How to Care for a Hedgehog
Most of the pets we board are dogs, cats and occasionally rabbits, but when we recently had an inquiry on boarding a hedgehog, we decided to look into this interesting pet to get some more information!
1Finding a good breeder. Finding a great breeder to purchase your hedgehog from is paramount. If you don't, you could end up with a grumpy hedgehog that may die young. Avoid any breeder who posts on Craigslist. Do not buy them from pet stores. Be sure the breeder has quality, pedigree stock with no WHS or cancer in their lineage. See that the breeder is USDA licensed or is a part of breeders groups. Ask to see their set-up and meet their hedgehogs. Don't forget to check for illness.
2 Bringing the hedgehog home appropriately. Before purchase, make sure you have everything you need set up and ready to go. Allow the hedgehog at least a month to become familiar with you, the new scents, and the new surroundings. They have just experienced a huge change in their life!
3 Provide a good house. Hedgehogs need a large cage to be comfortable in.
The house should:
- Be Large. The cage should be a minimum of 18" x 24" with a solid floor. Houses should not have more than one level as hedgehogs have poor eyesight and their legs are all too easy to break. Wire cages that they can climb can also be dangerous if you have a climber! Include space for food bowls, toys and litter tray when considering buying or making a cage.
Ensure a suitable temperature.
Hedgehogs need a slightly warmer room temperature than most people keep their homes at, around 72ºF (22.2ºC) to 80ºF (26.6ºC). Anything cooler and the hedgehog will likely attempt "hibernation" which can be LETHAL, much hotter and heat stress occurs. Adjust the temperature if you see them spread out in the cage as if they're hot. If they're lethargic, or the body temperature is cooler than normal warm them up immediately by putting them under your shirt and using your body heat to warm them.
Select good bedding material.
Hedgehogs like wood shavings (but see "Warnings" below), or fleece liners as their bedding. The best type of wood shavings are aspen shavings. Carefresh is a choice but tends to get stuck in between their quills. Shredded newspaper can also be used but be wary of the dust content of any bedding.
6 Be attentive to the needs and behaviors of the hedgehog.
- Low level of noise. Don't house the hedgehog under your stereo player or near a boombox. As a prey animal in the wild that depends largely on their sense of hearing, too much noise and activity around your hedgehog will be very distressing. Ensure that noise, lighting and activity levels are low in its vicinity and move the cage if the noise levels increase for any reason.Hedgehogs can get used to noise if introduced properly.
Feed your hedgehog properly.
Hedgehogs are primarily insectivores, but will also taste for other things like fruits, veggies, eggs, and meat. They tend towards plumpness, so care must be taken with the diet to prevent a hedgehog putting on too much weight. An overweight hedgehog cannot roll up and may have rolls of fat hanging down which will impede its walking ability. Consider when feeding:
8 Look out for your hedgehog's proper hygiene.
- Provide a litter tray with no more than half an inch lip to provide easy access and prevent broken legs. Be sure that you use ONLY non-clumping kitty litter, if you decide to use litter, or you can use a paper towel. Make sure it is large enough for the hedgehog and clean it every day. Keep an eye for any irregular bowel movements which could indicate distress or illness. Most owners keep the litter tray under the wheel since that is where hedgehogs do most of their business.
9 Be prepared for "quilling".
Quilling is the hedgehog equivalent of us losing baby teeth or a snake shedding it's skin. This begins to happen at 6 to 8 weeks of age and can happen through out their first year of life as the baby quills make way for adult quills. This is a normal process and not something to worry about unless there are signs of illness or discomfort present, or the quills are failing to grow back. Your hedgehog may be irritable during this process and less amenable to being held. You can try an oatmeal bath to ease their discomfort. It is only a phase.
10 Give your hedgehog lots of TLC
- Handle frequently. A hedgehog's familiarity with being handled comes with being handled frequently. Always be confident when handling a hedgehog. They are not as fragile as they seem. The general rule is at least 30 minutes a day of handling.