Basic Hedgehog Care
When picking up a hedgehog, it is best to slip your fingers under their belly and lift straight up. In nature, predators attack from behind so if you grab from behind, your hedgie will instinctively curl up leaving you to grab a handful of needle-sharp quills. This is not a sign of aggression, rather fear. When hedgehogs feel no threat and are picked up correctly, they are very calm and sweet creatures. They are also able to learn familiar scents and discern if there is a threat or not. Hedgehogs will also "anoint" themselves when they smell new scents. This is when they lick themselves (usually on the back) creating a foam that is clearly visible. It is a typically natural behavior and is nothing to be alarmed about.
According to USDA guidelines,
hedgehogs should have at least 2 square feet of floor space with a solid
bottom. We recommend at least 4 square feet for a single
hedgie. They love to explore at night so the more room, the
better. The extra space will also allow for a hide hut, exercise
wheel and litter pan. Hedgehogs can climb and escape from a
cage with no top if the sides are not tall enough. Hedgehogs have
tiny feet that will slip through wire bottoms causing injury, so a solid bottom
is a must.
Substrate or bedding for hedgehogs can include wood shavings or paper bedding. If your choice is wood, NEVER use cedar as it is toxic to nearly all animals. Kiln dried pine and aspen are usually the substrate of choice as they are readily available and typically less expensive. There are a few types of paper beddings available in most pet stores (i.e. CareFresh). Paper products are slightly more expensive but are more absorbent and free of mites (which can sometimes be found in wood products).
Many types of specialty dry foods available for hedgehogs in most major pet stores. If your hedgie refuses to eat these “specialty foods” he/she may accept a good quality dry cat food quite readily. It’s very important, regardless of which dry food you offer, that you offer mealworms and/or crickets regularly. Hedgehogs are insectivorous and must have insects to maintain optimal health. You must also observe your hedgehog’s weight. Hedgehogs have a tendency to become overweight from either eating too much or exercising too little. If you notice that your hedgehog is unable to roll into a ball and has a noticeable amount fatty tissue around the front shoulders (when laid upon its back) then you may want to consider a lower calorie dry food. Food should be offered in a shallow heavy dish that can hold approximately ½ - ¾ cup of food. We find that it is best to offer a water bottle rather than a water dish. Typically hedgies will knock a water dish over, play in it or fill it full of bedding. It just tends to be messy and doesn’t allow access to clean water at all times.
Placing an exercise wheel in your hedgehog’s cage is a must! A lot of hedgehogs have a tendency to become overweight when kept as pets. They WILL use an exercise wheel when offered but it must be one that has a solid or screened walking surface to prevent their tiny feet from getting caught which can cause injuries. Remember, hedgehogs are nocturnal which means that they will be using this wheel in the middle of the night. Most wheels (even those that claim to be quiet) will make some noise. This should be taken into consideration when determining which room in your home to place your hedgehog. You want your hedgehog to get as much exercise as possible, but you want to make sure that the humans in the house can sleep as well.
Bathing your hedgehog is a snap. Run just enough lukewarm (never hot) water to reach the hedgehog’s belly. Since they are such small animals, they can be bathed in a sink or if you like you can use the tub or a kiddie pool to allow for more room to roam. If taking a dip doesn’t clean all soiled areas, you can use a tooth brush and fragrance free, dye free shampoo to properly clean up your hedgie. They usually like to play in the water for a while but never leave them unattended as they could escape or possibly even drown.
Cleaning your hedgehog’s cage is simple. Mix 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water and use this to clean the cage, litter pan, wheel, hide hut, food bowl and water bottle. Make sure to rinse thoroughly and towel dry. This should be done every 2 – 3 days or as often as needed if you have an unusually messy hedgie. This will keep down any bacteria growth and odor and keep your hedgie happy and healthy.
First and foremost, if you suspect that your hedgehog is ill or injured, seek the medical attention of a licensed vet that is experienced with hedgehogs immediately.
There are several things that
can affect a hedgehog’s health. Hedgehogs can develop or suffer from obesity,
skin conditions, respiratory infections, injuries, mites, fungal
infections and congenital or neurological disorders. Some of these issues can
be researched on the internet and treated successfully; however we recommend
that you at least consult with a licensed vet before beginning treatment.
Hood Petz chooses not to delve too deeply into these issues for liability reasons. If you feel that there is a problem, please visit a professional.
Locate a vet in your area