Hedgehog Care FAQS

Can you believe we’re already halfway through February? Like every month, February has some fun animal holidays. Groundhog Day is first and foremost! (Fun tidbit: Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this year. This is a rarity, as it has only occurred 21 times in the past 138 years.) While most people know about Groundhog Day, what you may not realize is its significance for hedgehogs. Actually, Hedgie was in the spotlight long before Phil came along. The Romans used hedgehogs to predict the weather! They observed whether or not he saw his shadow under the moonlight. Hedgie may have lost his job as a weather forecaster, but he has become a popular pet. In this article, a local Fayette County, KY vet shares tips for caring for these small spiky creatures.


Meet The Hedgehog


Like porcupines, hedgehogs have opted to wear tiny spikes, or quills. These are made of keratin, which is also found in human hair and nails, snake scales, and dog and cat fur and claws. While these quills are definitely very cute, they aren’t just for looks. They’re actually protection. Hedgehogs curl into balls when threatened, making it difficult for predators to grab them. However, they cannot shoot their quills.


There are 14 different types of hedgehogs in the world. Only two types  are commonly kept as pets in the world: the European hedgehog and the African pygmy hedgehog. The African pygmy is the most popular here in America.  it’s easy to see why they’ve gained so much attention. These little guys are adorable, charming, quiet, and playful. Hedgie is even becoming a social media star!


How Do You Choose a Pet Hedgehog?


Are you ready to take the plunge? Seek out a reputable breeder. Good breeders offer warranties for potential health issues, and may also allow the hedgehog to be returned if needed. Keep in mind that while some pet stores do sell hedgehogs, their employees may not have extensive knowledge about them. Plus, the animals may not have received proper socialization. It’s crucial to choose a healthy hedgie! These guys should be at an optimal body weight and have bright and round eyes, a slightly moist nose, and smooth skin. Check for signs of illness such as sunken or cloudy eyes, runny nose, scaly or crusty skin, and fecal matter stuck on the bottom.


What Kind Of Cage Do I Get A Hedgehog?


Hedgehogs require cages that are at least 4 x 2. Make sure the cage has a solid bottom. Mesh and wire floors will not hold bedding. They can also cause foot or leg injuries.


For bedding, you can add paper bedding, kiln-dried shavings, or a soft blanket, such as a fleece blanket. A litterbox is optional, but helpful. If you do get one, use soft pellets or paper towels for litter. Avoid clay litters and clumping litters, as they can cause intestinal blockages. Pine and cedar products can cause respiratory problems, so avoid them as well.


Your tiny pal will also need a good hide. You can use pouches, igloos, or even reptile habitats, which often work well for hedgehogs.


Hedgie also needs playtime and enrichment. It is also important to provide enrichment and playtime for cats and small dogs. Choose brightly colored toys, so he can see them.  You’ll also want to get your hedgehog an exercise wheel. Get a solid one, as wire wheels are not safe.


For more specific advice, consult your Fayette County, KY veterinarian.


Where Do You Put A Hedgehog Cage?


Finding a good place to keep Hedgie is also important. You don’t want him to get too hot or too cold. Put him in a room that stays between 70 and 80 degrees. Avoid direct sunlight and drafty areas. Also, don’t put his habitat near speakers or your teenager’s drum set, as loud sounds may scare him. 


It’s also important to remember that hedgehogs are typically active after dark. Keep him in a spot where he can sleep during the day while running and playing at night without waking you up during the day.


What Do You Feed A Pet Hedgehog?


Hedgie’s digestive system is specially adapted to a diet consisting primarily of insects, which are the main source of sustenance for wild hedgehogs. To maintain optimal health, you’ll need to give your pet a diet that is high in protein and low in fat. Hedgehog kibble is the most suitable option. You can also offer high-quality dog or cat food, salmon, chicken, turkey, and eggs. Hedgehogs can also have small amounts of fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, peas, apples, beans, corn, carrots, watermelon, pears, papaya cherries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Always remove any skins or seeds before feeding them to your pet.


A few times a week, you can give Hedgie gut-loaded insects like earthworms, waxworms, silkworms, or crickets. Use store-bought varieties, as wild insects may carry parasites.


It’s also important to know what isn’t safe. That list includes grapes, raisins, seeds, milk, peanuts, avocado, nuts, hard/raw vegetables, raw meats, bread, tomatoes, honey, junk food, chocolate, alcohol, dried fruit, vegetables, garlic, and onions.


Of course, you should never give your pet anything unless you’re confident it is safe. Also, be sure to ask your vet for specific advice.


What Are Signs Of Sickness In Hedgehogs?


Hedgehogs are not immune from diseases, such as cancer, reproductive problems, and dental problems. keep an eye out for warning signs. A few common ones are lack of appetite, weight loss, respiratory problems, dull eyes, lethargy, diarrhea, lumps, and bumps. You may also notice uncharacteristic crankiness, hissing, or grumbling. Call your vet right away if you notice any of these symptoms.


Hedgehogs have become quite popular pets in recent years, and with good reason. You should do plenty of research before purchasing a hedgehog and speak with your Fayette County, KY veterinarian if you have any concerns.


Getting to Know Your New Hedgehog


It may take some time for your new buddy to warm up to you, as hedgehogs are quite timid by nature. That’s normal!


Avoid scaring your hedgehog. Hedgehogs are very timid and can easily be scared. They also tend to run rather than fight, so they curl up for protection if they feel frightened. When your pet feels unsafe, he may roll up into a ball. If he does, don’t force him to unroll. Just let him be until he feels safe enough to.


Because hedgehogs lack good vision, they rely on their adorable noses for information. Shadows can be quite scary to them. Keep this in mind whenever you approach your pet. Do not pick him up from behind or while he is asleep. That can (understandably) be quite scary for him!


Conclusion: Hedgehogs have become quite popular as pets in recent years, and for good reason. They’re cute, small, quiet, and easy to care for. Just be sure to do plenty of research before adopting one. 


Try putting a worn t-shirt in his cage for him to snuggle up in. This will help him get used to your scent, and hopefully start associating it with feeling safe and comfortable. Keep your soap, lotion, detergent, and scents the same during this phase.


Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns about your hedgehog’s health or care. As your Fayette County, KY animal clinic, we’re here to help!


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