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Must love hedgehogs

First came marriage, then dozens of prickly pets

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Hedgehogs are solitary animals and can become territorial as adults. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Hedgehogs are solitary animals and can become territorial as adults.

Mathew Perlick purchased his first hedgehog, Jezebel, from a pet store in New York and then four weeks later came back to his college dorm to five baby hedgehogs. Jezebel was a mother. “Technically I’ve been a hedgehog breeder for 16 years,” he says. He quickly found homes for all of the babies in the litter.

Five years later, in 2008, Jezebel made it into Mathew’s OkCupid dating profile when the site asked him to write something interesting about himself. “I have a pet hedgehog. I figured that was interesting, so I put that down and Jenna saw that,” Mathew says. “It was literally the only interesting thing that she saw in my profile.” 

Jenna Perlick holds four hedgehogs from their herd. She tracks the pedigrees of all of her hedgehogs to ensure there is no inbreeding. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Jenna Perlick holds four hedgehogs from their herd. She tracks the pedigrees of all of her hedgehogs to ensure there is no inbreeding.

Jenna Mindlin, an Apple technician who was also on the dating site, was intrigued. “I knew nothing about hedgehogs. I had never probably even given them a second thought,” Jenna says. “So I wrote all the questions. What do they eat? Can they shoot their spikes? Can you pet them? Do they make noise?” Sadly, Jezebel passed away before Mathew and Jenna first messaged each other, but she became an integral part of their story as they dated.

The couple collected hedgehog items throughout their relationship, everything from stuffed animals and piggy banks to crystal hedgehogs and spoon rests. The two even went on to have a DIY hedgehog-themed wedding in 2014, complete with custom cake toppers now on display in their home in Palatine. Despite their shared passion, they didn’t get another hedgehog until Jenna gave one to Mathew as a wedding present shortly before they got married.

Breeder Mathew Perlick holds a baby hedgehog. After they are two weeks old, the baby hedgehogs are handled every day so they can get used to human touch. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Breeder Mathew Perlick holds a baby hedgehog. After they are two weeks old, the baby hedgehogs are handled every day so they can get used to human touch.

Jenna stayed in touch with the hedgehog breeder she bought from, and when the breeder said she was going to retire, Jenna had a thought: “I’ve always wanted to breed animals. I love little baby animals. I mean, who doesn’t? So I thought, maybe we could breed them. Maybe we could pick up where she left off.” The breeder taught them everything she knew and gave them a few hedgehogs to start their own herd, which they called Prickle Pack Hedgehogs (a group of hedgehogs is known as an array or a prickle). “We went from thinking we would have seven, eight hedgehogs and going up to 20 in the first year. We ended our first year with close to 60 hedgehogs. Now we are already at 70, which I think is our maximum,” Jenna says.

Infrared cameras allow Jenna and Mathew Perlick to monitor the hedgehog mothers and newborns. If a mother is unfit to take care of her litter the babies will be placed with a foster mom. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Infrared cameras allow Jenna and Mathew Perlick to monitor the hedgehog mothers and newborns. If a mother is unfit to take care of her litter the babies will be placed with a foster mom.

Prickle Pack Hedgehogs has now become a full-time job for Jenna. Along with caring for the hedgehogs, which is just a small portion of her day, Jenna will answer e-mails about hedgehog purchase and care, run free meet-and-greets for interested hedgehog owners, update the website with photos of new hedgehog babies, and track pedigrees of their herd to ensure proper breeding. The couple warns against buying hedgehogs from pet stores where males and females are housed together with family members, which can result in inbreeding. While hedgehogs can make great pets, Jenna stresses that they are not ideal for children under the age of ten—hedgehogs have prickly spines and need to be handled in a particular way to avoid injury to both the owner and the hedgehog.

It’s all worth it, though, when you get to pair a hedgehog with their new owner, says Jenna. “When they meet their baby for the first time, there is this look on their face, and they are just overwhelmed with emotion.”  v

@GonzGuzPhoto

Hedgehogs loose on the couch. The couple began collecting various hedgehog items after they began dating long before they became breeders. Many of these items can be found outside of their hedgehog room. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Hedgehogs loose on the couch. The couple began collecting various hedgehog items after they began dating long before they became breeders. Many of these items can be found outside of their hedgehog room.
Jenna and Mathew Perlick check on their hedgehog herd. Currently the couple has 70 hedgehogs in their herd for breeding purposes. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Jenna and Mathew Perlick check on their hedgehog herd. Currently the couple has 70 hedgehogs in their herd for breeding purposes.
An adult hedgehog gets a mealworm treat. The hedgehogs are fed a diet of quality cat kibble and insects. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • An adult hedgehog gets a mealworm treat. The hedgehogs are fed a diet of quality cat kibble and insects.
When encountering a new smell the hedgehog will build a froth in its mouth and then lick it into its quills in a behavior called anointing. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • When encountering a new smell the hedgehog will build a froth in its mouth and then lick it into its quills in a behavior called anointing.
Jenna Perlich cuts a hedgehog's nails. Part of hedgehog care includes occasional baths and nail trimmings. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Jenna Perlich cuts a hedgehog's nails. Part of hedgehog care includes occasional baths and nail trimmings.
Jenna Perlick photographs a tenrec on Mathew Perlick's head. Despite being called the lesser hedgehog and also being covered in spines, tenrecs are not actually hedgehogs and  are part of a different animal order. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Jenna Perlick photographs a tenrec on Mathew Perlick's head. Despite being called the lesser hedgehog and also being covered in spines, tenrecs are not actually hedgehogs and are part of a different animal order.
Hedgehogs can come in various colors including brown, cream, black, and even albino. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Hedgehogs can come in various colors including brown, cream, black, and even albino.
Jenna and Mathew got married in 2014 and had a DIY hedgehog-themed wedding complete with custom wedding toppers. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Jenna and Mathew got married in 2014 and had a DIY hedgehog-themed wedding complete with custom wedding toppers.
Hedgehogs have been a part of Jenna and Mathew Perlick's story ever since he mentioned his first pet hedgehog in his dating profile. The two have a large collection of hedgehog items they have gotten as gifts and bought during their time together. - GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman
  • Hedgehogs have been a part of Jenna and Mathew Perlick's story ever since he mentioned his first pet hedgehog in his dating profile. The two have a large collection of hedgehog items they have gotten as gifts and bought during their time together.
GONZALO GUZMAN
  • Gonzalo Guzman

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