Originally Published: December 26, 2015 6:02 a.m.
Some things are worth waiting years for.For Chino Valley resident Alithea Lass, having a pet hedgehog - illegal in Arizona until recently - is one of them.On Dec. 5, Arizona Game and Fish Department removed the spiny little guys from the list of restricted wildlife to allow them as pets."The department has decided that hedgehogs are suitable as pets," AZGFD Field Supervisor Pat Crouch told the Arizona Daily Star. "Originally, some of the hedgehogs brought in from different parts of the world could have survived here in the wild and been a problem for native species. But the type that is now sold as pets wouldn't survive in the wild and become a problem."The 20-year-old Lass, who's wanted a hedgehog since doing a project on them in sixth grade, celebrated the state's decision by getting the pet she's always wanted. She paid for the little guy on Dec. 13 and had him flown in from Wisconsin on Dec. 18."He's only been here a couple of days," she said. "Each day he gets a little more curious, so it's been exciting."The hedgehog's name is Howie."I picked that out in sixth grade, and I just stuck with it," she said.Howie, who turned 2 months old Monday, fits in the palm of Lass' hand and weighs around 100 grams. His back, where the quills are, is spiky and his stomach is covered with soft fur."As long as he's relaxed, they stay flat," she said of his quills.When he gets nervous or stressed, he rolls up in a ball and makes a hiss that sounds a little like a rattlesnake. It's a natural reaction to having something touching his quills, Lass explained, and it doesn't mean he'll hurt anyone. "It's just kind of intimidating when you first hear it," she said.He likes fruit and veggies (but not citrus), bugs ("He likes mealworms and crickets.") and unseasoned scrambled eggs and boiled meat. But his main source of sustenance is dry cat food - Purina has a high protein, low-fat formula that's 45 percent protein and 13 percent fat."That's perfect for a hedgehog," Lass said.Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so Howie sleeps during the day. He has a wheel to run on, like a hamster. Lass made sure to grease the wheel well so she doesn't hear him running half the night, before he sleeps again. She wakes him at midday, hoping to readjust his schedule so it's more like hers."As long as they're willing, you can attempt it," she said.She looks forward to giving Howie his first bath, probably in the bathroom sink. She'll use baby soap containing oatmeal and run a toothbrush over his quills. Hedgehogs like water and know how to swim.Lass sewed a pouch from two fleece jacket sleeves to keep Howie warm when he goes with her on errands. "It's dark and it's close and it makes him feel safe," she said.He accompanied her on a recent trip to Pet Club in Chino Valley and everyone in the store wanted to pet him and ask questions."He's been pretty popular," Lass said.Hankering for a pet hedgehog of your own? Susan Shorb, owner of Pet Care Center at 643 Miller Valley Road in Prescott, said she doesn't have any in stock right now, but she hopes to get some after the first of the year."Everyone's buying them up like crazy," Shorb said.Follow Arlene Hittle on Twitter @ahittle_dc. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2036, or 928-830-2928.