Simple Guide: From Acquiring To Caring For Hedgehogs
The image above shows the domesticated hedgehog named African pygmy hedgehogs/ four-toed hedgehog or white-bellied. To qualify in keeping a pet hedgehog, you must be able to provide the temperature needed for its survival. You will see below what you require so as to achieve this. It might seem difficult, but caring for hedgehogs is easy as they do not require much. Important to note, is that it is illegal to keep hedgehogs in some states and countries. Check to see if your state or country allows you to keep a hedgehog. If it is illegal, choose another pet! See a simple guide below on acquiring and caring for your African pygmy hedgehog.
Hedgehogs will live for 4-6 years. Some may push to 9 years. WITH PROPER CARE!!!!
Where do I get a hedgehog?
Where Can I Get A Hedgehog?
- From A Trusted/ Reputable Pet Store.
- Reputable Hedgehog breeders.
- Reliable Adoption Agencies/ Rescues.
It is up to you, but Breeders are recommended. Why?
The minimum recommended age to acquire a young hedgehog is 6-7 weeks old. You can always get an older one if you want.
Can a hedgehog Live Alone Or Does He or She Require A Companion?
Is It Okay to Get One or Do I Need More Than One Hedgehog?
A Hedgehog is Solitary by nature. Keeping two of the same sex will lead to fighting.
If you must have 2 or more have separate cages.
Having a male and a female in one cage will lead to baby hedgehogs and the male will tend to become aggressive.
Hedgehogs are Suitable for What Age?
Not suitable for young children. Maybe from age 12+.
Hedgehogs have a prickly body, but very soft underneath. You can scoop him/her up so that you are holding the under.
They roll into a ball when scared, become pricklier than when stretched out. Hedgehogs will also hiss a lot. They can also bite if you smell like food or if you hold them the wrong way. The bite does not really hurt.
Always wash your hands after handling your hedgehog. Do Not kiss him/ her. Their poop can contain Salmonella.
Try as much as possible not to disturb your hedgehog when asleep. You can play with him or her in the morning or night for about 30 minutes.
Is A Hedgehog Nocturnal?
Yes! Hedgehogs are nocturnal. He or she may keep you up at night running on the wheel. Get a wheel that is not noisy. We have recommended some good ones below.
Large cage with solid bottom is recommended. Minimum dimensions 2 feet by 3 feet, that is 24” x 36”. Bigger is always better.
Most hedgehog owners and experts recommend these cages:
#1. Living World Deluxe Habitat, Large. See setting up this cage:
#2. Oxbow Guinea Pig & Dwarf Rabbit Habitat with Play Yard. See an informative video on this cage:
#4. Midwest critter nation single unit with Stand 36″ L X 24″ W X 39″ H see organization
#5. DIY cages made from wood (poplar or kiln dried pine) and glass or C&C cage grids and coroplast. You will need to be creative. See examples to get some ideas:
If you decide to go for the DIY cages, you will need to know the proper dimensions required.
Some people build creative wooden and glass cages, some just buy the Pet Playpen Bunny Cage Fence – Tespo DIY Small Animal Exercise Pen Crate Kennel Hutch for Guinea Pigs & Rabbits, Upgrade Version and put coroplast.
Other people buy Coroplast (corrugated plastic) and Whitmor 6-Cube Wire Storage Shelves or Grid Wire Modular Shelving and Storage Cubes to make cages. See video.
How to cut coroplast
If you find that cutting coroplast for your grids to be too much work, there are already prepared coroplast and grids cages that are sold for around $70-$90 and all you have to do is set up. Here is a video.
Caring For Hedgehogs (Recommended Hedgehog Bedding and Environment Temperature)
When determining what material to use for bedding various factors are considered:
- Safety to your pet
- Characteristics of your pet (does she/he like to burrow)
- Ease of cleaning (Do you mind regular cleaning? What cleaning works for you?)
- Your financial situation (what can you afford for your pet)
- Hygiene of the cage
Best hedgehog bedding materials:
See a video of how #2 and #3 are used.
#5. Aspen Bedding – read more on aspen here to make a choice.
In the litter pan/ box/ tray use:
- Hardwood Wood stove pellets or
- Back 2 Nature Small Animal Bedding
- Yesterday’s News Unscented Recycled Paper Pellet Cat Litter.
- Disposable Pee/ puppy pads
Place This Litter Pan Below the Hedgehog Wheel.
AVOID anything cedar or pine.
Hedgehogs do not like the cold. If you live in a cold area you will need to warm up the room.
They thrive in temperatures of between 24 degrees Celsius- 30 degrees Celsius. That is 73-78° Fahrenheit. When temperatures get lower than 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit), they will get into a hibernation state called torpor and can even die. When temperatures get too high they can suffer from heat stroke.
A cage warmer is required. (see accessory area below). Also, see how to set up warming the hedgehog cage in this short clip.
Your hedgehog will also require 10-14 hours of light daily to have an “internal clock.”
Hedgehog Cage Accessories
Cage temperature equipment
- Cage digital thermometer- It is very important to make sure your hedgehog is in an environment with optimal temperature (see above). Here is a good example of one you can get:
- Cage Heating Source and equipment (ceramic heat emitter is used by a majority)
- Reptile Heat Lamp Bulb – 60W Ceramic Heat Emitter No Harm No Light Infrared Heater Lamp for Lizard Aquarium Snake Pet Brooder 110V, White
- Encompass All 1000W Combined – Terrarium Heat & Habitat Lighting Temperature Controller for germination/rooting & reptiles – 3 power outlets
- Zilla Premium Reflector Domes
Sand baths usually give your hedgehog a natural feel. Do not get too fine (close to dust) sand. It can cause respiratory problems. Therefore, Chinchilla dust or sand is a NO. Of late, the chinchilla sand has become more of dust. Too coarse sand is also not good. It is important to check if some sand sticks to your hedgehog’s genitals after he or she plays in the sand.
Recommended sands to use:
- Carib Sea Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand– follow the instructions at the back and to further make it safe, put it in your oven for about 30 minutes in the highest heat setting or 200 setting for 45 minutes)
- Quikrete Play Sand Bag (This is specially graded sand that has been washed, and screened for use in children’s sandboxes. To make sure it is 100% safe for your hedgehog, put it in your oven for about 30 minutes in the highest heat setting or 200 setting for 45 minutes)
- Argos children’s play sand (This Children’s Play sand is made up of Quartz Synonyms: Quartz sand; silica sand; crystalline silica and silicon dioxide. It also complies with British Safety Standards. To make sure it is 100% safe for your hedgehog, put it in your oven for about 30 minutes in the highest heat setting or 200 setting for 45 minutes)
Option 1: You can get a cardboard box and fill it with toys, ping pong balls, marbles, aquarium smooth rocks, fleece strips.
Option 2: You can buy a dig box:
Hedgehog Hideout/ Hideaways-plastic igloo, snuggle/sleeping sacks. Good examples you can get are:
- Kaytee Igloo Hideaway, Colors Vary
- Combo 2 Fleece Cage Set-Cuddle Pouch-Corner Cube-Igloo Cover-Hedgehog Hammocks-Guinea Pig Accessories-Sleep sack-Cuddle Sack-Fleece Hideout
Ceramic food dish– ceramic food dishes are good to avoid being moved and spillage.
Ceramic water dish– water bottles are not really the best for hedgehogs.
Toilet paper tubes–You can grab this from your house
Ping pong balls
Most hedgehogs love playing with them. Good examples to get are:
- Assortmart 144 Washable Plastic Beer Pong Balls 1 Gross
- KEVENZ 50-Pack 40mm Beer Ping-Pong Multipul Color Balls,Washable Plastic Glow In The Dark, Plastic Table Tennis Ball
Hedgehog tunnels– use 4-inch-wide PVC PIPES tees and elbows and also long pipes, for example:
Hedgehog Exercise Wheel
Plastic wheel-get solid wheel, no holes. The highly recommended wheel is the:
Caring For Hedgehogs (What, when and How to feed your Hedgehog)
#1. Fresh Water
#2. High quality dry Cat food for adult hedgehogs and High quality dry Kitten food for young hedgehogs.
- Protein content should be 30-40%.
- Fat content should be 10-15%.
- Ingredients: If there is fish, the poop may smell. Look for chicken, turkey or duck.
What age is a young hedgehog? What age is an adult hedgehog?
- Young hedgehog: -6 months
- Young adult hedgehog: 6-12 months
- Adult hedgehog: 12+ months
Young hedgehog food recommendations
- Simply Nourish™ SOURCE Kitten Food – Natural, Grain Free, High Protein, Chicken & Turkey
- BLUE Wilderness® Grain Free Kitten Food
After 6 months you can give adult hedgehog food.
When changing a meal or brand you have to do it slowly, a process that takes about 4 weeks as you are checking on your hedgehog’s behavior and health. The recommended plan is:
- First Week: 75% old food, 25% new food
- Second Week: 50% old food, 50% new food
- Third Week: 25% old food, 75% new food
- Fourth Week: 100% new food
Adult hedgehog Food recommendations
- Simply Nourish™ Indoor Cat Food – Natural, Turkey & Oatmeal
- Indoor Cat Food Simply Nourish™ – Natural, Duck & Oatmeal
- Simply Nourish™ SOURCE Adult Cat Food – Natural, Grain Free, Chicken & Turkey
- SOURCE Adult Cat Food Simply Nourish™ – Natural, Grain Free, Rabbit & Chicken
- Simply Nourish™ SOURCE Indoor Adult Cat Food – Natural, Grain Free, Chicken
- Solid Gold Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food; Winged Tiger Grain Free, Real Quail & Pumpkin
- Solid Gold Senior Cat Dry Food; Furrever Young Grain Free with Real Turkey
- BLUE Wilderness® Grain Free Weight Control Adult Cat Food
- BLUE Wilderness® Grain Free Chicken Mature Adult Cat Food
#3. You can also give insects, meal worms, cooked eggs as treats.
How frequent should I feed my hedgehog?
This will depend on your hedgehog and also how flexible your hours are.
- Morning 6am to 8am: 1-1 ½ tablespoon of High quality dry Cat food for adults or High quality dry Kitten food for young ones.
- Early evening 5pm to 7 pm– Give treats like insects, meal worms, eggs
- Late evening 9 to 12pm: 1-1 ½ tablespoon of High quality dry Cat food for adults or High quality dry Kitten food for young ones.
- Fresh water at all times.
- Morning 6am to 8 am: 1-1 ½ tablespoon of High quality dry Cat food for adults or High quality dry Kitten food for young ones.
- Evening 5pm to 12pm: 1-1 ½ tablespoon of High quality dry cat food for adults or High quality dry Kitten food for young ones. You can also give treats like insects, meal worms or eggs as you play with him or her and leave her the bowl of cat or kitten food overnight.
- Fresh water at all times.
- Late evening 5pm to 12pm: 1-1 ½ tablespoon of High quality dry cat food for adults or High quality dry Kitten food for young ones. You can also give treats like insects, meal worms, eggs to supplement the cat food.
- Fresh water at all times.
DO NOT feed anything with milk. They are lactose intolerant.
Do Pet Hedgehogs Smell?
If you do not clean, you will get a smell. They poo as they run, so you will need to clean their wheel frequently.
Hedgehog potty training
Yes, the hedgehog can be potty trained. However, this will not be 100%. What we can guarantee is that he or she will poop in the exercise wheel and you will have to wipe it down almost daily.
You will need patience, time, and some little luck to successfully litter train your hedgehog.
Tips to training
Place the litter tray under your hedgehog’s exercise wheel.
Collect poop and place it in litter pan to help show your hedgehog where he or she will be going.
Look out for clues of when your hedgehog wants relieve him/herself and place him or her in the litter pan/ tray.
Cleaning Hedgehog Cage
Caring for Hedgehogs (cleaning your hedgehog’s cage)
The hedgehog wheel will be covered in poo. The reason behind this is that your hedgie poops as he/she runs. The poo can also jump all over so you will need to place a material on the walls of the cage where the wheel is to avoid poop getting out of the cage. You may need to clean this wheel daily.
When it comes to cleaning, there is nothing that will inform you how to better than cleaning videos.
For those using fleece, here are nice cleaning videos:
Weekly cleaning or when it is really dirty
For those using substrate bedding, here is a nice cleaning video:
Washing your dirtied fleece
There are two kinds of baths:
#1. Sand bath
Place a sand bath in his/her cage for your hedgehog to naturally clean him/herself.
See video of hedgehog bathing in sand.
#2. Water bath
His or her feet will become poopy, you will need to wash him or her Monthly or Bi-Monthly.
Use lukewarm water ONLY. You can use a toothbrush to give your hedgehog a gentle brush.
Make sure he or she is completely dry before getting him/her back in the cage.
It is not really recommended to use shampoos. Most of these shampoos dry your hedgehogs skin. However, if you feel you need to use some sort of cleaning substance put oatmeal in a clean sock, tie it close and place it in the water.
Over washing is bad.
Avoid Tea Tree oil.
Here are some hedgehog bath videos:
Travelling with your Hedgehog
Traveling with your hedgehog can be tricky because of the temperature he or she requires. Before thinking of travelling with your hedgehog, think of getting a pet sitter or letting a family member or friend take care of him or her.
Planes are a NO. Even most airlines do not allow. However, if there are airlines that allow, you have to be careful of temperature and keep checking on your hedgie, so no cargo hold!!!
If you are moving house or going to the vet, then here is what you need to do:
Get a good hedgehog travel cage good recommendations are:
Short Time and Distance Travel
- Catit Design Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier System (Amazon.com)
- Catit Design Cat Cabrio Carrier Warm Flight and Airline Approved (Amazon UK)
Longer Time and Distance Travel
- Hagen Zoozone Indoor Guinea Pig / Rabbit Cage
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Blue
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Pink
Inside the carrier
- Place fleece bedding, some towels or an old t-shirt
- Heating pad
- During the day, your hedgehog is usually asleep (it is usually better to travel during the day), but just in case, you can carry some dry cat food and water in a bottle to give in a water bowl.
If you are going on holiday get a friend or family member to look after your hedgehog or hire a pet sitter.
If there is no one or you do not want to leave your hedgehog behind, and you will be gone for a couple of days, this is what you can do (You will try and mimic your setup at home but to go style):
- Get 2 ToysOpoly Portable Pet Playpen Puppy Kennel or Pet Dog Playpens 45″&61” or Jespet Portable Soft Dog Exercise Pen Kennel with Carry Bag for Puppy Cats Kittens Rabbits – you will interchange them if one gets soiled clean it and use the other.
- Get a heating pad like the Reptile Pet Heating Pad Mat Bed, 110V US Plug Reptile Under Tank Warmer Mat Heating Mat with Temperature Controller (20W- 16.5×11 in).
- Carry with you some fleece hideouts
- Don’t forget a food bowl and water dish
- Carry the exercise wheel
- Pack a thermometer
- Carry your hedgehog food
- Pack the litter pan and disposable pee/puppy pads
- Carry sand bath as well
Do not forget to inform the hotel where you will be sleeping that you will bring a hedgehog.
Hedgehog Health and Vet
Perform health checks (once or twice a week)
What to look out for when getting or caring for a hedgehog
- Watch out for skin infections from fungus (ringworm), and mites. Hedgehog will lose quills and expose large bald dry areas. Good to note is that it is normal for hedgehogs to lose some quills that will grow back.
- Hedgehogs can carry salmonella, which can be transferable to a person. WASH YOUR HANDS after handling him or her.
- Dental health- drooling or salivation, bad breath, tartar build-up, inflamed gums, abscesses on gums (decrease in appetite can be a sign of these) It is normal to see some foamy saliva that your hedgehog applies to its body. It is called anointing.
- Obesity– hedgehog will be unable to roll into a ball
- Eyes, ears and nose– look for discharge, crusty eyes and running nose or eyes. Eyes should be clear and bright.
- Respiratory health– Check how they are breathing. You should not see any wheezing or heaving. A healthy hedgehog will breath lightly, barely noticeable.
- Teeth– Check if there are broken or missing teeth.
- Behaviors– Inactivity/lethargy is a problem (they should be active at night). Loss of appetite and weight is also a problem. Limps and inability to stand are also not good. Tilting head is also not good, paralysis, agitation, seizures, falling over, jerking, tremors and also circling.
- Look out for wobbly hedgehog syndrome- this results in paralysis that starts with hind legs. Your hedgehog will become wobble as it moves and will be unable to curl into a ball.
- Weight– Check their weight weekly to make sure it is not dropping rapidly.
- Feet-You should look out for inflammation and sores
- Anal and genital area- should not be bloody, should not have any discharge. Check for abnormal droppings in the cage.
Try and get a hedgehog savvy vet not just a random one. (See a vet once or twice a year or when you notice something wrong with your hedgehog)
IMPORTANT!!!! If you know it is illegal in your country to keep hedgehogs as pets and you go ahead and keep one, you will NOT find hedgehog vets, thus endangering his or her life!!!!