Hedgehog Care And Info Tips, Tricks, Diet, And Housing
A Little About Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs that are commonly kept as pets in the united states are the African Pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) which is native to South Africa. They make amazing little pets and don't have extremely difficult upkeep. They are shy by nature but can be very social with proper consistent handling. Hedgehogs are nocturnal but they can be held during the day as well for play and socialization time. They are also insectivores meaning in the wild they eat mainly insects. Hedgehogs usually don't bite but do have sharp quills that can be pokey. For this reason we do not recommend them for small children but make great pets for older children and adults. Once a hedgehog is comfortable with you they will lay their quills down and are easily petted.
As far as feeding these guys it's pretty simple. A good quality dry cat food along with live insects AT LEAST 2 times weekly. Suggested insects are mealworms, crickets, and wax worms. Mealworms are the easiest source for insects however crickets should be fed as well since they are more nutritious. To help them to be able to catch a live cricket, we suggest putting them in the freezer for 30 min to stun them so the hedgehog can easily eat them without them jumping away. Freeze dried insects do not have a nutritional value and can cause obstruction in hedgehogs, so live is best. When choosing a food you want to look for one that has a protein level of 30-33% and fat of 10-12%.
Appropriate cages for hedghogs:
110+ Quart Sterlite Tub (cheapest and easiest to clean)
C&C Cages (cubes and chloroplast)
Critter Nation Cages
Kaytee XL Rabbit Home
Midwest Homes Guinea Pig Habitat
Oxbow Play Yard Small Pet Habitat
If the cage you order has landings or ramps TAKE THEM OUT or add sides to them. Hedgehogs have bad eyesight and will walk off the edge and injure themselves. Also absolutely no wire floor cages, they will injure their legs on the bars.
Recommended Caging Accessories:
Hides - this can be the large plastic igloos at Petsmart for rats/guinea pigs or a cuddle sack.
Exercise Wheel - We recommend the Carolina Storm Wheel, absolutely no wheels with a wire running surface.
Toys - Cat balls that DO NOT contain cat nip
4" PCV pipe can be used to make tunnels.
Ceramic Food Bowl (Heavy to help keep them from flipping it.)
Substrate for cage:
Compressed Kiln Dried Pine Pellets (only use as a thin base layer with aspen on top)
Aspen (Due to the possibility of mites, buy from Tractor Supply or somewhere that does not sell reptiles or rodents. You could also freeze it to kill anything in the bedding,)
Care Fresh Bedding
We personally do a thin layer of pine pellets with a thick layer of aspen on top.
Hedgehogs have to be kept at temps of 75 - 80 degrees so you will possibly need a heat source as well depending on the temp where they are kept. To make sure that the cage is at adequate temperature we do recommend keeping a thermometer on the outside of the cage to monitor the temp. If you do require a heat source we recommend a ceramic heat emitter/heat dome combo. Heating pads are not recommended nor heat rocks!
Hedgehogs do not need to be bathed to often as it can dry out their skin. Only bathe them when they have dirty quills or "poop boots" (poopy feet). Bathing can help with dry skin but over bathing can make it worse. An oatmeal bath is best, try to avoid any soaps or shampoos that have detergent in them. Typically a oatmeal shampoo is detergent free. For scrubbing we recommend to use a toothbrush or a dish scrub brush.
Interesting Important Info:
Hedgehogs do go through what is called "quilling" this is when they loose quills and new ones grow in, much like a teething child. Most hedgehogs go through this process at around 6-12 weeks old. Your hedgehog may be grumpy during this time because it is very uncomfortable. Don't let that deter you from holding them though, once the quilling is over they will go back to their normal behavior. Sometimes a warm oatmeal bath can help soothe them during this time. They go through this process several times in their life.
Hedgehogs self anoint. When a hedgie self anoints they will start licking the new smell and then lick themselves creating a think foam that they put on their back. It is thought that this behavior is to make themselves smell like their environment as a type of camouflage.
Hedgehogs can go into hibernation but that is not a good thing. When a hedgie is exposed to temps below 70 degrees they can go into hibernation, unfortunately most do not come out of it and do pass away.
Hedgehogs are not related to porcupines and cannot throw their quills. Actually porcupines can not throw their quills either, this is a common myth.
A hedgehog's lifespan is about 4-6 years. Proper diet and temperature are very important factors.