Basic Hedgehog Care Guide - How to Care for Pet Hedgehogs

African pygmy hedgehog on white background

Hedgehogs are unusual creatures that make excellent pets. They are coated in tiny small spines and roll into balls when startled, not simply because they eat a different sort of food than other pocket pets. Hedgehogs require unique care, such as housing and food, so keep reading to learn how to care for a hedgehog as a pet.

Hedgehog Statistics

  • Name:
  • Size: Five to eight inches long
  • Lifespan: Average of five years

Hedgehog Diet

Hedgehogs, unlike most other pocket pets, are considered insectivores, and these snouted rodents have a strong appetite for creepy crawlies. The most typically fed insects in captivity are mealworms and crickets, but a hedgehog's basic food should be a store-bought, specifically prepared hedgehog kibble. Supplement with live insects, such as mealworms and crickets, and vegetables, especially if your kibble brand doesn't include insects in the pellets.

Many owners and breeders continue to feed their hedgehogs kitten food, which is not optimal because cat food lacks blood meal and chitin.

Keeping Hedgehogs as Pets

African Pygmy hedgehogs are endemic to central and eastern Africa, as their name suggests, however the majority of these hedgehogs are really a hybrid of two species: Four-toed and Algerian hedgehogs. They eat tiny insects, grubs, snails, spiders, and small vertebrates in the wild, which is a diet you should try to replicate in captivity.

Hedgehogs can live in cages designed for guinea pigs and rabbits, however wire-grate cage bottoms should be avoided since hedgehogs have tiny feet that can be hurt if they fall through these grates. Hedgehogs' delicate feet benefit from soft bedding such as recycled paper material or towels that are changed out on a regular basis. Good cage cushioning is essential; wire-bottom or plastic grates can cause callus formation on the feet, which can lead to pododermatitis, a foot infection. To make cleaning some areas easier, try using fleece or dog-training potty pads instead of soft padding or fleece.

A big enclosed running wheel, as well as a hide box, food dish, and water bottle, should be maintained in the cage for your hedgie to exercise in. Make sure the running wheel is cleaned on a regular basis to minimize feces buildup, which can lead to foot illnesses or diseases in humans when they are handled.

Hedgehogs are particularly active at night and will run many kilometers on their wheel or in their enclosed play area in a single day. They may grow unhappy, overweight, and suffer foot sores if they are unable to obtain the necessary amount of activity. Hedgehogs like exercise and activity, therefore prospective owners should be able to commit to providing the required space.

Handling Hedgehogs

Although African pygmy hedgehogs have a lot of sharp spines, they are nevertheless enjoyable to handle. Hedgehogs who have been trained will crawl into your hands, receive goodies from you, and even like being carried around. Because younger hedgehogs are easier to tame than older ones, buying one at around six to eight weeks of age is your best bet for a hedgehog who enjoys being held.

Hedgehogs dislike having their heads petted and will roll into spiky balls if startled. If you're having difficulties washing your hedgehog's feet, consider placing it in a small bath that just covers their feet because hedgehogs dislike water.

Hedgehog Health

Pet hedgehogs can suffer from dental disease, skin problems such as mite and lice infestations, intestinal parasites, and tumors. Spaying and neutering are indicated to reduce the risk of cancers of the reproductive organs and other disorders later in life. To keep your hedgie from losing teeth or developing other dental issues, thorough dental checkups at yearly vet visits and the occasional tooth cleaning under anesthesia are suggested. Some owners wash their hedgehog's teeth once a week using cat toothpaste and a small head toothbrush or cotton-tipped applicator, although this is quite unusual.

Obesity is another common issue with these pets; make sure you feed the recommended amount of food according to the diet they are using.

In minor amounts, spine loss is normal, but if your hedgehog is losing so many spines that it has bald patches, there is likely a medical issue. Excessive spine loss is most commonly caused by parasitic infections such as mites. If your hedgehog is losing a lot of spines, you should take him to the clinic.