A hedgehog needs the correct food and a proper habitat to live a long, happy, and healthy life. Before bringing him home you should have his cage set up and ready with food available. Below is a list of items you will need to care for your pet.
A cage that is at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. That is the minimum size so go with the biggest cage possible. Multi-level cages are a good way to increase your pet’s space.
Bedding for the bottom of the cage. Bedding made from recycled paper or pulp is a good choice.
A hide area where you pet can go to feel safe and secure.
A small animal litter box.
Litter for the litter box. Litter pellets made from recycled paper work well and are safe.
A stoppered water bottle. A heavy bowl can be used as an alternative if your hedgehog doesn’t like a water bottle.
A couple of bowls for dry and moist food. The bowls should be attachable to the cage or heavy enough to prevent spilling.
An exercise wheel, preferably one with a solid wheel to prevent possible injury.
A variety of toys and decor to keep your pet entertained. Examples are pipes, tubes, tunnels, ramps, ledges, balls, and bells.
A small animal playpen for when your hedgehog is out of his cage.
A dry hedgehog food or cat food that is high in protein and made from meat or chicken.
Canned cat or dog food to supply your pet with moist food. The food should be high in protein and made from meat or chicken.
Fruits and vegetables that can be added to your pet’s diet. Beans, peas, corn, apples, grapes, and carrots are some of the foods you can feed your hedgehog in small amounts.
Various treats to add variety to the diet. Treats can be insects like mealworms and crickets, moist dog or cat treats, and cooked food like hamburger, chicken, or eggs.
Food & Diet
In the wild, hedgehogs are primarily insectivores, but they will often eat whatever is available. Hedgehogs have been known to eat insects, slugs, baby mice, frogs, fish, worms, small snakes, eggs, and even fruit. They are definitely not picky eaters.
For your pet hedgehog you want to provide a well balanced diet that is high in protein. How much you should feed him depends on his activity and metabolism. If you notice your hedgehog becoming fat, cut back on his portions.
A nutritious diet will help ensure you have a happy and healthy companion for many years. Below is a list of some of the items you could feed your pet.
Dry Hedgehog or Cat Food
There is commercial hedgehog food, but it is not always available at some pet stores. A meat or chicken dry cat food that is high in protein is a decent alternative. Dry food should be the primary portion of your pet’s diet.
Moist food should also be fed to your pet. Canned cat or dog food work well as hedgehog food. Be sure to get a food that is high in protein and is made primarily from meat or chicken.
Fruits & Vegetables
A small amount of fruits and vegetables should be added to his diet. Some foods you could use are beans, peas, corn, apples, grapes, and carrots. Your pet may only like a few types of fruits or vegetables so try a variety. These foods should only be a small portion of the diet so don’t overfeed him fruits and vegetables.
Everybody loves junk food and your hedgehog is no exception. Treats are a great way to add variety to his diet, but should be fed in moderation. Insects like crickets and mealworms make great treats. Other choices are moist cat or dog treats, and cooked foods like eggs, hamburger, and chicken. Giving him a small piece of your food is an easy way to supply treats.
A hedgehog needs to always have a source of clean fresh water. A stoppered water bottle in his cage is the best way to supply water.
Cage & Habitat
Your hedgehog will spend most of his time in a cage so you want to make sure he has the best cage and accessories possible. A proper habitat will help ensure that he is safe, feels secure, and is entertained. The best way to have a happy and healthy pet is a good home. Below is a list of items that your companion will need.
A hedgehog is small, but is very active and needs quite a bit of space. His cage should be at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, but go with the biggest cage possible. Bigger is always better when it comes to your pet’s home.
A large wire cage with a solid floor works best. Never use a cage with a wire floor since the wire can be painful for his feet. Hedgehogs do like to climb so multi-level cages can make great homes. Luckily, there are many commercially available small animal cages that will work wonderfully.
The cage should be placed away from drafts, air conditioners, heaters, windows, and other locations where the cage temperature would get too hot or cold. A hedgehog does best with a temperature of around 75 to 80 degrees F. The cage should also be placed where he will experience both day and night. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, but they do need periods of light and darkness to remain healthy.
The bottom of the cage will need a bedding or substrate. There are a variety of different types of bedding that work well. The fluffy bedding made from recycled paper or pulp is an excellent choice. Try to avoid wood shavings since some can be harmful to your companion.
A hide area is a place where your hedgehog can hide, feel safe, and relax. A wood box, pet igloo, tubing, half log, or tunnel can all be used as a hide area.
Litter Box & Litter
A hedgehog can often be trained to use a litter box. His cage will need a small animal litter box placed where he prefers to do his business. Litter pellets made from recycled paper can be used in the box. Do not use clay or clumping cat litter.
Your hedgehog needs a source of fresh clean water. A stoppered water bottle is often the easiest and cleanest way to supply water. A heavy bowl, to prevent spilling, is an alternative if your pet doesn’t like a water bottle.
Two food bowls will be needed for his home. One bowl is for dry food and the other is for moist food. The bowls should be heavy or easily attached to the cage to prevent spilling.
Toys & Enrichment
Your prickly companion needs a variety of toys and items that will keep him happy and entertained. A large exercise wheel is a necessary addition to an active hedgehog’s home. Other items of enrichment can be tubing, PVC pipe, ramps, ledges, tunnels, and other decor.
Toys are also needed to keep your pet active. Balls, bells, chew toys, and other small animal, cat, or bird toys can be lots of fun for a hedgehog.
When you bring your pet out of his cage, a small animal playpen is a good way to keep track of him. The playpen gives the hedgehog extra room to run around and explore while preventing him from escaping and possibly becoming lost in your home.
A hedgehog is not a smelly animal and with proper maintenance his cage should also be fairly odor free. The cage will need daily removal of any waste and the food and water bowls will need to be cleaned. About once a week, the bedding should be replaced. The bottom of the cage and any dirty toys or decor should be cleaned with warm soapy water. Make sure the cage and accessories are dry before replacing the bedding.
Health & Illness
A great habitat, the correct foods, and proper care go a long way in keeping a hedgehog healthy. Unfortunately, even with the best care injuries or illness may occur. If your pet becomes ill, it is always recommended that you seek advice from a veterinarian. Below are some of the common injuries and illnesses that effect hedgehogs.
Cancer is a fairly common disease that affects hedgehogs. A hedgehog may get cancer in any part of its body. Cancer symptoms can be a tumor or resemble a different illness.
Signs of ear infection include wax buildup and flaky or crusty ears. Ear problems are often caused by mites or fungus.
A hedgehog’s eye may appear cloudy, swollen, or bulgy. This can be caused by the eye being accidentally poked or scraped. It can also be a symptom of another illness.
A hedgehog may have bloody or swollen feet. This may be caused by his feet being rubbed raw on a surface that is rough or abrasive. Check his cage for items that would be rough on his feet. Wire exercise wheels are often the culprit. Solid wheels are safer for your pet.
Bloody feet may also be caused by a ripped or torn nail. Blood loss can be stopped with a styptic pencil, flour, or corn starch. Keeping your pet’s nails trimmed and removing items that may snag his nails are the best way to prevent injury.
Fleas & Ticks
Hedgehogs can be infected with fleas and ticks just like dogs and cats. Symptoms can be redness, a rash, and excessive itching or scratching.
Foaming at the Mouth
When a hedgehog foams at the mouth it is completely normal. It is often triggered by strange or unusual smells. A hedgehog may chew on a new smelling item until it has a foam of saliva around its mouth. The hedgehog may then smear and lick the foam all over its sides and quills.
Although hedgehogs naturally hibernate in the wild, your pet should not be allowed to hibernate. Hibernation can be dangerous for your pet and sometimes even fatal. The easiest way to prevent it is to not let his cage get too cool.
A hedgehog may get a bloody nose from scraping or rubbing it against a sharp or rough object. Although a nose may bleed profusely, once you get the bleeding to stop it will often heal quickly. A styptic pencil and household items like flour or corn starch can all aid in stopping blood loss.
Hedgehogs will eat a variety of items and sometimes an item is not food. The item can get lodged in the stomach or intestines and be potentially fatal. Symptoms can be lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, or coma.
Respiratory infection is often caused by a hedgehog’s home being too cold. Symptoms can be loss of appetite, lethargy and heavy or noisy breathing.
Hedgehogs may get a skin disease often caused by mites. Symptoms include hair or quill loss, flaky or dry skin, scabs, redness, and excessive itching.
Teeth & Gums
Hedgehogs can have tooth and gum disease. Symptoms can be loss of appetite, drooling, bad breath, and red or swollen gums. Providing dry crunchy food as the primary part of your pet’s diet is the best way to prevent the disease.
Young hedgehogs do lose their baby teeth so there is no need to worry. Hedghogs may also lose teeth in their later years. You may need to supply an elderly pet softer or smaller foods that are easier to eat.
Handling & Grooming
To pick up your hedgehog gently scoop him up from the belly. You should feel fur and avoid the quills. Once you have picked him up, you can have him in one hand while you other hand protects and supports from his back.
Remain calm and allow give him time to relax. If he rolls up into a ball, be patient. He should calm down if agitated and begin to sniff and even try to explore you.
You should not wear gloves when handling your pet. The quills do look dangerous but they are not very sharp and rarely cause injury. You want your hedgehog to get used to your smell and become comfortable around you.
Hedgehogs rarely seek attention, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t handle your pet. Some hedgehogs don’t mind handling, some are indifferent, and some dislike it. It really depends on your prickly companion’s personality.
Hedgehogs are clean animals and work hard at staying clean. As long as you maintain a clean cage for your pet, very little grooming should be required of you.
Sometimes bedding, dirt, or other matter may become lodged in his quills, or your pet may just be dirty and need a bath. You will need towels, a toothbrush, and a sink. Shampoo isn’t always necessary, but you can use a couple drops of cat shampoo in the water if desired.
Fill your sink with about an inch of warm water. Do not fill the sink too deep and make sure the water is not too hot. Place your pet in the sink and wet his back with the warm water. Try to avoid getting his eyes, ears, and face wet.
Take the toothbrush and gently scrub his quills from front to back. Then reach under him with your hands and gently wash the fur on his belly. If you used shampoo, drain the sink, refill it with clean water, and rinse your pet. Be sure to remove him from the sink when refilling it.
Once the bath is complete remove your hedgehog and place him in a towel. Gently dry him and try to remove as much water as possible. A second towel may be necessary if the original towel becomes too damp. You want your pet to be completely dry before returning him to his cage.
Toenails are one part of a hedgehog that often need your help. Since his habitat doesn’t aid in wearing down his nails, they may become long, sharp, and need to be trimmed.
The easiest way to trim a hedgehog’s nails is with a pair of human nail clippers. Gently grab one foot at a time, wait for him to relax, and then trim the nails. Your hedgehog may be stubborn, but be patient.
When you cut his nails, do not clip them too deep. If you cut into the quick, the pink area of the nail that is filled with blood, you will cause bleeding. If you accidentally cause a bleed, use a styptic pencil, flour, or corn starch to stop it. A nail cut too deep will bleed profusely, so take care when trimming your hedgehog’s nails.