Description and History
Hedgehogs are insectivores (insect eaters), similar to moles, tenrecs, and shrews. They are native to Northern and Central Africa. Common types include the four-toed or white-bellied hedgehog. They come in many color variations, from cinnamon to white, but salt-and-pepper is the most common. Their quills are 1/2 to 1 inch long, but are not barbed like those of the American porcupine. The average hedgehog grows to be about 7 to 8 inches in length and weighs about a pound. The life span of a hedgehog in captivity is around 3 to 5 years.
What kind of pet does a Hedgehog make?
A socialized hedgehog will not mind being picked up and will lay its quills flat as a gesture of trust. The best way to handle a hedgehog is to scoop it up by placing both hands under its body. Hedgehogs love to explore. Most hedgehogs will not come to humans looking for attention, but they do know their owners and will react more positively to their owner's touch than to that of a stranger. Some very relaxed hedgies will curl up in a ball and fall asleep in your sleeve or perhaps in your lap.
What do I look for in choosing a good pet quality Hedgehog?
The ideal hedgehog will have been socialized as a baby, and held by a human before weaning (the younger the better). If you are not sure of your hedgehog's social skills, pick it up. It may immediately roll into a ball. If it does not unroll after a few seconds and begin exploring, this animal has probably not been socialized at a young enough age, and will probably not make a good pet.
The bigger the cage, the better. Hedgehogs have lots of energy and are very active. Make sure the floor of the cage is smooth, as hedgehogs will get their feet caught on wire mesh. Aquariums are okay, but are not the best when it comes to ventilation. Hagan cages made for dwarf rabbits are excellent. They have wire walls with a plastic bottom. Cage furniture should include an exercise wheel specifically designed for hedgehogs, a litter box (optional), a food dish, a hiding box, and a drinking bottle. For bedding, use any pelleted or recycled paper product. Pine and cedar shavings are not healthy for hedgehogs. Aspen shavings are fine. You can also use fleece liners. In their litter box, avoid clay or clumping litters, as these products have been known to clog the genitals of these low-to-the-ground little animals.
Keeping the cage warm when temps go below 75 degrees
Hedgehogs need to be kept between 73-75 to around 80-82. If the temps go below 75 you will need to set up a heating system. The best system that most people use these days is a ceramic heat emitter bulb that is screwed into a 10 inch lamp dome. The lamp should have a ceramic/porcelain socket. The wattage of the bulb should be either 100 or 150 watts depending how cold you keep the room. You will also need a thermostat to regulate the temperature inside the cage. You can find these supplies online or at stores like PetSmart.
Any white meat (Chicken or Turkey) high in protein low in fat such as Purina One's Chicken and Rice dry cat food. Make sure the first ingredient listed is a meat ie."Chicken" and not a meat byproduct ie. "poultry byproducts". Give treats high in fiber and insects such as freeze dried crickets and live mealworms. Being insectivores hedgehogs love mealworms, but just a few a day as they tend to be fattening. Gut feed your mealworms first by feeding them a vegetable left in the mealworm container over night. Then feed the mealworms to the hedgehog the next day. Always have fresh water on hand.
Are they clean animals?
Hedgehogs are very clean. They are odorless, most will adapt to going in a litter box, and their urine has no ammonia like smell.
Do they need a companion?
Hedgehogs are solitary animals, therefore one will be very happy. Females can be kept together in a big enclosure with plenty of hiding boxes. Males can never be kept together.
Are they prone to any health problems?
Hedgehogs are very hardy and do not need routine vaccinations. The most common vet visit is due to mites. Owners will notice heavy flaking of skin or quill loss in patches. . Hedgehogs are also prone to obesity if given a diet too high in fat and not given opportunity for exercise, which in turn will lead to death. Always feed a low-fat diet, and give hedgehogs plenty of exercise.
How will they get along with other animals?
Usually hedgehogs learn to coexist around dogs and cats. If you have an outside cat accustomed to hunting or if you have a hunting breed of dog, caution should be exercised. Ferrets pose a very real hazard to hedgehogs and these two species should never be left together unsupervised.
Who should own a Hedgehog?
Hedgehogs are excellent pets due to their easy maintenance. People who tend to be allergic to other animals find that hedgehogs do not trigger their allergies. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so if you work all day your hedgehog will fit into your schedule. Teenagers who are experienced holding and taking care of animals will find hedgehogs a real joy. Young children, supervised by an older child adult, can safely enjoy them too.
Where can I buy a Hedgehog Wheel?
Google Hedgehog Wheel and you will find them. Make sure they are easy to clean because hedgehogs will often go to the bathroom on the wheel. The Carolina Storm Wheels are nice.
How can I talk to other hedgehog owners online?
HedgehogCentral.com has a forum which is a great place to talk to other hedgehog owners and ask questions.
Policies and Care
Your hedgehog is guaranteed for 30 days. If you should lose your hedgehog due to illness.
Returns: I do everything I can to make sure your hedgehog is a good match for you before you leave. I'm happy to say only about a 1% are returned. I do understand once in awhile the hedgehog is not a good fit and I'm glad to take the hedgehog back as a rescue. Sorry, I cannot refund your money.
Feeding your new baby hedgehog:
From 5 to around 12 weeks I feed babies Purina One Chicken and Rice Dry Cat Food. I mix a TINY pinch (about 5% to the Purina One) of Ferret food. Either the Kay Tee Forty Diet For Ferrets or LM Vita-Vittles Gold For Ferrets. As hedgehogs age add a few freeze dried crickets and some mealworms to the daily food bowl. Add treats high in fiber.
Who should I see if my hedgehog needs a vet?
For a list of Hedgehog friendly Veterinarians in MA. http://www.hedgehogwelfare.org/vets_by_state.asp?s=MA
Dealing with mites:
The most common vet visit is due to mites. Owners will notice heavy flaking of skin and quill loss (more then usual) and in more severe cases patches. Mites can be easily treated with a bath of warm water and a few drops of olive oil mixed in the water. Repeat baths every ten days for a month. If the next month or two you see more flaky skin and quill loss return then a trip to the vet will be necessary. The vet will prescribe the medication, Revolution which is used on dogs and cats but is safe for hedgehogs too.
Please remember to hold your hedgehog close to the ground or in your lap. They cannot cling and hold on like a mouse. There has been many accidents with hedgehogs being dropped and suffering internal injuries.
Make sure your baby hedgehog can reach his water bottle. If he's to small place a dish of water till he's big enough or place a brick near the water bottle so he can reach it. You may want to crush some of his food if you purchased a small baby then observe what he is eating until you see him eating the bigger pellets.
Your hedgehog will be happy when the temperature is no lower then 73-75. Being African hedgehogs they do not hibernate, so if the temperature in the house or apartment falls below 73-75 your hedgehog will be prone to respiratory problems as well as organ failure. To maintain a proper temperature I recommend a ceramic heat emitter bulb that is screwed into a 10 inch lamp dome. The lamp should have a ceramic/porcelain socket. The wattage of the bulb should be either 100 or 150 watts depending how cold you keep the room. You will also need a thermostat to regulate the temperature inside the cage. You can find these supplies online or at stores like PetSmart.