Progressive Hog Parenting

What is Progressive Hog Parenting?

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Progressive Hog Parenting is the term I've  named the effort to provide our hedgehogs with better care, while keeping an open mind and having a "natural approach" . This effort is also being called the Hogparent Movement. 

Progressive Hog Parenting puts the animal's biological/physiological needs first. 

The progressive Hog Parent understands that hedgehogs are living creatures that are not yet domesticated. They also understand that knowledge regarding hedgehogs is ever expanding, new discoveries are being made, adapting to new discoveries is important. 

 Progressive Hogparenting involves looking at the whole hedgehog; biologically, behaviorally and diet, in order to provide the best care we can to our much loved hoggos!

*Not a substitute for veterinarian advice or medical care. This page and it's owners hold no responsibility over your pets.

A few open minded breeders are working hard to make progress and we can't do it without you!

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I have been working with a few open minded breeders who also agree that a new standard of care is on the horizon. 

    We cannot make progress without you! Every hogparent is a valued and important member of the HoggoFamily. Each and Every owner is a unique piece of the puzzle towards better care. 

    

The Hogparent movement is a super easy movement to join! It's totally free and requires only a few small steps! 

 I know it can be intimidating to try new things, so take it slow and easy. Stick to your comfort level. Every small change matters!

   It is suggested that you consult your veterinarian regarding any care or changes in the care you provide for your hedgehog. 

Varied Enrichment

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In a hedgehog's natural environment things are always changing! Differnet plants grown and die at different times. Rocks may be moved by other burrowing animals. Limbs may fall from trees. It's an ever changing natural environment. 

   This semi-inconsistency keeps wild hoggos alert and engaged in their habitat. 

  We can keep our hedgehog's minds sharp too by switching up the enviroment!

    Every few days change things up! Remove some toys and add in new ones. Keep things fresh, keep your hedgehog guessing as to what curious items they'll come across next.

   You can even hide tasty treats through out the enclosure and encourage natural foraging behavior!  

Diet

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Diet plays a huge role in the health of all creatures. We are striving to better understand the natural diet of hedgehogs and how we can offer a better diet in captivity. 

 As a progressive Hogparent you can add more natural variety to your hoggo's diet. 

More fresh meats and insects are a phenomenal start! 

You can even cook most offered meats if desired.

  Selecting new meats for your hedgehog can be super easy! Every time you go to the grocery market, simply pick up a new protein to try out! Before you know it, you'll be a pro in knowing what proteins work for your hedgehog!

   Whole prey items can be purchased at pet shops! 

   You can also buy insects from pet shops OR even raise your own! 


When you offer your hoggo more natural or raw foods, you will see a change in feces color and shape. raw fed animals often have more compact stools. These stools contain less wasted nutrients and less fiber when compared to processed foo fed animals. When whole prey is fed or raw foods containing bone, stools may appear white due to  calcium and other minerals within the bone. 

When hoggos are fed organs, cooked or raw, stools may appear darker and even stick due to the increase in certain nutrients within the proteins.  

animals fed a diet high in cooked meats often have had few changes in feces appearance. 

**never cook whole prey items or meats containing bone. Bones become hard when heated and can cause injury if eaten. 

Understanding behavior

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Hedgehogs can be great pets! And as owners we love to learn new things about our beloved babies!

    When a hogparent has a better understanding of their hedgehog's natural behavior, it'll lead to better care! 

 Check out the page on this website called " hedgehog behavior".


key points (more info on behavior page): Hedgehogs are prey animals with prey animal behaviors.


Hedgehogs are nocturnal, and will sleep during the day and have increased activity at night.

Enviroment

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Providing your hedgehog with an environment with light cycles and temperature similar to it's natural environment can be beneficial. Higher temps and longer hours of light can also prevent pesky and dangerous hibernation attempts. 

 By providing your hoggo with temps and lighting similar to the beginning of the dry season of their natural habitat, you'll be offering an environment that will stimulate them to eat plenty and be active.

These temps are usually around 80 degrees with daylight hours or 12-15 hours per day. 

  Setting a light on a timer is a great way to ensure light hours if you are not home to manually turn the light on and off. 


Open Minded Articles for the Progressive Hogparent

 

If you study nutrition or have tried various diets for your hedgehog, I would LOVE to hear from you! If you've written an article regarding hedgehogs, I'd love to read it and maybe post it here! Email all inquiries to thealternativehedgehog@gmail.com





Hoggos are what they eat.

    What you put in often times is what you get out.  Complete nutrition in can mean a better immune system and over all well being. 

   This is also true when feeding whole prey items (aka feeders). 

Sure you can buy whole prey such as frozen mice, rats and chicks from the pet shop, but do you know what's "in" those feeders? 

   Most chain stores source their feeders from mega suppliers. These suppliers house thousands of animals in their facility. Thousands of animals usually means a cheap base diet is all that's offered. 

    The breeding animals may not be treated as well as we hope. The lack of regulations surrounding rodent breeders for non laboratory use often results in a congested housing environment. Over crowding causes tremendous stress in rodents. Often times they'll fight, kill each other and consume the deceased bodies. 

Stressed animals release hormones that can pass on to what eats them. Studies have shown that both stressed rats and mice release cortisol after/ while experiencing stress. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336318/#sec001title

  That cortisol, a stress hormone could be passed onto your hedgehog when your hedgehog eats that once chronically stressed feeder. 

  Cortisol is a hormone released by the body during stress. Over production of cortisol has been studied quite a bit in humans. Unfortunately, the verdict is that it's not good to have too much cortisol released over a prolonged period of time ( chronic stress). 

   In humans chronic stress can cause learning difficulty, memory loss, weight changes, behavioral abnormalities, and heart disease among other unpleasant things. 

    Why risk feeding previously stressed feeders to your hoggos? There aren't any studies that I've found exclusively on this topic but I certainly won't take the risk that feeding them may pose. I was able to find some studies conducted on humans consuming hormone laden meat products, those verdicts were also unpleasant. 

    What can we do to ensure the feeder animals we are offering are of good quality And provide the best nutrition for our hedgehogs? 

          Know the source of your feeders! 

 A good feeder breeder will be no different than an ethical hedgehog breeder ( except for a few slight differences due to species need/behavior and legalities of breeding, but you get my point :) )

   An ethical feeder breeder WANTS their animals to be happy. Even though the animals being produced are essentially food items, the breeding animals health and happiness are still a priority. Happy healthy breeders produce happy healthy young.

 The animals will be kept clean and NOT over crowded. They'll be offered recreation and human socialization. The diet will be varied. I like High orac value foods offered regularly in the diet as well as various fresh proteins, grains, and vegetables ( species dependent). 

   The feeders should be humanely euthanized in the least stressful manor. 

    When you source better cared for feeders, you will notice a direct impact on your hedgehogs health and vitality when using those feeders. 

   I used to purchase frozen feeders online from mega producers. It was convenient. Due to cost of shipping, I decided to breed my own feeders. 

  We had colonies of rats and mice. The breeders were treated like pets and offered high orac foods, balanced varied nutrition, a clean environment and recreation. They were happy. They were healthy. 

   Over time I began noticing less issues with my (over 100) snakes. We experienced less refusals to eat, better sheds, and minimal illness. I also noticed such differences in my tegus although their diets were more varied to begin with. 

   I source my feeder rodents for the hedgehogs from ethical feeder breeders. I have noticed the hoggos are benefiting. 

     The same may be applied when feeding whole meats, although the information I found regarding cortisol in poultry was rather scattered. If I locate more information I will update those post. Feeding ethically sourced meats is a wonderful step we can take as progressive hogparents.

    Hedgehogs have a rather short life span, therefore the effects of poor diet are exhibited more quickly than they would be in a dog, cat or human. If you make the switch to ethically sourced feeders and meats, you're more likely to see improvement in a shorter amount of time. 

     You are what you eat.

         So is your hoggo.

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Hedgehogs are prey animals, points to remember when working with prey animals

    Hedgehogs could be considered predator AND prey animals. Yes, they are preyed upon by higher level predators and yes the do prey upon lower level prey animals. However we consider hedgehogs prey animals here due to their behavioral displays most closely relating to the prey animal categorization. Hedgehogs have very obviously adapted as a prey animal, their physical structure and behavior clearly shows this.

    The Hedgehogs that we love so much are what are referred to as prey animals. 
           " The term prey refers to an animal that is sought, captured, and eaten by a predator. A predator is an animal that hunts and kills other animals for food in an act called predation. Smaller predators, such as mice and lizards can be, and often are, prey for larger predators."- digital-desert.com


   As prey animals, hedgehogs have a biological hard wiring to be cautious. It's actually quite against the African Pygmy hedgehog's instincts to be open and outgoing with us. In the natural world hedgehogs would view us as predators and either try to flee from us , huff to intimidate and scare us away or stay balled up as protection from us. This behavior will prove a lifesaver to a wild hedgehog probably dozens of times within it's life. In captivity we find this behavior undesirable. 
    Through selective breeding within captivity we are essentially diluting their instincts to be fearful of us, but we do have a great  ways to go before hedgehogs are fully domesticated like cats,dogs, or even some livestock.
    Hedgehogs are stuck in the middle right now. They're no longer quite wild, but their not quite domesticated either. I like to say that our pet hedgehogs are "a watered down version of their wild counterpart". 
     As owners and hedgehog lovers it's very important to understand this and not set our expectations too high when becoming a hogparent. It is important to know how to work with a hedgehog to mold it into being as close to the pet we desire as possible. 
    Social media portrays hedgehogs to be spiky little puppies who want nothing more than to snuggle and watch net flicks with us. Yes, there are many  hedgehogs who seemingly enjoy the company of their owners, but there are also hedgehogs that react to our presence more like their prey animal ancestors would. Those reactive animals are the ones I'm mostly referring to here.
    Having a tame hedgehog takes work on the owner's part. Frequent handling And socialization is key.Exposing a young hedgehog to various sights, sounds, and smells will help it develop tolerance. 
   Every handling session will help override your hoggos natural instincts and help your hedgehog develop into tolerating and even seeking your presence. 
   Sometimes, even with the best methods, a hedgehog will still be shy. 
  We see this in the "more domesticated" species as well;
 Some cats are shyer than others, some dogs are fearful, some goats are aggressive. The domestication process doesn't guarantee that every animal will be friendly and outgoing.


     I have seen very friendly animals experience "personality changes" as well. This can happen around the time of sexual maturity in a small handful of animals. Both of these hedgehogs were extremely outgoing until around the point of sexual maturity. At that time they began exhibiting prey animal behavior. One of these hedgehogs dramatically calmed down at about 8 months old and is now handled fairly easily by it's owner (me) although she still has her moments in which she'll ball up or make huffing noises at me in effort to scare me away. 


  I've seen many of hedgehogs live their entire lives as outgoing curious little creatures. Most of the hedgehogs I have worked with have been curious and outgoing with a touch of occasional caution (especially during sudden noises). 
    As owners it's super important for us to acknowledge that hedgehogs are prey animals who are in the process of domestication. They are fascinating pets that we can observe and interact withn in ways that are comfortable for our animals. 
   I have a few hedgehogs that are more reserved than the rest of my herd. I still hold these animals regularly. 
    With these reserved hedgehogs I try to look at their husbandry and care differently. I call them my "teaching hogs". They're the animals that teach me the most about hedgehog behavior and I find they are the ones who act most similarly to their wild cousins. I thoroughly enjoy working with these special hogs. I provide them with more natural Enrichment as opposed to my more sociable hoggos that I can interact with more and provide more "cutesy" enrichment to. 

      Summary: 
* There are all types of hedgehogs with all types of personalities.
*Handling your hedgehog often is important. Some hoggos still retain some prey animal behavior despite frequent handling. 
*Some hedgehogs, particularly females, may experience behavioral changes upon full sexual maturity.
*Some hedgehogs are Curious and outgoing their entire lives 
* When working with hedgehogs we are working with prey animals.

Working With Nocturnal Animals 


     Sometimes as hogparents we can forget that just because we're diurnal (active during that  day) doesn't mean our hoggos are. We want to socialize and spend time with our hedgehogs during the day when all they want to do is rest    Hedgehogs are nocturnal by design, meaning their peak activity if going to occur when the sun isn't shining.     

     The hoggos night life behavior can sometimes pose as a challenge to owners. There's good news though! Understanding the difference between a nocturnal and diurnal animal can help us better understand and care for the animals we love so much!    

        In the wild nocturnal animals have the survival advantage of less large predators being active at night. Most hedgehog prey items are also nocturnal or less active at night, making the chances of a hedgehog finding sufficient food items more favorable.    

         Nocturnal animals typically have less keen daylight dependent senses while their night time senses are more evolved.    When handling a hedgehog during its hardwired sleeping hours it is important to understand that  they'll be a little defensive upon sudden awakening. This is why when you disrupt a hedgehog's slumber it's first reaction may be to ball up of huff in defense.   It's a good idea for hogparents to take waking their hedgehogs a slow. 

      Gently make your presence known using a soft voice and slow movements. Give time for the hog to wake up and realise exactly what is taking place, and what is taking place is not a threat. This will help reduce your hedgehogs initial startle and acclimate him/her to being handled at this time.   

       The Hedgehogs nocturnal nature if often why hedgehogs do not thrive in a very day-time- busy house hold. Imagine being awoken by unexpected loud noises, vibrations ( from household movement) or scents constantly why you're trying to rest. It wouldn't be far fetched to say you'd be a bit of a crab apple. ( I used to experience this a lot when im worked the overnight shift. It's not fun trust me.) 

        Hedgehogs, being prey animals, are very cautious of sudden disruptions anyway. Their survival depends on it. They will often jump into flight or fight mode before comprehending what is happening around them. By giving your  hedgehog time to rest along with an acclimation period before handling will increase your chances of success.    

       This is not to say a hedgehog cannot get used to the  typical noise of a home. They should however be housed in more quiet and less disrupted areas for their well-being. It really all depends on the traffic within your  home and is a case in which you'll have to use your judgement to determine where to keep your hedgehog's enclosure. 

Outline of a more natural diet

 

Hello Progressive Hogparents! 

  Here I'd like to Talk about the more natural approach to hedgehog care, a fundamental element of the Hogparent movement! 

  Here I'll rattle on about feeding your hoggo! 

What is a more "natural" diet anyway? A more natural diet means offering your hedgehog foods that are more natural in composition a.k.a. not processed. 

   Hedgehogs are insectivorous in nature but are also opportunist carnivores. This means that in the wild hedgehogs will primarily eat insects but will also eat whole prey items and carrion as the opportunity arises. 

    We already know that hedgehogs have evolved to utilize chitin as fiber in place of plant matter. Chitin is found in the exoskeletons of the insects they eat. 

   Most of us are used to hearing "feed your hedgehog cat food", which seems like a super convenient and cutting edge idea. However we must ask ourselves "where's the chitin that our hoggos need?" Well, it's not in the cat food.

    One could say that offering your hedgehog a few insects every day would make up for the lack of chitin in the cat food. It's a good thought, but a few insects a day simply cannot compare to the amount and variety of chitin sources they'd consume in the wild. 

   What can we do to make sure out beloved Hedgies are getting enough chitin? This can be as simple or as complex as you'd like it to be. Simply put, you can offer your hedgehog a multitude of insects each day. You can even breed your own insects to ensure the bugs your hoggo is eating are healthy while saving some cash on a weekly bug haul. 

    A more complex approach would be utilising several methods and providing them all to your pet. In addition to feeding a variety of captive raised insects. You can GUT LOAD the insects you raise to increase their nutritinal value. Gut loading isn't very hard and doesn't require much effort. Offer your live insects a plethora of healthful foods that are high orac value. 

  "The ORAC unit (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), ORAC value, or ORAC score is a method developed by scientists at the National Institute of Health and Aging (NIH) to measures the antioxidant capacity of different foods."

                - natural balance foods website. 

     There are many resources online that list the orac value of various foods. You can use those resources to determine which foods to feed your insects when raising and gut loading them. When selecting foods based on orac value be sure to focus on fruits and vegetables. Avoid garlic, onions, grapes, acai berries, goji berries, and citrus. You can feed your bugs citrus while raising them but avoid citrus within 3 days of feeding them to your hedgehogs. 

   A great place to obtain a variety of insects including; supers, meal worms, earth worms, silk worms and others is dbdpet.com

    In addition to feeding your own gut loaded insects, you can add chitin directly to the cat food you offer. Obtain some dried meal worms, black soldier fly larva, crickets, and locusts. Grind them into a powder using a good processor. Then mix this insect powder with the cat food. 

    Variety in the insects you offer is important. Each species of bug offers a different nutritional value that together help meet the nutritional needs of the animals that eat them. If you have trouble locating a large variety of dried insects to powder and add to your kibble, start slow. A small start is better than no start at all! Luckily, with the sustainable protein movement, insects and insect powders fit for human consumption are becoming more available. You can find cricket and locust powder online and have it shipped to your home in as little as 2 days! When ordering insect powders online be sure the ingredients are 100% of the insect. Avoid insect flours, these contain wheat flour or almond flour in addition to the insect powder. 

    Dried black soldier fly larva and dried meal worms are readily available. Be sure they're usa sourced or sourced as a FDA or GMP certified facility. Sixth certifications ensure that the insects are farmed and handled correctly. Some certified facilities offer insect products that are wild collected /harvested, avoid those products as they could contain contaminants. 

   It is also important to provide your animals with a variety of whole prey. Whole prey items are an animals whole body used to feed another animal. Whole prey items include rats, mice, and chicks. 

   You can either raise your own whole prey, especially mice and rats, or buy them from a supplier. Squeals on wheels is one company that sells frozen whole prey items, but there are probably hundreds of other places that sell them online. 

     I'm not going to talk much about raising your own whole prey items here. That is a subject for another time. I'll give one tip here though : the same principle of high orac foods apply when raising your own whole prey as well. 

   Many owners I have met feed their hoggos whole prey items 1-3 days per week with great success. Please consider whole prey size when offering it. I wouldn't recommend giving a hedgehog a jumbo rat.

    Now that you're basically an expert on bugs and whole prey, let's get to what I find to be the most fun part of offering a natural diet. Offering various proteins! 

    When feeding various proteins the sky is the limit. The possibilities are nearly endless and there's always a thrill of locating new proteins to try! 

     Here a "protein" refers to various animal parts that can be offered to your hoggo as part of its diet. Some can be fed raw and some can be cooked. In this article a * will indicate it must be cooked. A ° indicates it should be fed raw/uncooked. And a ÷ indicates that it can be either raw or cooked. Examples

    Chicken from the super market *

    Chicken from a raw pet supplier°

    Steak from the super market ÷

     Protein types include flesh and organs. I know a lot of raw feeding sources call meats organ, muscle and flesh, however that may get too confusing for thosec starting out. So we will just stick to flesh and organs. 

   Flesh would be the flesh of an animal; chicken breast*, turkey breast*or a cut of steak÷.

   Organs include chicken liver÷, chicken heart÷, turkey heart÷, lamb lung÷, beef liver÷, and tripe÷ among many others. 

    The key is variety. Most who feed a more natural diet offer flesh 3 days a week and organs about 2 days per week. 

   If you are not confident in deciding which foods to cook and which to feed raw, DO NOT take any risks! You can cook everything that doesn't contain bones. This includes organs. All organs can be cooked! Chicken thighs and Turkey legs from the grocery market DO contain bones but these can be cooked. You just do not feed the bone. Instead you pick off the meat and feed only the meat. 

   It's often recommended that you cook any meat or organ obtained from the grocery store that is meant for human consumption. This is because these meats sometimes come into contact with various bacteria and microorganisms during handling and while on display at the store. Use your discretion. You're the only one responsible for your animal's care and diet. Always consult your veterinarian! 

   I know some people who cook every item from the grocery store. This may be a good idea. It's not the only option as mentioned above, but it may be the safest. I also know people who feed items from the grocery store Raw. This is a choice you'll have to make for yourself and your animal. 

     A great way to obtain raw meats that can be fed raw is to buy raw meats marketed for the pet trade. Omaspride.com is a great resource for raw meats and meat blends. These raw foods arrive at your home packaged in ice packs. They must remain frozen and thawed only just before feeding.  There are other raw pet food suppliers available, some pet shop locations offer them as well. Luckily raw diets are becoming very popular so the resources are continuing to grow! 

    Another option for feeding various proteins includes offering freeze dried meats. Freeze dried meats are NOT like dehydrated/smoke/jerked meats ( Never feed "jerky"). Freeze dried meats have a crumble like consistency and can be reconstituted using water. There are quite a few good freeze dried meat and complete diet resources including chewy and stella's and oma's pride as referenced above. 

   Freeze dried or fresh raw "diets" ( not organ Mixes or single flesh items) can be fed a few times a week. Some owners offer them twice a week, Some offer 4 times per week. Use your best judgement and consult your vet.


When offering raw or cooked foods be sure to practice safe food handling  and preparation. ALWAYS remove used bowls and dishes from your pet's cage after consumption.

  For more info on safe food handling and prep, check the usda's safe food handling info!  Click here!


   This website, it's creator and owner are not responsible for any damages or negative results of following any information contained within this website or it's affiliated social media pages. You are the sole responsible party for providing care for your animal and doing so in a safe manner..

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