How to care for a pet hedgehog? What do hedgehogs eat? Are hedgehogs good pets? What is it like to own a pet hedgehog? How big of a cage do hedgehogs need? Does it hurt to hold a pet hedgehog? Do hedgehogs bite? What kinds of treats can I feed my pet hedgehog? Are hedgehogs demanding pets? Learn more about looking after a hedgehog.
This article is based on the ongoing 4 year experience of owning a hedgehog. Though technically my daughters pet, I have learned a lot about them as a result.
About Hedgehogs as Pets
The type of hedgehog that is kept as a pet is not the same as the wild hedgehog commonly found in the UK or New Zealand. The domestic pet hedgehog is usually a hybrid animal known as the African pygmy hedgehog. They are smaller than their European counter part and it should noted that in most places it is illegal to catch a wild hedgehog to keep it as a pet.
Hedgehogs are not rodents.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, generally waking in the early evening.
Domestic hedgehogs have a lifespan of roughly five to six years.
How to Care for a Pet Hedgehog
Hedgehogs require roomy cages, about 3 ft x 2 ft, or more. People often use guinea pig cages to house a hedgehog. They like a cozy place to sleep, many pet supply stores have igloo shaped houses that will work well for a hedgehog. Another tunnel object can be added to the cage to provide interest. Some hedgehogs will run on a wheel, however it is very important this is solid as they can get their feet caught in the king with rungs and spokes. They generally do not show interest in toys.
Hedgehogs will use a corner litter box containing non-scented scoopable cat litter. If they do not use it at first a person can train them to use it by putting their feces into the litter box. The cage should be bedded in shavings, aspen are best, but pine will do, never use cedar shavings. Straw or hay are also acceptable as bedding material.
Hedgehogs should also have food and water. While some will drink from water bottles others prefer to drink out of bowls. Bowls should be ceramic or stainless steel (not plastic) and of the type that will not tip or spill, but shallow enough the hedgehog can get into it easy. The water bowl will need to be checked regularly to make sure it is not full of shavings.
The room should be kept warm (above 21C, 70F), if chilled they may try to hibernate and this can prove fatal as it is not natural. It should drop by no more than three degrees over night.
Feeding a Hedgehog
There are many hedgehog foods on the market, unfortunately in many are not very good quality, using cheap ingredients such as corn. Reading the ingredient list is a must when selecting a hedgehog food. Hedgehogs are insectivores, they need a diet that is high in meat based protein. As such many people who cannot find good quality hedgehog food will select to buy a good quality dry kitten food (again this being one with meat as the first ingredient).
They should also be given dried crickets or meal worms, both of which can be purchased at a pet supply store. 2-4 of these per day, or every second day is a good idea. Try putting the treats in other place's of the cage so the hedgehog has to find them.
Some hedgehogs will enjoy small pieces of vegetables or fruit as a treat.
Hedgehogs should not have milk, raw meat, avocado, grapes, chocolate, or nuts.
Handling and Exercising a Pet Hedgehog
Hedgehogs should be taken out of their cage for at least 2 hours every night. Generally between 8:00 and 10:00 pm is good. They can be put in large balls (those sold for guinea pigs) to roll around in, or let loose in a room.
The spines of a hedgehog are somewhat sharp, but not quite as sharp as a porcupine. If you handle them regularly they relax and are more holdable than if they are not held often. When scared they will hiss but are unlikely to bite. One of the bigger concerns with their spines is that these tend to accumulate dust from the shavings in the cage. When the pet is held its spines can force this into the skin, causing an itchy sensation later, so always wash your hands after handling a hedgehog, or use gloves.
Be very careful when hedgehogs are out of their cage, they have poor eyesight so will be prone to falling off beds, sofas, or tables.
In general a hedgehog may not be a good pet for children younger than 12.