Lesser Tenrecs

In this area, you will learn the pros and cons of having a pet Madagascan lesser hedgehog tenrec. Click the links to learn how to properly care for your pet tenrec.

Lesser Tenrecs as Pets

Lesser Hedgehog Tenrecs (Echinops telfairi) can make really great pets for some people and not so great pets for others.  Here are a few pros and cons for you to consider before getting a pet tenrec.

  • Although they are called Lesser Hedgehog Tenrecs, they are not part of the hedgehog family.  They are actually quite different from a hedgehog.  If you are looking for a hedgehog, get a hedgehog.
  • Tenrecs are primarily nocturnal. Most are a little sensitive to light and don't wake up until pretty late in the evening. They can be a little grumpy when you wake them up, but most will warm up rather quickly and will play a little during the day if you do wake them up.
  • Tenrecs are pretty easy to feed and water, but it's not a good idea to leave them alone for more than a day. If you go out of town, you will need to make sure you have someone lined up to feed & check up on your pet tenrec daily.
  • A tenrec cage can be as easy and cheap as using a large, clear storage bin with air holes drilled into it.  However, tenrecs do like to climb and will enjoy climbing the sides of a cage with bars or mesh on it.
  • Most tenrecs are content to live alone, but do well with cage mates. A few girls can usually be housed together (or possibly a few males if they were raised together).
  • Tenrecs are not generally very stinky.  They don't eat very much and they stay pretty clean. We have noticed that ours do not flip over their food and water dishes or poop all over their wheels like the hedgehogs do.
  • Lesser Hedgehog Tenrecs go through torpor in the Winter, which is a form of hibernation. During this 4 or 5 month period of time, their bodies slow down and they do not eat or move around as much. It is important to keep an eye on them to make sure they are not losing too much weight. This hibernation period means they are very cheap and easy to care for in the Winter. However, it can be scary when it seems like they are not eating for months at a time. You can still hold them during torpor, but they may not be as fun to play with or watch.
  • Tenrecs are relatively easy to feed but can sometimes be very picky about their food (even when they're not in torpor). Ours have done very well on our hedgehog diet. Diet consists of a blend of high quality cat foods, insects, fruits, and vegetables. We occasionally offer them a high-quality canned cat food as well.
  • Tenrecs are very cheap and easy to entertain. They really enjoy having a running wheel in their cage. They are good climbers, so they enjoy bridges and logs and other things to climb and explore.
  • Tenrecs are much smaller than hedgehogs and come in fewer colors (various shades of brown and blonde). Their personalities do vary. Good breeders will handle their babies regularly, to ensure they are used to people. They are typically less shy than hedgehogs. Some tenrecs are more outgoing than others. It is rare for a tame pet tenrec to bite, but they do have teeth. They do not usually ball up like a hedgehog.
  • Tenrecs are spiky and their quills can hurt, but not usually as much as a hedgehog. They are a lot easier to pick up and handle. If upset, they will usually give a warning hiss and then may charge and bite.
  • Tenrecs do enjoy an occasional dust bath, like a chinchilla.
  • Tenrecs are prone to dry skin if you don't keep the humidity high enough. Dry skin can be treated with a little olive oil.
  • Tenrecs do well in a temperature range of 75 - 89 degrees Fahrenheit in the Summer. If you are keeping tenrecs as pets, they should do well at around 75 degrees year-round. If breeding, they may require a temperature drop in the Winter in the 62 - 68 degree range. To maintain the warm temperature, you may need to use a space heater, reptile warming mat, or ceramic heat bulb.
  • Tenrecs can be fun and odd little creatures. Several times, we have walked in the room to find tenrecs sleeping or standing in the food silo that is attached to the side of the cage. Like a hedgehog, if they encounter a new scent, they may gnaw on the source, foam at the mouth, and then put it on their bodies. (We believe the intent is to camoflauge.) But instead of contorting and licking the foam onto themselves like a hedgehog, they will put it onto their hands and then rub their hands all over their bodies as if taking a shower. It is really quite funny.
  • Because tenrecs are such a rare pet in the U.S., not many vets will know how to treat them.  It is important to make sure that you have a vet that knows how to properly take care of tenrecs or is willing to learn. Search for a good exotic vet PRIOR to purchasing a tenrec and PRIOR to having an emergency. Make sure you can afford annual wellness checkups and potential emergencies.