Table of Contents
- Hedgehogs: Overview
- Tips on How to Care for a Hedgehog as a Pet
Looking for some tips on how to care for a hedgehog as a pet?
Hedgehogs are unique and cute pets. They are timid species known to be friendly, intelligent, and charming.
This tiny species is covered with small spikes and when they are scared, they roll into compact balls.
However, petting a hedgehog is not as easy as you might think because sometimes, they can become aggressive – especially if they are upset. Basically, it’s like you are trying to caress a wriggly and prickly plant of doom.
If you’re planning to have a hedgehog as a pet, make sure to know all their needs, as well as what other aspects you should be aware of.
Here, we’ll tackle some information and tips on how to care for a hedgehog as a pet. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Hedgehogs are warm-blood animals that have been around for many years. These creatures normally live through the vast majority of Africa and in southern Europe.
They are basically insectivores, yet will eat a wide range of creature and plant matter when accessible. They are nocturnal creatures and go through the greater part of the day resting.
A hedgehog’s most unmistakable quality is their quills. Quills are sharp empty hairs that are used as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened. They can even twist up into a ball with its quills expanded.
The quills, for the most part, have white tips with bright colored groupings and serve as a secondary purpose of camouflage. Quills usually come brightly colored, ranging from white to grey, to a darker shade of black. Some of these quills can even be a mixture of these colors. Hedgehogs can have quite a variety or different colored quills.
|Popular Name:||African Pygmy Hedgehog|
|Scientific Name:||Atelerix albiventris|
|Size:||5 to 8 inches long|
|Weight:||½ and 11/2 pounds|
|Life Expectancy||3 to 6 years|
African Pygmy hedgehogs belong to local/central/eastern Africa. Yet, the vast amount of these critters are actually a crossbreed of two species; the Four-toed and Algerian hedgehogs. These hedgehogs roam for miles every day! They are found in many different places including Gambia, Mozambique, Somalia, more in Africa. When in their natural habitat, they likewise live essentially off of little creepy crawlies, grubs, snails, insects, and other various creatures that they can detect while foraging about.
Hedgehog Behavior and Temperament
Pet hedgehogs are quiet and reserved little creatures, but can be energetic when active. Additionally, they are fairly low maintenance pets. They are nocturnal animals, making them a decent option for someone who isn’t much of a morning or day person, or isn’t home for a majority of the daytime.
These creatures are quite reserved and enjoy their own separate space. Keeping multiple hedgehogs together in one enclosure is a bad idea, as they may fight and show aggression when with different hedgehogs. People who are new to hedgehogs should not even consider trying to house multiple hedgehogs. Another thing to note: these creatures aren’t very sociable, even with people. Indeed, even still, they are delicate creatures and might not be a good fit for someone who’s looking for some snuggles and one-on-one time with their pet.
Something that most people appreciate is that hedgehogs don’t typically smell bad. In fact, they don’t really smell like much of anything. This isn’t to say that if you put your nose up to them and smell and that you won’t smell a scent. If you do notice that they smell, it’s typically because of whatever you are feeding them.
Hedgehogs do run the risk of carrying salmonella, so it’s important to keep that in mind before you are set on getting them.
Back on the topic of scents, hedgehogs actually do something pretty interesting. They “self-anoint” themselves at a fairly early age. They do this for a particular interest in some smells or even food that they eat. They might even twist and turn in various different positions, while they lather their foamy saliva all over their body. While this behavior appears to be abnormal, some believe that it’s simply due to reaction to a smell that they enjoy, and others believe that they do it to hide and transform their own smell.
Hedgehog Diet and Housing Needs
In the wild, hedgehogs eat a wide variety of bugs, plants, and roots. That diet can be difficult to mimic entirely, but is still very much possible. However, hedgehogs are very athletic animals! In the wild, they frequently run a few miles every night and are quite the climbers and swimmers. To meet their activity needs, pet hedgehogs need a fenced-in area that will sufficiently fit them so they can roam around and exercise at the very minimum.
The fenced-in area needs to be of proper safe material so that they don’t get hurt, can’t climb out or escape, and needs to have an area where they can sleep and feel safe. A 2ft x 3ft fence in the area is the minimum you should aim for.
You definitely need to use a heating source for their cage. This can be a heat lamp, or a heat pad. Hedgehogs originate from hotter climates and do best at a temperature of 73-78 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures, and even hotter temperatures, can cause a hedgehog to enter a state called “torpor”, which is essentially hibernation. This is why it’s very important to keep an ideal temperature in the cage.
Hedgehogs as Pets
The African pygmy hedgehog is among the most popular type of exotic animal that is sold as pets. They can reach sizes of up to 6 to 11 inches. Four to six years is an ordinary life expectancy, yet a pet hedgehog can live for more than ten years. They are solitary creatures and should not be housed together with other hedgehogs or animals.
A hedgehog is an exceptionally dynamic creature. In order for them to thrive, they will need enough space. The more space, the better, as this is true with a large majority of animals. Luckily, there are numerous enclosures that are big enough and still are affordable. Hedgehogs will also require time outside of their cage to explore and roam about.
Since hedgehogs are nocturnal, they are best for individuals who are home at night and around evening time. A hedgehog may not be an appropriate pet for younger children. In some cases, children can handle them too roughly or inappropriately, resulting in injury from either the child or the hedgehog. Generally, hedgehogs are not good pets for children.
A hedgehog is amusing to watch, calm, shy, and is genuinely a fairly simpleminded animal.
Skin issues and dental disease including gingivitis, periodontal, tartar, and even tumors are all in the realm of possibilities for pet hedgehogs. Neutering and spaying a hedgehog is a widely debated topic, and there are pros and cons to each decision. Regular checkups and vet visits are the best ways to ensure that your hedgehog is happy and healthy.
Many owners use a wet Q-tip as a way to clean a hedgehog’s teeth. Try to be gentle and don’t try to stress them out or discourage them and make them uncomfortable. Some hedgehog owners don’t brush their teeth at all, while others might brush their teeth once a week. Even hedgehogs are prone to dental issues, so if you notice anything out of the ordinary such as a tooth that has fallen out, it’s time to schedule a vet visit.
Hedgehogs can even lose their quills in certain situations. Anything from poor diet to stress, to even mites could be the potential cause. Luckily, these quills can grow back, assuming they didn’t fall out because of a serious health issue. Mites are one of the most common reasons why hedgehogs lose their quills. In the event that your hedgehog is losing a large amount of quills on a regular basis, it’s time to take them to the vet immediately.
Keeping Hedgehogs as Pets
Cages that are made for rabbits and guinea pigs are also suitable for hedgehogs. However, metal or wire cage bottoms should not be used; since hedgehogs have little feet that will very likely be hurt due to their frequent activity.
Try to use a delicate sheet material, such as a paper material or towels that are periodically changed out. It’s important to use material that’s easy on their feet and won’t cause them any discomfort or harm. You can even get them little snuggle sheets!
A running wheel is an absolute must for your hedgey. The same is true for a food bowl, water bottle, and an area for them to sleep in. Ensure the running wheel is kept clean so that your round little friend doesn’t get any illnesses or otherwise injure themselves.
Hedgehogs are extremely active around evening time and will run a few miles every day on their wheel or in their encased play zone. People who are sensitive to noise should not sleep near their hedgehog, as there’s a good chance that your hedgehog will wake you up – especially if the wheel isn’t completely silent. They absolutely need to get as much exercise as they desire. If they don’t, they might hurt their feet, be discouraged, or even become obese. Exercise and movement are essential to hedgehogs, so this is something that potential owners should always keep in mind.
Food and Water
Don’t consider getting a hedgehog if you’re not comfortable with handling insects, worms, or other creepy crawlies. Reptile owners would probably have no issues with handling and preparing food for hedgehogs because many reptiles eat similar things. However, they can actually eat a wide variety of food. This includes high quality cat food (dry), specialized hedgehog food, eggs (scrambled/boiled), certain fruits and vegetables, insects, and even baby food! Although, mealworms, crickets, and a mix are a great variety of food options for pet hedgehogs. However, you can even get food made specifically for hedgehogs if you don’t want to deal with all the bugs and whatnot. However, they are prone to obesity and it’s important to ensure that they are eating the correct foods in the proper amounts.
African pygmy hedgehogs love mealworms! The same can be true for various other insects. Although you might be able to get away with not feeding them insects all the time, these creepy crawlies are what they typically eat in the wild, and this is why it’s important to make these bugs part of their diet.
Tips on How to Care for a Hedgehog as a Pet
Hedgehogs are curious, quiet, and cute little critters. They do require a good amount of attention, and here some things you should look out for:
Hedgehogs are fairly active animals, so they need some additional room to wander around in. You need to ensure that their cage is large enough so that they don’t feel the need to try to escape, or otherwise try to alter their environment in any way. Basically, you should make sure that they have a comfortable living space. You should also ensure that they have an area to hide in, as they will be doing a majority of their sleeping during the daytime. This is why it’s important to make sure that they have a comfortable space where they can feel safe and get some rest. Try to keep the room temperature comfortable too.
Hedgehogs will typically eat more than once per day. Try to keep their food in a specific area, preferably away from their sleeping area. Ideally, you’ll use a food dish and continuously feed them in one specific location each time. Hedgehogs like eating creepy crawlies and worms, yet it’s a good idea to mix up their diet every once in a while. You can give them treats, or even fresh fruit and vegetables on occasion. Similarly, as with most pets, be careful about over feeding them so that they don’t get overweight or develop other health issues.
Clean Living Environment
As with any other animal, try to keep their cage/environment as clean as possible. Try to clean their cage at least once each week. You should be diligent and try to remove any old food or water, and always ensure that they have fresh water and food. They should also be bathed at least once a month, although some need to be bathed more frequently than others. If you notice that they have dry skin, bathing them can help improve. It’s important to strike a balance because if you bathe them too much, it might actually cause them to have dry skin.
Watch Out for Diseases
As with any other pet, you should always watch out for any illness or disease. Hedgehogs are no exception when it comes to disease. Frequently check on them, and ensure that they are healthy and don’t have any visible signs that they are distressed, hurt, or otherwise are sick. Hedgehogs are very susceptible to parasites, gastrointestinal diseases, pneumonia, and even cancer. If that you suspect that your hedgehog might be sick, immediately take them to a vet. Some signs to look out for that your hedgehog might be sick include irregular breathing, lifeless or dull expressions and reactions, sneezing, coughing, and even discharge/puss near their eyes or nose.
Give Them Some Space
Generally speaking, hedgehogs are quiet, reserved, and like to be left alone. However, they can warm up to their owners as long as you handle them with care. Hedgehogs can be surprisingly affectionate! However, don’t over-handle your hedgehog, as this may discourage them or cause them to be uncomfortable. Some hedgehogs warm up to their owners quite quickly, while others can take a while before they feel comfortable around them.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so it’s very important to respect that and not force them to be active during the day.
Things You Should Consider Before Getting Hedgehog
Always Purchase Your Hedgehog from a Reputable Breeder
Hedgehogs purchased from experienced and reputable breeders are bound to be much better options than if purchased from shady breeders. The same should be done for just about any pet. Look around in your local area to see if you can find a breeder near you.
Ensure That Hedgehogs Are Legal to Own Wherever You Live
Because hedgehogs are viewed as exotic animals, you may or may not be able to legally keep one as a pet, depending on where you live. Some states have different laws regarding different animals and which can be kept and which aren’t allowed. In certain places, they are illegal to own, while other areas might require a special license to own one. Simply do a quick Google search and check out if hedgehogs are legal where you reside before you even consider getting one as a pet.
Gather All the Necessary Supplies Before You Pick Up Your Hedgehog
It’s best to be prepared before you get your new animal, so try to get all supplies including the cage, food, and any other accessories you’ll need before you pick up your hedgehog. Some essentials include a fenced-in area, a food and water bowl, a wheel, a heating pad, shampoo, nail clippers, chew sticks, and more.
Having a hedgehog can be a unique opportunity full of fun and excitement. Unlike other animals, they are tiny, low maintenance, and generally quite easy to take care of. They are friendly and a ton of fun to play with, once they warm up to their owner. Once you develop a strong bond with your fuzzball, you can see the enjoyment and excitement in their eyes when they are comfortable with their environment.
Therefore, if you’re considering having a hedgehog as your pet, make sure that you understand their feeding requirements and habitat needs.
Hopefully, you’ll be better informed after reading this article to give you a better idea of if a hedgehog is a good fit for you or not.
Check out: Low Maintenance Pets for Adults