Hedgehogs are an exotic pet that many people are not even aware can be a pet. However, you can get a domesticated hedgehog, and to those who have raised and adored these creatures, they have been good pets. If you are considering having a hedgehog as a pet, below are some important things you need to know.
Hedgehogs are warm weather creatures. While their ancestors hibernated, this ability is vestigial in pet hedgehogs. However, if they get cold enough there is a possibility that they will attempt to go into hibernation. Since they are not equipped for it, this can be fatal. So, the important thing to remember if you get a pet hedgehog is that they will need an environment that is 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer year round. However, you don’t have to go above 85 degrees. While this is generally warmer than humans like inside, care must be taken to assure that your hedgehog is kept warm even if you would like the rest of the house to be cooler.
Hedgehog pets can be grumpy until they are socialized to their owners. While this process requires patience, it’s not difficult. The first thing you will need to do is assure that the conditions they are in aren’t annoying the hedgehogs. If they are warm and their bedding is soft enough not to bother them, and they have adequate food and water, then the cause is probably related to their innate shyness. In this case, the cure is to move slowly and carefully, so as not to alarm the hedgehog and trigger their instinctive response to curl up and show their quills. You will want to speak to them in soft tones and avoid bright light. Also, remember that a hedgehog takes some time to wake up, so when you are still socializing your pet, you will need your individual sessions with the hedgehog to have lots of time.
When socializing your pet, you will need to pay very close attention to his responses. You will already be moving slowly and quietly, but will still need to pay close attention. You want to watch out for any changes that may indicate he is getting scared and ready to roll up. When it doubt, the best thing to do is probably to stop moving completely. As with other animals, this will alert your pet that you are not going to attack them and you are waiting for them to respond first.
Some hedgehog owners have needed a few months to get their pets to fully socialize to them. While this seems like a long time, the results are worth it, for socialized hedgehogs are very playful and friendly. Also, keep in mind that although it may take months before your hedgehog is completely comfortable with you, that doesn’t mean that they will remain grumpy the whole time. They will slowly warm up to you and can be sweet pets, if still wary, before they fully relax.
Hedgehogs take a few minutes to wake up and can be grumpy until fully awake. So, if you want to play and the hedgehog is asleep, know that you will need a few extra minutes for your pet to get ready. Pet hedgehogs aren’t still wild animals, but when it comes to social interaction, in many ways they may seem like ones. In the wild they aren’t social animals, living on their own. In homes, they will get to know their owners, but they have been known to pick their favorites and be shy around everyone else. They tend not to like change and may get grumpy with new people or surroundings.
Hedgehogs also love to play by themselves, although they will play with people. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily want their pet to need a lot of attention from them, a hedgehog may be a good choice. They can be fun to watch play by themselves. They will carry around play balls and run on their wheels. They waddle when they walk and can be entertaining to watch move around their home.
Like mice or hamsters, hedgehogs love to play by themselves. However, unlike mice or hamsters, once socialized, they do like to play with their humans. If they feel comfortable, they may crawl all over you, as if you are a playground jungle gym. Also, unlike mice or hamsters, some may learn their names.
What do hedgehogs eat? Doing research on hedgehog foods online may make your head start to spin. There seems to be conflicting reports of what they need. Wild hedgehogs are insectivorous, meaning that they eat insects. Therefore, it makes sense to feed your pet a diet closely related to that. Insects aren’t high in fat, so any diet that you feed your pets will need to be low in fat. Also, they should be provided with a wheel in their cage so that they can get plenty of exercise.
Specialized hedgehog food has been developed, with the realization that hedgehogs need a particular diet that other pets do not. However, it is still possible to feed them food originally intended for other animals. Cat food can be a good choice, as long as care is taken to avoid high fat. A cat food with protein taken mostly from poultry is a good choice.
They will enjoy live meals of mealworms and other small insects, and variety will help them stay healthy and happy. However, if this idea doesn’t appeal to you, then some pet stores sell canned insects that are dried or cooked in the can, yet still provide all the nutrition of live ones.
Many will like fruit as a treat, but they shouldn’t get fruit more than a couple of times per week. You may have to try several fruits to find one that he likes, but avoid apples as these are toxic to hedgehogs.
Quick Hedgehog Food List:
- Kibble – either specially formulated for hedgehogs or a low fat cat food.
- Mealworms and other insects – either live or canned
- Occasional fruit – avoid apples
When choosing hedgehog cages, there are several things to keep in mind.
- Hedgehogs have delicate, small legs and feet. Therefore, any housing that you get for your pet needs to have a solid floor. In a pinch, a cage with a wire mesh floor can be fitted with a sturdy blanket or other solid material; however, it is better to buy one with a solid floor from the outset.
- Secondly, the cage should have good ventilation. A cage with a wire top and sides, with a solid floor is a good choice for ventilation, and ease of cleaning.
- Third, hedgehogs in nature like to forage, so your pet will need lots of room to move around his home. Therefore, the cage that you get for him will need to be a minimum of 2 square feet – 2 feet long by 1 foot wide. However, this is still very small for your hedgehog and you should give him a larger cage if at all possible. No matter what size your cage, you will want to provide your hedgehog with a wheel so they can get lots of exercise.
- Fourth, since hedgehogs are small creatures, you will want to make sure that the cage you they can’t get out of. Many larger cages will meet space and other requirements, but will fail this one. Few manufacturers make cages specifically for hedgehogs, therefore a ferret or rabbit cage is a better alternative. These cages will have small mesh of one inch or less.
- reference: Hedgehog Housing
Disadvantages to an aquarium:
- While an aquarium, with it’s solid bottom, can be a decent habitat, they don’t provide very good ventilation. If you go this route, you will need an aquarium large enough to prevent high humidity.
- Aquariums, especially ones large enough for your hedgehog, can be very difficult to clean.
- Getting an aquarium large enough to accommodate your hedgehog can make it cost prohibitive.
Soft bedding that won’t scratch or irritate your pet’s delicate feet and tummy are a must. You can use old clothes, but you must inspect them carefully to assure there are no loose threads that could get caught in the hedgehogs feet or legs. You could make a pad of sorts to line the bottom of the cage that is washable and therefore can be used again and again.
The important thing to remember when it comes to bedding for your hedgehog is that it needs to be soft, easy to clean, and won’t get shredded and eaten by your pet.
reference: Caring For Your Hedgehog
- An exercise wheel should be provided to your pet. You will need one that has smooth sides, not a wire one.
- A hanging water bottle is needed, that you will need to assure is frequently filled.
- The hedgehog’s food bowl should be a crock style bowl.
- Hedgehogs will use a small litter box for a bathroom. Ones sold for ferrets can be a good choice.
While this certainly doesn’t cover everything there is to know about having hedgehogs for pets, the tips and references above should be a good help to you with these wonderful creatures.