The two-day Puppy Bowl taping begins not with puppies, but with hedgehogs. They’ve been cast as cheerleaders this year, a role previously filled by bunnies and piglets. On a November morning in a Manhattan studio, their adoptive parents gather in the green room to share stories about their quirky obsession with the spiny-but-lovable creatures.

“He climbs into bed, he sleeps with me,” said Ashley Akenson, 36, of Falls Church, who smuggled Henry, her Egyptian long-eared hedgehog onto Amtrak to get him to the Puppy Bowl taping. “If you pet him when he’s not balled up, it’s very much like a hairbrush. If he doesn’t want to poke you, he won’t.”

Elaine Fischer, a hedgehog enthusiast who has traveled with her three pets from Roanoake, boasted about Speedy, who she said was a grand champion of hedgehog shows (yes, they have hedgehog shows).

“He got the most points ever, of any hedgehog,” said Fischer. “He has got a personality that fills the room.” Not only that, he won a gold medal in the Hedgehog Olympics (yes, there is a Hedgehog Olympics). He won first place in the sprints, marathon and obstacle course, she says, but “he didn’t do well in the hurdles.”

Showtime. The hedgehog owners cluster around green-room TV monitors to watch their pets with the anxiousness of stage parents.

“Come on, baby,” one woman whispers.

“I think she’s pretty photogenic,” says another.