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Hood Petz

The information contained on this page is based on our knowledge and experience.  We have cared for thousands of hedgehogs over a span of more than a decade.

Hedgehog Owner Check List

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.  Never freeze-dried.  Never yard-caught.

Required Temperatures

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.
If you cannot provide the required temperature, please do not purchase a hedgehog.
COLD - 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.

Housing

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.  Controlling the temperature in such a large space may prove difficult and the baby may have difficulty adjusting to such a large space, ie. have trouble finding their food and water.
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.  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, fabric or disposable 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. 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.  Despite what you may read elsewhere on the internet, hedgehogs do not do well in pairs or groups.  Housing more than one hedgehog in an enclosure is NOT recommended.  Squabbling will result in injuries and can even be fatal. We strongly advise 1 hedgehog per enclosure.
LOCATION (in your home):
Ensure that you place your hedgehog in a safe and temperature controlled location. 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 10-15 feet of a fireplace.
NEAR WINDOWS – Windows are often drafty and allow marked temperature fluctuations of as much as 20°F from the center point of the room.
NEAR DOORS – Entry doors are extremely likely to cause marked temperature fluctuations.
LAUNDRY ROOM – It seems an unlikely area to place your hedgehog, but some folks try this.  I strongly advise against it.  In addition to temperature fluctuations, the noise and smells will be harmful to the hedgehog.  They may suffer respiratory, neurological and gastric damage that can lead to death.
KITCHENS/DINING ROOMS – Kitchens can often exceed ideal temperatures when an oven is in use. Fumes from gas stoves/ovens can be harmful or lethal. Kitchens and dining rooms are often stressful areas for hedgehogs.  Increased 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 – Bedrooms may be kept at a cooler temperature for sleeping comfort.  Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal and may keep you awake all night.  It is possible that you may disturb him/her.  Unfamiliar sounds (snoring, beds squeaking) can cause stress which can cause behavioral changes and even health issues.

Water, Food & Insects

It may take a few days for the hedgehog to feel comfortable and resume eating normal quantities.  Nibbling at first is normal.  Many specialty hedgehog foods are available, however, it has been our experience that these are often not nutritionally adequate.  They often contain unsuitable foods such as dried corn, peas, seeds, and many hedgehogs refuse to eat them.  We feed our hedgehogs a mix of quality, dry cat foods that do not contain artificial preservatives.  It is important to 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.  In a pinch, insects can be purchased from bait shops, though this should be a last resort as they commonly feed their insects growth hormones.  AVOID ALL FREEZE-DRIED INSECTS.  Mealworms should be offered about twice a week. Hedgehogs require insects for proper health but should not be offered more than 10-15 mealworms per week.  Crickets can be offered once or twice a month as a treat.  2-5 crickets is a reasonable amount, monthly.
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 become overweight from 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, 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 recommend a water bottle because most hedgehogs will knock a water dish over, play in it, or fill it full of bedding, resulting in no water available to them.

AVOID THESE FOODS

Alcoholic, caffienated and sugary beverages - stick to water
Avocado and Mango skins
Candy and sugary foods

Barley, Grits, Hops, Oatmeal, Pasta, White Rice, Potatoes
Cherries and Currants
Chives, Onions, Garlic (including powder)

Corn (including popcorn)
Dairy
Dough of any kind
Grapes & Raisins
Mushrooms of all kinds
Nuts and seeds (nut butters are OK if free of Xylitol and in moderation)
Raw eggs and meat
Rhubarb

Salt, Pepper and other seasonings
Strawberry (because of the seeds)
Stems, leaves and pits of all fruit

SAFE FOODS

  • Fully cooked chicken/turkey.  Unseasoned and cooled.
    No deli meats as these contain salt and chemicals.
  • Fully cooked egg.  Unseasoned and cooled.
    Boiled and scrambled are typically best.
  • Baby Foods (preferably organic) fruits, vegetables, chicken, and turkey.  No desserts, rice, pasta or oatmeal.
  • Canned Cat Food (remember moderation)
  • Yogurt - Plain, unflavored and unsweetened.
  • Bits of Fresh Produce (remember moderation)
    Most commonly accepted are melon, peaches, plums, squash, leafy greens, beans/peas, etc.
    Dense foods such as sweet potato and carrots must be cooked to soften it.  Remember to let it cool before offering.
  • Insects (remember, no yard bugs): Mealworms, wax worms, grubs, crickets, small grasshoppers, roaches

Handling

When bringing home a new hedgehog, it is often best to give them a few hours to get acclimated to their new surroundings.  For less social hedgehogs, 12 - 24 hours may be needed for them to feel secure.  After he/she has settled in (eating, drinking, pooping, and running the wheel), handle him/her daily.  If the hedgehog is being grumpy, sit patiently and wait for them to relax.  You cannot force a hedgehog to interact with you and they need to feel that they can trust you ... so never try to force things.  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.  Sleeping for 16-18 hours a day is pretty routine for hedgehogs.
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 hedgehog 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 animals.  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 with the same behavior.  Holding them in the palm of your hand, being still and quiet, is the best way to gain a hedgehog's trust.
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.  Soaps 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, blowing in their face, or thumping their nose as harm and it WILL break the bond and likely guarantee a repeat of the negative behavior.  Hedgehogs hold a grudge so avoid breaking the bond.  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.

Exercise

An exercise wheel is a must!  Hedgehogs are foragers and 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.  Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal and most of their waking hours are after sundown, so expect to wake up to a "poopy wheel".
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 (with your supervision)
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 prevent injury and ensure that they have access to food and water.

Cleaning

Hedgehogs should only be bathed when necessary.  Each bath removes vital oils from their skin and over-bathing will likely result in dry skin issues.  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.  Do not place a hedgehog in an already full sink/tub.  If startled by the water, they may drown.  Once he/she is comfortable in the water, you can raise the water level enough to allow him/her to swim.   Use a tooth brush or other small brush to gently scrub him/her clean.  The gentle scrub is important to remove dead skin cells which can harbor bacteria.  Hedgehogs 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 to prevent any bacterial or fungal issues which can be caused by wet skin.
NOTE:  While we offer organic, dye free, fragrance free shampoo, we recommend only using shampoo when necessary.
Cleaning your hedgehog’s enclosure is simple.  Mix 1 part chlorine bleach to 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 no less than once a week, preferably every 3-4 days.  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.

ILLNESS

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.