What is a Hedgehog? Hedgehogs are a small, insectivorous (insect eating) mammal that can be found throughout the world. They are native to England, Europe, Africa and Asia. The hedgehog that is now kept as a pet in North America is the Pygmy Hedgehog from Central Africa.
Since there are no native species of hedgehog in either Canada or the United States, many people still mistake the domestic hedgehog for the porcupine - an entirely different and unrelated animal. While porcupine quills are extremely sharp, barbed and very dangerous, the hedgehog quill is smooth and not nearly as sharp. Petting a friendly hedgehog can be compared to petting a hairbrush or I have heard it as described as dry rice but, not prickly. And no, hedgehogs (and porcupines) don't shoot quills.
The average African Pygmy Hedgehog weighs about ½ to 1 ¼ pounds and is 5 to 8 inches long - about the size of a small Guinea Pig or a large potato. There are some that will grow to as much as 1 ¾ to 2 pounds (without being fat) while others are as little as 6 or 7 ounces. Being a person who suffers from allergies I find a hedgehog makes a great pet. Hedgehogs do not produce dander that will make you allergic to them, so they are hypoallergenic to almost all people.
Your pet should be kept indoors at normal room temperature (65 to 80*F); can be fed a good quality dry cat food and the occasional treat of meal worms, bugs or fruit. On a warm day the hedgehogs like to go outside for a little while, supervise them and give them a bath afterwords, all in all Happy Hedgehogs Happy People:).
BEDDING: Aspen, white shavings, "Yesterdays News", or corn cob bedding (NOT CEDAR OR PINE!) are by far the best choice for bedding material. Crushed corn cob makes a relatively good bedding and is safe to use for females and adults, but it should be used with caution for young male hedgehogs. Place approximately one and a half or two inches of bedding material evenly over the floor of the cage.
FOOD BOWL: The food bowl needs to be fairly wide and heavy to prevent your pet from dumping out its contents and using it as a toy. Small ceramic crocks that are designed for small rodents are perfect food dishes for hedgehogs. The width or diameter of the dish can be 3 to 6 inches and it should be no more than 3 inches high so the hedgehog can still reach it's food.
WATER BOTTLE: Water bottles are preferred over open dishes. Hedgehogs love to fill open water dishes with shavings and this prevents them from getting enough water to drink. Use ball point water bottles, it is softer on their noses. Sometime a hedgehog refuses to use a water bottle, if this happens place a water dish about the size of the food dish and empty water daily.
HIDING PLACE: This can be as simple as a piece of 4 inch PVC pipe, an old plastic pitcher, or an old shoe box with a hole cut in one end. (this should be replaced every 2 to 3 weeks). You can use a plastic or wooden igloo for a fancier hiding place. I may have some different options for starter cages.
LITTER BOX: Your pet will usually use a litter box if you provide it with one. A small box that is 2” deep x 6” x 9”, half filled with dust free cat litter does very nicely. Non-clumping cat litter is the safest choice. Most hedgehogs naturally use a litter box but, a few hedgehogs won't use one. Litter boxes are easier to maintain, but if you don't want to take the effort to litter box train them then it is not necessary.
TOYS: If you choose, you can also add a few toys for your hedgehog to play with. An exercise wheel is an excellent, and sometimes a necessary addition and will help him to stay healthy and trim. Although a guinea pig wheel will suffice, there are now specially designed Hedgehog Wheels available from many pet suppliers. These are safer for your pet since they have a solid or mesh-covered running surface rather than the more common metal bars which they sometimes get their long legs caught in. Cat balls are fun for them to play with, just don't get them with a bell in them, some hedgehogs have cut their mouths in the bell.
Cages: Hedgehogs should have at least 3 square feet of floor space in their cage and most of the items listed above. Always have a wheel for them, a hiding place for them , good clean bedding, and food/ water. The other items are more optional, I might offer a starter cage that would get you started for around $50. This cage will include a few days worth of food, a place to hide, a water bottle, and possibly a wheel.
Care and management
When you bring you new hedgehog home, place him in his new cage and let him have absolute privacy for at least a day. You may pick him up and hold him once or twice for a few minutes the first day, but remember, it will probably be more like a week before he begins to feel at home. Baby hedgehogs need quite a bit of sleep the first month after they come home with you, so don't be too concerned if he sleeps a lot at first. If your hedgehog looses a few quills that means they are stressed, give them privacy and be quiet around the cage.
Hedgehogs are relatively healthy animals, but some issues may arise during their lifetime. Quilling: Quilling is not an illness it is just the getting rid of baby quills for adult quills. Your hedgehog will quill, that is when the hedgehog loses all of it's baby quills and grows a new set,(like a dog shedding for the first time), this will be their final color as well. Your hedgehog will be grumpy at this time and will act irritated for a couple of weeks, and then go back to normal.
Other Quill Loss: Quills can be lost for a couple of reasons. The most common cause for quill loss are mites. If you suspect mites, take your hedgehog to a vet.
Living with other animals: Hedgehogs are usually fine, and playful around other animals. If you have a cat or dog have them learn that the hedgehog is spiky when stressed and after that the other animals will learn that it is a friend, not food. The only other animal that is not good with hedgehogs are ferrets, both are somewhat territorial and can fight.
Spewing/Anointing: Anointing is a possible response that a hedgehog will exhibit when they encounter a smell or taste that they are unfamiliar with. In such an event the hedgehog will possibly bite or chew at the source of the smell, then they will froth at mouth to create a lather. Next they will deposit their foamy saliva on their quills by contorting their bodies. I have seen a many a hedgehog contort their bodies until they fall over, some become so entranced that they become unaware of their surroundings at the time. This is perfectly normal, and hilarious to watch, when giving them new foods just make sure that it is okay for them to eat, for example a strawberry, and watch your hedgehog spew.
Important do not skip this information!
I will NOT sell to irresponsible breeders of any kind, if you are planning to breed hedgehogs Please contact me and I will work things out with you. I breed responsibly, my hedgehogs are not related which I breed together and none of my animals have health or genetic issues of any kind.
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