Pets Theme Unit
Life with a Hedgehog

Life with a Hedgehog
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.68

     challenging words:    beatrix, hoglets, mealworms, popularity, pygmies, silky-smooth, Tiggy-winkle, fictional, porcupine, occasionally, rabies, beloved, croquet, behavior, distinctive, schedule
     content words:    Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit, In Alice, North America, Many Peter Rabbit, Amy Sticker, Hedgebert McPricklesworth, Prickly Poo

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Life with a Hedgehog
By Colleen Messina

1     Beatrix Potter knew all about life with a hedgehog. The author of the beloved Peter Rabbit stories once wrote about her pet and said, "Mrs. Tiggy-winkle is a great traveler...She enjoys going by train, she is always very hungry when she is on a journey. I think you must ask Mrs. Tiggy-winkle to tea, she will drink milk like anything out of a doll's cup!"
2     Hedgehogs are more than walking pincushions. They might not be cuddly, but they can be wonderful pets. In Alice in Wonderland, hedgehogs rolled themselves into balls and were used in the game of croquet. Being an object of a sport must not have been nice for those fictional characters, but real life hedgehogs have a good reason for rolling up. It is their way of defending themselves. When a hedgehog is nervous, its 5,000 prickly spines stand out. Then, the little animal becomes a ball. The spines are sharp, so no predator will try to eat the hedgehog. It would be like eating a piece of cactus!
3     Wild hedgehogs live in the forests and deserts of Africa, Europe, and Asia. They came to North America in the 1980s for zoos and private collections. Later, more people raised them as pets. Most pet hedgehogs are African pygmy hedgehogs. In 1993, hedgehogs became even more popular because of a comic strip called "Hazel the Hedgehog." Then, a hedgehog character named Sonic appeared on television and even in a video game. Hedgehogs were everywhere!
4     One reason for their popularity as pets is their small size. These mammals only grow to be 6 to 8 inches long, and they only weigh a pound. African pygmies come in many shades such as white, black, and cream. Many hedgehogs give the impression that they are covered with a mixture of salt and pepper. They waddle from side to side when they walk and entertain their owners.
5     Hedgehogs are active animals that are often up at night. If you have a pet, you might be able to put it on a day schedule by feeding it at certain times. They like to have lots of room in their cages, and they like exercise wheels. A 20-30 gallon aquarium or a rabbit cage makes a good hedgehog home. Hedgehogs are solitary creatures. It is best not to have more than one in a cage. They can learn to love people if they are handled a lot when they are little. If they are upset, they might scream, or puff or sniff. They make soft whistling sounds when they are content.

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