Before you get a hedgehog
Hedgehogs can make wonderful house pets, if they get proper care and attention. Generally, they are pretty low maintenance BUT they can be costly and time consuming, too! Hedgehogs can live for up to 8 years, but the average life span is 3-5 years. You can usually purchase a hedgehog for anywhere from about 200-300 dollars, depending on the breeder, the hedgehog and the location you are buying from. Hedgehog’s diets are not too complicated, but they do require premium quality cat kibble. Their diet can also be supplemented with certain extra insects, meats, veggies, etc…. They need to be handled often, to maintain friendliness. There are other extra accessories that they’ll need in their cage too.
You will need to find a vet that treats hedgehogs, in case your pet needs to visit a vet. Hedgehogs are also illegal in some states and towns, so be sure that you check to be sure first!
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then a hedgehog may be the right pet for you!
What to look for
Now that you have decided a hedgehog is the right pet for you, it is time to look into where to get a hedgehog from! Hedgehogs from pet stores are often times unfriendly, unhealthy and more likely to develop diseases, so your best bet is to find a good, reputable breeder! When evaluating different breeders in your area, here are some things to look for in a good, ethical breeder:
Colors & patterns
Hedgehogs come in many colors and patterns.
Some patterns include, snowflake: 30-90% of quills are white, while the others have the normal coloring; pinto: blotches of white quills with white skin beneath.
Some colors include: Apricot, Cinnacot, Chocolate, and Dark Gray. The most common being Gray and Chocolate.
There are two groups of coloring in pet hedgehogs. The first being Algerian. Algerian colors. An algerian hedgehog is easily distinguished by it's golden or brown patches under his eyes. Some other common traits would be blotches of black or grey on the hedgehog's stomach and a darker color range. This is referred to as molting.
Example of eye patches:
The second group is white bellied. This is just basically any hedgehog that does not have the cheek patches or does not fit into the Algerian range of colors.
Algerian and White bellied are technically 2 different species. But all of today's pet hedgehogs have been interbreed between the 2 species, so it's impossible to find a true Algerian or white bellied kept as a pet. So, when we call a hedgehog Algerian or white bellied, we are referring to only the coloring.
For more information on specific colors of hedgehogs, please see my page on Hedgehog Colors!
Your Hedgehog’s Size
There really is not an ‘average’ or ‘normal’ weight for a hedgehog, you, the owner has to know what an average, healthy weight is for your hedgehog! Some hedgehogs can weigh as little as 200 grams (without being underweight) and others as large as 650 grams (with out being overweight). For a general idea, an underweight hedgehog would have an ‘hourglass shape’ and his sides would appear sunken in. An over weight hedgehog might not be able to role up in a ball, or would have rolls of fat. A healthy hedgehog should have a ‘tear-drop’ shape when all of his quills are flat! A scale that weighs in grams would be a good investment for any hedgehog owner.
Sexing and Males vs. Females
First of all, males and females my equally good pets. With some animals one sex tends to be a better companion, but with hedgehogs it really makes no difference.
It’s pretty easy to sex a hedgehog. Look at the female above and the male below. The male has what appears to be a ‘belly button’(actually the penile sheath) about a third up his stomach and the female doesn’t.
Like with any cages animal, you will have to clean you hedgehog’s cage, how often, depends on the hedgehog. If you choose to use loose bedding like aspen or Carefresh, on average you'll probably end of cleaning the cage about once a week(give or take a little). If he uses a litter box, the litter box will likely have to be cleaned more than once a week, but the cage will have to be cleaned less often, maybe every other week.
If you choose to use a liner, the liner will likely need to be cleaned everyday.
No matter what bedding you choose to use, hedgehogs tend to use their wheel as a restroom while running on their wheel, so the hedgie's wheel will need to be wiped of often.
You’re also going to need to trim his nails every once in a while! Grab his little foot & look for the quick (that’s the pink vein in the nail), make sure that you cut BELOW that, or else he will bleed. A good thing to have on hand is ‘Kwik-Stop’, which will stop the bleeding in case you were to hit a quick. If you don’t have that, try flour instead! But, if you follow these simple instructions, you should never have any blood and you'll have a happy hedgie!
Your Hedgehog’s Cage and Acessories
The cage you buy should have solid floors with no holes (that means NO wire grating etc….), if the floors aren’t solid, your hedgehog will get sores and could injure himself by getting his little feet caught in the holes!
It should be 1 leveled. I don’t recommend glass tanks, because they do not offer enough ventilation and multi-leveled cages are unsafe because the hedgehog could fall from a higher level. Hedgehogs can climb pretty well, so his cage should have a secure top. Just be cause then can climb, doesn’t mean they should climb; they can really injure them self if they fall even a few inches!
On the floor of the cage, you can put: Carefresh,
Do not use regular pine or cedar bedding, because the aromatic oils in these types of wood can cause respiratory problems in small animals. Sheets of paper aren’t recommended, as they are not absorbent and the ink found on paper is toxic! Corn cob bedding are also not the best choice, as they can be hard on the hedgehog's feet, and can get stuck in the genitals of the hedgie.
Some people have success in training their hedgie to use a litter box. I have found hedgehogs usually use the restroom on and around their wheel. So, I recommend purchasing a large, shallow cooking sheet and placing it under the wheel. Cover the sheet with bedding and the hedgehog will have no idea it's there. This isn't exactly "litter training" your hedgehog, but it is easier and provides a more convenient way to keep the cage cleaner. If you have success with this, just clean the litter box out every few days. Also, I have found that using wood shavings in the litter box works well. There is no need to put a different kind of litter in the box. Never use cat litter (especially scoop able), as it can get stuck in the genitals of hedgehogs.
Be sure you get a wheel for your hedgehog so he can stay fit. The wheel should have solid floors(so that the hedgehog's feet/toes won't get stuck) and it should be 12” in diameter. Some wheels are made to attach to the side of the cage and some are free-standing. You can experiment and see what works best for your hedgehog. If you find that the wheel gets knocked down fairly often, it may be a good idea to secure it to the side of the cage.
Avoid placing your hedgie’s cage in direct sun light or by windows, vents, heaters and etc. Also be sure that your hedgehog is kept in a room that gets plenty of daily light and is kept fairly warm (i.e. 72-78 degrees). If the hedgehog does not get enough daylight and/or gets too cold, he may try to hibernate and that can kill a hedgehog. The African Pygmy Hedgehog isn’t created to hibernate, anyway! In most cases, if you keep the temperature consistent and above 70 degrees, but below 80 degrees, the hedgehog should be alright. Keep in mind that temperatures about 80 degrees can harm or kill hedgehog as well.
If your hedgehog is unusually sluggish, he may be too cold. To warm your hedgehog up quickly, try using a heating pad turned on low or a Snuggle Safe Heat Disc. Please note that this is not a replacement for keeping the temperature at least 72 degrees. Also be sure to allow the hedgehog space to get off the heat source, should it get too warm for him.
For long term additional heat, should you be unable to keep the heat at 72 - 78 degrees, there are a few options.
First, you could use a ceramic heat emitter. This can not be used with all plastic cages(such as plastic bins). The emitter will need to be monitored to make sure they don't make the hedgehog's cage too warm.
Second, you could use a space heater. These will heat a whole area, instead of just the cage. As long as you buy a safe heater and use it correctly, there won't be a big fire hazard. You want to get one that is 'oil filled' and has an automatic shut-off to be safe!
How many Hedgehogs can I keep?
I am not going in to breeding in this pamphlet. Housing a male and female together is a total disaster. Unless one of them are infertile, the female will most likely become pregnant. With the male in the cage with her, she will be very stressed and will probably kill and eat her babies. If she doesn’t kill them, the male will.
Self anointing is triggered when a hedgie smells a new or unusual smell. They lick & chew on the scented object. This makes their mouth foam up. Then they spread the foam all over their backs with their tongue, yuck! No one really knows why they do this. Be sure to keep an eye on him while loose to make sure he doesn’t get in to anything harmful! Sometimes you’ll think you hedgehog is being ‘aggressive’ by biting you, but you really have an odd scent or taste on your hands & he is just trying to taste you!! This can be avoided if you just wash your hands with unscented soap before handling!
Hedgehogs generally eat high quality cat food, with low fat(8-12%) and relatively high protein(around 30%). They also eat meal worms, boiled chicken, cottage cheese, and cooked egg as treats. Hedgehogs can easily become overweight, so it is a must to keep an eye on their weight. You may have to reduce the amount you feed them.
Here is a list of ingredients from a common, low quality brand of cat food. Everything that is bad for your hedgehog is highlighted in RED.
Corn, chicken by-product meal, wheat, corn gluten meal, beef & bone meal, salmon, chicken, beef, poultry fat (preserved with BHA), animal digest, salt, potassium chloride, choline chloride, titanium dioxide, vitamins, caramel color, natural & artificial flavors, taurine, yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, BHA (preservative), minerals, blue #1, zinc oxide.
Wow, 15 out of the 25 ingredients in this food are bad for your hedgehog!
Why are these things bad?
Meat By-products: anything that says ______ by-product is a substitute for plain meat. It contains necks, feet, intestines etc...
Any kind of food fragment: Is hard for hedgehogs to digest it and is a filler! Some examples are: Corn Gluten or Brewers Rice.
Generic named fats and proteins: These are not a sign of good quality. Some examples are: animal fat or meat meal. With it being that generic, 'animal fat' could be from any animal and you have no idea where it came from!
Artificial preservatives, flavors and colors: These are known to cause cancer and other diseases which can be fatal. What doesn't help this is that hedgehogs are already prone to cancer so you definitely don't want your hedgehog to be eating anything that could help bring it on! Some examples are: ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) 'red 40' etc...
Some things to keep in mind:
What NOT to feed
Below is a list of things NOT to feed, if in doubt, just stay away from it, or ask someone knowledgeable about hedgehog nutrition!
□ Any sugary, salty, fatty, stringy, chewy or seasoned foods
□ Chocolate or caffeinated food/drinks
□ Citrus fruits
□ Raw carrots
□ Raw meats
□ Nuts or seeds(of any kind)
□ Wild caught bugs (could carry disease or pesticides)
□ Wax worms(too fatty) and super worms(will bite hedgehogs)
□ Cold foods (only serve room temp.)
□ Nothing that is considered ‘junk food’ for people
□ Artificial sugars
The main entertainment for a hedgehog each night will be his wheel, but there are some non-essential toys you can provide as well!
Hedgehogs love hamster balls, but you must be cautious with these. Hamster balls have small slits for ventilation that the hedgie can get his toes caught in. Also, if the hedgehog uses the restroom in the wheel, it can become a filthy unsanitary mess. So, if you allow your hedgehog to use a hamster ball, you must supervise at all times and keep him away from stairs and etc. I personally feel that if I have time to supervise my hedgehog in a ball, I might as well handle him or let him run loose in a supervised, hedgie-safe area instead.
Hedgies also like the little cat balls with the bells in the middle. Try to get the solid balls that do not have holes or slits in them.
They like anything they can burrow and hide in, like PVC pipes and dryer hoses, but make sure that it is wide enough so that he won’t get stuck! Another thing that they love to do is borrow up your pant leg...ouch! :)
Bringing your new pet home!
When you bring your new family member home, it may be a good idea to let him be alone for the 1st day to let him get used to his new cage! After that, slowly introduce him to your friends (too many new things at once can be stressful!). But you hold him as much as possible! If he gets to know you while he is still young, it will be a lot easier that when he is older.
To help him bond with you, you could try sleeping in an old t-shirt, or with an old blanket and then give it to him in his ‘nest’ so he will get used to your scent! He can be feed kitten food mixed with diet food and should be weaned from the kitten food at about 4 months old and put on diet(light) cat food after that.
When first adopt your hedgehog, you may chose to bring him to the vet so he can be checked out. I personally think this is unnecessary and brings unneeded stress, but some pet owners prefer this for peace of mind.
Handling a friendly hedgehog isn’t as painful as it may seem! Hedgies have soft fur on their stomachs. To pick up a hedgehog, stick your hands under each side of his stomach and lift. If you need a little assistance, try using a spatula to help. I wouldn’t use gloves to handle the hedgie, as the hedgehog needs to get used to you holding him, not gloves! When handling him, keep him close to your chest or in your lap.
Make sure that you don’t have any food, perfume, lotion scents on you, or he may try to taste you! Hedgehogs don't bite out of aggression, but they may bite if you smell interesting to them. If he does happen to bite, do not put him down, or else he will learn to bite if he wants you to put him down!
Be careful not to drop him, because even from a few inches off the ground, it could seriously hurt him. This is a good reason why you should supervise children at all times when they are holding the hedgie!!
Hedgehogs are prone to cancer and tumors, especially after 2 years of age. Your vet can help determine the best treatments for this. Just be sure to get any bumps you observe checked out by a vet!
Another very serious disease that hedgehogs are prone to getting is WHS (Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome). WHS is a very sad, neurological disease that is debilitating and eventually deadly! It usually has a gradual onset, but some times can come on rapidly. The cause is not yet known; but is thought to be genetic. Hedgehogs tend to be affected around 18-24 months, but it could strike at any age. There is treatment for this, but no cure. Hedgehogs with this disease will have a wobbly gait, at first, then eventually, will not be able to walk at all and will become totally dependent on the owner, but there are things you can do to help! You can massage and move his limbs and body, to retain movement as much as possible. A healthy diet is very important too! There are many other things it could be too, so before assuming he has WHS consider this: it could be that he is to cold, has a hurt limb, long nails, arthritis(or other joint problems), a tumor, etc… Your vet can help rule out other problems!!
There is not a ton known about WHS and there isn't the funding to do the research needed to find cures, treatments and causes for WHS. If you would like to donate any monetary amount towards WHS research, please click on this button:
All money donated will go straight to The Hedgehog Welfare Society for WHS research. Thank you for your support!
Another thing to watch out for is mites! Signs of a mite infestation are: itchy irritated skin, flaky skin, dry skin and missing fur and quills. Before treating for mites, try giving him a bath with a little olive oil as it can help with mites, and will clear dry skin if that’s all that’s wrong. If you give an oil bath and your hedgehog is still itchy etc… bring him to the vet. He will probably be treated with Revolution, if he has mites, but please let the
If you ever have anything else happen (especially medically) and don’t know what to do, call your vet, don’t wait, a few hours could mean life or death!
I hope this has helped you out a little! Hedgehogs are wonderful little animals! If you ever have any other questions, feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org If I don’t know the answer to your question, I will find it out for you!
©2012 Prickles n' Quills Hedgehogs