COLUMBIA — All I wanted for Christmas was a hedgehog. Too bad I couldn’t get one in Columbia.
With my two dogs, Pancho and Sparkles, back home in Chicago, I missed the companionship of a pet. I just wanted an animal to come home to after classes — and to post multiple pictures of on Facebook. But a tiny apartment shared with three other women and a schedule that keeps me out and about for hours isn’t exactly pet-friendly.
Dogs and cats were certainly out of the question. But, after hours of studying for finals (read: procrastinating while watching cute Youtube videos) I stumbled upon a 6 1/2- minute video of a hedgehog swimming in a bathtub. This began my incredible journey in search of a prickly little hedgehog of my own. I would name him Pinto.
While still in my initial excitement, I posted a link to a Kansas City hedgehog breeder on my Facebook page. I received mixed responses from my friends, including “Cute!” "Like!" “Don’t do it. I have one and it’s a pain” and "breeding of exotic animals is cruel," which linked to information from PETA.
Feeling slightly deflated, I went back to watching Youtube videos to satiate my hedgehog hunger. I think I watched "Uni the Hedgehog" at least 2,000 times.
I know that taking on a pet will be a responsibility, given that I have never been responsible for another life before — except for my roommate's beta fish, which might have tried to tell me something by jumping out of its bowl several times. Regardless, hedgehogs are low-maintenance pets that purr ever so slightly when you hold them. They don't bark, they don't really smell, and they require only light exercise, which can be done in a ball similar to a hamster's.
And despite how they look, hedgehog quills are fairly soft. The only time they are very prickly is when they are scared or defensive and curl up into a ball with their quills sticking out, like during the croquet game in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Hedgehogs that are socialized and know their owners enjoy being petted and lightly scratched between their quills.
They have a poor sense of sight, so they recognize their owner based on smell. I had the opportunity to hold a hedgehog a few years ago, and the owner had me spritz on her perfume before I stuck out my hand for Carrot to smell. Carrot was comfortable with my picking him up because he thought I was his owner.
The average lifespan of a hedgehog is four to six years, and they are susceptible to cancer and wobbly hedgehog syndrome, which despite its name is not funny and has symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis. It is illegal to own hedgehogs in states such as California, Georgia and Hawaii because of the possibility they carry the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease.
Still, I'm sure that I want one. But after calling various pet shops in Columbia, it looks as if I'll have to wait. No pet store in the city sells hedgehogs.That's because under city ordinance, a hedgehog isn't considered a domesticated animal, making it an exotic animal. And exotic animals can't be sold within city limits.
There are hedgehog breeders in Missouri, but none close enough for me to get to in the near future. For now, I’ll just have to keep pretending that Charlotte, another popular hedgehog on Youtube, is eating the cilantro out of my hand.
Raha Obaei is a junior at the Missouri School of Journalism and a reporter for the Missourian. Besides hedgehogs, she enjoys obsessing over other cute animals and doing yoga.