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 information from a variety of breeders, owners, and experts. Also check the FAQ page for answers to common questions. Further information can be found in the pdf book listed at the bottom of this page. Please feel free to email or call us for further assistance.
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 a nibble of boiled egg and chicken can be used 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 owners rely on high-quality dry cat foods to make up the majority of their pets 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 insects such as mealworms, usually offered as treats. Small amounts of veggies and fruit can also be offered as occasional treats, but should be fed cautiously. 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, 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 also great options.
Aspen is the prefered bedding material for many owners. Cedar is toxic and should always be avoided. Kiln dried Pine, paper 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 do not require a dark room. They should be situated in a room with natural light. 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 75-80 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, 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. 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. No evidence of infectious nature has been observed. Many other illnesses and diseases present with similar symptoms, which has lead to many misdiagnoses by veterinarians that rarely treat hedgehogs or do not specialize in the species. It is highly recommended you research to find an exotic veterinarian that actively treats multiple hedgehogs and keeps up with new findings on the species. If you are immediately told your hedgehog has WHS, get a second opinion. WHS can only be diagnosed by a postmortem (after death) examination of the central nervous system tissue (necropsy). Veterinarians that are well versed in hedgehog care do not throw around a WHS diagnoses lightly and will exhaust efforts to check for other conditions before they give a tentative WHS diagnoses.