Hedgehog Care

What To Know Before Adopting A Hedgehog;
Caring For Your Prickly Pal

Hedgehogs can be difficult to handle​

Handling a nervous hedgehog can be very tricky or even painful for inexperienced pet owners. A nervous hedgehog will twitch and curl into a ball, exposing its quills. The more hedgehogs are handled, the more they will relax. Hedgehogs that are rarely handled can remain curled for long periods of time. When handling your hedgehog, you must be very gentle. It’s best to use a towel or a heavy pair of gloves until your pet feels more at ease. It is important to be extra gentle then, as the towel or gloves prevent us from feeling your pet very well.​

Hedgehogs need to be handled daily

You need to handle your hedgehog frequently. A hedgehog's familiarity with being held comes with being handled frequently. Always be confident when handling a hedgehog: they are not as fragile as they seem. The general rule is at least 30 minutes a day of handling. If a hedgehog is left to their own devices and is neglected, they will become afraid of humans and human contact. They need to be socialized and handled frequently in order to stay friendly, hug-able, and cuddly!

  • Approach your hedgie quietly and slowly. Pick it up by lifting it from underneath, then hold it cupped in both hands.

  • Make time for play. As well as handling your hedgehog, don't be afraid to join in with play. Your hedgehog will accept your involvement in play if you join in regularly.

Hedgehogs need exercise

Hedgehogs love to eat. If pet hedgehogs are housed in cages most of the time, with little opportunity to exercise, it’s very easy for them to become overweight. Hedgehogs should be given time to exercise outside of their cages and their cages should be equipped with a plastic solid wall running wheel. Wire wheels can injure them​.

Hedgehogs keep late-night hours

Hedgehogs are naturally nocturnal, remaining active at night. This means you may hear them running on their wheel or feeding at night. If you’re a light sleeper, a hedgehog may not be the most appropriate pet for you. An advantage to a hedgehog’s nocturnal schedule is that they tend to sleep during the hours when your family members are at work or school.​

Finding veterinary care might be challenging

Hedgehogs are still relatively uncommon pets, which mean not all veterinarians may be comfortable treating your hedgehog. Before adopting a hedgehog, research how far you may need to travel for veterinary care.

Hedgehogs may carry salmonella bacteria

Hedgehogs have been known to harbor salmonella bacteria, which means you should wash your hands thoroughly after handling your hedgehog, its cage, or its bedding. Be careful not to touch your eyes or around your mouth until after you have washed your hands. Always supervise your hedgehog around young children and other pets​

 

Food

The Way To Their Hearts

While a  hedgehog's exact nutritional needs are somewhat mysterious, high-quality cat kibble is considered a good choice for a staple diet, which should be supplemented with other various foods, discussed below. The kibble you choose should be below 15% fat and around 32-35% protein; look for foods that are organic or holistic - avoid kibble that has by-products, corn and similar things listed. Provide about 1-2 tbsp of the dry cat food every day. This can be adjusted depending on the individual hog.

Feed a variety of treats to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Supplement the kibble diet with a small amount of other food - just 1 tsp every day or every other day. Some ideas:

  • Cooked, unseasoned, skinless chicken, turkey, or salmon, chopped up

  • Small bites of fruits and veggies, such as watermelon, cooked mashed peas or sweet potatoes, or applesauce

  • Scrambled or hard boiled & chopped egg

  • Mealworms, crickets and wax worms: These are also an important treat to the hedgehog's diet. As insectivores, they need mental stimulation that eating live prey provides, in addition to vital nutrition. Feed a few insects one to four times a week. Never feed your hedgie wild-caught insects (e.g., ones you catch in your yard), as they may have toxic pesticides in their systems, or parasites that will infect your hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are primarily insectivores, but will also taste other things like fruits, veggies, eggs, and meat. They tend towards plumpness, so care must be taken with the diet to prevent a hedgehog from putting on too much weight. An overweight hedgehog cannot roll up and may have "bags" of fat hanging down, which will impede its walking ability.

Adjust food amounts if your hedgehog gains weight. Reduce the amount of food you're giving your hedgehog if you notice they are getting a little plump, and increase exercise.

Feed them in the early evening. Hedgehogs have a crepuscular nature, so they are active around twilight. If possible, feed them once a day around this time.

Provide a proper food bowl. The bowl should be wide enough for the hedgehog to access and heavy enough so that the hedgehog cannot tip it over (and start playing with it).

Provide a water bottle with a drinking tube or a water bowl. Fresh water should be available at all times.

  • If using a bowl, make sure it is heavy and shallow enough not to tip over. Wash it thoroughly every day and fill with fresh water.

  • If using a bottle with a drinking tube, make certain your pet knows how to drink from it! It should have learned this from its mother, but it may need to be shown. Note that water in bottles also needs to be changed daily to prevent bacteria build-up.

I currently feed my cuties a mixture of: 

Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food 

Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Healthy Weight Recipe Dry Cat Food 

Wellness Complete Health Indoor Health Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Recipe Dry Cat Food 

Instinct by Nature's Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Rabbit Dry Cat Food  

Hedgehog Treat Variety Pack; which comes with freeze-dried mealworms, calci-worms, crickets, carrots, and apples.

The aforementioned is their staple diet. I feel that it covers all their nutritional needs, with treats for them too. I do make some modifications when needed when a hog is in need of some TLC.

For my lil chunksters that I sometimes get from people who are no longer able to care for their hedgehog or mine who have been neglecting their wheel, I cut back on their treats and give them Blue Buffalo Weight Control Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food.  

Though it rarely happens, I have had some hedgies who have been too lean for comfort; E G. they spend too much time on their wheel, when that happens, I give them Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food.

 

Habitats

Size Matters And Bigger Is Better

Your hedgehog's cage should be completely solid-sided.


Hedgehogs are very clumsy and poor at climbing, but they don't seem to know that and often try to climb anyway. Generally a climbing attempt will result in an immediate fall which could cause broken bones.


Narrow-spaced bars (like in Hamster cages) are dangerous because hedgehogs tend to get their legs stuck in them. Wide-spaced bars (like in rabbit or guinea pig cages) are even worse because hedgehogs can easily get their heads stuck in them, potentially causing a broken neck or even death. While some rabbit and guinea pig cages have a few inches of plastic before the wire, they still aren't fully safe as hedgies will still be able to make it up to the bars by propping themselves up on their igloo or wheel.


Make sure that the bottom of your cage is solid too as hedgies will hurt their feet walking on the wire floors that are in rabbit hutches. You also want to avoid any cages with levels because due to their poor eyesight and lack of depth perception, hedgehogs will walk right off any ledge.


Levels are only safe if both the upper level and ramp have borders around them. The best cages are plastic totes, glass aquariums, and C&C cages (with fairly high coroplast sides). 

 

Wheels

Round And It Goes

Exercise wheels are a necessity for pet hedgehogs. Just like cages, they should be completely solid. Avoid all wheels with wire bars or mesh because legs can get stuck in bars and nails can get caught in mesh. You also want to steer clear of the sandpaper wheels that sugar gliders use as they will cause a hedgehog's feet to bleed.


While some hedgehog owners use the plastic Silent Spinner wheel, I don't recommend them because there are open spaces between the two pieces that a hedgehog can get nails caught in. I use 8.5 inch Kaytee Comfort Wheels in our starter kits and they work fine for babies, but sometimes they can be a little noisy. If you do end up using that size Comfort Wheel, you will want to move up to a bigger size when you hedgehog's back touches the center pole. The next size Comfort Wheel is 12 inches, which is large enough for any adult hedgie.


The flying saucer discs (we recommend the 12 inch size) are another safe option, but can be easily broken if your hedgehog is on the heavier side. My favorite wheel is the Carolina Storm Wheel and Treadmill (Flying Saucer) Wheel in the 14 inch size. They are completely silent, easy to clean, and are the perfect size for hedgies. You can only purchase them online because they are all hand-made. 

 

Bedding

Home Is Where The Fluff Is

There's tons of options when it comes to hedgehog bedding.


Wood shavings like Pine and Aspen are low-cost and work fine as long as the bag says "kiln-dried".


Carefesh paper pulp bedding, paper crinkles, and Yesterday's News pellets are all safe options as well. You can use newspaper or shredded documents as long as there are no staples.


If you are successful in litter-training your hedgie, you can just have fleece liners and puppy pads instead of bedding. Fleece is the best fabric to use for this purpose because it does not have frayed edges.


Avoid cedar bedding (it's toxic to all small animals and can cause death), cat litter (clumping or non-clumping, either way it's too dusty for a hedgie to inhale), and towels or other fabrics that have loops and frayed edges that nails can get caught in. 

 

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