© Facebook – Erik De Muynck
Every evening when it gets dark, the hedgehog Fiston visits Carine Van Wontergem and her husband Erik De Muynck. The animal lets itself be pampered indoors at the wood-burning stove and is expertly freed from its annoying ticks. “But when he gets tired of it, he sometimes dares to lash out,” Carine experienced.
The hedgehog, who already feels at home with this couple in the Wachtebekestraat, was named Fiston. “Like Boma’s stepson from FC De Kampioenen,” Carine explains. She has been taking the animal into her home for two weeks in the evening. Then he lies on her lap where she strokes him, speaks sweet words to him and repeatedly plucks away annoying ticks with tweezers.
“The first time I picked Fiston up, I felt a lot of thick lumps on his stomach. These turned out to be blood-engorged ticks.” Fiston lets himself be comfortable, lays down his quills and sometimes snuggles up behind her back on the couch. “He doesn’t curl up so I can caress him,” says Carine. But since Thursday he has been away and perhaps went to sleep for six months. Hedgehogs hibernate from October-November to March-April.
It all started with a bowl of cat food that the couple put outside to help hedgehogs get extra calories just before winter. When it got dark in the evening, we heard the bowl clicking and sliding inside and that was the signal for us that Fiston is there. “We have piles of firewood in our garden where the animals can hide during the day and in winter, so we have a few hedgehogs every year. But this one seems to be becoming very tame,” say the hedgehog friends. (Read more below the photo)
The animal receives food and love from the family, but also care. “I knew that hedgehogs often suffer from parasites and that is why the first time I tried to gently hold our Fiston outside to help him get rid of dozens of annoying bloodsuckers with tweezers between his spines. Fiston let me do it quietly, but because I was bent over for so long, my back hurt and I tried to gently pick him up and put him on my lap inside,” says Carine.
That ritual had been going on for two weeks and Fiston gradually became a familiar pet. “The hedgehog is of course put outside again after his visit, because at night he becomes more active and goes exploring and hunting. If he wants to leave, he makes it clear. Then Fiston becomes nervous and dares to lash out with his sharp teeth.”
The couple is now eagerly awaiting next spring in the hope that Fiston will come knocking again. “Or maybe he will come to say goodbye tonight,” Carine suggests.