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Hedgehogs

As small mammal veterinarians we provide primary and emergency care for your pet hedgehog including:

  • Annual exams with nutrition and husbandry consultation
  • Primary care appointments
  • Nail trims
  • Routine dental exams

Below are our general recommendations for basic care of your pet hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are fun, friendly, inquisitive pets.  They prefer to sleep during the day and are active at dusk and in the evenings.  With proper care your hedgehog should live approximately 6 years or more.

Diet

Hedgehogs are insectivores, meaning that their diet is made up mostly of insects.  They also eat some vegetable matter, but their digestive tract does not have a cecum to help them digest plant matter.  A hedgehog’s diet should be mostly high quality, low fat protein.  There is much debate about the type of food hedgehogs should eat.  General recommendations are a high quality (meat based) diet, either one for hedgehogs or for cats.  Dog kibble tends to be large in size and difficult for hedgehogs to chew, check size of kibble to ensure it is small.  Some individuals feed dry kibble and a small amount of high quality wet food.

Insects such as crickets, mealworms, and earthworms are excellent nutrition and are snacks that will delight your hedgehog.  Introduce new foods one at a time, keep things varied, and do not overfeed any treats to avoid digestive upset.  Do not feed seeds, nuts, uncooked hard raw vegetables, raisins or grapes, avocado, raw meats, dried fruit or vegetables (read pet food labels carefully), onion (or onion powder), bread, tomatoes, honey, or junk food (salty or sugary) to your hedgehog.

Provide clean water to your hedgehog in a water bottle.  If you see him chewing on or struggling with a bottle (which could damage his teeth) then switch to a water bowl that is heavy enough that can’t be tipped over.

Housing and environment

Large terrariums or solid bottom guinea pig cages make good housing for hedgehogs.  Because they like to explore the cage should be large in size, 4’ x2’.  A larger size cage also has better ventilation.  C and C cages are a budget friendly option and can be built large enough for your hedgehog to roam.  Only solid bottom cages are suitable for hedgehogs, any wire bottom cages could trap their legs or rip off toenails.  Provide a soft bedding free of dust, such as recycled paper pellets or if you use wood shavings use only kiln dried pine or aspen.  Do not use cedar shavings as they could irritate your hedgehog’s lungs.  Some people provide a very shallow litter box for their hedgehog (locate it in the place of the cage he prefers to soil) fill it with a soft pellet type litter or paper towels.  Do not use clay or clumping cat litter.

For exercise, in addition to a large enough cage, make a wheel available (also solid bottom without spokes to avoid injury) that is large enough for your hedgehog to use, there are some giant size ones made for chinchillas that would make good options for your hedgehog.  Provide a place for your hedgehog to hide such as a sleeping pouch or igloo.   Hedgehogs need environmental temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees.  Keep your hedgehog’s cage away from drafts, direct sunlight, or cold areas.  You may want to provide your hedgehog with a small warm spot in his cage where he can go to get warm but would also be able to get away from if he feels too warm.  Check the reptile section of a pet store for various options available.

Hedgehogs are solitary creatures and need to be housed alone.  Male hedgehogs in particular will fight to death if housed together.  To amuse your hedgehog you can purchase a variety of cat or small dog toys.  Just make sure they don’t have small areas where they can get their feet, nails, or noses caught.

Bathing and nail trimming

Hedgehogs may need help with having their nails trimmed, and aside from that should be able to keep themselves clean.  You do not need to give your hedgie a bath unless he gets really dirty.

Personality

When you first bring your hedgehog home he may show a different, more grouchy personality than he did before you got him home.  His world has just been turned upside down, so give him some time to get used to his new surroundings.  Speak softly and be gentle with him.  Avoid surprising a hedgehog, approach him slowly and quietly.  It is best to pick him up gently with two cupped hands from underneath where his fur is soft.  They sometimes roll into a ball when picked up, but if you hold him and are patient, he will unroll and sniff around.  He will be less irritable as he acclimates to his new home and learns that you are the source of delicious treats.  Handle your hedgehog often so he is tame and used to playing with you.

Hedgehogs are quiet and make ideal pets for owners who are willing to be gentle, patient, and observant.

Health

Most hedgehog health problems are a result of nutrition, digestive, dental issues, or obesity. Regular veterinarian visits are an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy.