Hedgehogs are small nocturnal mammals that are covered in quills. When they feel threatened, they can curl up into a ball and extend their quills. They are very intelligent and each has their own personalities. Their average lifespan is 4-6 years.
Cage – Hedgehogs are very active and like to roam. The enclosure should be a minimum of 2x4ft and should have a solid cage bottom to prevent foot injuries.
Substrate – Bedding material should be clean, absorbent, non-toxic, and mostly dust-free. We recommend paper pulp products (Carefresh or Yesterday’s News), shredded paper, or fleece/towels. Wood chips and shavings (especially cedar and pine) are NOT recommended.
Litterbox – Some hedgehogs can be litter trained. Pick a litterbox with sides low enough so that your hedgehog can get in and out easily. Pulp paper products (Yesterday’s news or Carefresh), or shredded paper can be used in these boxes. Do not use cat litter or wood shavings such as pine or cedar as cat litter can be accidentally consumed and wood shavings can cause eye, skin, and respiratory disease.
Hide areas – Hedgehogs like to have a place where they can feel safe and secure. Commercially made hiding huts can be used, or else a large diameter PVC pipe and wood/cardboard boxes can also be used.
Wheel – Hedgehogs are prone to obesity, so an exercise wheel is highly recommended. A solid floor plastic wheel is recommended as wire wheels can lead to foot injuries due to entrapment.
Temperature – The optimal temperature range for hedgehogs is between 75-85°F. Low temperatures can lead to hibernation in hedgehogs that can be fatal.
Dry Food – A commercial hedgehog diet or a high protein cat kibble can be fed as the primary portion of your hedgehog’s diet.
Moist Food – 1-2 teaspoons of a canned dog or cat food should be offered daily.
Fruits and Vegetables – ½ teaspoon of fruits or vegetables should be offered daily.
Insects – Live mealworms or crickets may be offered as treats, but should not make up more than 10% of your hedgehog’s diet.
Water – Hedgehogs should have access to fresh water at all times. They can be trained to drink from a bottle or provide water in a spill-proof bowl. Check water bottles often as they can malfunction and stop working.
Scoop your hedgehog up from under the belly and support the hind legs with your other hand. Loud noise or bright lights will frighten many hedgehogs and cause them to curl up into a ball. If your hedgehog rolls up, remain calm, be patient, and give them time to relax. A dimly lit room may help them relax. If children are handling the hedgehog, have them sit on the floor and hold it in their laps. Only allow them to handle the pet with adult supervision.
Salmonellosis – Several strains of salmonellosis have been isolated from hedgehogs and transmission to humans has been documented. We recommend washing your hands immediately after handling your hedgehog or after coming into contact with fecal material.
SOCIALIZATION AND PLAY
Play – Hedgehogs should be allowed out in a large play area on a daily basis to give them room to run around and explore as well as to socialize. A small animal pen is recommended to prevent your hedgehog from escaping.
Toys – A variety of toys can be used to keep your hedgehog happy and entertained. Pipes, tubes, tunnels, ramps, balls, bells, and other small animal toys can be used.
We recommend a complete physical exam and fecal by an exotic animal veterinarian for all newly acquire pet hedgehogs. Thereafter, we recommend bi-annual exams and yearly fecal exams. Most hedgehogs are very nervous and will ball up at the vet. Sedation is often required for a thorough physical exam.
Toenails – Your hedgehog’s environment does not aid in wearing down their nails and nails can get long and sharp. They will need to be trimmed on a regular basis.
COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS
Mites – Skin parasites are common in new pets. Symptoms include quill loss, flaky or dry skin, scabs, redness, and excessive itching.
Obesity – Obesity is common in hedgehogs. Exercise wheels should be provided and food should be rationed to prevent obesity.
Dental Disease – Hedgehogs can develop a variety of dental issues. Signs include loss of appetite, drooling, red and swollen gums, and tartar accumulation on teeth. In severe cases, tooth extraction may be necessary.
Cancer – Hedgehogs are very prone to a variety of cancers. It can manifest as a tumor or can look like different illnesses.
Nutritional Deficiencies – Hedgehogs fed a primary diet of insects may develop nutritional deficiencies. Symptoms include weakness and tremors.