If you have a pet hedgehog then you may have encountered this scenario before. Your hedgehog is going about its business walking around and exploring the area, when suddenly it stops. It then contorts its body into an awkward position, foams at the mouth, and then proceeds to lick and spread the foam onto the back of its body.
No your hedgehog does not have rabies and it is definitely not having a seizure! What you are seeing is the hedgehog behavior process known as self-anointing.
A Few Guesses as to Why Hedgehogs Cover Themselves in Foamy Saliva
Self-anointing is still a hedgehog mystery. Since we cannot speak hedgehog language, we can only take very educated guesses as to why hedgehogs cover themselves in their own saliva.
A Hedgehog Self-Defense Mechanism
Since hedgehogs tend to do this when they encounter new smells, many believe it is a type of self-defense technique. Similar to how a dog will roll in a dead animal carcass or feces to mask its own scent (to sneak up on predators), a hedgehog may be doing the same. The difference is that a hedgehog is using the smell to hide from potential predators.
Toxic Toad Mixture
Another theory that falls in line with self-defense is that the hedgehogs think they are putting a toxic mixture on their back. Hedgehogs are highly resistant to most toxins and are one of the few animals in the wild that can safely eat giant toads! Therefore wild hedgehogs may have some toxins in their saliva that they can spread on their body to protect themselves from a hungry predator. (Note: DO NOT feed your hedgehog giant toads as they are well removed from the wild).
Should I Be Worried if my Hedgehog Foams at the Mouth?
No, not at all. Self-anointing is a completely normal behavior for all hedgehogs. Baby hedgehogs tend to do this more often, perhaps because a lot of smells are new to them. You may find that your hedgehog will do this after being handled as well, as they may have smelled a hand lotion or fragrant soap that you used on your hands.
Either way, do not worry when your hedgehog self-anoints. It only means that you have a normal-acting hedgie!
If you have a question about your hedgehogs behavior, we are more than happy to answer it. Send us a message and we will get back to you, and maybe even feature your question here at Hedgehog City!