When looking at a hedgehog, it doesn’t seem like the fastest, most athletic, and most capable critter in the forest. You don’t assume it to be a fast runner, a good climber, or a skilled swimmer. It’s sort of a chunky little fella that would seem almost soft and fuzzy if it wasn’t for all of the spikes.
But appearances don’t always reflect reality Hedgehogs are actually quite good swimmers, but that doesn’t mean that you should force a hedgehog into water!
Can Hedgehogs Swim?
Table of Contents
- 1 Can Hedgehogs Swim?
- 2 Do Hedgehogs Bathe?
- 3 Do Some Hedgehogs Not Like Water?
Hedgehogs can swim. They’re not very fast, and they don’t swim very elegantly, but hedgehogs can proficiently stay afloat and move forward by quickly moving its four legs, somewhat similarly to how it runs.
When the little hedgies in the wild go out to forage at night, they generally aren’t put off by a stream of water, a lake, or even your backyard pool if they have to get in. Hedgehogs do, however, prefer to stay dry if they can.
So if a hedgehog can find insects, tadpoles, frogs, newts, snails, and other goodies without having to go into the water, it’ll stick with that.
If not, the hedgehog will go into the water and swim.
Hedgehogs Swim In The Wild, But They’re Not Aquatic Animals
While hedgehogs readily go foraging in lakes, pools, and puddles, they’re not aquatic animals and they don’t spend all of their time in the water like it’s the case with a beaver or an otter.
A hedgehog can roam something like 1-2 miles every night in the search for food, but they prefer to travel by land. Whenever they get in the water they need a clear way out again.
If you’re lucky enough to see a hedgehog swimming in the wild, you’ll notice that it rarely stays in the water for more than a minute or two at a time.
When hedgehogs venture a bit too far into a lake, the open sea, or a pool with no easy way out, it runs the risk of drowning. Like Henry the hedgehog who almost drowned in the sea!
How Do Hedgehogs Swim? (Can They Dive Too?)
While hedgehogs sometimes swim, they don’t swim underwater and never dive much further than their little paws can reach.
Their swimming style recalls a little how dogs swim, with all legs moving franticly. It doesn’t seem that elegant, but it gets the work done.
While a couple of videos do exist of swimming hedgehogs on YouTube, most are of pet hedgehogs that people put into pools with no way of escape without relying on the humans to take them out. This is cruel, so please don’t do that.
I did find one video, however, of wild hedgehogs going into the water for a swim, and I must say: It looks amazing:
Hedgehogs also have the particular skill to float on their backs. Some hedgehogs, if they’re very trusting in their owners, will curl into a little boat shape and float on their backs when you bathe them.
It looks adorable, but please don’t try to force your hedgehog to do this.
Where Do Hedgehogs Swim?
Hedgehogs can swim in ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks, streams, puddles, pools, and even the ocean, but they generally shy away from strong streams and currents as well as bodies of water with difficult access.
Be especially careful with your garden pond or your pool, because steep edges can mean that the animal can’t climb out once it gets in. This means that many hedgehogs drown in people’s backyards every year, which is quite sad.
To keep your neighborhood hedgehogs safe, make sure to cover your outdoor pool, or leave some kind of escape ramp for the hedgehog to get out. In garden ponds, this can be done with the aid of sloping edges, rocks, and plants.
Do Hedgehogs Bathe?
As we’ve established, hedgehogs have no problems with water. They gladly swim, when needed. But do they bathe?
Unlike many other animals in the wild, hedgehogs don’t naturally bathe or even groom themselves. In nature, the animal’s spines act as a kind of guard-hairs that keep the soft fur in the undercoat somewhat free of dirt, and the occasional swim or rainshower makes the hedgehog as clean as it’ll get.
And that’s all fine and well when you live in the forest.
Domesticated hedgehogs as pets on the other hand? To avoid off-putting smells, try bathing it once a month.
You can draw your hedgehog a bath in your bathroom sink. Use luke-warm water, baby shampoo, and a toothbrush, and make sure to dry your hedgehog with a soft towel afterward.
Don’t bathe it for too long and be careful with how much shampoo you use, however, or your hedgehog might get dry skin.
How Do I Get My Hedgehog To Enjoy Bathing?
Hedgehogs don’t bathe in nature, and whenever they go swimming, they do so out of their own free will.
When you bathe a hedgehog, you can’t help but force the little creature to get wet, which means that you need to be as considerate to it as possible. Especially the first few times, until the hedgehog gets used to bathing.
Try to only fill your sink with an inch of water, and make sure that the water is at a comfortable temperature. Try lightly rinsing the hedgehog by drizzling water while it’s in the basin, and don’t manhandle or force the little guy too much.
You also might want to try and associate bath-time with something pleasant. A couple of mealworms while getting washed isn’t a bad idea, and scratches and tickles also might alleviate some of the stress.
If you’re careful to make your hedgehog’s bathing experience comfortable every time, it’ll gradually get more and more used to bathing.
So Is It OK For Hedgehogs To Get Wet?
Hedgehogs go out in all kinds of weather. They swim and they go out in the rain.
But guess what?
Hedgehogs much prefer to be dry.
Even though it’s fine for them to get wet, they don’t like it a lot, and they shouldn’t be wet all of the time. This is why hedgehogs in the wild keep their nests dry.
Otherwise, they simply get too cold.
Do Some Hedgehogs Not Like Water?
Hedgehogs aren’t all alike, and while some don’t mind taking a dip, others avoid it like the plague.
If your pet hedgehog is afraid of water, don’t try to make it swim, and be especially careful when bathing it.
No hedgehogs really seem to enjoy the water, however, and you won’t see a hedgehog go play in a body of water just for fun. To hedgehogs, water is mostly a source of food or a barrier that they need to cross.
Is It Okay To Let Your Hedgehog Swim?
You should never put your hedgehog into a pool or a pond just to see it swim. This might look funny to you, but it can be terrorizing for the little spiky fellow.
It’s much better to let the hedgehog decide for himself whether or not it feels like dipping its toes, so try putting it next to a pond with an easy way out. He just might test the waters.
If the hedgehog goes in by itself, and there’s an incline where it can get out without you having to safe it, it’s fine. Let the little guy explore. But never try to force him.
So What About Hedgehog Swim-Rings And That Kind Of Thing?
Putting your hedgehog in a swim ring might keep it from drowning, but if I were a hedgehog, I wouldn’t feel much safer from being placed in an inflatable ring in the water any more than without it.
Try to imagine how the animal is experiencing what you’re doing to it. While hedgehogs are able to swim, they’re not a sea-faring nation and have no tradition of building boats, so being on something that floats on the water probably won’t make it feel safe.