Caring for a Hedgehog

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. November 24, 2016
Caring for a Hedgehog

Nowadays it isn't strange to share your home with diverse animals of all shapes and sizes, such as snakes, exotic birds, ferrets... Even rats! With the range of pets being considerably broader, neither is it strange to consider keeping a hedgehog as a pet.

There are different species and breeds of hedgehogs, and although it is true that all species are different and have characteristic traits, the basic care that they require is very similar.

In this AnimalWised article we'll tell you all about caring for a hedgehog; information and practical tips that you should keep in mind if you're planning on taking such an animal into your home.

You may also be interested in: How Long Do Hedgehogs Live? - Hedgehog Lifespan

How much space does a pet hedgehog need?

Hedgehogs live for roughly 5 years, and throughout this time you must ensure that your pet has an appropriate environment that enables it to enjoy an optimum quality of life.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, but that doesn't mean they are particularly calm animals. On the contrary, these creatures are actually very active. Therefore, a pet hedgehog should be kept in a cage of at least one square meter (3 feet 3 in squared), giving it enough space to move around.

To make the space as good as possible for your hedgehog, you should take the following considerations into account:

  • The bars on the cage shouldn't be very separated, as it only takes a gap of 1.5 cm (6 in) for a young hedgehog to escape through. The bars should be less apart than that.

  • Your hedgehog's water dispenser should be in the form of a bottle so that it can be kept in optimum hygiene conditions. Its food bowls should be made of aluminium or secured to the bottom of the cage to keep them from falling over.

  • You should use untreated wood chips as a substrate for the hedgehog's cage.

  • The hedgehog should be given enough stimuli for its level of activity. You should include a wheel in its cage so that it can exercise, a sand box so that it can dig, and a suitable toy.

  • The hedgehog's cage should contain a shelter so that it can hide. This can be a small box made of wood, plastic or card - the important thing is that it has a wide opening for entering and leaving.

You should place the hedgehog's cage in a dimly lit area with a room temperature between 20 and 32 ºC (68 to 90 ºF).

Caring for a Hedgehog - How much space does a pet hedgehog need?

What is the best diet for a hedgehog?

A good diet is the cornerstone for keeping healthy, not only for humans but for animals too. Therefore, it's important to have sufficient information about what to feed a hedgehog.

If you've decided to take a hedgehog into your home, the most balanced and easiest option would be to give it specific hedgehog feed, or even a more generic feed intended for feeding insectivorous mammals.

If it isn't possible for you to get hold of hedgehog feed, you can make your hedgehog's food yourself by following the guidelines laid out below:

  • Use high-end feed intended for senior cats or dogs. This feed is of a higher quality than normal feed, which contains too many proteins and fats and rarely contains fiber.

  • You can supplement the consumption of feed with fruit, egg and chicken.

  • It's also important to give it live food; in this case, you should give it crickets, mealworms and earthworms.

  • During lactation and pregnancy, you should complement the hedgehog's food with vitamins and calcium. In this case, it will be the vet who tells you the most appropriate product.

It goes without saying that a pet hedgehog should always be given fresh and clean water and that you should fill its food bowl once a day, preferably at dusk, removing any leftover food the following morning.

Caring for a Hedgehog - What is the best diet for a hedgehog?

Hedgehog management and hygiene

The hedgehog should get used to human contact, which is a progressive adaptation. This animal has a very characteristic defense mechanism that consists in curling up into a ball to completely protect itself with its quills. With this in mind, it's important that you wear gloves the first few times you handle it.

You should let your new hedgehog sniff you as much as possible so that it can recognize you by your smell. When this happens, you'll be able to handle your hedgehog without bigger complications.

Once the hedgehog has got used to your presence and its new home, it's really important that you let it run freely around part of your home at least once a week, since this total freedom is completely necessary.

If you keep the hedgehog's environment in optimal conditions, your pet will rarely need to be washed. You should therefore only bath it when it gets really dirty, using tepid water in this case. You should only cut its nails if they get really long.

Here you can learn more about bathing a pet hedgehog.

Caring for a Hedgehog - Hedgehog management and hygiene

Keeping your hedgehog healthy

Hedgehogs don't require specific veterinary care. However, you should take certain measures to keep your pet in an optimal state of health:

  • The hedgehog shouldn't be exposed to cold temperatures or drafts.

  • If you live with other animals, it's important that the hedgehog doesn't come into contact with them as they could transmit it ticks, mites or other parasites.

  • Hedgehogs sometimes suffer from diarrhea, and this usually happens due to overfeeding. Reducing the size of daily portions will be enough to resolve this problem.

It's very important that your hedgehog eats every day. If your hedgehog loses its appetite, this sufficient cause for concern to go to the vet.

Caring for a Hedgehog - Keeping your hedgehog healthy

Do you have a pet hedgehog? Send us a picture and tell us what you do to care for your hedgehog properly!

If you want to read similar articles to Caring for a Hedgehog, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

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