All hedgehogs should be examined
by a veterinarian. Please monitor your pet and call us if you have any concerns. Some signs include: eating less or not eating at all, and appearing uncomfortable, hunched, or quieter than normal.
Some of the most important pieces of making sure your hedgehog is well taken care of include:
Hedgehog Care Instructions
- Hedgehogs eat mainly invertebrates. However, the nutritional intake of different invertebrates varies greatly. Pet hedgehogs should eat a staple diet of commercial food made particularly for hedgehogs. Mazuri is a great brand. Food should NOT be provided free choice because hedgehogs can easily become very overweight. Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions for quantity of food to be offered daily and monitor your pet’s weight regularly using a gram scale.
- Hedgehogs can also be given a daily maximum of half a teaspoon of fruit such as banana, grape, apple, pear, or berries. Insects such as mealworms, dubia roaches, earthworms, waxworms, or crickets can be provided daily as treats in moderation.
- All invertebrates must be first given a nutritious diet. Repashy Bug Burger is a good option. Some invertebrates, which might not feed on the powder formulas, might need to be offered vegetables and green leaves instead.
- Foods can be hidden in the bedding to promote entertainment, exercise, and natural foraging behaviors. Hedgehogs should be fed around dusk, and uneaten food should be removed in the morning to prevent consumption of spoiled food.
- Foods that should be avoided include any raw meat or eggs, milk, nuts, seeds, large and hard human food items.
- Hedgehogs may be wary of new foods. New foods should be introduced slowly. It may be necessary to expose them to new foods for several days (replaced daily) before they will consider eating the food.
- Clean water should always be provided. Both a sipper bottle and a ceramic or glass dish should be provided. The dish should be sufficiently deep and heavy to prevent spillage and tipping. The dish should not be so large that the hedgehog can fall in. Once it is certain that the hedgehog is drinking well from the sipper bottle, the water dish can be removed.
- Hedgehogs are solitary creatures, so they should be housed individually. They are very active and require as large a space as possible. At the very least, their enclosure should have a floor space that measures 2′ × 3′.
- Hedgehogs are great escape artists; therefore, a secure lid must be provided. Plastic bottom cages with plastic or wire walls are recommended. However, the wire must be spaced narrowly enough that the hedgehog cannot entrap its head or limbs.
- Bedding should be soft and absorbent. Wire, cedar, pine, aspen, corncob, or any dusty or scented substrate is not recommended. Paper bedding (e.g. Care Fresh) is a great option. Any cloth left in the enclosure should have a tight enough weave that toenails are not caught. Soiled bedding should be removed every other day, and the entire bedding should be changed weekly.
- Hiding places should be provided. Cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, a flowerpot, a cloth bag, or PVC tubing is suitable. An exercise wheel can be placed in the enclosure to provide entertainment for the hedgehog. However, the wheel should be solid. The traditional rodent wheel can cause severe trauma to hedgehog feet and legs.
- Hedgehogs should be let out of their enclosures daily and supervised. Cardboard tubes and boxes, swimming tubs (hedgehogs are excellent swimmers but should always be supervised), straw, safe climbing structures, and other toys can be provided.
Hedgehogs are sensitive to temperature changes. The ideal range is between 75°F and 85°F. However, they will tolerate temperatures between 72°F and 90°F. Hedgehogs can go into a torpor (hibernation-like state of inactivity) when temperatures are too hot or too cold.
- The spines are a hedgehog’s greatest defense mechanism. When threatened, hedgehogs curl up in a tight ball.
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures. They spend most of their evenings looking for food. In the wild, hedgehogs will travel several miles to hunt for invertebrates. During the day, they will remain hidden in burrows or cavities. It is important to provide hiding areas for your pet hedgehog. Although hedgehogs are nocturnal, they can be encouraged to be active during the day by feedings.
- Hedgehogs practice a behavior known as “anointing.” When a hedgehog comes into contact with a novel scent, it will lick and bite at the source of the scent and create frothy saliva with the new scent. This froth is then spread on the spines. The reason for this behavior is unknown, but it is normal.
- Because of their spiny projections, nocturnal lifestyle, and stoic nature, hedgehog illness may go unnoticed. Hedgehogs should have a general physical exam at least once per year, and ideally twice per year. Any subtle changes in behavior, appetite, drinking, defecation, and urination may signal illness. Monitoring of weight weekly with a gram scale could help detect signs of illness. A sudden change in weight, especially a weight loss of 10% or greater, should prompt an immediate visit to the veterinarian. Cancers are very common in hedgehogs.
- It is not necessary to neuter male hedgehogs unless there is a medical reason. Female hedgehogs are prone to uterine cancer, so spaying is recommended.
- Obesity can be a problem in hedgehogs, so it is important to avoid over feeding your pet.
- As discussed earlier, hedgehogs are capable of entering a hibernation-like state in exceedingly cold or hot temperatures. However, this is a behavior that we do not encourage in pet hedgehogs. It is particularly dangerous in sick and young animals; the hedgehog’s immune system is suppressed during this time, and this behavior may result in more severe illness or even death.