HEDGEHOG OWNER'S CHECK LIST
ALL of the following items are absolutely necessary for keeping a healthy hedgehog.
- Digital Thermometer with wire lead for inside/outside temperature.
- Heat Lamp/Ceramic Heat Emitter that is adequate for heating the enclosure you plan to use.
- Cage or Enclosure with a solid bottom and sides.
- 12 inch Wheel with a solid running surface.
- Plastic Hide large enough for the hedgehog to comfortably move around in (we suggest 12 inch)
- Food Bowl preferably shallow and heavy.
- Water Bottle 8 oz. or larger.
- Dry Food of a good quality and no artificial preservatives
- LIVE Insects mealworms, wax worms and young crickets are suitable. Always live, never freeze-dried.
While a temperature range of 72°F - 85°F is well tolerated,
THE IDEAL TEMPERATURE RANGE FOR HEDGEHOGS IS 75°F - 80°F (23°C - 27°C).
Temperatures lower than 70°F can NOT be tolerated by hedgehogs at all.
Low temperatures will result in death of the hedgehog.
One of the most important things about owning a hedgehog is to offer the proper temperature. Unlike most pets, hedgehogs require a specific (and limited) temperature range to keep them healthy.
If you cannot provide the required temperature, please do not purchase a hedgehog.
COLD - While hedgehogs can tolerate temperatures between 72°F - 85°F, it is not recommended to allow temperatures to linger around 70°F for prolonged periods of time
First and foremost, you need to purchase a digital thermometer. Knowing the exact temperature is essential.
There are many methods of heating available, however, we strongly recommend using an ambient heat source such as a heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter. Heat sources that only heat the laying surface such as heating pads, will not heat the air that the hedgehog is breathing and could lead to a respiratory infection or other illness. Utility lamps, which can be purchased at the hardware store, department store, etc., are inexpensive. You can purchase actual "heat bulbs" although regular incandescent bulbs will work as well. The key is to monitor the temperature closely until you see how the heat source works with your particular cage/enclosure.
You MUST check the temperature at least every 4-8 hours to ensure that the heat source is reaching the desired temperature. It is best to start with low wattage and increase as necessary. In the event of a power outage during cold weather, please make accommodations for your hedgehog with a family member, neighbor, etc. They cannot endure the same temperatures that we can.
HEAT - Hedgehogs can endure temperatures up to 85°F but should not be allowed to remain in temperatures exceeding 85°F for prolonged periods of time. Over exposure to extreme temperatures can cause heat exhaustion and even death. In the event of a power outage during very high temperatures, a large bowl of ice can drop the temperature in a hedgehog’s enclosure as much as 10°F (which is usually sufficient to reach the ideal temperature range.) Please contact us if you have any questions about temperature requirements or about emergency measures that can be taken.
When bringing home a new hedgehog, it is sometimes best to give them 12 - 24 hours to acclimate themselves to their new surroundings. There will be new smells and sounds which may be frightening to them. They may not tolerate being handled right away. This is temporary. After he/she has settled in (eating, drinking and running the wheel are signs that they're comfortable), handle him/her daily to ensure the best possible bond. Typically, hedgehogs are up and moving around sundown and most are more receptive to being handled once they are awake.
Hedgehogs, especially babies, sleep a lot. This is normal.
When picking up a hedgehog, it is best to slip your fingers under their belly and lift straight up. In nature, predators attack from behind so if you grab them from behind, your hedgie will instinctively curl up to protect itself. This is a sign of fear, not aggression. When hedgehogs feel safe and comfortable and are picked up correctly, they are very calm and sweet creatures. If your hedgehog balls up and huffs, pick him/her up regardless and wait patiently for them to open up. If you allow him/her to intimidate you, they will continue to do so. Holding them in the palm of your hand without trying to force interaction is the best way to gain a hedgehog's trust. Be patient.
Do not try to restrain him/her. Allow them to walk around freely (within reason.) If you try to restrain him/her they will react negatively. If they are going in a direction that isn't desirable, gently place your hand in front of them and corral them back in your direction. In the event that your hedgehog should bite you, try not to over-react. Hedgehogs rarely bite out of aggression, rather, they smell something that they think is edible and go in for a taste. There is typically some licking involved before the bite which is your warning to put him/her down and wash up. Over-reacting to a bite or a grumpy hedgehog will encourage the negative behavior. If they realize that they didn't accomplish much by biting or huffing, they are less likely to try it in the future. Before handling, it is usually best to wash with warm water only, no soap. The soap may have a smell that they find interesting. After handling ALWAYS use soap.
Never discipline a hedgehog. They are not truly domesticated animals and do not understand as a dog or cat would. They will view acts such as raising your voice or thumping their nose as harm and it will almost certainly guarantee a repeat of the negative behavior; as well as breaking your bond permanently. Hedgehogs WILL hold a grudge. Over the years, we have found that down-playing and not over-reacting to undesired behavior is usually the best deterrent.
NOTE: Lay out an old towel or equivalent to protect clothing, carpet and furniture in case he/she makes an oops while roaming.
The minimum cage requirement is 2 sq. ft. of floor space. We recommend 3-4 sq. ft. of floor space. However, placing a baby hedgehog in an enclosure larger than 4 sq. ft. is not recommended. They may have difficulty adjusting to such a large space and could have trouble finding their food and water. Also, it may be very difficult to control temperatures in very large enclosures, especially if the enclosure does not have a solid sides and top to hold the heat in..
Hedgehogs can climb and escape from a cage with no top if the sides are not tall and solid (no bars to climb up.) Hedgehogs have tiny feet that will slip through wire bottoms and sides causing injury so a solid bottom is a must and we strongly recommend solid sides as well.
Substrate or bedding for hedgehogs can include kiln-dried pine shavings, paper bedding or cage liners. If you choose to use a wood product, you must NEVER USE CEDAR as it contains oils that are toxic to all animals. Some breeders use aspen bedding, though we prefer not to use it because the small particles can become embedded in the hedgehog's eyes or genitals. If you choose to use paper bedding, be sure to purchase bedding with no color or dyes and monitor your hedgehog for signs of dry skin or allergies.
Hedgehogs are solitary animals. Housing more than one hedgehog in an enclosure is NOT recommended regardless of age or gender. Even two females may squabble if housed together, and the resulting injuries can be fatal. We strongly advise 1 hedgehog per enclosure. Better safe than sorry.
Where not to place your hedgehog (in your home):
When bringing home a hedgehog, much consideration must be given to the location in which to place his/her cage. You want to ensure that you place your hedgehog in a safe and temperature controlled location. Special consideration should also be given to the fact that while hedgehogs spend some time awake during the day, they are primarily nocturnal. Temperature is also very important, so you should have a digital thermometer to properly monitor the temperatures in the cage.
You should avoid placing your hedgehog in the following locations in your home:
Fireplaces – NEVER place your hedgehog near a fireplace. Temperatures near fireplaces can often exceed 90°F-125°F and the smoke and fumes emitted can be lethal to your hedgehog. Caged animals (of any species) should never be placed within 15-20 feet of a fireplace.
Near Windows – Windows are often drafty and allow marked temperature fluctuations. During winter months, the temperature difference near a window can be as much as 20°F colder than the center point of the room. In summer months, windows can act as a large magnifying glass, amplifying heat from the sun. Sitting directly in front of a window with the sun coming through can lead to heat exhaustion.
Near Doors – Doors are quite often drafty and entry doors are extremely likely to cause marked temperature fluctuations by allowing outdoor temperatures into your hedgehog’s home each time the door is opened.
Laundry Room – While it seems an unlikely area to place your hedgehog, some folks may try this. I strongly advise against it. Obviously there may be temperature fluctuations when the dryer is in use but in addition, the noise will undoubtedly cause stress for your hedgehog which can lead to health problems and behavioral issues (make them grouchy.) Most importantly, if a hedgehog is placed on top of either the washer or dryer, the vibration can cause the hedgehog to become ill. They can suffer gastric disturbances, develop inner ear problems and even suffer neurological damage which could lead to death. Just avoid this room altogether.
Kitchens/Dining Room – Though it may sound silly, some folks do have caged animals in or near their kitchen or dining room. This should be avoided. Kitchens can often exceed ideal temperatures when an oven is in use. Fumes from gas stoves/ovens can be harmful or lethal. Often, kitchens and dining rooms are stressful areas for hedgehogs, as there is an increased amount of noise (pots and pans clanging, fridge door being opened and closed, etc.), increased traffic through the area and a large volume of smells. Too many odor fluctuations can cause your hedgehog to become reluctant to eat and/or become withdrawn or aggressive.
Bedrooms – We do not recommend bedrooms because they may be kept at a cooler temperature, for the sleeping comfort of the humans. In addition to temperature problems, there is the chance that your new, primarily nocturnal friend may keep you awake all night, or you may even disturb him/her. Unfamiliar sounds (especially repetitive noises such as snoring or beds squeaking) can cause stress. If hedgehogs are stressed by repetitive noises, they will often exhibit behavioral changes. These changes could be a sign of a health problem caused by the stress.
If an area is uncomfortable or stressful to you, it will certainly be detrimental to your hedgehog. Hedgehogs are far more sensitive than humans in many aspects; particularly with sounds, smells and temperatures.
WATER, FOOD, and INSECTS
It may take a few days for the hedgehog to feel comfortable enough to resume eating normal quantities of food. Nibbling at first is normal. Many specialty foods are available for hedgehogs, however, it has been our experience that they often do not meet the nutritional requirements, contain foods that hedgehogs are unable to eat such as dried corn and peas, and many hedgehogs will refuse to eat them. We feed the hedgehogs in our herd a mix of good quality, dry cat foods that do not contain artificial preservatives. It’s very important, regardless of which dry food you offer, that you offer live insects such as mealworms, crickets, wax worms, etc. in addition to the dry food. Live insects can be purchased at nearly all reptile shops and in a pinch, can be purchased from a bait shop, though bait shops should be a last resort as they commonly feed their insects growth hormones, which, if ingested regularly by hedgehogs, could cause health problems.
AVOID ALL FREEZE-DRIED INSECTS. Live insects can be offered daily as long as the hedgehog is not overweight, and must be offered no less than 2-3 days per week. Hedgehogs are insectivorous and must have insects regularly in their diet to maintain a healthy body.
If you are not willing to handle LIVE INSECTS ... hedgehogs ARE NOT the pet for you.
You must observe your hedgehog’s weight. Some hedgehogs will become overweight from either over-eating or lack of exercise. If you notice that your hedgehog is unable to roll into a ball and/or has a noticeable amount fatty tissue around the front shoulders (a noticeable hump) or excessive fatty tissue around the rump (when laid upon its back) then you'll want to consider a lower calorie dry food and/or rationing the amount of food offered daily. Food should be offered in a shallow, heavy dish that can hold approximately ½ - 1½ cups of food. Unless your hedgehog shows signs of a weight problem, food should be offered at all times. Food remaining from the previous day should be discarded and fresh food offered daily.
We find that it is best to offer a water bottle rather than a water dish. Typically hedgies will knock a water dish over, play in it, or fill it full of bedding. It just tends to be messy and doesn’t allow access to clean water at all times.
Foods To Avoid When Feeding Hedgehogs
Alcoholic, caffienated and sugary beverages
Foods Acceptable IN MODERATION
PLEASE NOTE: Insects should be purchased from a reputable source such as a reptile shop. Before offering insects, be sure that they are free of medium and debris. ABSOLUTELY NO YARD CAUGHT INSECTS as they could be contaminated with pesticides or parasites.
An exercise wheel is a must! Hedgehogs are foragers. They can (and do) walk up to 7 or more miles each night. The exercise wheel provides the hedgehog with a way to satisfy that natural need to walk. The wheel also helps to alleviate stress and anxiety as well as ensure that your hedgehog maintains a healthy weight. The wheel should have a solid walking surface to prevent injuries such as snagged toenails or trapped limbs, as hedgehogs have tiny feet. Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal; most of their waking hours are after sundown, with only eating/drinking/potty trips during the day. This also means that the wheel will mostly be in use during the night.
Other suitable exercise options include: Allowing your hedgehog to run around on a protected surface (with your supervision), taking a dip in the sink or bathtub, strolling around in a runabout ball (must be ferret size and use a protected surface), tunnels and tubes for the hedgehog to walk through (must be at least 4 inches in diameter), an empty toilet paper tube makes a great toy that will give them a little work-out and is funny to watch.
Remember to remove all toys from the cage when you're not around to ensure that they have access to food and water and do not injure themselves.
CLEANING and BATHING
Bathing should only be done when necessary. Each bath removes vital oils from their skin and may cause dry or flaky skin. When needed, get the water running at a lukewarm (never hot or cold) temperature before placing the hedgehog in the sink/tub. Once the water is at the right temperature, sit the hedgehog down and allow the water to rise slowly. Run just enough water to reach the hedgehog’s belly. Once he/she is used to the water, you can raise the water level, allowing them to swim. Since they're such small animals, they can be bathed in a sink or wash-pan ... or ... if you like you can use the tub or a kiddie pool to allow for more exercise. If taking a dip doesn’t clean all soiled areas, you can use a tooth brush to gently scrub him/her clean. They sometimes like to play in the water for a short while, but never leave him/her unattended as they could escape or possibly drown. Give your hedgehog plenty of towel time. He/She should be COMPLETELY DRY when placed back into their enclosure.
Cleaning your hedgehog’s enclosure is simple. Mix 1 part chlorine bleach to 20-40 parts water and use this to clean the enclosure, and all accessories such as the litter pan, wheel, hide, food bowl and water bottle. Make sure to rinse thoroughly and drip or towel dry. This should be done every 3-4 days or as often as needed if you have an unusually messy hedgie. This will keep down any bacteria growth and odor as well as keeping your hedgie happy and healthy. Cleaning doesn't have to be a thankless chore ... spend time with your hedgie while the supplies dry. By spending time with your hedgehog, then returning him/her to a clean environment, you may strengthen your bond.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, if you suspect that your hedgehog is ill or injured, seek the medical attention of a licensed vet that is experienced with hedgehogs immediately. While we are knowledgeable about some hedgehog health issues, we are not medical professionals. All medical issues and injuries should be referred to your veterinarian. Several things can affect a hedgehog’s health. Hedgehogs can develop or suffer from obesity, skin conditions, respiratory infections, injuries, mites, fungal infections, congenital defects, neurological disorders, etc. Some of these issues can be researched on the internet and treated successfully at home; however we recommend that you at least consult with a licensed vet before beginning any treatment. We choose not to delve too deeply into these issues. We feel that they are best left to professionals. If you feel that there is a problem, PLEASE visit a licensed vet.
Parasites: It is possible that your hedgie could contract external parasites. Wood shavings can contain mites. If there are other animals in your home that travel outside, it is possible that they could bring in mites, fleas and ticks. Signs and symptoms of external parasites could be: Constant scratching (all animals scratch occasionally), dry and flaking skin, cracked skin, open sores, excessive quill loss resulting in bald spots, caked or crusty eyes, ears or muzzle. If you observe any of these symptoms, contact your vet. An infestation of parasites will result in health problems that could lead to death.