotic pet, remember that they do not require much handling and interaction with them should be minimal.

If you have questions, leave a comment below and I'll try to answer them or refer you to good references for them.

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