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Articles on basic care and considerations for new or prospective owners.
Articles pertaining to health, nutrition, and veterinary care.
Articles and pictures about hedgehog breeding, growth, and development.
Articles for people who already own a hedgehog or want to know more than just the basics.
Learn more about hedgehog colors!
Wondering where to buy a hedgehog? Start here!
Where to purchase hedgehog supplies and collectibles.
Meet the hedgehogs of Hedgehog Valley!
Meet the other critters that call
or have called Hedgehog Valley
BASIC HEDGEHOG CARE
Hedgehogs are wonderful pets who are easy to care for! This article will provide you with a basic care sheet that gives you all of the basic information that you need to know in order to get started with a pet hedgehog.
* A metal or plastic cage (like those made for guinea pigs) work well. Other popular options include modified sterlite containers or custom "c&c" cages. Make sure that the cage has at least 4 square feet of floor space (the more space the better as hedgies love to run), and that the cage bottom has no wire grates that little hedgehog feet can fall through and get hurt on. For more ideas on cages, have a peek here.
* Provide a hiding place or cover for the hedgehog to hide under, so that it can feel safe when it is sleeping. Large "critter logs," large igloos, or a hedgebag work well.
* You will want to keep the housing in a warm area of the house. Hedgehogs are from a warm environment and need to stay warm, but not too hot. Generally, 70F to 85F is a good range. When you obtain your hedgehog, ask what temperature range it has been kept at because that will be its comfort zone. If your house is not at a temperature that will be comfortable for your hedgehog, you will need to provide a heat source. Use of a ceramic heat element attached to a thermostat is the most popular option.
* Males and females will need to be in separate cages and males should not be housed with other males. Females should not be kept with males because if a female has babies while there are other hedgehogs in the cage, it will cause her stress and she or the other hedgehog are likely to eat the babies.
In the wild, hedgehogs are solitary animals. In captivity, some female hedgehogs will accept (or even crave) the companionship of other hedgehogs, but don't necessarily assume this is the case. Hedgehogs can have lethal roommate disputes, so if you decide to try to house two hedgehogs together, be sure to observe them closely (or at least be within earshot to separate them in case of fights) for at least the first 24 to 48 hours. Hedgehogs can emit a bloodcurdling scream when upset or hurt, but they can also get into fairly quiet tussles, so be careful. It is truly not worth the risk.
BEDDING:* Hedgehogs need a one to two inch layer of bedding on the floor of their home. Kiln dried pine, aspen, newspaper based, or other small animal bedding can be used. Cedar should not be used because the aromatic oils can cause respiratory illness or death in small animals and corn cob bedding will often mildew quickly.
There really is no such thing as a perfect hedgehog bedding, so you may want to experiment to see what works best for your hedgehog. Some people report great results with fleece bedding, which they remove to wash on a daily or every-other day basis. I do not like to use fleece with my hedgehogs because it can become shredded and the shreds can wrap around a leg, cutting off circulation.
TOYS:* Hedgehogs need lots of exercise as they tend to become obese with inactivity. A large wheel or saucer (11" diameter or larger) gives hedgie a comfortable place to exercise. The running surface of the wheel needs to be solid, so that the hedgehog is not at risk for slipping through and breaking legs.
* Most hedgehogs are curious and love toys that they can push, chew, or manipulate. Some of the things ours have enjoyed include solid rubber balls, small toy cars, large plastic toy trucks, toilet paper tubes, and rawhide chews. I've even seen a hedgie spend half the night pulling a price tag off of a plastic flower pot! Be creative, but always think safe.
DIET:* Diet is an area where there is still considerable controversy. We still don't know exactly what a hedgehog needs, but there have been preliminary studies at the Bronx Zoo. Information presented at the 1998 Go Hog Wild Hedgehog Show and Seminar indicated that hedgehogs need a diet that consists of good quality protein (around 30%) and is low in fat (around 10%, not more than 15%). A fiber content of approximately 15% (preferably from chitin, but hedgehogs can utilize fiber from from plant sources, too) is optimal. The study found that no single commercial food fully met the optimal nutritional requirement for hedgehogs.
*Some of the hedgehog foods on the market do a pretty good job of meeting most of the needs, but others are inadequate. Similarly, many commercial cat foods also meet most of their needs, according to the statistics given in the presentation. The message I walked away with was that we should choose carefully so that our hedgies get a diet that has good quality protein, is low in fat, and provides fiber.
* Hedgehogs require approximately 70 to 100 calories per day, which works out to about 1 to 3 Tbsp. of food. However, if given access to a preferred treat, many hedgehogs will overeat. If your hedgie appears to be becoming obese on what you are feeding him or her, you may want to limit the quantity of higher fat foods and increase availability of good quality, lower fat/higher fiber foods. You can also hide pieces of food for hedgie to forage, or provide live insects (dubia roaches, crickets- not mealworms) for your hedgehog to hunt.
* I give my hedgehogs access to kibble at all times, with a pinch of cricket powder or chitin powder sprinkled on top for fiber. I also offer treats (up to 1/2 tsp per day), especially treats with fiber in them (cooked veggies, chopped fruit) or good quality protein (scrambled or boiled egg, cooked chicken, earthworms) or both (dubia roaches, crickets). When choosing a cat food, remember that the filler that isn't so great for a cat (corn, rice) provides fiber for a hedgehog. Foods that may be premium for a cat may cause fatty liver disease in a hedgehog. Cat foods that I use with my hedgehogs include Purina One, Purina Indoor Cat, Purina Beyond Grain, and Chicken Soup for the Soul lite.
HANDLING:* The more you handle your hedgehog, the more it will get used to you is a good rule of thumb to remember. However, if your hedgehog appears extremely stressed, give it a break or give it quiet lap time in a snuggle sack.
* At first, your hedgehog may be scared. It may ball up or puff air and click its tongue to scare away any potential predator (you). Approach your hedgehog slowly and quietly to gain its trust. Pick up your hedgehog from underneath to avoid the quills. You shouldn't need gloves to pick it up, even if it is scared, since you can slide your fingers underneath to distribute the weight. If you are afraid of being prickled, then take a pair of gloves and get the gloves smelling like you (tuck them under your pillow for a couple of nights, or put them in your shirt for a while) so the hedgie will associate your smell with being picked up safely.
*The article at http://hedgehogvalley.com/hatesme is something I consider required reading for all prospective hedgehog owners. .
ONE LAST NOTE:
* Don't be surprised if your hedgie starts shedding a lot of quills when it is between about 8 and 12 weeks of age. This is a normal process known as "quilling." The hedgehog is shedding baby spines and you should be able to see new adults spines pushing through the skin. To be on the safe side, though, you may want to check for mites or fleas. Signs of mites include crustiness around the quills and seriously dry looking skin. Fleas and mites can be treated effectively and easily by your vet. When adolescent hedgies are "quilling" they may be somewhat grumpy, but should return to normal temperament once the quills are in.
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