Bite-sized beast claims hearts

Elizabeth Venier, Staff Writer

He looks like a typical high school guy, but now he has a baby to raise.

Junior Kellin Cardenas’ unusual pet is a 3-month-old African Pygmy Hedgehog.

“We named him ‘Raja’ after the tiger in the Disney movie ‘Aladdin,’” Cardenas said.

Cardenas purchased Raja from S&S Exotics for $200, and Raja’s equipment cost him an additional $50.

“I never expected something so small to be so expensive,” Cardenas said. “I swear the cash I gave the store weighed more than the hedgehog itself.”

Raja requires specially made hedgehog food, but he can snack on mealworms and even some human food.

“I had gotten fried rice and was wondering what food Raja would eat,” Cardenas said. “He really likes eggs and chicken.”

Though hedgehogs are relatively unusual, as far as house pets go, Cardenas loves having his spiky little friend.

“My girlfriend and I wanted to get a kitten, but my mom wouldn’t let us,” Cardenas said. “But she allowed us to get a small animal.”

Although hedgehogs’ quills can be sharp, they are actually quite soft when the animal feels happy.

“You can pet him,” Cardenas said. “He’ll just chill in the crook of your neck and sleep for hours.”

However, Raja is not as well behaved with some of Cardenas’ friends.

“I can’t even touch him,” junior Katelynn Hallmark said. “Anytime I get close to him, he spikes out into a ball of pain.”

One negative aspect of owning a hedgehog is that they tend to leave their feces in their hamster wheel and proceed to run through it.

“His feet get really gross,” Cardenas said. “But Raja loves baths, surprisingly enough.”

While Cardenas has gotten accustomed to the odor, his visitors have not.

“It’s cute, but it smells terrible,” junior Trinity Parkman said. “As soon as you walk in the room, the smell hits you.”

A fact that surprised Cardenas about his new pet is that hedgehogs hibernate.

“I have to make sure he never gets below 60 degrees Fahrenheit,” Cardenas said. “Otherwise, he’ll fall asleep and never wake up, because he wouldn’t have had the chance to prepare for ‘winter.’”

Due to this dilemma, Cardenas takes extra precautions to make sure his hedgehog is healthy and happy.

“I filled a sock with rice,” Cardenas said. “Fairly frequently, I’ll put his sock in the microwave to warm it up for him to cuddle with.”

His hedgehog is half the size of what it will be and has a long life ahead of it.

“He has another half a pound to gain over the next six years,” Cardenas said.

In Cardenas’ opinion, the most amusing thing about his unusual pet is the noise it makes.

“Whenever he gets scared, or startled, he exhales heavily,” Cardenas said. “It’s almost a hiss.”

Cardenas thinks Raja is smart and learns quickly.

“He’s figured out what sound his treat bag makes,” Cardenas said. “As soon as he hears that ziplock open, he starts spazzing and climbing up the side of his cage.”

Adopting a hedgehog has proved an educational experience for Cardenas.

“I never knew that hedgehogs had tails,” Cardenas said. “He also has really long legs for as small as he is.”

Raja has drastically improved Cardenas’ life.

“It’s really nice to know he’s there. I’m never alone,” Cardenas said. “He generally makes me happy.”