North American Porcupines As Pets? (Here’s What You Should Know)

North American porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), native to North America, are the second-largest rodent after the North American beaver. Their coats’ colors range from brownish-yellow to black, with white highlights emphasizing the quills.

Because of these quills, North American porcupines have gained a bad reputation, and many are scared of their spikes. This doesn’t imply they’re not suited for being pets, however, and they shouldn’t be the subject of terror.

Porcupines are not for everyone, but they can be the ideal companions for some people. Let’s explore why many are attracted to these cute animals and the reasons they are worth considering as pets!

Do Porcupines Make Good Pets?

Porcupines have a laid-back, gentle demeanor and aren’t particularly active. They prefer to laze around all day, just getting up to get some food and roam around a little sometimes.

Porcupines can legally be kept as pets in most places. They can be kind, tender, and sweet pets, but they also have the potential to be very difficult, especially since they have quills that sting! If you want to handle this prickly rodent securely, you’ll need time and practice.

Given their nocturnal habits, porcupines will not need much attention during the day. They also have a weak sense of vision, and their only way to recognize you is through your scent.

Are Porcupines Easy To Tame?

Young North American porcupines are easy to tame and they can even be trained relatively easily. They are highly intelligent and easily learn like every other rodent. A lot of patience, skill, and attention is needed, however, as we need to help the porcupine feel safe. 

It is important to remember, however, that not all porcupines are comfortable around humans. Be more careful around adult wild porcupines as they are more elusive and wary of humans and other animals.

Are Porcupines Easy To Take Care Of?

Porcupines are challenging to take care of. You need to learn about their behavior and understand when to let them have their alone time.

You can use simple target training as a way to bond. This is done by giving the porcupines a target stick to put their nose against. Positive reinforcement is encouraged to let them know that they’ve done the right thing. 

Giving porcupines their favorite treat as a reward is a great example of positive reinforcement. As target training goes on, you can teach them to stand on scales or get used to being in crates so they can be moved easily.

Once you gain their trust, porcupines are gentle and easy to train, especially when they are young. They will cease rising their quills as they grow familiarized with people being around, and they can be stroked and petted without any risk. (As long as you know how to pet your porcupine).

Do Porcupines Like Being Petted?

If they are comfortable around you, they will let you pet them on their head and back and they might even rub their noses against you.

Porcupines are not especially affectionate, but they are not aggressive either. You’ll have to remain calm and gentle, however, since porcupines are easily spooked.

Some pet porcupines develop a loving connection with humans, but it’s important to remember that North American porcupines are solitary animals. 

When they are not scared, their spines (also known as quills) lie flat on their backs, and you can rub their belly and stroke their back. Once a porcupine gets to know you, it will cuddle up and rub its nose against you.

North American porcupines prefer to spend most of their time alone, minding their own business. It’s important to not provoke them; they can cause harm if they feel threatened or get started.

It is also important not to pet or go near porcupines in the wild. Too many curious dogs have learned their lesson the hard way as they first were the victims of quill attacks before they understood how dangerous it is to bother porcupines.

Can You Pet A Porcupine Without Being Quilled?

To avoid being quilled, pet them only when their quills are relaxed and smoothened. Pet them in a one-way manner, stroking them along the direction of their quills and not going against it. 

Immediately stop petting them if their quills start to rise. This is a sign that they are stressed or frightened, so you must give them time to calm down.

The North American porcupine’s body has about 30,000 quills. Contrary to popular belief, quills are not thrown or shot. 


What Are The Disadvantages Of Keeping Porcupines As A Pet?

There are more disadvantages to keeping porcupines as pets than there are advantages. Here are some of the major disadvantages that you need to look out for if you are planning to adopt a porcupine:

  • Porcupines have a very pungent smell. 

Porcupines emit a musky smell similar to stinky cheese. their tangy smell is released through the waxy substance from their quills to warn predators to be vigilant of their presence.

If you want to take care of porcupines, you need to constantly clean their area to avoid the smell from pilling up.

  •  They’re Afraid of Everything, And Often Overly Sensitive. 

While porcupines appear like laid-back animals, you should not expect to snuggle up and watch a movie with this pet. Even after a long period, you can still easily startle these creatures if you aren’t careful.

Quilling isn’t the only method they use to defend themselves against predators. If their teeth start to chatter, you know something’s wrong. Their quills will appear scarier if the porcupines are enraged enough.

  • They can be hard to handle.

In real life, porcupines can’t spray or shoot their quills at will, but that doesn’t mean they won’t prick you if you get too close. Not only is getting quilled painful, but you will also certainly need to see a doctor. 

Even though the quills aren’t poisonous, a doctor must help you get rid of them to prevent infection. If you want to keep a porcupine as a pet, you need to learn how to handle it. The best way to pick them up is by their bellies which have no quills

What Can You Feed A Pet Porcupine?

North American porcupines are picky eaters. They are herbivores, which means that they eat mostly vegetables and greens. In the wild, they eat twigs, berries, bark, leaves, roots, stems, and other plants, depending on the time of year and the species.

They may also like to eat edible tubers and tuber roots, such as yams and sweet potatoes, which grow underground.

Porcupines also need a source of salt because the food they eat naturally is low in sodium. You can either put salt on their food or give them a block of mineral salt. But watch out that they don’t take in too much salt.

However, you can’t just give a pet porcupine a big plate of fruit and vegetables and expect them to be thankful. If there are more options, they might try a bite of one kind of food and move on to the next if they don’t like it. 

Finding what works takes trial and error, and each porcupine has its own tastes. You can also give them monkey chow or rodent chow in addition to fruits and vegetables.

It would be best to feed them twice a day and give them fruit snacks every once in a while. Porcupines like to snack on apples and other fruits with a lot of fiber and sugar. They also like corn on the cob and pumpkins.

Do Porcupines Like To Play?

North American porcupines kept in captivity since birth like to play and wrestle. But in the wild, they are solitary animals that spend most of their time alone except for mating season and while nurturing their young.

They are not active during the day, so nighttime is the best option to play with them. Because they are nocturnal, these quilled rodents spend the day resting in their burrows. So it is important to plan to stay up late if you want to spend time with your pet.

Do Porcupines Need A Lot Of Space?

Yes, porcupines require a large enclosure to roam around in. You’ll need structures that are well-ventilated to protect them from the sun, wind, and temperature extremes if they’re kept outside.

It is preferable to build wire enclosures of adequate size. Straw or pine shavings should coat the habitat’s bottom, and you’ll need enough for them to feel comfortable and dig if they so desire.

The larger the enclosure, the better it is for the well-being of the porcupine. The minimum enclosure size for porcupines is 6 x 8 x 6 (288 cu ft), and the cage size should be increased by at least 25% for each new porcupine.

Porcupines need to feel like they’re in their natural habitat, so make sure there are plenty of tree branches, wood stalks, and logs around. 

Climbing is a favorite pastime for many porcupines, allowing them to obtain some exercise and mental stimulation, so it’s important that there are always fresh branches to explore.

Can Porcupines be Kept Indoors?

North American porcupines are not possible to keep indoors. Porcupines are wild animals that are almost impossible to keep indoors because they need to dig holes in the ground and have plenty of space to move.

It’s okay to let porcupines inside your house for a limited time if they need a place to cool off. If they are left outside under the sun for long periods, let them rest, but an indoor cage is not an option.

A porcupine pet owner should always keep an eye on the animal and should know everything there is to know about the porcupine’s needs. Even if you have no pets or little children in the house, you still can’t let them roam freely. 

Since porcupines are tough and adapt quickly to the weather, they should be alright if you don’t make your house too hot or too cold. North American porcupines can handle 55 to 88 °F (12 to 27 ° C).

What Are Some Pros Of Having a Pet Porcupine?

  • Their quills are not poisonous; on the contrary, they have antibiotic properties.

The waxy coating on the quills has antibiotic properties and is not poisonous. The main reason for this is that porcupines are clumsy and sometimes prick themselves. So to avoid getting an infection, they naturally produce the waxy layer to prevent themselves from getting their wounds infected. 

If you get stung, however, you still need to see the doctor to remove it.

  • They give warnings if they feel stressed and threatened.

Porcupines don’t suddenly attack or prick someone without reason. Whenever they feel like they are in danger, they give off warnings that give us enough time to back off.

The signals that they are giving are easy to decipher as well. If their teeth start to chatter and their quills start to rise, it’s a signal that you need to stop petting them and move away. They will eventually calm down, and you can approach them again.

Plus, many people who work with porcupines and love them agree that the quills are safe as long as the animal isn’t scared – and safety comes first.

Is It Legal To Keep Porcupines As Pets?

Whether it’s legal or not to keep porcupines as a pet depends on your state, so it is important to double-check your state’s regulations before you get one. State governments are concerned about what would happen if a particular pet escaped from its owner’s control. You must prove to them that you are a responsible owner through training and following the proper procedure.

Where Can I Get A Pet Porcupine?

The North American porcupines are usually not kept as pets and aren’t usually sold in pet stores. Because they are classified as exotic or wild species, a special permit may be required in order to possess one. 

If you want to adopt a porcupine, you’ll have to pay a fee and adhere to a tight set of regulations. However, breeding them will nearly always be unlawful no matter where you live.

Do I Need A Lot Of Stuff For My Pet Porcupine?

You should know that porcupines always need something to chew. Like all other rodents, their front teeth (incisors) are always growing. If they don’t constantly chew on something, their teeth won’t wear down as they should, and they may grow too long and hurt the inside of their mouths, as well as render it impossible for the animal to eat.

Chewies can be made of non-harmful things like birch or willow branches. Some porcupines have been seen in the wild chewing on animal bones left by a predator. Chewing on bones can actually be a good way for a pet porcupine to wear its incisors as well, and you can let your pet porcupine chew small pieces of beef bones, which are also good sources of calcium.

Another thing you should provide for your porcupine is fresh water. You also need to clean the food and water bowls daily. Don’t forget that porcupines constantly chew on things, so plastic and rubber containers won’t last long. You have to use bowls made of stainless steel or clay instead.

Do Porcupines Need A Lot Of Attention From A Vet?

Some veterinarians are licensed to work with wildlife and can treat and help porcupines, but not all veterinary clinics can help with porcupines that have been hurt. This is why it would be best to search your area for clinics accustomed to handling porcupines.

In cases where porcupines quill other pets, it is best not to try and remove the quills on your own. The quills can dig in deeper during a struggle, or a dog may bite you without meaning to, so it is best to consult a professional.

Quills can be removed from dogs and other animals at regular vet clinics. Getting rid of porcupine quills without sedation, anesthesia, or strong painkillers is very painful.

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