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 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.
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.
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