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Are Hedgehogs Marsupials or Rodents?

Hedgehogs are often compared to other small animals like porcupines and possums. Even so, their quills are neither as sharp as those of porcupines nor do they have barbs. On the other hand, though they resemble possums to some extent, hedgehogs neither climb trees nor do they have flexible prehensile tails.

One question that most people have not got an answer to is whether hedgehogs are rodents or marsupials.

Hedgehogs are neither marsupials nor rodents. They are classified as mammal insectivores because they primarily feed on insects, are warm-blooded, and give birth to live offspring. The classification of hedgehogs as insectivores makes some people shun them as pets.

However, when domesticated, you can feed your hedgehog on ferret, mink, or cat food and an occasional boiled egg or chicken.

To help you understand the characteristics of a hedgehog that inform its classification, below are a few answers to the questions you might have.

What is a Rodent?

Rodents are a group of mammals comprising squirrels, hamsters, rats, mice, porcupines, gerbils, and beavers, among others. There are more than 2000 animals classified as rodents since they share the following distinct characteristics:

  • Have one pair of incisors on their upper and lower jaws.
  • Their incisors grow continually and are dramatically larger than their other teeth. This explains the innate need of rodents to chew or gnaw on things so that their incisors are filed to an appropriate size.
  • Have no canines.
  • Have enlarged incisors that grow just next to each other.
  • Have a penis bone.
  • Have a gap behind their incisors.
  • Their incisors have no enamel on their backs.
  • Have a complex jaw musculature.
  • Their gastrointestinal systems have a cecum. This is an intestinal part in which cellulose {plant matter} is digested.

Why is a Hedgehog Not a Rodent?

Though often classified as a rodent, there are some stark differences between a hedgehog and other rodents that make its classification in the same group an error. Here are some of these differences:

  • Hedgehogs have small pointy canines.
  • A hedgehog’s incisors do not grow continually.
  • The incisors of hedgehogs are set apart to look like adorable fangs.
  • A hedgehog’s incisors are large but not as dramatically large as a rodent’s.
  • The premolars and canines of hedgehogs have sharp pointy cusps for holding onto prey, unlike the broad low cusps of rodents that thrive on an herbivore’s diet.
  • Hedgehogs do not have a cecum. As such, they will not digest plant matter so well.

What is a Marsupial?

Marsupials are sometimes called metatherian mammals. The primary element that sets them apart from other mammals is their pouch or marsupium, in which they carry their young ones. Like all mammals, marsupials will give birth to their young ones rather than lay eggs.

Even so, the young ones of marsupials are not fully grown at birth because of the animals’ short gestation periods, which can even be thirteen days after conception. After birth, the underdeveloped young ones are housed in the pouches where they will continue growing and maturing outside the womb.

This characteristic is the main one that makes hedgehogs anything but marsupials. Hedgehogs, unlike marsupials, give birth to young ones that look like mini hedgehogs. These young ones are fully developed in the placenta before birth.

Do Hedgehogs and Rodents Get Along?

One of your main concerns when getting a pet hedgehog is whether or not the animal will get along with your other pets. Rodents are currently among the most popular pets. Even so, you should not house hedgehogs and rodents in the same environment.

For instance, though they lack the dentition of carnivores, hedgehogs have a reputation as mouse hunters. Though these cases have largely been assumed to be carrions, hedgehogs can be quite tenacious when near other animals.

While hedgehogs might get along well with rodents in a common play area, they are not naturally social animals and will not benefit from the interaction. Furthermore, hedgehogs can pass diseases to rodents and vice versa.

There are also cases where guinea pigs have chewed a hedgehog’s quills, opening up its skin to serious infections. Irrespective of the other pets in your home, have a separate space for housing a pet hedgehog to allow it enough rest and privacy so that it does not become stressed.

Conclusion

With these tidbits, you now know why hedgehogs are neither marsupials nor rodents. Therefore, you can now research the best ways to handle mammal insectivores and help your pet thrive.

One of the aspects that most pet owners grapple with is the nocturnal nature of hedgehogs. Though they are quite active at night, they will also be up and running for some time during the day, more so in the evening.

You can thus be assured that you will spend some time with your pet hedgehog in the evenings.

Hedgehogs - Updated: November 27, 2020
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.

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