What you should know:
There is a lot of debate about what is best for domestic hedgehogs. Ultimately it is up to you as an owner to do your research and make educated decisions concerning how to care for your pet. On this page you will find a collective summary of answers to common questions from a variety of breeders, owners, and experts. If you have further questions, please email us.
Hedgehogs are a good choice for someone who wants a unique, exotic pet. They are solitary animals, but with daily handling, they can become quite friendly. These primarily nocturnal critters are fun to watch. They enjoy exercise wheels and cat toys. They are easy to care for and fairly clean with very little smell. They don't chew on things like rodents. Their diet consists mostly of quality cat foods with insects, mealworms, and the occasional a nibble of veggie and fruit as treats.
Some states consider hedgehogs wild animals and therefore designated them illegal to own. Still, a permit can sometimes be obtained. You should research your individual state and local laws before purchasing at hedgehog.
On average, hedgehogs live between 2-5 years. Although, there have been a few on record that have lived up to 9 years. Still there is always the possibility of a shorter or longer life span and any owner should be prepared for that. Hedgehogs are prone to cancer, fatty liver disease, and cardiomyopathy.
Hedgehogs need two small, shallow bowls for food (one for kibble and one for insects or treats); either a small heavy bowl or a water bottle for water; a hideaway, such as a plastic igloo, a fleece hedgehog bag, or nest box; a 12-inch, solid-surface wheel; and a pair of small nail clippers. Some hedgehogs may play with toys, such as small stuffed animals, small cat balls or toilet paper tubes slit down the middle.
This curious behavior is not fully understood. A study of wild hedgehogs theorized that the spittle deposited on the hedgehogs' backs usually gave off a smell, clearly detectable by other hedgehogs which could be used to indicate their location or camaflage themselves in a new environment.
In domestic hedgehogs the self-anointing reflex is triggered by new smells and tastes. Hedgehogs will contour their bodies and deposit foamy spittle onto their quills. Some hedgehogs will self-anoint with food or poop. This seems more common among light colored hedgehogs. These hedgehogs may need more frequent baths.
Hedgehog rely on high-quality dry cat foods to make up the majority of their nutrition needs. It should be around 30% protein or higher and under 15% fat. We use a mix of several high quality cat foods as well as Hedgehog Precision. This should be supplemented by a variety of other foods offered as treats such as mealworms, crickets. Small amounts of veggies and fruit can also be offered as treats. Consider if the food could be a choking hazard before feeding it to your hedgehog. Raisins, grapes, nuts, chocolate, and most dairy products should be avoided.
Hedgehogs don’t require a lot of grooming. A monthly bath can be given by running warm water in a sink and washing with baby wash. Some owners find using a soft toothbrush helpful. Hedgehogs also need their nails trimmed using small clippers. Colloidal oatmeal, lavender essential oil, coconut oil, and vitamin e oil can be used to offer relief to dry skin issues.
Hedgehogs need approximately 4 square foot to be happy. The cage needs ample room to not only hold their wheel, bed, toys, litter box, and food and water dishes, but for the hedgehog to roam around in as well. Do not use any cage with a wire floor. Plastic tubs and C&C cages are all great options.
Aspen is the prefered bedding material for many owners. Cedar is toxic and should always be avoided. Kiln dried Pine, cardboard shavings, or fleece cage liners are also good options.
Light & Temperature
Hedgehogs are by nature nocturnal mammals, Despite the fact that they sleep during the day, they still should be situated in a bright room during the day and a dark room at night, to mimic what they would have in a natural environment. Additionally, they need to be kept warm. Owners should be prepared to provide a heating source like a ceramic heat emitter lamp on a thermostat to maintain their cage temperature at 75 degrees.
A new hedgehog can be a spikey ball of huffing & puffing attitude. Hedgehogs usually act defensively out of fear. Give your pet ample time to adjust and get to know you. Daily handling is important, even if it’s just to let her or him sit on your lap under a snuggle sack and sniff you. It will come to know your scent and associate it with safety and comfort. Talking softly and offer treats by hand (mealworms, bits of cooked chicken,
veggies, etc.) Above all else, be patient; as with any new pet, it takes time to build trust and bonds. Socializing your hedgehog with other hedgehogs
is not recommended. Hedgehogs are solitary by nature and will fight with other hedgehogs. Only two females can cohabitant in a single enclosure if introduced at an early age. However, they may still require separating as they get older, should they ever become agitated towards each other.
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a degenerative neurological disease characterized by progressive paralysis. The exact cause of the WHS is unknown. Many suspect heredity as a leading cause, however this theory may be debated, as the disease is predominant only in the domesticated hedgehog, but not significantly reported in wild hedgehogs. Studies have indicated there also appears to be some nutritional role in the cause of the disease. There is no statistical evidence of gender bias in hedgehogs reported as having the disease. Studies have shown the onset of WHS commonly occurs under two years of age. The progress from clinical signs to complete paralysis and death varies, has been reported to generally occur within 15 months following onset. There is no known cure or successful treatment for WHS. Euthanasia may be suggested over supportive care when the quality of life is compromised. Although no evidence of infectious nature has been observed, other illnesses and diseases many present with similar symptoms. WHS can only be diagnosed by a postmortem examination of the central nervous system tissue (necropsy).