Sunday 20 October 2019

She's stinky, she's spiky, she's Henrietta the hedgehog

HEDGEHOGS may be spiky by nature, but they still make for quite friendly pets.

That's the considered verdict of Brigid Cullen and, as a long-time worker with the WSPCA, she's in a better position than most to judge.

Her Clonard home is a fairly busy place as far as animals are concerned. Between permanent residents and those being cared for temporarily, Brigid had eight dogs, eight cats, a gerbil and a hedgehog there when we visited last week.

The star of the show was undoubtedly Henrietta the hedgehog, pottering away quietly n the garden, with a playful kitten, which has taken a real shine to her, for company.

Brigid said that Henrietta was one of three baby hedgehogs brought into her by a man whose dog had attacked them. Henrietta survived the attack, along with Gilbert, who was injured.

Brigid, who had looked after hedgehogs before, was only too happy to do so again. She took in Henrietta while Gilbert was sent to what she calls 'a rehab centre' in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

Brigid pointed out that baby hedgehogs are tiny, very vulnerable and not at all like people imagine.

'They are like little cocktail sausages, but smaller. There's a film on them when they're born and they're blind,' she said.

Henrietta has since been busy growing up and is enjoying a diet of milk and food that's made for kittens, but a common substitute for hedgehogs, who later in life get quite good at rooting around for insects.

'I'm trying to get lots of fat on him now for the winter,' said Brigid. After her hibernation this winter Henrietta will be going to join Gilbert at the 'rehab centre', which is in fact an organic farm.

There the two hedgehogs will be well looked after while providing a natural form of pest control, as organic farms don't use sprays. The humble hedgehog can keep a garden free of pests by eating up to 200 grammes of insects each night.

'I'm going to keep her over the winter and then she'll be moving to her country residence!' said Brigid.

But before that happens Brigid has to ensure Henrietta is ready for it. Just last week the hedgehog moved outside, where she sleeps in an S bend pipe, the first step in the transition to the organic garden in Enniskerry.

Brigid said her hedgehog is getting on great outside and with all the dogs and cats too. 'She's not afraid of anything, which is not a good idea really,' she said.

However, the sociable hedgehog is still allowed in the house. 'She follows me around in there, the only place she hasn't gone is up the stairs yet,' said Brigid.

Are there any drawbacks to having a hedgehog as a pet? 'They are totally stinky - they really are smelly!' said Brigid. However, it's not nearly enough to put her off taking them into her home. 'I just adore them,' she said.

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