Freelance writer Melissa Thomasma didn’t dream of becoming a hedgehog mom.

Her Victor, Idaho, home was full enough with her husband, two children, two dogs, three cats and school of rescued fish.

But when a close friend got the housing boot, Thomasma opened her home to one more critter: Gus the hedgehog.

It’s only been a few months, but Gus is already besties with Thomasma’s 5-year-old daughter, Hazel. The pair delight at preschool show-and-tell, and Hazel is already learning to create meals for the eccentric critter.

“Strawberries are his favorite,” she explained during a lazy Monday afternoon in May.

Although hedgehogs are nocturnal, Gus is now a regular part of Hazel’s welcome-home committee. During the day, he holes up with Thomasma in her writing studio, scurrying around the floor while her fingers scurry across the keyboard.

Gus was quite camera shy for the News&Guide visit. But after Hazel dutifully fetched him a bowl of water and his go-to lunch — dry cat food — he began to open up, unfurling from his spindly porcupine-like shell to start nibbling on the carpet. Then he put on a show: puking on himself and peeing a little puddle on the hardwood. There’s a reason Gus spends his nights in a hamster cage.

Thomasma said she’s had to learn about hedgehog care mostly on her own: There’s not exactly a Facebook group for Erinaceidae moms.

Early on she read somewhere online that you need to bond with your hedgehog. So they tried a movie night.

It was going well, Thomasma said, until Gus got his spines tangled in her hair.

Worse than bubblegum? You betcha. Not exactly the sort of attachment she was shooting for.

For the most part, though, Gus is quite endearing. He’s a curiosity to the household cats and a show and tell celebrity at Teton Science Schools.

Thomasma also hopes the spiky superstar is teaching her children values such as compassion and patience. The daughter of Kelly schoolteachers, Thomasma grew up with dogs, cats and rats — which she said are actually “very smart.”

She is also the author of “Cinder: Rescue Cat,” a children’s book featuring a wildland firefighter’s trusty sidekick.

“When I grew up there weren’t a ton of kids in my neighborhood. So I really valued that time playing with animals and bonding with my pets,” Thomasma said. “It teaches a level of responsibility … and I think it also really fosters a level of compassion, when you can have an actual relationship with an animal, instead of just seeing one in passing.

“Ultimately, it’s a lesson in impermanence for kids — learning to value loved ones while they’re around,” she said.

Gus has made a few appearances on the family Instagram, but he’s certainly not a pet-fluencer like some other hedgehogs (see @mr.pokee, with 1.8 million followers on Instagram, or @lionelthehog, who poses bathing in a sink or with miniature Harry Potter glasses.

One day Gus too could swim in his own sea of bathtime bubbles. But, Thomasma said, “we have not got that mastered yet.” 

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.
The News&Guide welcomes comments from our paid subscribers. Tell us what you think. Thanks for engaging in the conversation!

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.