"Hedgehog Cafe" thrives in Moscow

Posted at 12:35 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 14:49:53-05

There's no need to go hunting through the undergrowth at night in the hope of spotting a hedgehog at this Moscow cafe.

The usually shy, nocturnal creatures here are more than happy to greet visitors keen to stroke them.

Tatyana Denegina is the manager of the Hedgehog Café.

"This is an artificially bred hedgehog breed. It is a mixture of a White-bellied and Algerian hedgehog. In the 90s they created this breed artificially just for home keeping. Such hedgehogs will not survive outside. Their body temperature is not suitable for that. They don't have hunter instincts like forest hedgehogs, so they are artificially bred, decorative hedgehogs."

Unlike wild hedgehogs, they do not hibernate and can interact with people all year round according to the Cafe owners. They claim the hedgehogs are trained to sleep at night from birth, so are used to being up and active during the day.

"They have absolutely different personalities, each has its name, colour peculiarities, size, and so on. If you take all the twenty-four hedgehogs and put them next to each other, they will all be very different," says Denegina.

Among the twenty-four hedgehogs living here are two Long-eared hedgehogs.

"Long-eared hedgehogs are characterized by higher activity, they are very cute, they are softer than African dwarf hedgehogs and they have very big ears," says Denegina.

The hedgehogs live in special terrariums. Warm lights and fleece bags maintain body temperature. The wheels are supplied to ensure the animals get exercise.

They feed mainly on live insects - cockroaches and crickets and they work in shifts, as Denegina explains:

"Each hedgehog has its days off, some even have holidays - we take care of this, so that the most contactable hedgehogs, who are visited most often by guests, our guests have some favorites, they have more rest. On average each hedgehog has three to fours days off every week."

Before interacting with the hedgehogs each visitor receives detailed instructions - for instance, hedgehogs don't like to be touched on the forehead where they have nerve endings.They are quite sensitive to smells so guests are required to wash their hands.

"The first thing that is told to guests upon arrival is that they should clean their hands because hedgehogs react to smells. Then the person is explained where it is ok to stroke hedgehogs because there are parts of the body where they don't like it. Our experts give detailed instructions to guests," says co-owner Rolan Teloian.

Visitors are not allowed to eat or drink in the same room as the hedgehogs - the cafe area is separate. This, say the owners, is to avoid any possible allergic reaction that the hedgehogs might have and to stop them being over-fed.

Visitor Tatyana Gridchina has been given some lessons on how to hold the animals.

"You need to take it with hands under the belly, with your little fingers at the back so that you hold the whole belly with your fingers," she explains.

The café has been open for more than a year now, and is very popular with visitors - especially families with children. About 2,500 people visit every month, according to the owners.

Olga Shcherbina says she enjoys the experience of playing with the hedgehogs as much as her children do.

"Their needles are very soft, at the back they have a surface like the one of human skin, that's why they are very soft, you can hold them and especially when you touch their back paws with your little fingers it feels very nice."

The idea of the hedgehog café was taken from Japan where the same breed is used in similar cafes.

"When I walked in the forest picking mushrooms I came across a hedgehog. I had some emotions, that is some sympathy for them, that did play a role, and when we took them (for the café), even more so, you interact with them, they lived for a month at my home, so of course I like them," says Teloian.

The Hedgehog café "Ejeminutka" is open every day from 11 am until 11 pm.