Wilson, the Lesser Tenrec, is a member of our Love Your Pets Facebook Group and I have been fascinated by him since Keri started posting pictures of him. He is just so cute and the most unusual pet I think we have in the group. So I was delighted when Keri agreed to tell us a little bit more about Wilson and also share more adorable pictures of him.
Age: 7 months old
What Is A Lesser Tenrec?
Wilson is a lesser tenrec and he is native to Madagascar. There are around 30 different species of tenrecs, the lesser tenrec being one of the smallest. At full grown stage, they should weigh no more than 200g. Wilson is more than likely a male, but only time will tell.
As he gets older males develop puffy eyes and when a female is present they will produce a milky substance from their eyes. The lesser tenrecs genitalia is hidden inside so this makes telling the gender very difficult. The only way to get a 100% guarantee is a DNA test, so most owners will go by physical features.
The males have a shorter nose and a broader head and around 10 months will develop puffy eye rings, the females have a longer nose and a skinnier face.
What’s The Difference Between a Lesser Tenrec and a Hedgehog?
I did a lot of research before getting Wilson as they do have a lot of requirements. I was originally going to get an African pygmy hedgehog but I fell in love with Wilson on a pet site.
They do resemble the hedgehog but they are not at all related to the hedgehog family. They are actually related to the elephant, seacow, and aardvark. They have quills like a hedgehog but they are not very prickly at all and in the wild, they use their quills to communicate with the others by sending out a vibration.
How Much Does A Lesser Tenrec Cost?
Lesser tenrecs in England and Ireland generally cost around £150-200. They make fantastic pets and bond incredible well with their owners. They are very loving and very friendly
How Do You Care For A Lesser Tenrec?
Tenrecs are a solitary animal. They like to live alone but can be paired with a female. Two males will fight and so will females, so they really are best kept alone unless you want to breed them. Tenrecs are still a very rare pet to own due to only breeding once a year.
They are semi-arboreal which means they can also climb trees and branches but they will mainly live and forage on land.
Tenrecs require a sandbath. They do this to keep clean and exfoliate excess dry skin. When keeping them as pets they need a decent size vivarium. Wilson is in a 5ft by 2.5ft vivarium. They do need a heat source and I use a ceramic heater non infrared, and also I use a UVB light. This is optional but I use it 3 times a week for vitamin D3 and calcium input as tenrecs are prone to something called metabolic bone disease. This is also known as calcium deficiency and is a very seriously condition if they develop it. They also need regular calcium supplements 2-3 times a week either with calcium powder or liquid. I use liquid and put it in his water.
What Do Lesser Tenrecs Eat?
Tenrecs are insectivorous and their main diet is insects, worms, and bugs. Wilson loves mealworms, darkling beetles, and morio worms. They can also eat cooked meats and egg and also need a high-quality kitten kibble to help their teeth.
They are not very keen on fruits and vegetables so what I do, and a lot of other tenrec owners is something called gut loading. This is where you feed the live worms the fruit and vegetables and then the tenrec eats the worms. It’s a great way of getting those extra nutrients into him. I also gut load my worms with kale as kale is a great source of calcium.
How Active Is The Lesser Tenrec?
Tenrecs have a torpor (hibernation) over the winter months. Some will sleep very deeply and can go weeks without food and water and some will still be fairly active, but at a much slower rate in movement and food and water intake.
This can be quite worrying, to begin with but this is normal behaviour for a tenrec in torpor. Then they will come round from their torpor in the spring time. This is where they are super fast and will look to climb and will be very hungry.
How Long Does A Lesser Tenrec Live?
The lesser tenrec has a long lifespan up to 17 years. They have very little health issues and are not prone to cancers like a lot of exotic animals are. They are very clean and produce very little wee and poo and they have zero smell, so there is very little maintenance in the cleaning department.
What Makes Wilson So Special?
Wilson is my pride and joy. He is extremely spoilt, he currently weighs 103grms and has just turned 7 months old. He was born August 4th, 2016 I’ve decided for now not to add a female tenrec I just want to enjoy him, but it’s definitely something I wouldn’t rule out for the future.
They really do make amazing pets and I would highly recommend them as pets. They love to be with you and love skin to skin contact. Wilson’s favourite place is down my bra and will stay there for hours.
I would definitely say to anyone who is inspired by Wilson and would love to own one to do plenty or research on them and make sure you have appropriate housing and heating beforehand.