All of those who adopt a hedgehog from me are required to read this information prior to adoption.By adopting a hedgehog from me you are acknowledging that you have read and agreed to all of the information provided on this website.
Hedgehogs make wonderful pets for the right owners! If you spend time with your hog and provide him/her with proper care, you can develop a pleasant relationship with each other! Hedgehogs are unique and Curious animals that, when properly cared for, can recognize their owner's voice and prefer their owners over other people, a bond!
Though hedgehogs are known as being solitary, the bond I've seen hogs have with loving owners is something truly special!
*The information provided here is not to replace proper veterinary care nor veterinary recommendation. *
** The word "bond" refers to the level of tolerance and acceptance your hedgehog develops with you in their environment.
If you are interested in becoming a hog parent please view the" is a hoggo right for you?" tab to take a self answered questionnaire. This questionnaire will help you determine if a pet hoggo is right for you.
African Pygmy Hedgehogs are naturally found in Africa. They have scattered populations that are primarily found in steppe zones. semi-arid dry grassy plains.
The African Pygmy Hedgehog's Scientific name is: Atelerix Albiventris.
They are also commonly called Four Toe Hedgehogs. They are mammals. They bear live young that suckle milk produced from their mother. The males are not involved in offspring rearing. Hedgehogs do not live in groups and are solitary and territorial creatures.
Hedgehogs are covered with between 5000-7000 quills. The quills are made of keratin and have sharp points. Quills are filled with air and protect the hedgehog from predators and falls.A hedgehog can raise and relax it's quills via muscles under it's skin. A hedgehog can not shoot it's quills at you and the quills are not venomous.
In the wild hedgehogs enter a semi hibernation state every cool season.In captivity they do not. they must be kept warm in captivity all the time.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, meaning they're active mostly at night.
In the wild hedgehogs only live 2 years on average. They usually succumb to predators, illness, or human error early in life. In captivity hedgehogs live an average of 5 years with older ages not uncommon!
African Pygmy Hedgehogs are primarily insectivorous, meaning they eat mostly bugs. In captivity a diet of cat food is the closest commercially available food that even comes close to being appropriate for hedgehogs.
Welcome to the updated version of "How to take care of a hedgehog". Nothing here, or anywhere in this website, should be considered medical advice.
I also firmly believe that there is more than one way to accomplish the same task, so if you find another method that works for you and is safe, great. As a pet owner it's up to you to find the best methods of providing animal care in your unique situation.
If your new hedgehog is 7-12 weeks of age, he/she will more than likely be experiencing a "quilling". This is a time in which a young hedgehog will begin losing baby quills and new ones will be popping on into take their place. This is a very normal process for hedgehogs to go through, in fact your hedgehog will experience quilling even as an adult, just at a lesser frequency. Adult hogs quill approx once or twice per year in comparison to a 0-1 year hedgehog who might seem to always be loosing quills. Though quilling is normal you should note any excessively irritated skin or extreme quill loss (sparse quills or noticeable bald spots) because they could be an indicator that your hedgehog has mites. Yuck! I'll cover mites more in depth at another time. They're gross, trust me.
Tote bins-A hedgehog's cage can be as simple as a plastic tote bin. The same bins you find in the storage section of big chain stores.
When selecting a bin it's important to select one that's at least 3.5 square feet of floor space and 10 inches high.
Most 90 quart standard bins provide adequate space.
Wire cages- There are many wire cages that have solid bottoms at most pet shops. These cages seem to work well for hedgehogs. The only concern is the hedgehog climbing the bars or getting it's head stuck in them. To limit or prevent this from happening, the bottom inside of the cage (where the bars meet the plastic bottom piece) can be lined with coroplast or plastic (plastic binders cut in sections to size work well) up to about 7 inches of the cage. The coroplast or plastic can be applied by punching holes in it and then zip tying it to the bars to secure it into place.
Exo Terra glass reptile tanks- These classy looking display tanks can be found at most pet shops. A 40 gallon size is acceptable for a hedgehog. *When using an exoterra the bedding will have to be changes slightly more often than the other cage types
substrate is what you cover the floor of the cage with.
Fleece- a piece of fleece cut to the size of the bin can be used, I used fleece exclusively for many years with great success. Fleece can be changed out twice a week for smaller cages and usually once a week for larger cages. Fleece can be washed in a washing machine using scent free detergent. You can also add bleach or a laundry sanitizer, just be sure to double rinse it if you do. Fleece is not suitable for an exoterra type of cage.
Paper bedding- a few inches of paper bedding can be used as a substrate. Just be sure to select unscented paper bedding that isn't dyed any funky colors. White or gray/brown are usually the ones that are not dyed.
Wood shaving bedding- Pine flake bedding can also be used. As can aspen.
Aspen is a bit more expensive but is usually preferred as it tends to be low dust. The pine flake bedding from tractor supply is just as sufficient, but may have some dust in it more than the aspen. Avoid cedar bedding. Cedar smells amazing and is low dust, however it tends to release vapors from it's natural botanical oil that can cause respiratory challenges in small animals.
Food dishes and bowls:
Ceramic food dishes are easily used and cleaned. A traditional ceramic cat food dish from the pet shop is sufficient.
Glass "finger bowls" also work very well.
Water can be placed in a ceramic small animal or cat bowl. Hedgehogs do tend to soil the water with their feces or bedding. Water must be changed out daily.
Water bottles can also be used for hedgehogs. Do not use spring loaded water bottles though. Only use the water bottles that have a stopper but no spring.
Bucket wheels- The kaytee comfort 12 inch wheel is a favorite.
Saucer wheel- a large sized saucer wheel may be used as long as the hedgehog isn't particularly large. If the hedgehog is a heavy runner or topples the saucer over, it should no longer be used as they can harm their feet on it.
Wheels not to use include metal mesh wheels and wheels that do not have solid bottoms. Wheels with side guards should also be avoided.
Many toys are suitable for hedgehogs.
Plush animals made from soft smooth fabric can be used. Many baby stuffed animals work well. Be sure not to use any toys that contain rope, yarn, loose strings, or small parts that a hedgehog could get its snout or limbs stuck in.
Wooden toys should also be avoided.
Salt licks should be avoided.
Plastic balls work well
Rubber duckies are a fun toy, just be sure to cut a decent sized hole in them so they do not trap water during washing.
Most plastic Easter eggs are also a fun toy.
Once you get to know your hedgehog and it's habits better, you'll start to notice many options for toys that are available in the places you least expect. For example, a bucket with the bottom cut out makes for a fun and interesting rolling hide.
Large plastic "igloo" hides work very well.
Snuggle bags can also be used to provide a hide.
A few inches of bedding is often the preferred hide to most hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs can be fed high quality dry cat/dog foods along with insects and cooked or raw pet grade meats. Freeze dried pet diets such as meat mates and stella and chewy's are also liked by most hedgehogs. Offer your hedgehog a varied diet that changes often to prevent pickiness. Mix two varieties of cat kibble together and when it runs out, change one of the varieties in the mix.
When selecting a dry kibble remember that the higher the protein and fat levels, the better.
I like to select one kibble that is 35-40% protein, 15-20% fat and is grain free
and mix it with a kibble that is either lower or equal in protein and fat, but contains grains.
If you can find pea free kibbles, that is wonderful. Nature's logic and Zignature signature bites are both pea free options.
It is true that hedgehogs cannot digest grains very well, however the grains in kibble are processed to such a degree that the digestive process has already partially occurred when the kibble was manufactured. There has been a lot of controversy regarding grain/grain free/ peas and DCM in dogs over the past few years. The FDA had investigated a possible link between heart disease and grain free diets in dogs. The conclusion of the investigation found NO LINK between grain free foods and DCM.
However, it did raise one to wonder whether or not diets heavy in peas ( which grain free diets usually are) could be harmful long term for hedgehogs. Reptiles, for example, have been heavily studied regarding calcium and D levels. We know that a reptile who eats lots of peas isn't going to utilize calcium and vit D very well. The animal is probably going to suffer from metabolic bone disease and kidney issues. Knowing how peas contain nutrients that bind or inhibit absorption of other nutrients is enough for me to choose to feed diets with less peas, even if that means we have to take some grains in. Diets that contain grains usually contain less peas. Diets that contain grains are usually lower in protein and fat. By combining the two we are covering all bases for the animal's diet.
Insects are a very important part of a hedgehog's diet. This is because hedgehogs are insectivores. The African Pygmy Hedgehog has evolved to NOT have a cecum. A cecum is an organ herbivores and omnivores have in their bodies that help effectively process plant fiber.
Because a healthy digestive system needs fiber to bulk and remove waste, hedgehogs have evolved to use insect fiber, called chitin, instead. Chitin is found in the wings, body parts and exoskeletons of insects.
In the wild a hedgehog would eat a diet that's primarily insects and carrion. This type of diet is impractical for most owners to provide effectively. Luckily, the processing of kibble does make the fiber contained within it more easily used by the hedgehog's digestive tract. However, its always a wonderful idea to offer chitin to your hedgehog's diet via whole insects from the pet shop a few times per week if not daily.
Sometimes feeding live (or as I feed, live that's then popped in the freezer for a few weeks before being defrosted and fed) can be tricky. Over the last 4 years there have been multiple feeder insect shortages. The shortages have been caused by various things such as hurricanes, heat waves and higher demand than supply. Also, some owners have a fear of insects that may prohibit their ability to handle or feed live insects. I used to have the mentality of " if you can't handle bugs a hedgehog isn't the right pet for you". Over time and through experience that mentality has certainly changed.
If feeder insects are hard to source, unavailable or if you have a fear of bugs, there is a solution!
You can either;
Make homemade insect powder by grinding freeze dried insects; crickets, mealworms and black soldier fly larvae found in the fish or reptile section of the pet store. Grind the insects to a powder in a blender. Sprinkle the powder on the hedgehog's kibble. You can even make a bunch of powder at once and store it in an airtight container or in the freezer.
Buy premade insect powder available online. Cricket powder and black soldier fly larvae powder are fairly easy to find online.
Offering some insect powder a few times per week is a great way to add chitin to a hedgehog's diet.
Fruits and vegetables:
Hedgehogs shouldn't be fed whole, fresh or cooked fruits and vegetables. They cannot digest them properly due to not having a cecum.
However, fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidants and micro nutrients that a hedgehog does need or could benefit from.
In the wild a hedgehog would eat partially digested plant matter by eating insects and carrion that has feasted on plant matter. We can use this principle to provide our pet hedgehogs with the benefits of plant matter safely. This can be done by "gut loading" insects before they are offered to the hedgehog. Gut loading is done by feeding feeder insects a last meal of high ORAC foods such as blue berries, cherries, water cress and others before then feeding the insect to the hedgehog. Insects can also be "gut loaded" with other beneficial things such as probiotics and digestive enzymes.
Another way to offer the benefits of fruits and vegetables without the digestive difficulty is by offering a hedgehog pangea and repashy reptile foods. They are powders that can be sprinkled on the hedgehog's kibble or have water added to them to constitute a pudding like consistency or even gel. These reptile marketed diets are processed in such a way that they have the same partially digested nature as any fruits/veggies that have been added to kibble during the manufacturing process. Many repashy formulas also contain black soldier fly larvae, a nice source of chitin.
Providing heat is the most important part of being a hogparent. All other care errors can be corrected usually without issue. Heat cannot. A hedgehog in nature will experience temporary states of semi hibernation or brumation called torpor. This means that the animal's body responds and slows down during various climate changes involving cooling temperature.
In captivity, hedgehogs have kind of lost this natural ability to slow their bodies and then speed them back up again safely. Which is why it's so important to prevent them from experiencing temperatures that are too cool.
Hedgehog's are best kept at around 75 degrees. The temperatures can often flux between 70-82 degrees without incident. However when it gets cooler than 70 degrees there may be issues with what we call a "hibernation attempt". During a hibernation attempt a hedgehog will usually ball up and not move much. The hedgehog may also unball and have a cold belly. The hedgehog could even stay unballed and attempt to walk around and eat, however it will be sluggish and wobbly. Each hedgehog will show different symptoms while attempting hibernation, but the behavior will be different from it's usual full functioning.
Heat mats are my new favorite way of providing heat. They're generally safer than heat lamps and last many years. KH small animal heat pads are a safe option. They have a built in thermostat that keeps it from over heating. They also allow the animal to thermoregulate themselves by moving on and off the heat pad in a similar way wild hedgehogs would move between warmer and cooler areas.
The heat pad is activated by weight on top of it. wrapping it in a single layer of fleece will keep it on and available to the hedgehog at all times.
Ceramic heat emitter lamps can also be used. These are available in the reptile section of most pet shops. For the average sized cage a 100watt ceramic heat bulb is sufficient. Place the ceramic heat bulb in a ceramic based heat lamp. These are lamps specially made for the ceramic heat bulb.
Plug the lamp into a THERMOSTAT and set it to 75 degrees.
Place the PROBE that's attached to the thermostat, in the cage away from under the lamp, usually a few inches away.
plug the thermostat's plug into your power outlet.
place the lamp onto the top of the cage.
If using an exoterra, just place in on the screen top of the cage.
If using a bar cage it can typically be placed atop the bar roof.
If using a bin you will need a metal screen cover to rest the lamp upon. Home improvement stores sell aluminum screen that works well.
Hedgehogs aren't big on grooming themselves. They don't self groom in the way that a guinea pig or hamster does. Instead, hoggos mostly "groom" by scratching themselves with their back feet. Hedgehogs will groom "their private parts" though. In the wild hedgehogs have been observed taking sand baths. They roll their bodies around in sand (not dust) to remove any debris and parasites. Many captive hedgehogs have seemingly lost this instinct and will not bathe in sand. If you want to try a sand bath with your hogg, by all means you can certainly choose to. Grooming dust that is typically made for chinchillas is not a good option though. Play sand is a much better choice. Even courser sand sold as fish tank substrate can be used. I've tried sand bathing with a natural fish tank sand made for cichlid fish species. Sand bathing is not necessary in captive hedgehogs as there are other ways that we can use to clean out hoggos that pose less risk. However, if you want to offer a sand bath to try it out or to offer as recreation, you may certainly choose to.
There are some ways we can groom out hedgehogs to keep them clean and safe.
Foot baths are important as they help prevent buildup of feces or debris on the feet. Hedgehogs tend to run in and stomp in everything, resulting in icky feet. An inch or so of warm water in a sink or tote is a great way to bath the feet. As the hoggo walks around in the water, debris usually softens and falls off. Placing a towel in the sink creates a surface that helps clean the feet off even better. Any remaining debris can be removed with your fingers.
Full baths should only be given when necessary. I bathe my animals once every month or two.
I do not recommend using shampoo or soaps on a hedgehog's skin. Instead use a natural based low oil conditioner. The conditioner is added to bath water and mixed in. The bath water is then waved over the animal to make contact with skin and remove debris. Additional debris can be removed using a wash rag or your fingers. I am not big on using tooth brushes to wash hedgehogs, I have seen many animals become traumatized and even get injured due to tooth brushes.
Nail trimming is also very important. Nails can be trimmed in the sink or bin with a bit of water. As the animal walks about, gently grab each foot and snip the tips of the nails off.
Screen can also be used to trim nails but is a two person job. Place the hoggo on a piece of folded screen or in a wire fry basket, as the nail tips poke through the scree, snip them off. Only trim the white parts and very tips of the nails.
Nail care for fussy hedgehogs: Does your hedgehog turn into a little ball of hate when it comes to nail trims? Trick your naughty hoggo into filing his own nails! Put a big 12x12 or 18x18 piece of porcelain tile in his cage! Put the tile upside down though! As your tricky-to-trimster walks on the tile, he'll be helping to file his own nails! Some hedgehogs try to chew the tile. If your hoggo does, try soft sandpaper instead! I leave the tile in for 5-7 days at a time. 1 time every month, depending on nail growth rate. Pictured is the one animal i cant get a nail trim done on.
Teeth are not a large part, if any, of hedgehog grooming. Providing a quality diet and partially grinding kibble are the best things an owner can do for their animal's oral health. Teeth brushing and oral cleanings are NOT recommended UNLESS recommended by AND done by a veterinarian ONLY. Well intended owners have accidently harmed their animals or caused serious issue/injury while trying to complete at home oral cleaning on their animals. Hedgehogs do often suffer from oral issues and most are caused by feeding kibble that is too large and from feeding heavy kibble/ kibble exclusive diets. Offering raw foods and whole prey actually helps clean teeth, especially when the animal chews against cartilage and bone.
It is important to examine (eyes only) the inside of your hoggo's mouth. You can gently open their mouth with a popsicle stick and glance inside the mouth. Any signs of deep bright redness, apparent swelling, masses, puss or injured teeth, is cause for a vet visit.
Hedgehog's are commonly referred to as "bonding animals". This means that they tend to get used to one person and feel safest around that one person. To be bonded to a person means that the hedgehog has grown to tolerate that person and their movement, voice and actions within the environment.
This is usually because that one person has imprinted on the hedgehog by spending time with it and becoming a part of the hedgehog's routine. The best way to "bond" with a hedgehog is by spending a bunch of time with it from the moment you bring it home. Hold your hedgehog every day, talk softly to your hedgehog and do not put your hedgehog back in it's cage if it balls up on makes popping/clicking noises at you. By holding your hedgehog through it's protests, you will be teaching it that holding it is a normal part of routine and defensive mode is not going to make the human go away. You'll also want to be sure that bonding sessions are comfortable for the animal as well. You want your hedgehog to feel as safe as possible. Using a snuggle sack can help greatly in offering that extra pinch of security for especially nervous animals. However, do hold your hoggo without barriers (snuggle sacks gloves etc.) as much as possible.
It is important to hold your hedgehog the day you bring it home. When you first get your hedgehog, hold it often.
Hold your hedgehog belly side down until trust is established and the animal becomes more familiar and safe feeling with you.
I like to tell all new hoglet owners to "Harass your new hoggo with your love". Spend lots of time with and around your hedgehog so that you become an expected and safe part of their environment.
Most baby hedgehogs do sort of a "reset" when they leave to go into their new homes. Hoglets who have been greatly socialized and have done well with handling at the breeder's house will often times become pretty shy in their new homes initially. This is because everything that has been imprinted in their brains has now changed. The scents, sounds and scenes that have literally helped to develop their brain and functioning processes have suddenly changed. This can result in the animal exhibiting the only behavior it knows how to in uncertain situations: defensive.
The good news is that young hoglets still have plenty of time to adapt to new environments. A hedgehog's brain develops until about 8 months old, so young hoglets can still be imprinted on by their new owners. Sometimes using something from the hedgehog's old environment can help it adjust.
I like to send hoglets home with something from it's old environment; some bedding, a blankie, piece of fleece or toy. Even a paper towel that's been hanging out in the hoglet's cage a while can help the animal adjust to a new home a little easier. This is because hedgehogs are deeply scent driven.
There's an old method in which new owners would send the breeder a piece of their clothing for the hoglet to sleep with before it came home. The thought is that the hoglet will become used to the new owner's scent before going to it's new owner. I don't do this. You'd have to remove the hoglet from it's siblings in order to provide the clothing item which already sets back the animal's socialization, worn clothing also exposes the young animal to pathogens it has no immunity to yet, and the "scent of the owner" on the clothing wanes away so quickly that it does nothing for the animal's adjustment at all. The hedgehog will never piece together that it's supposed to be happy and safe feeling around this t.shirt or blankie the owner has provided.
Bringing an item WITH the animal is the best way to help an animal adjust. The animal Knows it's own scent, so it's scent is the one that should be provided in the new home. This is why I send hoglets home with something from their old environment.
Once the hoglet is in it's new home, that is the time when an owner may want to place a used shirt or blankie in the animal's cage. You can change the item out every day for a few days in a row to help imprint the scent of a new environment onto the hoglet's developing brain.
The story of a common hoggo diet myth:
As pets we typically offer our little prickle babies a diet of high quality cat food. It is thought that cat good best mimics their natural diet in comparison to commercially available hedgehog diet.
I was once fully opposed to a readily available diet called "Mazuri insectivore diet" as well as commercially available hedgehog food. However after meeting with a professional zoologist, my views on the mazuri insectivore diet have slightly changed.
It was once common knowledge (or more like a common rumor ) that the ground aspen in the insectivore diet is nothing but a filler. Lots of folks were spreading this rumor, but none of them called the manufacturer to ask what the science backing up the addition of aspen was. So I called. I wanted to know why the premier diet used in zoos and conservation programs was being discouraged online.
After talking to a professional zoologist who holds no stakes in the companies who produce or the sales of these foods, I was enlightened to discover that the aspen is actually an important ingredient.
In the wild hedgehogs eat lots of insects. Their digestive systems have evolved to digest and require large amounts of chitin ( insect fiber). Aspen tricks the hedgehogs digestive system into thinking it's just eaten a bunch of chitin. It's the closest commercially available food that helps the hoggo's digestive system fiction the way it's evolved to.
Now I'm not exactly fond of feeding my hedgehogs aspen over insects. I will always recommend offering insects first. But at least We now know the rumors floating all over the internet just aren't true. Insectivore diet isn't the filler-filled-evil it's made out to be. We also now know that insectivore diet may be a beneficial part of our hedgehog's diet, especially for owners who do not have access to the large amount of insects a hedgehog would need to fulfill it's high chitin need.
If we were to attempt to feed our hedgehogs the amount of insects they actually consume in the wild, we may need dozens of insects PER DAY. Plus we would need a variety of insects to keep nutritional balance. It's seemingly impossible. I breed my own colonies of insects and I still cannot produce the sheer amount of insects my hedgehogs need.
It is always best to offer your hoggo a varied diet. Lots of insects in a variety of available species and whole prey items in addition to a nutritionally complete staple. Mazuri Insectivore diet. It is a scientifically backed up formula that makes a decent replacement of the naturally high chitin food hedgehogs need. I have begun offering it to my own animals and have noticed more predictable and healthy looking bowel movements. I feed Mazuri Insectivore diet in addition to quality cat foods. Cat foods are higher in protein and other nutrition that the Mazuri is not, I can also source Cat kibbles with more pure ingredients, hence why I choose not to feed insectivore diet exclusively.
The kibble size of Mazuri insectivore diet is AMAZING! It's super tiny and perfect for little hedgehog mouths. Some hedgehogs do not like the taste very much though. It is possible to feed insectivore diet with ground kibble coated onto it to enhance it's flavor.
Insectivore diet isn't horrible for hedgehogs, I firmly believe we will begin seeing a shift in how we care for our hedgehogs due to research that is in progress by a few dedicated individuals across the country.
Variety is the key to life. Insectivore diet offered in addition to a good cat food is helpful to hedgehogs as it provides the chitin like fiber their digestive systems need.
The lesson I have thankfully learned from this "hedgehog diet dilemma" is: Just because people are commenting about it online, doesn't mean it's true. Stay open minded my friends!
I think it is important to mention that " just because it's on Facebook" doesn't make it true. I think it's so important that I've decided to write an entire blurb about it and how it can effect hedgehogs.
I'd like to start by saying that I have been working with these animals a very long time, I have a few vets I work with as well as a professional zoologist as a very helpful associate. These are the individuals I consult if I have any questions regarding hedgehog care or feeding. Zoos are very good resources to learn from as they often have access to how these species are kept not only in their establishments, but how they're kept in establishments all over the world! Veterinarians are also a wealth of knowledge. These are the folks who have formal medical training and can diagnose and treat an illness. A vet is a priceless member of the hedgehog care team!
As a breeder I have experienced many trials and errors in my evolution of keeping hoggos. When I first started caring for exotic animals there was no Facebook and there were no Facebook groups to join and discuss animals with. now a days it seems as if Facebook group membership is an accessory to pet ownership. I realized this and it concerned me due to the amount of strange advice I'd seen given online. Due to this I started a Facebook group of my own that my adopters and the public are free to join. This group is a little different in that medical treatment advice is not given, that's a Vet's job not the online community's. Medical advice seen online can actually be dangerous when applied to real life situations.
One example of this potential danger was observed when an owner of a hedgehog called me in hysterics. She had seen online that feeding bee pollen to your hedgehog is the new super healthy thing being recommended in an online group. She bought the bee pollen from the health food store and gave it to her hedgehog. The hoggo ate the bee pollen readily and seemed to really enjoy it. A few minutes later the hedgehog began to get swollen on it face and forearms. The owner rushed the hedgehog to the vet. Unfortunately the veterinarian was not able to save the little hedgehog and he suffered respiratory failure despite the medical team's best efforts.
Another owner contacted me as she had a pet shop obtained hedgehog that she had thought to have a urinary tract infection upon purchase. She told me she had been treating the UTI with cranberry tablets as suggested to her by an online group for a little over 14 days. Her hedgehog ultimately developed a kidney infection due to lack of proper treatment. I am unsure if this particular hedgehog made a full recovery or not as the owner did not provide any additional updates.
A final owner had been treating, at home via internet advice, scabbing on his hedgehog. The scabs were of unknown origin and would seemingly heal with hibiclease baths and neosprin applications. The scabs and red bumps would reappear a few days to a week later. Eventually the bumps got worse and the surrounding skin was looking scaly. The owner decided to take his hog to the vet. This hedgehog had a Staph infection . The infection was effectively treated with a round of antibiotics and did not reoccur. Poor online medical advice could have very well been the death of this animal.
Facebook groups can be great, but they can also be harmful. as I have experienced in my working with the above owners. I receive lots of calls from owners who did not get their animal from me, but are facing medical issues and want me to provide a diagnosis or treatment advice. I tell them the same thing I tell my adopters, I will be here to listen and support you through your hedgehog's treatment, but I will not give medical advice as I am not a vet.
Now back to how it relates to hedgehog food....
I see a lot of sketchy or dangerous advice given online and new owners adopt that advice into their care routines.
A perfect example of this is the advice of feeding your hedgehog a diet of cat food. There is no formal study done on the African Pygmy Hedgehog being fed cat food. It is important to remember that the European and African hedgehogs are different species with different needs. I have seen folks reference studies conducted on European hedgehogs when making care or feeding recommendations. Although these studies *might* be a helpful start, they are in no way to be taken as direct advice towards the African hedgehog's care.
From talking to other breeders who have been around a lot longer than I, Imagine the cat food conversion went something like this: One day a breeder decided cat food was best, spread that information, and everyone readily accepted it. No formal study. nothing, Just the word of some breeder who was looking for a cost effective readily available substitute to the once recommended hedgehog pellets.
As a result we tend to forget that hedgehogs need insects. In the wild they eat mostly insects. Cat food is made to fit the digestive need of an obligate carnivore. Hedgehogs are mostly insectivorous animals that occasionally scavenge and catch whole prey such as rodents, lizards and snakes.
A hedgehog who lives on cat food alone probably will not be as vivacious as a hedgehog fed a varied diet.
I prefer my animals to thrive over just survive. Though a hoggo may survive on just cat food, they probably won't thrive.
I suggest my owners offer a variety to their hedgehog's diet. That variety does include cat food, but also includes insects, whole prey items and insectivore pellets/diet.
Bringing home your hoglet can be very exciting. Through the excitement and joy of being a new hedgie parent, questions can arise. Here I will provide info and answer the most commonly asked questions i get from new hedgehog owners! If you have any additional questions that are not answered here, email email@example.com and i will be happy to answer your inquiry!
Some owners wonder if they should hold and socialize with their new hedgehog right away OR if they should give a few days to allow their hog to adjust to a new environment. This is often a topic of debate among breeders as well.
My advice is this: Hold your new hedgehog often from the moment you bring him/her home.
This is a very common question pondered by new hedgie owners.Here's my advice on feeding your new hogger:
For hoglets I "Free Feed"- hoglets 5 months of age and under get all the food their little hearts desire. I keep their bowls full all the time and when they're near empty, I refill them. I don't exactly measure the food but there is always food present in the food dish. Growing hoglets need additional calories, fat, and nutrition to guide them through the pivotal early stages of development. Providing a 24 hr buffet will ensure they have constant access to the additional nutrition they need.
For adult hogs: I offer my adult hedgehogs approx 1/8th cup of kibble per day. I'm not big on accurately measuring though, and often waste quite a bit of kibble!
To determine exactly how much you should offer your hog, try varrying amounts of food each day for a few days ( starting with the least amount of food of course). when you've reached the amount that leaves only a few kibbles in the dish by the time the next feeding comes around, you've reached to magic kibble amount!
As long as your hedgie isn't thin and can ball up comfortably with out big adorable (but unhealthy) fat rolls preventing him, he's most likely a good weight and can continue being offered the amount of food you've determined as the magic amount!
If you've got a particularly active hedgehog- marathon wheel runner- you'll have to offer more food than f you have a more low key hedgie.
Recently I was asked this question by a concerned hog mother who had chosen to use a loose bedding for a hedgie she's adopted from online, her hedgehog was not adjusting well to the new bedding and had to be changed to fleece bedding. After switching to fleece bedding her hog's symptoms of sneezing and itching disappeared.
If your hog begins sneezing or periodically itching;
First, don't panic! Hedgehogs sneeze and it's just a biological function meant to clear nasal passages. sneezing every now and again is normal. But heavy sneezing, especially with mucus could mean something more than an occasional nasal irritant.
Evaluate the situation and determine if your hedgehog could be having a reaction to his/her new environment.
If your hedgehog is sneezing with discharge from eyes and nose (think mucus) then he/she may have developed a respiratory infection and may require a vet visit.
If your hedgehog is chronologically itching, or begins loosing lots of quills (different from quilling), your hog may have contracted mites. Mites often tag along in bags of loose bedding. If your using a loose bedding, freezing it first will help lessen (but not prevent) the risk of a yucky little mite tagging along and making it's way to your hog.
When in doubt, Consult your vet!
Just like most mammalian species, hedgehogs experience painful developmental stages. It's quite peculiar when you really think about it; puppies, humans and hedgehogs all go through strange development stages that often bring discomfort- teething, growing pains, puberty etc..
Hedgehogs go through the process referred to as "quilling" , when they loose quills and grow in new ones. the process usualy beging at 6 weeks old and lasts for a few weeks. the process will begin again a few months later. the cycle will repeat throughout the first year of life. After 1 year of age, quilling is less occurring. Some hogs will continue to quill only once per year while loosing a few quills here and there in between, while other hogs will quill multiple times per year.
During quilling hedgehogs normally get a little cranky. it's normal. a hoglet that was open and curious may become huffy. Quilling is painful, I don't blame hoglets for becoming a little miserable! If you look closely at the skin and quills of a young hedgehog experiencing it's first set of quill loss, you'll see red irritation and sometimes blood marks from the quills breaking through the skin.
Here are some things you can do to help your hedgehog through this process: keep your hog clean but don't over bathe. You'll want to keep the skin and environment clean to prevent any skin infection, but you'll also want to prevent over washing the skin, as this leads to dryness.
I'm not a big fan of lathering hogs when bathing them, I don't use an actual shampoo. I've found that lathering the skin can wash away protective oils and leave the hog skin very dry. So I use a conditioner instead.
Washing my hogs using conditioner has been pretty successful in limiting over dryness. I bathe by putting the conditioner in the water and then "waving" the conditioner over the hedgehog. If I've got a particularly dirty hog, I will use my hands to help loosen soil. The hog is then very thoroughly rinsed with fresh water.
In addition to a conditioner bath you can apply add a little vitamin e, flax,or olive oil to your hedgehog's food. Fish/salmon oil can even be used, but can result in more stinky poops. It is always better to hydrate the skin from the outside comparable to hydrating it from the outside. I say this because applying oils and moisturizer topically helps "seal in" moisture. Sounds good right? Well, when you seal in moisture you also seal in bacteria and fungus. The held in moisture doesn't allow the skin to breath as it normally would either. This combination can cause a sticky bacterial infection or even a fungal infection.
Fungal infections can be very difficult to treat,. For these reasons I do not use oils or moisturizers on my hoggo's skin and cannot recommend it's frequent use to other.
Remember! Continue handling and bonding with your hedgehog during the quilling process. This is a critical point in development and you'll want o keep the bond growing!
If you want to take your hedgehog outside, it is a good idea to use topical revolution or ivermectin for parasite prevention. Revolution requires a prescription and a licensed veterinarian can coach you in it's use. The ingredients for revolution have changed. Most vets now carry Revolution Plus. The Plus variety may or may not be safe for hedgehogs. If you can only find Revolution Plus, ask your vet about a topical Ivermectin regimen. Ivermectin is an "old school" topical parasite preventative and treatment but has been proven safe when applied to the skin properly in many species. Ivermectin is also sold over the counter in a "pour on" form. The dose of Ivermectin pour on dose is one drop in between the shoulders, once monthly. Even though this is an over-the-counter med, it's use is off label so always consult a veterinarian before use.
Will my Hedgehog need vaccinations or to be neutered/spayed?
Hedgehogs do not need any vaccinations and do not need to be altered, a.k.a. spayed or neutered.
Hedgehogs do not go into heat, spray, or have menstrual periods, so neuter/spay are not generally needed.
In the wild hedgehogs do not have much opportunity to swim. In fact, rain often signals them to move to higher ground to avoid the natural flooding that could result.
I feel that forcing your hedgehog to go swimming is unnecessary and could cause your hoggo physical and psychological stress. We love our hoggos and certainly don't want to cause them harm!
Some might say that swimming is okay because we do bath hoggos, and isn't swimming just a giant bath?
Bathing is a necessary part of hoggo ownership, swimming is not.
. Hedgehogs are not graceful animals and have poor eye sight, a potentially dangerous combination when navigating ramps, this can result in falls. Falls can result in injury. If you decide to use a multi level cage please apply "bumpers" or guards to the ramp and ensure that the ramps are not slick or do not become slippery when wet.
Every hedgehog seems to have a preference in where they get their water from. I have some hedgehogs that will only drink out of a bowl and some that only use bottles.
The best thing to do is to start off giving your hedgie the water source it has been used to at the breeders.
If you get a hoglet from me, i have switched over all my hoggos to water bottles.
Monitor how much water is gone each day from the bottle and bowl. If your hoglets been drinking from the bottle for two weeks consistently, they should be fine using just the bottle.
Be sure to refill the bottle daily during the test period to be sure your hoglet is actually drinking it and it's not dripping or evaporation instead!*
Tip: if using a bowl, check the water or bowl for crumbs- a tell tale sign your hoggo has been drinking from it.
We talk a whole lot about properly heating our hoggo's cage and ensuring they're kept warm enough during New England's chilly winters.
One may wonder, are there any special care tips to be considered during the hot summer months?
In the summer it's important to continue providing your hoggo with a heat source. Keeping your heat source (CHE) plugged into the thermostat will ensure it stays at it's set temperature and doesn't over heat your hoggo.
If you're running an air conditioner in the same room as your hedgie, bump up your heat source's temp a few degrees to be sure it's heating the cage despite the ac.
Never place your hedgehog's cage in front of the a.c. or any drafts produced from it.
If you do not have an a.c. in your home and it's getting super hot, greater than 85 degrees, you'll have to provide your hoggo with some relief.
a ceramic tile placed in the cage will stay a few degrees cooler than the air and offer your hedgie a nice place to get a little relief.
in more extreme temperature increases, a cool water bottle can be place outside of the cage to cool one side. monitor the cage temp and adjust from there.
Placing an oscillating fan in the room is a good way to increase air circulation and cool things off a bit. Do not blow a fan into your hedgehog's cage, that will certainly cause stress.
Hedgehogs display an unusual behavior called 'self anointing' or 'anointing".
The hoggo will explore and sniff it's surrounding per normal but will suddenly stop, lick or sniff extra curiously, then like a contortionist lick it's self (usually on it's back). Hedgehogs will also do this when given a new treat or smell something very interesting (and usually very stinky).
It is a very peculiar thing to witness at first and may sometimes concern an owner.
Rest assured this behavior is normal.
Science has yet to prove why hoggos anoint. but there a re a few theories floating around;
1.) The hedgehog likes the scent of it's environment (or an object in it) and wants to take along the scent as a "keep sake".
2.) The hedgehog self anoints with the scent of objects within it's environment in order to smell like it's environment and stay hidden from predators.
When your hoggo anoints it will produce a frothy foam from it's mouth. this is normal. it's a foamed up wad of saliva that holds the scent and allows the hog to apply the scent it it's self. Hedgehogs will often bite and sometimes refuse to let go of items they are anointing with/interested in.
Hedgehogs will physically explore the world using their mouths, they do not have hands nor the ability to pick items up and explore them using their paws.
Young hedgies grab their owners often. They're exploring you. A scared hedgehog will often ball up so rest assured that nibbling is not an aggressive behavior.
Think of the way a human baby will grab and chew it's mothers fingers, exploratory nibbling is the hoggo equivalent.
Hoglets as young as 10 days old will bite and lick items (and your fingers) and they may continue it throughout their lives!
Hedgehogs have the ability to bite when stressed, scared or threatened. When you own a hedgehog you have to be aware of this. Some hoggos are also less tolerable of handling and will bite when they are "done with being held". If you have other animals in (particularly cats, dogs and noisy animals such as birds) your hedgehog may bite. Hedgehogs will also likely be more afraid and likely to bite when around loud children/people/t.v or vibrations such as a vacuum cleaner or stereo system.
HEDGEHOGS LIKE RELATIVELY QUIET ENVIRONMENTS. A hoggo in a busy room is probably a stressed out hoggo.
Now I hate to be a Debbie Downer but I have never had any success in litter box or potty training.
You can certainly attempt to accomplish owning a potty mannered hoggo if you'd like, I've just never seen it done with any success.
If you want to give it a go, provide your hoggo with a corner litter pan and see if he/she uses it.
Hedgehogs do not go through heat cycles nor experience a menstrual cycle...thank goodness.
While there are things that your hoggo can have occasionally as a treat, the most important thing to focus on is a good quality diet. I have seen a few owners that focus so much on treats that base diet is neglected, resulting in a malnourished and/or obese hedgehog.
Provide your hedgehog with a balanced kibble and insects, supplemented with whole prey and even meats! Whole prey and meats are so relished by hedgies that one could even consider them treats!
Treats really aren't necessary and are more of a human behavioral need than an animal's dietary need (sorry to be a party pooper).
If your insistent upon giving your hedgie treats, stick to plain cooked chicken, cooked ground beef and scrambled eggs. There is info regarding this topic further on the progressive hogparenting page.
Nope. Hedgehogs aren't rodents. They do not need to wear down their teeth. In fact you want to preserve the quality of their teeth, just like in humans!
Hedgehogs will not chew on items to dull their teeth and they do not need a salt lick to stay healthy, if provided with a salt lick it most likely won't be used or if used can cause dehydration.
If your hoglet hasn't eaten since coming home with you, don't panic!
There are a few things you'll want to double check and try.
1.) Is your hoggo warm enough? Check the temp throughout the cage and be sure it's at least 75 degrees.
2.) Your hoglet might be stressed and may need a day or two to really feel comfortable.
3.) Your hoglet might not be eating due to the bowl you're using. I use small clear glass dishes for all my hogs. It makes the food source easily identifiable for them. Try a clear glass food dish and see if that helps stimulate eating.
4.) Check your hoglets mouth for any blockages. Sometimes hedgehogs, like all animals, eat something they shouldn't and it could be stuck in their mouth.
5.)You can try mixing in a little wet cat food to make the kibble more enticing. Gradually decrease the amount of wet food added though, as you'll want to transition your hoglet back over to dry food for long term use.
6.) if all else fails see your veterinarian.
It IS possible to keep a pair of females together but they MUST be a mother & daughter OR sisters from the same litter OR around the same age. If keeping two females together, you'll have to provide 2 water/food bowls, 2 wheels and 2 hiding places. If any fights or face competition over resources is noticed, you'll have to remove the females from each other and provide separate cages. I have a few hogparents who have been housing two females together for quite some time with no issues. I also house some of my females together.
You certainly can switch the brand and flavor of your hoggos food!
Start gradually with a 50/50 mix of the new and old food at first. over the course of a few days increase the amount of the new food while decreasing the amount of the old food you are offering. In a few days your hoggo should be switched over to your new food.
* Remember to continue offering a mix of different kibbles, even when switching. This helps prevent picky eating and can help ensure nutritional balance.
Simply put. No.
Hedgehog brains primarily develop within the first few months of life During the first 5-6 months of life is the period in which a hoglet will learn what is acceptable and what is not acceptable within it's environment.
This is why holding your hedgehog when you first get it is so important. You want our hedgie to become used to your handling in order for it's brain to accept that "it's okay for this person to hold me, feed me, and bother me with love". You are literally leaving a lasting imprint on your hoglets brain every time you handle it.
You'll want to create a positive imprint of course because this imprint is the same this we refer to as "the bond"!
Older hedgehogs already wear the imprint in their minds and have developed a tolerance for you in their environment. This is not to say that you should not continue to handle your hoggo though! You absolutely want to maintain the bond through handling, it just doesn't need to happen as often.
Every hedgehog will develop it's own unique "personality".
For the most part hedgehogs are a product of the handling they've received and care they've been given.
However, handling and care are not the only factors that help develop "personality".
Primitive biological hard wiring also plays a role. Hedgehogs are prey animals and often display prey animal behavior such as; running and hiding, balling up, and avoiding open spaces/ noise.
Hedgehogs are not truly domesticated (yet) and are pretty much "watered down versions of their wild counter parts.
Every do often there will be a hedgehog whose biological prey animal instincts show a little more than others. We commonly refer to those animals as being "more on the shy side".
Sometimes animals that are more shy can adapt and alter their "personalities" (behavioral response) If the owner handles them more frequently and for longer periods of time.
If your hoggo is more on the shy side, amp up handling sessions and keep them positive- in a quiet area and offer treats.
We've all seen the adorable pictures and videos of hedgehogs wearing little leashes and harnesses.
Even I'll admit that hoggos look absolutely adorable being treated like little prickle-dogs, but reality is, harnesses and leashes are very dangerous for hedgehogs.
they can cause lasting damage to the neck, spine and legs.
Please never use a leash or harness on your hedgehog. instead you can get a nice snuggle pouch to carry your hedgehog in that will be both fashionable and comfy for your hoggo!
Hedgehogs need warm temperatures to survive. It is best to keep low humidity as well. High humidity in your hoggo cage can cause fungal infection and respiratory illness.
Temperature is the most important part of being a successful hedgehog parent (in my opinion),which is why it is mentioned so many times on this website.
** Proper temperature is important ALL the time, but especially important in the fall and winter months!**
Right now in the hedgehogs natural habitat it is (what we call) summer. Here in little Rhode Island USA, we're coming into winter. Be sure to increase your temps in your hoggos cage slightly to help prevent weather related medical issues.
Sometimes the cooler weather can cause hedgehogs to become less active, eat less, and even succumb to hibernation attempts. Hibernation attempts are usually fatal in hedgehogs, so proper temps are important.
It's a good idea to bump your hoggos cage temp a few degrees during the winter months.
In the wild, hedgehogs go into a state of lessened activity when the temps cool. However, in captivity we haven't yet mastered the ability to help our hedgehogs through a state of torpor/semi hibernation.
Naturally their temps would gradually decrease along with light/dark ratios (hrs of day light/ night darkness). The hedgehog would slowly begin to eat less and sleep more while becoming sluggish..the metabolism would slow down as well. A delicate balance of many factors will take place in order to keep the hedgehog alive during this period of scarce food and weather change.
As pet owners/breeders/ hedgehog fanatics we haven't had enough conclusive reasearch provided to us to completely understand this complicated process.
So for now, our beloved hoggos remain temperature sensitive.
Now that winter is upon us, please bump up your temps & provide your hoggo with a few extra hours of light per day. You may also find that your hoggo will benefit from a slight boost in fat intake this winter. Offering more feeder insects or a food with a higher fat content can help accomplish this!
It is a VERY good idea to offer your hedgehog an extended lighting period during the cool months.
In the wild, light cycles trigger a hedgehog to start preparing for a cool season hibernation/torpor.
By increasing the amount of time our hedgehogs receive light each day, we can decrease the chances of a hibernation attempt or a preparation for a hibernation attempt- such as decreased food consumption.
You can increase light hours by putting a lamp next to your hedgehogs cage and leaving it on for 10-14 hours per day.
If you have over head lighting, you can simply leave that on for 10-14 hours per day.
I find 12 hours of light to be a good number. Some people do 10- 14 and have equal success.
10 hours of light is probably the easiest to manage for most pet owners. I find that most owners have success with the simple "turn the room's light on when I wake up and then turn it off before bed" method. Most humans are awake 14-16 hours per day.
I average 13 hours of light during the cooler months.
**if your schedule does not permit you to be home to turn lights on and off, you can use a timer. A time is a power outlet that allows you to set a timer on it that will turn a light on and off after a preset amount of time. These timers are available at home depot and petco. ***Be sure NOT to plug your heat lamp or source into the timer outlet! You DO NOT want your heat source on a timer! You want your heat source on all the time!***
When fall begins to creep in you may want to increase your hoggo's fat intake.
This does not require a drastic diet change!
Additional fat in the diet during the tricky cool months can help provide your hoggo with a little extra "buffer" should temps suddenly drop. In the wild hedgehogs will stuff their faces with extra food items in preparation for their yearly semi-hibernation state. Having extra body fat allows the hedgehog to sustain it's self better during this period.
Pet hedgehogs do not hibernate and are encouraged to stay slender with little excess body fat. Therefore if temps suddenly drop and a hibernation state is educed, the hedgehog has very little fat reserves to keep it's metabolic processes functioning. This is most likely why most captive hedgehogs who undergo a hibernation attempt tend to have long term issues such a repeated hibernation attempts, heart issues, and kidney issues. Their little body never fully recovers due to a depletion in organ health. A small fat reserve can help prevent that depletion.
You can increase your hoggo's fat consumption by: offering a wet food with a fat content higher than your regular kibble 3x per week.
You can offer a pre-killed pinkie mouse every week. You can buy these at reptile/exotic animal stores and pet shops such as Pet Co and Pet Smart.
In Rhode Island you can support a local business by purchasing your pinkie mice and feeder insects from Sabrina's Reptile Kingdom, located in Cumberland Rhode Island.
Offer feeder insects, particularly wax worms a few times per week.
the simplest yet stinkiest way to increase fat intake is by adding fish oil to your hoggos kibble 2-3x per week. Fish oil will cause your hedgie to produce stinky bowel movements.
Only a very small amount of oil is needed, if gel caps-1/2 of a capsule can be used and the other half can be used at the next offering.
Most owners like to use a mix of all of the above listed fat intake increasing methods.
Increasing your hoggos fat intake should usually occur mid October-March.
Some owners do not increase their hoggos fat intake at all and do just fine.
My hog room is light, temperature and humidity controlled so additional fat isn't particularly necessary for my animals. However, most pet hog owners may find a slight fat increase very beneficial to their animals.
(This information is not medical advice. This information is not a substitute of veterinary care. Always present all care changes to your licensed DVM)
A hibernation attempt can be super scary. I have seen a few in my time.
If your hedgehog's cage temps are too low (or lighting is not enough), you may witness the events that can lead up to a hibernation attempt such as ; decreased appetite and mild lethargy- your hoggo will seem more sleepy than usual. *hedgehogs are noctural. it is normal for your hog to be sleeping during the day. it is mportant to know your hedgehog's normal habits so monitoring for changes can be less challenging*
If you are noticing increased tiredness and/or lessened appetite try boosting the temps and increasing lighting hours.
A full blown hibernation attempt will present it's self as: A hedgehog that is cool to the touch (especially the belly area), a hedgehog that is staying balled up and cannot unball, if the hedgehog unballs it is usually wobbly and seems disoriented.
What to do if you suspect a hibernation attempt:
Don't panic but act swiftly.
Hold your hedgehog against your skin to raise body temp.
Increase the temp in the room by a decent amount(if room temp is 70 increase to 80).
DO NOT put your hog in hot water- this can lead to shock.
DO NOT apply a blow dryer to your hedgehog. this too can cause a state of shock.
Contact your veterinarian for further advice.
Some hedgehogs survive a hibernation attempt, some do not. Some of those that survive suffer long term organ functioning issues.
The best way to handle a hibernation attempt is to prevent one!
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