It’s something you didn’t know you needed to see until you do: a tiny hedgehog wearing a tiny hat.
The cute sight is made even cuter by the type of hat. It’s a hand-felted wool wizard sorting hat that would be instantly familiar to any Harry Potter fans.
A photo of a hedgehog wearing a sorting hat is just one of many photos you might see on Cheyenne Ellis’ Instagram page, which is flooded with photos of her beloved “hedgies.” She and her husband have 11 of the little creatures, which each have Harry Potter-themed names like Hagrid or Mad-Eye Moody.
With a quick click of a hashtag, her page will take you to the delightful side of social media where hedgehogs rule. It’s full of quotes like, “In case you’re having a bad day, here’s a photo of a hedgehog wearing socks.” It’s also full of photos of hedgehogs fitting into baskets or coffee mugs or wearing shark costumes.
Ellis clearly isn’t alone in her love for hedgehogs, which is why she recently started breeding them under the name SOCO Hogwarts (socohogwarts.com). She decided to make that lifelong dream come true during the coronavirus pandemic.
Growing up on a farm in Vermont, Ellis and her family raised and bred horses. That’s where her love for animals began, partly because the people in her life didn’t show the same love.
“They weren’t there for me in the ways I needed,” she said. “So I always found more solace in my horses and dogs. It just made sense to me.”
She’s carried that on. At her home in Colorado Springs, Ellis and her husband have four dogs, three horses, two turtles, a tortoise and a chinchilla.And, yes, all those hedgehogs.
Ellis has launched a breeding program she says positions her as “a leader in hedgehog genetics.”
In her research, Ellis found that the exotic animals are often irresponsibly bred, leading to diseases or something called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, which can be fatal.
Ellis hopes “to improve hedgehog genetics by doing select breeding to unique outcrosses,” as she writes on her website.
“It’s just so important to me that they have a happy and healthy life,” she said.
Part of that means educating people, whether that’s her Instagram followers or people interested in adopting a hedgehog, about the dark side of some of those cute photos.
Hedgehogs can be relatively easy to find, but their histories or pedigrees are often mysteries. Also, owners are known to treat the little animals as disposable. Or they simply don’t care to learn how to properly care for them.
“There’s a lot that’s not understood about them or how to take care of them,” Ellis said. “That’s what I want to help with.”
She’s also quick to gush about just how great they are. Like how they love bubble baths and sleeping under blankets and how they have different personalities.
Her husband takes his favorite hedgehog, named Loonie, with him everywhere, even to the grocery store.
“Hedgehogs really rely on the interaction of their humans,” Ellis said. “They bond so deeply with their owners.”
Of all her animals, Ellis says her closest bonds are with her horses and her hedgies.
“I just love them,” she said. “Any bad day with an animal is better than a good day at work.”