Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A to Z - H is for Hedgehog

I have never owned an adorable little Hedgehog but I definitely want one someday!  I'm no expert (considering I've never owned one), but I've done a LOT of reading on them, so I'll be prepared when I do get one someday.  I'll cover the basics here.

The number one most important thing is do NOT buy one from a pet store.  It's just as bad to buy one from a pet store as it is to buy a dog from a pet store.  They are not cared for like they should, could be ill and the pet stores don't know anything about their history.  One of the biggest causes of death is Wobbly Hedgehog Symdrome which causes the Hedgie to become paralyzed (it's sort of like MS) and there is no way to prevent it, so make sure your new pet comes from a reputable breeder.

Some people are afraid of the Hedgehogs' quills, but don't worry they are not as sharp as porcupine quills.  People I've talked to said it's like petting a hairbrush.  When the Hedgie is frightened they will roll up in a ball and that makes them prickly, so beware when picking them up if they are scared.

Hedgehogs need large, flat cages.  A lot of places suggest rabbit or ferret cages, but I was told something interesting by a Hedgie breeder, you can use tupperware containers.  You know the ones that you slide under beds?  Supposedly they are too slippery for the Hedgie to climb out of, but again I have no personal experience.  They are very easy to clean which is a great bonus.  :)  Hedgehogs will climb wire cages though so wire ones have to have a top.

They need several inches of soft bedding, but NO cedar or pine!

Hedgies also need an exercise wheel because they have a tendency to overeat so they need lots of exercise.

Hedgies can be taught to use a litter box, although they might not be completely consistent and they sometimes like to use them for dust baths instead.  One bonus to having a hedgehog is they have very little odor compared to other rodents like hamsters.  :)  However they do poop a LOT so be prepared to clean cages/litterboxes often.

They need heavy food and water dishes because when they get to zooming around they can knock over lighter ones.

Hedgies also need someplace to hide, like the little castles made for hamsters and guinea pigs.  Hedgies can be very shy so they appreciate having somewhere to hide.

Hedgehogs also like toys!  It doesn't take much to keep them occupied though.  Even a simple cardboard toilet paper roll will keep them entertained.  My hamsters used to love toilet paper rolls, so I can vouch for this one.  :)

Hedgehogs are from a warm environment (African Pygmy Hedgehog is from Africa after all), so they may need a heat lamp.  Their cage needs to be kept around 75F.  If they are not kept warm enough they can go into hibernation and never wake up.  That is not a good thing!  If they are acting lethargic, stop responding to you and stop eating, quickly wrap them in something warm and sit with them in front of a heater until they warm back up.

Also, it's best if their cage is around a window so that they know when night and day is.  They are nocturnal so being able to get sunlight makes sure they stay on a normal routine.

You will have to give your Hedgehog a bath every once in a while to keep mites at bay.  You will need pet shampoo and a toothbrush.  Bathing them in a sink is the easiest.  Be forewarned, they HATE baths at first, but they can be acclimated to them.  Use the toothbrush to rub shampoo into their quills and fur (going with the growth of their quills, not against it), then rinse with warm water.  Check out Youtube for videos of a Hedgie getting a bath.  It's adorable!  Also don't forget to clip their toenails to.  A quick way to clean them up a bit between baths is to let them walk around on a wet, soapy towel.  This cleans off their feet, since they walk through their poop and track it around their cage.  Frequent foot baths help keep their cage clean.

Hedgehogs needs LOTS of handling and socializing or they can get very skittish.  When you first get your hedgehog it's going to act like it hates you and may even hiss at you!  Spending lots of time with him will help him bond with you.  Another neat trick is to put a piece of your clothing (the smellier the better) in his cage because Hedgies depend on their sense of smell more than anything.  Their eyesight isn't all that great.

Don't panic if your Hedgie starts freaking out, licking something and frothing at the mouth.  It's just doing something called anointing, which helps them familiarize with new smells.

Feeding is fun (depending on what your definition of fun is)!  A lot of people feed Hedgie's cat food (get the good quality kind, not the grocery store brands with corn as the first ingredient) or specially made Hedgehog food (but it can be full of preservatives, just like our overly processed food) as a base diet, but what Hedgie's really love (and need!) is fresh fruits, veggies and INSECTS!  They love crickets and meal worms!  They can also have cooked chicken.  Just remember not to overfeed your Hedgie!  They are gluttons and gain weight quickly.

Make sure to find a vet that takes exotic pets BEFORE your Hedgie gets sick or injured.  Not all vets will work on Hedghogs.

Also if you're curious about the colors a Hedgehog can come in and want to see lots of adorable pictures check out this website (LINK).

Well that's all I know about Hedgehogs.  If anyone has personal experience with these cuties and would like to share stories or tips please leave a comment.  I love learning all about them as I wait until the day I can have one of my own.

Who wouldn't want one of these cuties??


  1. Great info! You'll be ready for your hedgie! They are part of the natural wildlife where I live in Switzerland.



  2. They are cute. I haven't faired well with pets, but maybe I'm a hedge hog person.

  3. When my daughter was about 12 we had a hedge hog as a pet and yes sweet and keep an eye on them when out in the grass..they can disappear quickly. Visiting from A-Z

  4. I love small animals, though I don't know if I'm emotionally strong enough to raise pets who only live for a few years. Realistically, I'm probably better-suited to the longer-lived pets, like dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses. It's fun to admire cute animals like hedgehogs, though.

  5. Thanks guys!

    Carrie the lifespan (why didn't I add that to the post?? good reminder!) of the African Pygmy Hedgehog can be as long as ten years, but the average is four to six. That's quite a bit better than hamsters, but yes I understand what you're saying. I cried my eyes out when my hamsters died. My dog dying recently almost killed me. I'm beginning to think I'll stick with horses from now on. It sucks to lose them. :(


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