A hotel for hedgehogs – indeed for any little animals – is now taking bookings in Burnley.
The Hedge Hotel is the culmination of a lifelong dream for animal lover Fiona Finlayson who has opened the haven at her home in Brownhill Avenue.
The 22-year-old – who already shares her house with five pet hedgehogs, two rabbits, two dogs, a cat and husband Matthew – decided to pursue her dream of an animal hotel after studying animal management at Myerscough College.
Now, after advice and a loan from the Prince’s Trust, Fiona is welcoming furry guests to her establishment.
She told the Burnley Express about how a childhood love of Beatrix Potter’s famous hedgehog Mrs Tiggy-Winkle set her on the path to where she is today.
Her own little family of hedgehogs consist of Dixon and Jazz, proud parents of Blossom, as well as Kenickie and Bertha.
Fiona said: “I’ve loved animals, and in particular hedgehogs, ever since I was a little girl.
“During my time at Myerscough there was a breeding programme for African Pygmy hedgehogs, which I became involved in.
“They are a man-made domestic breed from America and I immediately fell in love with them. I now have five of my own.
“They are very loving, cuddly and quite happy to snuggle up. The breed originated in America in the 1980s and has only really been popular in this country since the 1990s.
“Now, though, more and more people are having them as pets. Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation out there about caring for small animals, and I want to educate people about the right ways.
“I am writing a care book giving advice which will be published online.”
Although Fiona’s five are all domestic pets, she said the same rules apply for anyone who finds a wild hedgehog in their garden.
That means no saucer of milk – hedgehogs are lactose intolerant – and as for food, cat food washed down with some water should suffice. Fiona added: “Hedgehogs are more similar to reptiles than rodents in terms of care.
“They need to be kept warm, particularly this domestic breed because they arrive from America. Hedgehogs should also not be kept in barred cages.
“They are solitary and nocturnal, but have to be handled daily to keep them tame.”
As well as running her “hotel”, Fiona also looks after pets in their own home and has been asked to care for no less than six Burmese Pythons in Rawtenstall. A skunk is also waiting for her tender loving care.
As for the future, Fiona is planning to exhibit at the forthcoming Family Pet Show in Manchester, and is hoping to launch a retail site selling specialist equipment.