The Ultimate Hedgehog Care Guide – Taking Care of Your Hedgehog
If you’re going to be the owner of a hedgehog, you’re going to want to know the best way to care for your hedgehog so that you can give it the best life possible under your roof. There are important things to learn about hedgehog care that might not come as second nature, even for those who have been animal owners and animal lovers for their whole lives. Caring for a hedgehog as a pet can have a learning curve. Hedgehogs are a little more complicated than some other rodents or small caged animals, but they’re just as cute and potentially more affectionate, depending on the personality of the hedgehog you get. If you want to know more about basic hedgehog care, this hedgehog care guide will teach you everything that you could ever need to know!
Are Hedgehogs Easy to Take Care of?
As far as domesticated animals go, the most common breed of hedgehog (the African Pygmy hedgehog) is a small pet that requires a moderate amount of care but is pretty self-sufficient. The main responsibilities you will have to undertake as the pet owner of a hedgehog would be cleaning, feeding, and checking in with your hedgehog to be sure that they’re happy and healthy. You don’t need to take your hedgehog out for a walk or play with it too much.
Playing is important for bonding and fun, but if you set everything up right, your little friend should be able to have ample exercise within its enclosure, so you won’t need to worry about spending time helping with that.
If you can’t fit a very big enclosure in your home, you may need to pet-proof a room and let your hedgehog run around from time to time. These critters are super athletic and energetic, and if they aren’t given enough freedom to run and play, they can become depressed and unhealthy.
What to Know about Taking Care of Hedgehog
Something that is important to know about taking care of a hedgehog is that these little animals are very sensitive to temperature, and they are nocturnal. Because they are native to Africa, hedgehogs do not do well with low temperatures. If you live in a place that gets really cold in the winter, you will need to get a heating lamp, like the ones that are placed in reptile tanks, to help maintain a good temperature for your hedgehog. If you start to see your pet becoming lethargic and mimicking hibernation, warm it up quickly by holding it against your body and then take it to the vet right away.
The fact that hedgehogs are nocturnal doesn’t require much of you, but it does mean that if you’re the kind of person who likes to sleep early and has lots to do in the morning, you might not be the best match for a nocturnal animal, no matter how cute you think they are. If you’re a night owl, a hedgehog might be the perfect pet for you.
You can play with your pet during the day, but imagine if a large creature woke you up in the middle of the night to hold you and hang out. You probably wouldn’t like that so much, would you? For hedgehogs, running on their wheel, eating and grooming will all happen in the nighttime, so be prepared for that and make sure that their cage is clean and well-stocked before you head to bed.
How to Care for Hedgehog
One of the most important things to get right when it comes to taking care of hedgehogs is the enclosure. To keep your little pal in good health and happiness, make sure that they have plenty of space to roam around and play in their cage. If you have two hedgehogs, keep them in separate cages because they tend to fight, and they enjoy their own space.
On the bottom of the cage, put a towel or newspaper, and atop of that put wood chips or paper shreds. Hedgehogs are not trainable when it comes to using a specific space for their bathroom, but they do like a tidy space. To help them out, change the lining of the enclosure regularly, and remove any soiled chips or paper shreds, replacing them with new ones at least weekly.
Get ready for one of the most important hedgehog care tips: you should also refrain from buying a cage made of wire because hedgehogs have very small and fragile feet that could get stuck or injured. Stick to smooth plastic. Keep this same rule in mind when getting your pet an exercise wheel. Make sure to get one that is the proper size for your hedgehog, and place it in the cage. Clean the wheel with a gentle cleaning solution when needed.
Food and Water
Feeding can get a bit tricky because it is difficult to emulate exactly what these critters would normally eat in the wild. For most domesticated hedgehogs, a combination of live snacks and hedgehog kibble will do the trick. Hedgehogs eat a lot of bugs in the wild, so feeding them crickets, mealworms or even cockroaches will make them happier and healthier beings.
There are specially formulated dry food mixtures for hedgehogs, but they can sometimes be hard to find. If you’re in a pinch, you can feed your hedgehog a bit of catfood, but this shouldn’t be their normal daily diet. Always make sure that your pet has a small bowl of water in the enclosure. Some take to a water bottle, but others don’t. Don’t assume that your hedgehog will drink from a water bottle, and always start it out with a small bowl of water.
Raising Hedgehogs as Pets
You are most likely to develop a strong bond with your pet hedgehog if you acquire it as a baby or at a very young age. This is because they are more likely to take to being held by humans when they are younger and more impressionable. It is possible to bond with an older hedgehog too, but it may require a bit more patience and practice withholding and playing with your pet until it becomes relaxed around you.
To get your hedgehog used to being picked up, simply hold the little guy or gal and allow time for the animal to relax. Its immediate instinct will be to roll up in a little ball and hide, but after some time in your hands with calm and comforting energy (no loud noises, disturbances, or pestering) it will settle down and uncurl, potentially snuggling and exploring with you. Because these animals are nocturnal, it is important to play with them during the hours of the day when they would be up and about. Try to play with your pet either right before you’re headed to bed or very early in the morning before most of the world is awake.
They will have more energy late at night because that is when they start their day. This can become an issue if you are a light sleeper, and you keep your hedgehog’s enclosure in your bedroom. Make sure to put it somewhere where it won’t disturb you when you’re sleeping if you don’t think you could find peace with a hedgehog running around and digging up wood chips all night.