Hedgehogs And Their Eyesight (All Your Questions Answered)

Ever wondered what the world looks like through a hedgehog’s eyes? These cuddly little critters have become internet celebrities recently, but few people know the ins and outs of hedgehog life. As your local hedgehog experts, we’re here to answer your burning questions about how your hedgie sees the world. 

The Basics

Are Hedgehogs Blind? 

No! Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight, but they can see. Not every hedgie is the same, though. Just like other animals, some might be blind or have worse vision due to illness, injury, or birth defects. 

If your hedgehog is blind, it may not be much of a problem for them. One scientific report found that a male hedgehog born virtually blind in the wild was able to live a relatively normal life. He did crash into things around him occasionally though! 

What Can Hedgehogs See? 

Even for your average non-blind hedgehog, seeing is still not a big priority. Hedgehogs can see, but not very well. They can generally detect outlines of shapes, but not details, so they may be able to tell that an object is in front of them, but not exactly what it is. 

Fun fact: Their poor eyesight might cause more timid hedgehogs to scare easily—without much detail a simple pinecone might look like a threat!

Why Can’t Hedgehogs See Very Well? 

It all comes back to evolution. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, so seeing in the daylight isn’t very important to them (think of how much worse our vision is at night!)

Hedgehogs’ natural habitats generally don’t require them to see much in detail. In the wild, they tend to move around in tall plants at night, so there’s not that much to see. 

In addition, the large eyes that help some other nocturnal animals see better might be a hazard for hedgehogs living in environments with lots of twigs and brambles. So evolutionarily, the trade-off of bad vision for better safety is worth it. 

Do Hedgehogs Blink?

Hedgehogs blink their eyes just like us humans. They do so to keep their eyes moist and free of dirt, dust, or little bugs.

Some prey animals are known for having unusual blinking behavior, however, like rabbits who sometimes sleep with their eyes open in order to quickly react to dangers. Hedgehogs don’t sleep with their eyes open either, however.

Here’s a short clip of a hedgehog blinking its eyes:

Night Vision

Can Hedgehogs See In The Dark? 

If hedgehogs are nocturnal, can they see well at night? Good question. There’s still some debate about this among scientists and hedgehog experts. Some question the idea that hedgehogs have poor eyesight, and think that they only have poor eyesight in the daytime. 

People have suggested that hedgehogs can see better at night. One scientist even thinks that they might have the same layer of reflective cells in their eyes that make it easier for animals like deer and owls to see at night (also the reason for the “deer in the headlights” effect!) This hasn’t been confirmed scientifically, though, so we’re still waiting on a verdict from the experts. 

Are Hedgehogs Color Blind? 

Yes and no. Hedgehogs are not completely color-blind, but they definitely can’t see colors as we can. Their vision is mostly limited to brown and cream shades. With this range, though, hedgehogs have been shown to be able to distinguish shades of yellow from shades of blue and gray. 

Looking at it scientifically, hedgehogs have been found to have retinas made up of 4% color-sensing cells, as opposed to 25% in humans. So they can see a little bit of color, but not much.

Can Hedgehogs See Infrared Light? 

Nope. Infrared light is outside the visible light spectrum for humans, and for hedgehogs too. Humans can generally see light up to 700 nm, while hedgehogs can only see up to 500, in the blue part of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

This difference is part of what allows hedgehogs to see better in low light, preparing them well for their nocturnal lifestyle. They can distinguish moving objects at night, but without the ability to see higher wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, their vision is more limited in the daytime. 

How Far Can Hedgehogs See?

Not very! Since hedgehogs’ vision is generally limited to silhouettes and outlines of objects, they may be able to get a very general idea of what is in their range of vision, but likely they won’t be able to distinguish anything very far away. 

If you think about the natural habitat of hedgehogs, this makes sense. If you’re crawling through tall plants and grasses, you can’t see very far ahead anyway!

If Hedgehogs Can’t See Very Well, How Do They Survive In The Wild?

Hedgehogs have poor vision, but it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for them. For one, they generally hide from daylight. If you have a pet hedgehog, this is the reason you’ll want some good dark spots in their cage for them to burrow during the day. 

Without good eyesight, hedgehogs make up for it with their more developed senses of hearing and smell. These senses allow them to distinguish when there are potential predators nearby, signaling them to curl up into their signature spiky ball form. If you have a pet hedgehog, you might have noticed it sniffing the air around it to get a sense of its surroundings. 

Fun Fact: Sense of smell is very important for hedgehogs, and even plays a big role in their socializing and mating practices.

Your Hedgehog And You

Are Hedgehogs Sensitive To Light?

Yes. So if you have your own hedgie, try not to take it outside in bright sunlight too much. Since hedgehogs are nocturnal, they generally like to burrow into the ground, or other covered spots to find darkness during the day (for a pet hedgehog, this might be in a dark corner, or between the pillows of your couch!)

In the wild, hedgehogs that live in sunnier climates like deserts might sleep through entire seasons of very sunny weather or droughts. Some hedgehogs are more sensitive to light than others, but in general, you can take them outside during the day, but not for very long. 

Can Hedgehogs Recognize Their Owners? 

Yes! Even if your hedgie can’t see you very well, they will come to know and love you over time. It often takes hedgehogs a bit of time to get comfortable with humans. They might be shy and unfriendly at first, but don’t worry, they’re just getting to know you. 

Your hedgehog might not be able to recognize you the way another person can, but they can tell people apart in their own way. They’ll come to recognize your general appearance, as well as your voice and scent. 

How Do Hedgehogs See The World? 

What does the world look like through the eyes of your hedgehog? For one, a hedgehog might think more in terms of what the world feels or smells like since they don’t rely on vision as humans do. 

If you are thinking about vision though, you can imagine what a hedgehog might see during the day by thinking about what things look like in a camera that won’t focus. You can generally see shapes, but you won’t get all the details, or even be able to distinguish certain things the way you normally would (for people who wear glasses, this might sound familiar!)

Now, limit your imaginary blurry vision to shades of cream and brown. This is a general approximation of what your surroundings might look like to a hedgehog in the day, at least. 

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