A cute pet hedgehog?
Meet Tyler, who became a member of the Levin household a few years ago and has been the family pet, entertainment, and star attraction of sorts, ever since.
The Levins — parents Aviva and Amitai, and children, Atara, Shira, Shmuel, Daniel, Elana and Yozi – have had parakeets and fish in the past. But being the owners of a pet hedgehog was a first. They became pet hedgehog owners when a neighboring family decided to relinquish their hedgehog, Tyler. The Levins took in the critter and assumed its care.
“He’s not exactly like a dog,” said Aviva, the mother. “You can’t cuddle with him” (the spiky quills make it rather precarious), “but he is cute.”
The family, who live in Clifton, was visiting Teaneck during the Thanksgiving break and saw a copy of Jewish Standard Our Children in Dunkin Donuts. They noticed the Pet Page and a call for photographs of cute pets to enter the monthly contest. That was all they needed to get Tyler the attention he deserved.
“We picked up the magazine and saw the contest,” said Atara, the eldest of the Levin children. “We said that Tyler is really cute and decided to send in his picture.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
The two youngest Levin children, Elana, 11 and Yozi, 7, get the most pleasure from Tyler, often bringing their friends home to visit with him. He lives in the Levin’s downstairs basement, comfortable in a cage that is equipped with a running wheel.
“I would say that Elana and Yozi are the most excited about Tyler,” said Aviva.
“It’s really a big deal and very unique to have a hedgehog. He’s very unusual and very cute.”
When Aviva, who works as a speech therapist in a school, was Zooming with her students during the pandemic, she would sometimes give them a peek at Tyler as a reward for their work. “It was an incentive for them to see our pet hedgehog.”
Nocturnal by nature, Tyler is up all night, but the family manages to find mutual time, said Atara.
Handling Tyler requires wearing thick gloves, like gardening type, so as not to be injured by his spikes. When Tyler is calm and docile, the quills lay flat. When he is nervous, they stick up. He enjoys his baths, administered by Elana and Yozi. They bathe him clean him in a box of soapy water and brush his quills with a toothbrush. His diet consists of cat food. Sometimes he gets out and walks around the floor. He recognizes members of the family. But may hiss at strangers.
“My siblings love showing him to their friends,” said Atara.
“He’s a great conversation topic.”
The Levins may start a trend.