Hedgehogs are small mammals native to England, Europe, Africa and Asia. The pet most commonly kept today is known at the African Pygmy hedgehog. Many people still mistake hedgehogs for porcupines, hedgehogs are much smaller and not related to porcupines at all. There quills are much less sharp and much shorter then porcupines. A calm hedgehog feels much like a stiff bristled hair brush and there underbellies are actually quite soft! They tend to range in weight from 1/2-2 pounds and about 5-8 inches long and have an average life span of 4-7 years as pets.
A hedgehog's main diet should consist of a high protein, low fat dry cat food. We feed our hedgehogs Taste of the Wild cat food. Hedgehogs are insectivores (insect eating) in the wild so it's nice to provide them with meal worms or crickets as a treat 2-3 times per week. They also love fruits & vegetables. Commercially sold hedgehog food is often not recommended to feed because it often lacks necessary nutrition. Another great treat is jarred baby food (they love the meat ones). Just be sure to limit your treats to just 2-3 times per week and a small amount as hedgehogs can be prone to obesity.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animal's meaning they sleep all day and are awake all night. This should be something to take into consideration before purchasing this pet. The best time to play with them is early evening when they are awake and most likely you are too. Temperature is something else to take into consideration, hedgehogs NEED to be kept between 65-80 degrees any colder and you risk them going into hibernation.
Cage- First thing you'll need is a cage, bigger is always better but the minimum cage requirement would be 24"x24" with high sides and preferably wire or a well ventilated top.
Bedding- The most preferred bedding is carefresh or aspen shavings but pine shavings can be used as well there just not highly recommended. Some other bedding choices are shredded paper, washable clothes, corn cob (not recommended for males) or wood pellets. Cedar shavings should NEVER be used.
Hiding place- hedgehogs are naturally burrowing animals so they need a place to hide. Commercially sold plastic or wood huts are best but something as simple as a pvc pipe, oatmeal container, old shoe box, small child's sand bucket or even a clean plastic gallon ice cream bucket will do.
Water Bottle or dish- We use a simple guinea pig sized water bottle for all of our hedgehogs but you can also you a shallow heavy dish if you choose, I tend to find they make a mess with the dish and often flip it over and get there bedding wet but it's truly your decision.
Food Dish- The dish should be 3-6" in diameter and preferably a heavy weight one seeing as they tend to tip the lightweight plastic ones easily. The dish should also be no more than 3" tall so they can easily access their food.
Exercise Wheel- This is a VERY important item as in the wild a hedgehog would travel up to 2 MILES a night. The wheel needs to be large rat or guinea pig sized and MUST be a solid or wire mesh bottom.
Toys- Yes, Hedgehogs do play with toys! I find that plastic cat toys are best as they are easily washable if soiled.
Grooming- Hedgehogs need to have their nails trimmed on a regular basis; I find that small child's nail clippers work best for nail trims. Your hedgehog does not need to be bathed on a regular basis but in the event they get dirty a small wash pan with a small amount of warm water in the bottom, VERY mild soap Aveno or baby wash is best for shampoo and a soft bristled tooth brush for light scrubbing. Make sure when you are done with the bath they are thoroughly dried before returning them to their cage. If need be a heat emitter can be placed over the cage to insure they are kept warm.
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