How Hedgehogs Became Instagram’s Most Miserable Celebrities

Notoriously shy and antisocial, pet hedgehogs have developed big followings online

Eliza Brooke
OneZero
Published in
7 min readApr 15, 2019

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Illustration: Nan Lee

IInstagram fame came quickly for Anna Mathias and her pet hedgehog, Lionel. In 2015, Mathias was a college student in South Carolina when she started a dedicated handle for Lionel, who had started to take over her personal account. A month in, she posted a photo of Lionel curled into a ball, sitting on top of a sprinkle-coated ice cream cone. “One scoop of spike cream please,” she wrote.

The next day, Mathias was at a movie when her sister called repeatedly; she hurried out, thinking there was some kind of emergency. But no: Pop singer Joe Jonas had reposted her picture for his millions of followers. Overnight, Mathias’s follower count leapt from roughly 1,000 to 8,000 and continued to snowball from there. Lionel made his way onto BuzzFeed listicles and the official Instagram account, where a photo of him sprawled in a little wooden chair has collected more than 1.4 million likes so far.

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Eliza Brooke
OneZero

Eliza is a freelance journalist. She lives in Brooklyn.