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Top FAQS About Hedgehog Care 

February 1, 2024

February 2nd is Groundhog Day. Every year, people wait to see whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not. (Note: he didn’t see it in 2024, so we’re in for an early spring. This is just the 21st time out of the 138-year-old tradition that Phil didn’t see his shadow.) However, what isn’t as well known is the fact that the 2nd is also a special day for hedgehogs. In fact, the Romans used to check to see if Hedgie would see his shadow by the moonlight! We’re happy to put these adorable little pets in the spotlight! A local Roswell, NM vet goes over some basics of hedgehog care in this article.

Are Hedgehogs Good Pets?

Cute, charming, quiet, and playful, these little quilled critters have amassed a pretty big following of fans. Hedgie has a lot of things going for him in this department. He’s also small, which means he can fit into any dwelling or household, and will sail by size requirements landlords often go by. Hedgehogs are also quite easy to care for, though it may take some research to understand their needs.

That said, it’s important to choose a pet that fits into your family. If you have a dog that has any level of prey drive, you’ll need to be very careful.

Where Are Hedgehogs From?

There are 14 types of hedgehog in the world. Hedgie has lived in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and prefers places like woodlands, parks, and, as the name suggests, hedgerows. That said, two are most commonly kept as pets: the European hedgehog and African pygmy hedgehog.

Do Hedgehogs Throw Quills?

One of the hedgehog’s more unique (and, in our opinion, adorable) features is the fact that he is covered in quills. These are actually made of keratin, which is the same substance our hair and nails are formed of. (Fun fact: snake scales are also made of keratin.) While hedgehog quills aren’t as sharp as those of a porcupine, they are similar, and are definitely sharp enough to poke a child. These are a defense mechanism. If your pet feels scared, he’ll roll himself up into a little ball. However, he won’t throw quills.

What Do Hedgehogs Eat?

Hedgie is technically an insectivore, so in the wild, he mostly survives on bugs. Wild hedgehogs do eat some produce: they won’t turn their noses up at a strawberry or perhaps a piece of apple that’s fallen off a tree. However, their digestive systems are better suited to creepy-crawlies.

There’s some debate over the best diet for a pet hedgehog. Your best bet is likely hedgehog kibble. However, many veterinarians and breeders also suggest high-protein cat or dog food. The key thing is making sure that Hedgie’s menu contains a lot of protein, but not a lot of fat. Other things that you can offer include cooked salmon, chicken, turkey, or eggs. Your pet will also appreciate having some insects. You can offer things like mealworms, earthworms, wax worms, silk worms, or crickets.  Be sure to stick with store-bought ones, though: wild insects may carry parasites or disease.

It’s also important to know what isn’t safe for your prickly pal. The list of unsafe foods includes the following:

  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Hard/Raw Vegetables
  • Raisins  
  • Grapes
  • Avocado
  • Raw Meats
  • Dried Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Garlic Onion
  • Bread
  • Tomatoes
  • Honey
  • Junk Food
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol

Fresh water is also a must. Keep in mind that some hedgehogs may not be used to bottles. If your pet doesn’t seem to be getting the hang of it, you may want to opt for a bowl. Choose something sturdy, so your little buddy can’t knock it over.

What Kind Of Housing Do Hedgehogs Need?

You have quite a few options to choose from here. There are also a few important pitfalls to avoid. Hedge may be small, but he’s quite active and likes to explore and play. We’d recommend getting a cage that is at least 4 x 2. Bigger is better, though. Get something with a solid bottom: mesh and wire floors don’t hold bedding, and can even cause toe and leg injuries.

Here are a few tips:

Bedding: for bedding, you can use a paper product, or kiln-dried shavings. It’s best to avoid pine and cedar products, as they can cause respiratory problems. Another option is to offer a soft blanket, such as a fleece blanket.

Litterbox: Hedgie can be litterbox-trained, though we’ll save the details of that for another blog. If you want to add a litterbox, use paper towels or soft pellets. Avoid clay and clumping litters. These can cause dangerous intestinal blockages if swallowed.

Gym: Hedgehogs need to stay fit, just like the rest of us! Provide your little buddy with a solid exercise wheel to run and play on.

Hides: You’ll also need to offer your adorable pet a place to retreat to if he wants to hide or get some rest. You can find little habitats, such as pouches or igloos, for your little buddy. You may find some of the ones made for reptiles work well.

Toys: Don’t forget about toys! Many toys that are made for cats or small dogs will do just fine. Try to go for brightly-colored options.

Be sure to ask your Roswell, NM veterinary clinic for specific care tips and advice. 

Where Do I Put A Hedgehog Cage?

There are a few things to consider here. Temperature is the biggest one. Hedgie should be in a spot that always stays at room temperature, or between about 70 and 80 F. Don’t put the little guy in direct sunlight, or in drafty areas. It’s also best to keep him away from loud areas, too, so definitely don’t put him near your teenager’s drum kit. Ask your Roswell, NM for more information. 

How Do I Bond With A Hedgehog?

Hedgie is quite small and timid, so it may take him a while to warm up to you. It’s important to make the little guy feel safe. There are a few things to keep in mind here. 

Don’t Scare Your Hedgehog! These guys are quite timid, and can easily get scared. They’re also very much wired for ‘flight’ rather than ‘fight’ which is why their favorite defense is curling into a ball. Hopefully this goes without saying, but you should never yell at a hedgehog, or be rough with him. 

There are also some things that you may not realize are scary to hedgehogs. Shadows, for instance, are a big one. Hedgehogs don’t see very well: they rely more on their cute noses than their eyes. Keep this in mind when choosing your pet’s spot. You’ll also want to avoid scooping your tiny pal up from behind, or while he is sleeping. That can be quite scary for the little guy!

If Hedgie does get scared, he’ll probably roll himself into a ball. Just let him be until he feels safe enough to unfurl. 

You want your little buddy to form positive associations with you. One thing that may help here is to put a worn tee shirt in his cage for him to cuddle up in. He’ll get used to your scent, and will hopefully start to associate it with your scent. (Tip: don’t change soap, lotion, detergent, or scents during this stage.) 

In conclusion: Hedgehogs are super cute and lots of fun, but they are also quite small and do have some specific care needs. Do plenty of research, and ask your veterinary clinic for more information. 

Do you have questions about hedgehog care? Please feel free to contact us anytime. As your local Roswell, NM pet hospital, we’re here to help!