Do you plan to take a hedgehog as your next pet? In this case, you may be wondering how much care hedgehogs need. It’s important to make sure that the time and budget constraints allow you to give your hedgehog a great quality of life. If you feel that you don’t have enough free time or money to care for your hedgie, then it’s better not to even think about getting one. In this article, we’ll go over all the major care needs of pet hedgehogs, so you can make your choice.
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Quick answer: are hedgehogs easy to care for?
Hedgehogs are moderately easy to care for. It’s essential to learn about their unique needs beforehand. When you do the research and respect their special needs, caring for hedgehogs isn’t all that difficult.
What are the main activities of hedgehog care?
Different types of pets come with their own unique care needs. People know more about the care basics of popular animals, such as dogs or hamsters. However, people know much less how to care for hedgehogs. They are exciting, but inherently exotic small animals. In the following paragraphs, we’ll take a closer look at the steps needed for great hedgehog care.
One of the pillars of hedgehog care is proper diet. Without the right food, your snouted family member will lose out on essential nutrients. As a result, your hedgehog could get sick more easily or even develop diseases.
One of the most popular options is a ready-made hedgehog food mix. However, you have to check the label for ingredients and nutritional content. Not all of these mixes are created with your hedgehog’s nutritional needs in mind.
As with any other pet, you need to keep an eye on your hedgie’s health. They are prone to many diseases. Some of these medical issues are especially common when your hedgehog starts to get older. Exactly as with humans.
Here are their typical health issues:
- Dental problems
- Intestinal parasites
- Cancer and tumors
- Mite infestations
There are more potential problems. Always keep an eye on any sudden changes in your hedgehog’s behavior or appearance. Also, it’s useful to take a look at their stools. This can easily be part of the routine cage cleaning. Seeing any strange patterns in their stools could mean that visiting a veterinarian is a good idea.
Hedgehogs always need a cage for optimal living conditions. Pick a cage that is at least four sq feet or 24″ x 24″. Anything less than that wouldn’t give enough room for your hedgie.
Inside the cage, they need to have various items essential for everyday life.
Here are the things in your hedgehog’s cage that you can’t compromise on:
- An exercise wheel
- Shelter for security
- Food dish
- Water bottle
Never buy anything without doing your research before. There are numerous small animal products on the market that aren’t suitable for hedgehogs. Consequently, you should browse our blog posts and do Google research to find out whether a particular product fits your hedgie’s needs. Otherwise, things could even get dangerous. For example, some exercise wheels come with a high risk of accidents. Avoid these products completely. They might be fit for other animals, but surely not for hedgies.
Hedgehogs have quite a few behavioral traits that you have to get used to. Knowing about these things is part of the care plan. That’s because this background knowledge allows you to make smarter choices regarding your prickly buddy’s well-being.
- Self-anointing. Imagine a hedgehog spreading a strange froth on his quills. This peculiar salivation is coming from his mouth. Would you call a vet straight away? Not so fast. This is completely normal behavior. Nobody knows why it’s good, but it’s very common among hedgehogs.
- Sleeping during the daytime. This is a big deal. You need to respect the fact that your hedgehog is nocturnal. In other words, your hedgie sleeps during the day and roams around in the nighttime. This means that most of the care activities should take place in the evening. Then your hedgehog is more alert and waking up causes less stress.
- Curling into a ball. Your hedgie could roll into a ball when suddenly provoked. Since they carry all the instincts from their days in the wild, hedgehogs can transform into a tight and spiky ball quite easily. Most hedgehog owners discover that the “provocation” can be something rather benign. Dealing with this behavior may not always be easy. But it will get better as your hedgehog gets more familiar with you.
- Bodily relief while running. In nature, hedgehogs move fast during the night. While they scavenge for food, they also leave behind droppings. In most cases, this wouldn’t be a noteworthy behavior. But your hedgehog runs on an exercise wheel. All the droppings collect on or under the wheel. From the owner’s point of view, there’s quite a lot of cleaning involved.
- Biting. In this context, biting doesn’t refer to aggressive behavior. Hedgehogs use biting as a way to relate to the surrounding environment. They bite to explore and understand what exactly surrounds them. Sometimes owners think that hedgehog biting them is a sign of anger. But it’s more than likely that biting results from curiosity. Usually, there’s no negative effect involved in this.
Most people taking a pet expect at least some sort of socializing with their family members. This aspect is tougher when it comes to hedgehogs. For example, as opposed to guinea pigs, hedgehogs are not pack-animals.
Hedgehogs are solitary, which means that they aren’t seeking out any contact with other animals. Does it mean that they are hopeless as family pets? Not really. Still, you are able to enjoy time together with your hedgie.
Take care to notice when your prickly buddy gets too tired. Intense social activity, like playing with kids, can put on some extra stress for your hedgehog. When you clearly see the need, then just let them have time off and rest. Overstimulation is never good for hedgies.
As we mentioned before, hedgehogs need toys in their case. Of course, not all the toys have to be in their actual living quarters. It’s important to bring out these things for enrichment during the playtime.
Enrichment doesn’t constitute only the use of toys. You could take other steps to ensure that your hedgehog has a highly-stimulating environment. For example, you may take them out of the cage on a regular basis.
When you take your hedgie out, then make sure that they can discover different types of environments. It definitely pays to introduce your hedgehog to a variety of stimulating places.
Of course, it’s absolutely important to ensure that your personal hedgehog enrichment program is completely safe for your prickly buddy. For example, when you take your hedgie out of the cage, then only let her roam in places that have no hazardous elements.
Potentially dangerous things in your home include sharp furniture edges, tight places where they could get stuck in, and kids’ toys that are not fit for hedgehogs.
The bottom line: are hedgehogs easy to care for?
Many prospective hedgehog owners wonder whether these prickly animals are easy to care for. While the standards for ‘easy’ depend on the particular owner and their household, hedgehogs aren’t necessarily hard when it comes to pet care.
However, hedgehog owners do face unique circumstances. These result from the fact that hedgies are exotic pets. Everyday care and quirks differ from cats, dogs, and other regular household animals.
It’s very important that you consider your hedgie’s unique needs after setting up a home for them at your place. Disregarding the essential needs and quirks of hedgehogs could have costly consequences in terms of their health and wellbeing.
Remember these top care tips:
- Learn to recognize the exceptional traits and behaviors unique to hedgehogs
- Make sure that the cage and all the items inside are fit for your prickly family member
- You have to regularly keep an eye on your hedgie’s health
- Provide plenty of enrichment activities that keep your hedgehog happy and active
- Take care not to stress out your hedgehog with too many social activities
- Always follow hedgehogs’ nutritional needs and guidelines for optimal health