Hedgehogs make great pets for those who are patient and dedicated. However, unique creatures as they are, they need unique attention and care if you’d like to have a hedgehog as pet. Not only do they eat a very different type of food when compared to other pocket pets, but they are covered with tiny little spikes and roll into balls when scared. But just like hamsters, ferrets, and other small mammals, raising these cute little animals can be both fun and a rewarding experience. Make sure you understand the habitat needs and feeding requirements of hedgehogs so that you’re ready to bring one home and provide the best care you can.
Prerequisite: Is It Legal to Own A Hedgehog?
The hedgehog is considered an exotic pet, and keeping one may be subject to certain laws in your state or county. In some places it is illegal, whereas in others you may be required to have a special permit. Check with your local state, city, and county ordinances to learn more about any laws or regulations on owning exotic pets in your town.In the United States, hedgehogs are illegal in the states of Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, and Pennsylvania. Even if you do not live in any of these states, you should still check in case your municipality or region has policies different from the rest of your state, such as Douglas County, Nebraska.
The African Pygmy is the most popular hedgehog specie hedgehog owners. African Pygmy hedgehogs are native to central and eastern Africa but most of these hedgehogs are actually a hybrid of two species – the Four-toed and Algerian hedgehogs. other popular breeds for raising are the Indian long-eared hedgehog and the Egyptian long-eared hedgehog.
The average lifespan for African pygmy hedgehogs in captivity runs from 4-6 years, with some living as long as 8-10 years. Though still shorter than common pets such as dogs and cats, their lifespan is quite long compared to many smaller mammals, which means that there’s a good chance you can continue to get along with your prickly little pal for many happy years.
Most hedgehogs can fit in an adult’s hand. They range in size from 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 centimeters), according to the San Diego Zoo. They typically weigh from 5 to 56 ounces (155 to 1,584 grams), depending on the species.
Hedgehogs are solitary creatures that are big sleepers and can sleep up to 18 hours per day, according to Animal Planet. They are also nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day. This can make them poor pet choices for someone that wants and active pet during daytime hours.
Hedgehogs hibernate in cold climates, and they sleep through times of heat and drought in deserts. This process of sleeping during heat and drought is called aestivation. In areas where there aren’t extreme climates, hedgehogs are active and have normal sleep cycles, according to National Geographic.
Hedgehogs are named for the way they eat, according to National Geographic. They root underneath hedges and other vegetation, making snorting noises like a hog. During this activity, they find meals of fruit, fungi, centipedes, insects, snails, worms, mice, frogs, eggs, birds, frogs, reptiles, roots and snakes. According to the AWF, hedgehogs can eat one-third of their body weights in just one night.
Hedgehogs only give birth once per year after a gestation of four to six weeks. Their litters usually consist of four to seven young at one time. Each baby hedgehog, called a hoglet or piglet, weighs less that 1 ounce (3 to 25 g) at birth. After four to seven weeks, piglets are on their own. At 9 to 11 months they are fully mature and will live three to eight years in the wild or up to 10 years in captivity,
Caring For Your Hedgehog
A reputable breeder that has been selling pet hedgehogs for a while is the ideal place to get a hedgehog. When you buy from them you have a low risk of genetic health issues and a trusted resource you can turn to if you have questions. The problem is there are a lot of people out there who claim to be experienced breeders, but really aren’t. Buying from the wrong breeder can lead to a whole bunch of headaches that you really don’t want. So rule of thumb is to buy a hedgehog from a breeder with a USDA license. While there are definitely some good breeders out there that don’t have this license yet, this is one of the most effective ways to ensure that you’re dealing with someone who’s trustworthy.
When you are actually choosing a hedgehog, no matter from breeder or in a pet store, look for the ones with bright eyes and display signs of curiosity. If the hedgehog looks lethargic or tired, chances are it will not make a good pet, and in fact may be ill. Check around the eyes for redness or any discharges. If the eyes don’t look clean and dry, move on to the next one.
Hedgehogs make great pets, but the wrong one can be more problems than it is worth, and may end up displaying aggressive tendencies towards your family members. Hedgehogs will bite if they are sick or feel threatened in any way.
Hedgehogs are normally fed dry cat food, fruits, and mealworms. When finding a healthy cat food to feed your hedgehog, make sure it has a low fat and sugar content to prevent health problems that ensue with obesity, such as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome.
Be aware of foods that are toxic to hedgehogs. Avoid feeding them grapes, avocados, nuts, seeds, chocolate, dairy products, any kind of junk food, and citrus fruits. These can cause a range of problems starting from GI distress to death. ALWAYS check if something is toxic before you feed it to your hedgehog.
Keep your hedgehog in a cozy, quiet space. Loud noises from TV’s, vacuums, and small children are very likely to disturb the hedgehog’s hypersensitive hearing. Loud noises are capable of spooking hedgehogs, causing them distress and irritability. Often loud noises will prevent hedgehogs from coming out of there small hut and they will consequently not come out to exercise or eat causing obvious problems.
Make sure to clean out the cages at least once a week. Remove old food and feces and make sure the hide box is clean as well. An occasional bath from time to time may be in order, but if your hedgehog does not like baths, you may want to avoid putting them through any unnecessary trauma.
Always keep a wheel in your hedgehog’s enclosure to ensure regular exercise. Allowing your hedgehog to run around outside and in a room is a good way of exercising them as long as you keep track of them and make sure they don’t get lost.
Handling your hedgehog on a close to daily basis will socialize your hedgehog and make it accustomed to human interactions. Socialized hedgehogs are less likely to bite or puff their spikes out at people and more likely to relax with you.
To get a hedgehog used to your scent, you can put an old t-shirt into their hut so that they sleep in it and relate your scent to safety and comfort. Hedgehogs may sometimes use you as a human toilet, do NOT stop holding them because of this, it will become less frequent the more you interact with them.
Make sure to trim your hedgehog’s nails and give them baths on a regular basis. To trim a hedgehog’s nails, hold the hedgehog on its back on your lab and gently hold one of its paws. Once the hedgehog is still, you nail clippers to cute the white tip on the nail, making sure to not cut the quick. Regular trimmings shorten the quick and lower the chances of hurting your hedgehog. If you happen to nick your hedgehog, use cornstarch to make the bleeding stop more quickly.
When bathing a hedgehog, fill a bath tub, sink, or small bucket with lukewarm water. Use a small cup to wet your hedgehog, but avoid getting water in your hedgehog’s ear to avoid and ear infection. Put a toothpaste sized dot of hedgehog-friendly body wash on the toothbrush and brush in the same direction as the quills. Rinse thoroughly and make sure to not leave any suds behind as these can irritate and dry the skin. Wrap the hedgehog in a towel and keep it warm until it dries to avoid any hibernation scares.
Petting a hedgehog is no more complicate than having a dog or cat, love, care and understand are always what you needed most.