Congratulations on your newest family member! Hedgehogs can make amazing pets. However, they’re definitely not your average pet.
That’s why it’s so important to not only understand how to care for them as pets, but to care for them as hedgehogs.
Introduction to Caring for Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are a small animal native to Europe, Africa, and Asia.
They are part of the pet trade in the United States; however, they are not legal to own as pets in many places throughout the world.
Hedgehogs are born blind in litters of three to six depending on the size of the species.
Larger species will live between eight and ten years in captivity and smaller species will live between four and seven years.
Hedgehogs are not silent, they make a variety of noises including grunts, squeals, and snorting sounds.
If they are unhappy or nervous, they will make puff, click, or hissing noises. When they are happy, they can whistle or purr.
If they make a screaming noise this means they are in pain. Hedgehogs have hypersensitive hearing and might be stressed and become nervous by noise.
Hedgehog Diet and Health
They are insectivores, meaning they eat insects, but there is also special hedgehog kibble.
You should not keep a pet hedgehog in a cage with a wire gate bottom, their small feet may result in injuries from falling through the gates.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and therefore mainly active at night. They can run several miles a day in their play area or on their wheel.
Lots of exercise and activity is essential to the health of your hedgehog, if they do not get enough activity, they can become overweight or depressed.
Obesity is a common issue with domestic hedgehogs, this causes them to not be able to roll up and may cause illness such as calcium deficiency or brittle bones.
If your hedgehog becomes overweight, you need to restrict their food intake and encourage activity. Thus, space for activity is an absolute necessity.
As hedgehogs are often prey in the wild, they do not do well in environments where they feel often threatened. This can include areas with consistently high levels of noise and/or activity.
Socialization of Your Hedgehog
Hedgehogs will not often immediately like someone, they need time to be tamed and get used to someone. They can be anti-social to people that are unfamiliar.
While hedgehogs like to be cuddled occasionally, and it is good to keep them socialized and used to your scent.
To help them associate your scent with home and safety, you can put an old t-shirt in their habitat.
If while you are holding them, they go to the bathroom, do not immediately put them down, this behavior will decrease with more interaction.
You also need to be aware of their behavior, not all hedgehogs want to be held often and if they are showing signs of distrust or defensive body language such as by rolling up, it is best to leave them be for a while.
Hedgehogs are covered in protective sharp spines. Unlike porcupines they cannot shoot their quills, but they can still move so that their quills poke.
If a hedgehog is nervous, it may be necessary to hold them in a small towel until they relax. Another defense mechanism they have is to curl into a small, tight ball.
Due to their strong bask muscles it is extremely difficult to unfurl a hedgehog. The best thing to do is be gentle and let them unfurl naturally.
Petting a hedgehog’s head will often cause them to roll up into a ball as they do not like that.
Hedgehogs perform a ritual called self-anointing or anting when they encounter a scent.
They begin by licking or biting this new scent. then they will form a frothy paste and spit it over their spines.
Interested in learning more about self-anointing? You can watch a video here!
Some essential parts of hedgehog maintenance include keeping their nails cut and keeping them clean.
They do not typically like water which can make it difficult to bathe them, but they do not need regular baths.
It is best not to bathe your hedgehog more than once a month to avoid drying out their skin.
To keep them cleaner for longer, it is best to clean their cage on a regular basis, as they most often get dirty from stepping on droppings.
When bathing them it is okay to just use warm water, however, if you feel soap is necessary it is best to use a tear-less baby or pet shampoo.
It is best to bathe your hedgehog in a sink where food as not prepared, as they ware likely to relieve themselves during their bath time.
The water should be warm, not hot, similar to the temperature one would use to bathe a baby.
A toothbrush or bathing brush can be used to gently clean the spines, going in the direction the spines naturally grow in.
After their bath it is best to wrap the animal in a warm towel and snuggle them until dry to prevent them from being chilled, gently drying them with a hairdryer on low is another possibility.
Not all hedgehogs will like the hairdryer, however, so some trial and error may be necessary.
If once a month baths are not enough and your hedgehog keeps getting very dirty, an oatmeal bath can be used.
Baths can be helpful in nail clipping as they typically will unfurl in water.
Hedgehog Nail Clipping
Regular nail clippings, typically every two weeks to a few times a month, are necessary and can be done with small animal nail scissors or human nail clippers.
Nails need to be clipped to about one-eighth of an inch above the pink quick.
If you accidentally clip a nail too short it is best to have corn starch, a pencil, or a styptic powder nearby to stop the bleeding.
A good way to know when their nails need to be trimmed is when you notice they are long or getting caught on fabric materials.
They may not enjoy nail trimming or try to be active during this time, it may be easier to have someone else hold the animal or hold them against your body.
It is recommended to reward them with a treat after their nails are trimmed.
Hedgehog Illnesses or Diseases
Finally, hedgehog owners need to keep an eye out for any signs of disease or illness, any signs that may indicate their hedgehog is unhealthy.
Some signs to keep an eye out for includes: lethargy, scabs, green droppings, tattered ears, constant scratching, and more.
If their eyes are sunken, swollen, crusty, or cloudy this is also indicative of problems.
Like many other animals, hedgehogs are susceptible to fleas, so they should be checked over for signs of fleas on a regular basis.
If there are signs of fleas, kitten flea medicine is acceptable to use. Hedgehogs can be affected by diarrhea, worms, and pneumonia.
As well as more serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and fatty liver disease. One good indicator of an unhealthy hedgehog is if they are losing their spines.
If you suspect sickness, disease, or other problems with your hedgehog it is best to take them to a vet.
Overall, hedgehogs can add a lot of joy to your life and be a great pet for many years.
They are a commitment though, and potential owners need to be aware of the work and supplies necessary before deciding to own a hedgehog.
You need to devote enough time to keeping their habitat clean and keeping them stimulated with toys, affection, and new environments.
Hedgehogs are not as cuddly as a cat or a dog maybe, but they can still return your affection and love.
What Do You Need? Essential Hedgehog Supplies
There are a few essential supplies needed to properly care for a hedgehog. These are the basic necessities that will help keep your hedgehog happy and safe for a lifetime of companionship.
1) Hedgehog supplies: A Safe Shelter
Hedgehogs need someplace that is warm and safe to live. If your home temperatures go below seventy degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to get a source of warmth.
The shelter itself needs to be kept in a quiet space, away from loud noises such as televisions or children.
If there are loud noises, the animal may refuse to leave where they are hidden or burrowed, causing them to not eat or exercise.
It should also be kept away from drafts, a/c units, or heaters to avoid the temperature getting too hot or too cold.
The cage should have a solid base in order to prevent injury. Since hedgehogs need lots of exercise, the more room available to them the better.
A cage should be a minimum size of four feet long and two feet wide but it is much better to go bigger if it is possible. If there is space for a multi-level habitat, it is a great option as hedgehogs enjoy climbing.
Lastly, hedgehog habitats should not be kept in constant light or darkness.
They should experience both night and day, so periods of light and darkness is necessary for them to remain healthy.
The cage should be kept fairly clean, with waste being removed on a daily bases and the food and water bowls should be kept clean.
Items in their cage and the cage itself should be kept clean, a good idea is to clean them with warm soapy water whenever you change the bedding.
These items should be completely dry before the new bedding is added to the enclosure.
2) Hedgehog supplies: Bedding
There should be bedding on the bottom of your hedgehogs’ shelter. Some materials to avoid include corn cob, cat litter, cedar, and wood shavings.
If wood chips are chosen, they need to be not very dusty. Other available options include recycled newspapers or pulp, pelleted prairie hay, and pelleted aspen.
Bedding should be changed out every week to two weeks to minimize the chances of disease and to keep it from smelling bad.
3) Hedgehog supplies: A Hiding Place
A place for them to hide and sleep during the day is important to keep your hedgehog happy, this can be as simple as a towel or a fancier shelter can be purchased.
Other options include pet igloos, tunnels, and tubing. However, there are some things to avoid, all paint needs to be non-toxic and any material needs to be checked for strings.
Strings need to be removed to prevent them from being eaten or wrapping around an appendage.
4) Hedgehog supplies: Litter Box
Some hedgehogs will be able to be trained to use a litter box, however not all will engage in this behavior.
If they regularly are going in a certain part of their cage, you can put a small litter box in the area where they prefer to go to the bathroom. Do not, however, use clay or clumping cat litter in this box.
You might also want to put a litter pan under their wheel as it is common for them to go to the bathroom on their wheel and a litter pan allows it to be easily scooped out.
Litter pans also allow easy cleaning, just the pan instead of frequently needing to scrub their whole cage.
5) Hedgehog supplies: Water Bottle
There should be a source of clean, fresh water in their habitat. After all, you can’t leave your little friend thirsty!
This can be a stoppered water bottle or a bowl if your hedgehog does not like the water bottle. If you use a water bowl, it needs to be heavy in order to prevent spillage.
They use bedding to fill a water bowl or shove bedding under a water bottle and drain it.
You will have to try different things to find what works best for your hedgehog but ensure that they have water at all times. The water should be clean water that you yourself would drink.
6) Hedgehog supplies: Food
You need to provide two food bowls for your hedgehog, one for dry and one for wet food.
The bowls themselves need to be heavy or attached to the cage to prevent spilling.
The best food for hedgehogs can be controversial and different owners have different opinions.
Overall, the food should have at least 30% protein with meat or meat meal as one of the top ingredients.
Foods with large quantities of corn or corn variations, such as ground corn, should be avoided as they can cause digestive issues in the long term.
Acceptable treats for your hedgehog include foods such as fruits, vegetables, tuna, salmon, un-spiced chicken, and cooked egg.
If you give your hedgehog a new treat, just give a little at first to make sure the food agrees with them.
You can also use mealworms or crickets as a treat, but not in large amounts as they have high-fat content.
7) Hedgehog supplies: Toys and Play
Hedgehogs need stimulus, just like people they enjoy having something to do. One of the most common forms of stimulus and exercise is a wheel.
They enjoy having new places to explore, which can include tubing, PVC pipes, ramps, ledges, tunnels, and boxes around their habitat.
Toys also allow them to keep active and play. Common toys include balls, bells, chew toys, toilet paper tubes, and more.
Cat, ferret, bird, or other small animal toys can also provide entertainment for your hedgehog.
When you bring your hedgehog out of their enclosure, a playpen is a good idea to keep them contained and prevent them from escaping and being lost in your house.
The playpen still provides extra room to run and play, without the risk of losing them if you look away.
Do not forget that another great stimulus is time spent with you, playing with, and familiarizing your animal with yourself helps make your pet your friend.
Top 8 Essential Hedgehog Supplies
1) Living World Deluxe Habitat
It has a built-in water bottle, a second-level balcony with a ramp access and hideout underneath, and a tip-proof dish that secures to the balcony.
The plastic bottom is great for hedgehogs and the cage requires no tools to assemble. The cage has plenty of room for toys and more places to explore to be added.
2) Vitakraft VitaSmart Fortified Nutrition Hedgehog Food
This food is specifically made to keep your hedgehog happy and healthy. It is made of quality insect formula and high in protein.
It contains omega fatty acids, natural oils, and flaxseed to help keep your hedgehog’s skin healthy. Also, it is made in the USA.
Be aware though, that just as people have foods they dislike, not all hedgehogs will like this food or be interested in it.
3) Amakunft Small Animals C&C Cage Tent
The sides of this playpen are 38 inches to help prevent your hedgehog from escaping, the sides are also netting to allow you to keep a close eye while they play.
Since this playpen is already put together and just simply unfolds for automatic opening, it is easy to set up.
4) JanYoo Hedgehog Toys
The available animal shapes include a bee, a crocodile, a giraffe, a pig, and a reindeer, each as cute as the last.
You can unzip the lush home to and take out the removable, washable mat to keep the habitat clean. It is a great place for your pet to hide in and sleep during the day.
5) Carefresh Small Pet Bedding
The company makes its own paper from natural fibers obtained raw and directly from the source. It boasts of ten-day odor control, keeping your hedgehog's habitat from smelling.
This bedding helps keep your hedgehog warm and dry while providing great comfort. You also do not have to worry about it being too dusty, as their manufacturing process is 99% dust-free.
It comes in sizes from ten to sixty liters, allowing you to try it out or stock up. You can buy it in a variety of fun colors, from natural or white, to blue, purple, and confetti colored.
6) PINVNBY Wooden Hamster Hideout House, Pet Play Bridge Rat Mouse Exercise Toys for Small Animal Habitat (2 Packs)
The first item is a rainbow-colored bridge for your hedgehog to climb over and underneath.
The second item is a rainbow colors house-shaped habitat for your hedgehog to sleep in and explore.
Though you will need to build them yourself, they are easy to put together. Both pieces are made of natural wood and thus will not hurt your hedgehog if they decide to chew on it.
7) Hartz Just For Cats Cat Toy
Two of the available pack options would be the best suited for hedgehogs, the "Variety Pack" and the "Super Hunters" variation.
Both of these packs have several different types of toys so your hedgehog can have many options for fun toys to play with.
The small balls and small balls with bells inside will be especially attractive for your hedgehog.
However, some packs include feathered objects, it would be recommended to remove that item as to not risk your hedgehog eating a part of the feather.
8) Portable Small Animal Guinea Pig Hedgehog Hamster Carrier Bag Box
The soft carrier comes in both pink and grey and has plenty of air holes, so you do not have to worry about your hedgehog.
It has a handle on top for easy carrying and is 100% waterproof. It is small enough to be transported easily, but big enough your hedgehog has plenty of room.
Perfect for trips to the vet or other travel needs.
Final Thoughts: Essential Hedgehog Supplies
Caring and understanding your hedgehog is super important when it comes to helping them live a long, healthy and happy life.
While they may not be able to tell you, they’ll definitely be happy you took the time to consider their well-being and fun!