Ah, hedgehogs. I recall being 15 and reading online about the possibility of keeping them as pets and being beside myself with excitement. I had recently repaired and sold a laptop, leaving me with around $200 to spend however I pleased. A local pet shop happened to have exactly one hedgehog left in stock from a local breeder, for the price of $150 (to those living in the UK, spending that much money on such a common animal may seem absurd. However, hedgehogs are exotic pets in the USA).
I had read extensively about caring for my new pet before I spent my hard earned money on it. I quickly learned how much more valuable real experience is when caring for pets. Here are some of the most important lessons I learned, so that you can hopefully make an informed decision before deciding to purchase one of these little guys:
Hedgehogs are not for those with low self esteem.
Hedgehogs have a natural reaction to danger wherein their spines stand up and turn rigid. This is known as huffing, popping, or bristling ("huffing" because the little fella will also begin breathing rapidly through his nose; the noise is disorienting to predators. "Popping" because these spines will erect themselves VERY quickly). Although your hedgie is not doing this because he hates you (hopefully), it is very disheartening when, after weeks of showering love and care upon your new pet, you still find yourself unable to even pet it, much less cuddle or play with it. Over time, this behavior can be trained out of your hedgie, but many new owners find themselves unable to deal with what they see as their pet rejecting them. This usually results in the hedgie being sent to yet another home, scaring and making it even more uncomfortable. If you lack the patience or the self esteem to deal with this, then consider another pet.
Hedgehog spines hurt.
Hedgehog spines are actually rather soft when lowered. When provoked by just about anything, however, your hedgie will huff, erecting his spines. Evolution has imbued hedgehogs with a mild irritant that coats the tips of their spines. When pricked with one, the skin around the affected area will tingle and burn slightly from anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes depending on how deep the wound is. Unfortunately, hedgehogs rely primarily on smell, having terrible vision. Accordingly, your hedgehog will identify you by scent rather than sight, so he will need to become accustomed to your smell, meaning you will eventually need to use your bare hands to handle him. If you have a job that requires your hands to be kept in pristine condition, or if you just have tender hands, consider another pet.
Your hedgehog can be messy.
Hedgehogs are generally very clean animals. However, from time to time, you will find that your hedgie has become absolutely filthy. Hedgehogs are fascinating products of evolution; in the wild, hedgehogs have very few natural predators. This is due not only to their spines (capable of killing any large predators foolish enough to swallow it), but a unique ability known as annointing. Hedgehogs have extraordinary resistance to nearly every poison in the natural world. Thus, when a hedgehog comes across a poison in the wild, it will smell it to determine what it is, lick it, combine the poison with its saliva, froth at the mouth, and vomit the mixture onto its spines, resulting in a toxic hedgehog. In your case, though, annointing will likely come about as a result of your hedgehog encountering sweat, cologne, perfume, et al. Mine always did it after smelling my socks.
In addition to annointing, hedgehogs perform the same biological functions as every other pet. Provided your hedgehog is kept in a well ventilated pen/cage, urine will likely not be a problem. Hedgehog feces, on the other hand, are smelly and, when dried, attain the consistency of wet cement, requiring tremendous effort to remove. Adding to this is the fact that hedgehogs are notoriously difficult to potty train, having about a 50% success rate. Evolution has also imbued hedgehogs with a natural tendency to urinate and defecate while running; what this means for you is a lot of time spent cleaning your hedgie's wheel every morning. Failure to do this will result in the eventual formation of an unbearable cocktail of odors emanating from his cage and the accumulation of waste on his spines. This can be frustrating to clean, as you will have to give your hedgie a bath, a unique experience involving oil and a toothbrush. If you have a problem with cleaning up vast amounts of feces on a daily basis, consider another pet.
Having said all of this, I offer this disclaimer as well: if you have the patience to deal with all of the above, hedgehogs can be rewarding pets. Although they are solitary by nature, and bonding with one takes several months, the payoff is more than worth it; once you and your hedgie become friends, you'll have a pal for a long time to come.