If you’re interested in keeping hedgehogs as pets then there’s good news – you can keep them as pets. However, it’s not as easy as petting a cat or a dog. Food and shelter aren’t the only things that a hedgehog needs to survive, there are other crucial elements, too, that one must keep into consideration when petting a hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are sensitive and most are wild as they come from Africa. The good thing, however, is that they can be domesticated. Let’s have a look at things to keep in mind when it comes to petting a hedgehog:
Choose the Pet Carefully
There are many types of hedgehogs out there. They differ in looks, behavior, etc. You must pick a hedgehog that’s friendly and suitable for your environment. Some good species include Amur Hedgehog, European Hedgehog, Four-toed Hedgehog, etc.
Check this link for a complete guide on hedgehog species to pick the right one. Now without much ado, let’s have a look at what all to remember when keeping a hedgehog as pet:
Taking Care Of Hedgehogs
It’s not easy to keep hedgehogs as pets. They’re quite sensitive and require an environment that they’re used to.
As their owner, you must take great care of what they eat, what their schedule is, what they like to do in their leisure time, and how they like to play.
What separates pet hedgehogs from other pets (cats, dogs) is that they cannot be fully tamed. If they sense danger, they won’t hesitate in turning into a ball of spikes. However, there aren’t many reports of a hedgehog causing injury to their owners.
Their feisty nature is only for other animals. They usually respond to new scents but are not fierce, except for some species. They’re usually sensitive to strong scents and can get frightened easily.
Therefore, in order to be a good hedgehog owner, one needs to have the following traits:
- A good understanding about hedgehogs which include the diet they take, the environment they prefer, etc.
- Be patient in the beginning. Hedgehogs take a lot of time to form a bond with their owner because of their shy nature.
- They can get easily scared so the owner should be willing to put in the effort.
- You might get scratched or poked in the beginning due to their sharp spikes.
- The trick is to be gentle with them, especially when feeding them or trying to hold them.
- You must observe the pattern and activities of your hedgehog. Refrain from handling them in a way that makes them angry. It takes good observing skills to bond with your hedgehog.
- Be ready to spend money because taking care of hedgehogs isn’t cheap. You must feed them quality food and take them to the vet when needed.
- You must accept your little pet the way they are. They might not chuckle or fetch you things.
Hedgehogs are good for people who can give them the time and attention that they need.
Where To Keep Hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs are commonly kept in cages. You can get an average sized cage for $55. You will need to buy a few pans to serve them food and water. However, hedgehogs are known for spilling pans when eating or drinking. Therefore, make sure to clean it quickly or else the cage might catch mold or mildew and get the pet sick.
You will need to keep the cage warm because hedgehogs do not prefer cold climate and may also go into hibernation. Install a heater nearby to take care of the temperature.
Also, consider installing a wheel for the hedgehog to jog. This is important because they can get obese if they keep on eating all day without running.
Note: Install the wheel about a week after you get the pet.
How To Take Care Of Hedgehogs As Pets?
- Dim The Lights At Night: Hedgehogs sleep during the day and get active at night. This is when they play and hunt. But you need to take care of the lighting.
Bright and sharp lights can make them angry and distracted as they are sensitive to light. As a pet owner, you need to make sure that the lights are dim so that your hedgehog can play and stay cheerful.
Red dimmed lights are said to be good for hedgehogs, especially during the night time. It doesn’t hurt their eyes.
- Know What Scares Them And Try To Avoid It: Hedgehogs have a way of reacting towards danger. They anoint when they feel unsafe. The anointing is when hedgehogs spit saliva on their back and lick it.
It’s quite an unusual sight when you see your hedgehog licking its body or spitting saliva onto his spikes. Well, there’s a reason behind it.
Most pet owners say their hedgehogs anoint when they smell cigarette, turpentine or any other strong smell. These scents frighten them and they resist it by licking themselves vigorously and creating a spitball of froth that smells bad.
This ball of froth is then overthrown by them over to their spikes. The perform the act as a way to camouflage against the new scent.
If your hedgehog is anointing then do not frighten. Know that they are camouflaging because they sense danger. Getting rid of what’s causing them to feel afraid may be a good idea.
- Washing Them Off: Anointing gets a hedgehog dirty and smelly. Therefore, the owner must wash their spikes off. You can use a toothbrush and scrub their spikes in a gentle manner. Rinsing the pet in water may also be a good idea.
Note: Do not wash them off right after they camouflage. Wait at least a few hours or until they get normal.
- Hedgehogs Aren’t Sick Or Sad If They Sleep All Day
Hedgehogs are known to be lazy. They sleep all day and get up when the sun goes down. Their behavior often causes the owners to assume the pet is sick of not accustomed to the new habitat.
That’s not true. In fact, this is their natural behavior. When they wake up, they want their bellies to be filled with food. It is common for them to act in a strange manner if they do not get food right away.
So make sure that you have their food ready when they get up.
- Don’t Make Them Angry
If you think that hedgehogs will start loving you the day you bring them in then there’s bad news for you. These tiny creatures do not adapt to a new habitat quickly. It can take them a few days to get used to you, so learn to be a bit patient with them.
They will act shy, frightened, and even feisty when you bring them home as a pet. It’s very important to avoid bothering them in the initial days and give them time because they don’t like to be interrupted.
In fact, some breeds can get way too angry and may even end up injuring you. This is why it is important to go slow. Wait before you try to pet the animal. Do not try to hold or caress your pet until you two form a bond.
You must, however, take steps to get closer to the pet. This can be done by feeding the animal and spending a little more time with your pet but without trying too much to touch the animal.
It takes a few weeks for a hedgehog to recognize the owner and become their companion and when they do, they’d be climbing on you, sleeping in your hands, eating from your hand, and simply having fun.
What Do Hedgehogs Eat?
Most hedgehog breeds are insectivorous and love to eat insects. The African pygmy is the most common type of pet hedgehog. It loves to eat snails, spiders, insects, grubs, plant matter, and small vertebrates as well. The same is the case with most other species, too. Click here to see Hedgehogs diet
However, they also love to feast upon dead animals such as lizards, birds, small mammals, eggs, etc.
Some hedgehog owners also feed cat food to their hedgehogs. While they may like the taste of the food, it’s nutritionally not enough for the pet. Similarly, the packed hedgehog may also not be enough.
In fact, many studies have revealed that the hedgehog food available on the market is no different than cat grain food. Moreover, this commercial food might not be enough for the hedgehog and they need to be fed with more insects for good growth.
Hedgehogs can eat insects equal to one-third of their body weight. They like to eat it raw, along with the exoskeleton. Moreover, they typically do not enjoy plant matter as it can be hard to digest for them. This is another reason as to why hedgehogs are garden-friendly. Moreover, they can also help keep insects away from crops and flowers.
Dr. Graffam-Carlsen of the Bronx Zoo conducted a comprehensive study in 1998 studying the diet and behavior of hedgehogs. She concluded that hedgehogs require protein, fiber, carbs, fats, water, and minerals to remain healthy.
A healthy hedgehog needs at least 20% protein, 5%-15% fat and 15% fiber. This study is based on their true habitat, the wild.
When hedgehogs are in the wild, they feed on small invertebrates, insects. and small birds which are rich in vitamins, minerals. This is why you should feed your pet worms and similar foods.
Note: Hedgehogs might not eat the meal on the very first day because they are not yet accustomed to the new environment. They might be missing their old home or they might also be scared of the new environment and their new owner.
Patience is the key here. Let them develop the bond. They may also not always eat in front of you so let them have their peace. Moreover, try to keep them on the same diet for at least a month to get them used to their new diet and home.
How To Choose Food For Your Hedgehog?
This is what your hedgehogs’ pet food should contain:
- Meat protein sources.
- Protein source (lamb, chicken) – easy digestion.
- Protein source (beef and pork) – not easily digestible.
- Insects (worms) high in proteins.
Have a look at the ingredient list to ensure you choose the right food.
How To Serve Them Food?
Hedgehogs have a smaller mouth compared to other pets such as cats and dogs. Since they do not have feet, they cannot pick the food up by themselves. Therefore, crush the food before serving them so that they can easily eat.
Also, make sure the food isn’t too hard or it could damage their teeth.
Which Foods Not To Give To Hedgehogs?
Do not give foods such as nuts, seeds, by-products of meat, dried fruits, and raisins to your pet. These foods can get stuck to their teeth and also cause them damage.
Should You Buy Food Labelled As “Hedgehog Food”?
It’s not necessary that food labeled as “hedgehog food” be nutritious. It may always not have the required protein, fat and vitamins.
Make sure to check the label before buying food for your hedgehog and see that it has all the required minerals.
How Much Water Should Your Hedgehog Drink Per Day?
A pet hedgehog should drink at least 2 ounces of water everyday. It is common for hedgehogs to not drink enough water if they do not like the taste.
If such is the case with your pet then consider changing the water. Some pets like tapped water and some prefer filtered or bottled water.
Hedgehogs are not heavy maintenance. They are content with the smallest of things. They want their food on time and a little bit of care.
Here’s how to maintain your pet hedgehog:
- Feed them on time and make sure to clean their cage after you feed them.
- Hedgehogs don’t like to be disturbed in the day. Do not take them out for a walk during the day.
- They can get feisty if there’s too much noise around. Avoid keeping them in a noisy environment and also ensure the wheel doesn’t squeak. If it does, apply some oil or replace it.
- Hedgehogs are fast learners and will pick good hygiene habits in their cage. Place a litter bin and you won’t be seeing a mess in their cage after a few days. However, some rare species are completely opposite. They love to make a mess. Here’s where you will have to clean the cage yourself.
- They do not require a bath for a long time but if there are feces stuck to their body then give them a bath. Otherwise, they mostly stay clean by licking and scratching their own body.
Habitat And Climate
Hedgehogs love to spend time in their cage. It should be warm and noiseless.
The cage should be as long as possible but if you can afford a small cage only then make sure it is at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. Also, keep the base smooth so that there’s no risk of injury. Do not opt for a wired base as it can be dangerous for your pet.
They prefer a warm environment but it shouldn’t be too hot either. The suitable temperature for a hedgehog is between 75 to 80 F. You can install a lamp with a warm bulb to take care of the temperature. On the other hand, if it’s too hot, then opt to aerate the space.
Getting Permission To Keep Hedgehogs As Pets
This depends on where you live. Georgia, California, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Maine, Vermont, and Hawaii prohibit hedgehogs.
Arizona, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon do not allow people to keep hedgehogs as pets.
Pet stores that sell hedgehogs should have USDA license to legally sell hedgehogs.
Hence, make sure to check the legality of keeping hedgehogs as pets in your state before you buy one.
Note: Find out how to get a permission as keeping a hedgehog without the required permissions can get you in trouble.
Do They Breed In Captivity?
They can if you place a male hedgehog with a female one. The mating won’t happen immediately, it takes a couple of days for the two to mate.
There are a lot of important things that one must keep into consideration if they want their hedgehogs to breed and give birth to a little hoglet.
- Check If It’s Legal In Your State: As discussed earlier, there are some states in the US that do not allow to keep hedgehogs as pets. Similarly, letting hedgehogs breed is also illegal in some states. Therefore, one must check with the USDA to make sure that keeping and letting hedgehogs breed is legal in their state. Some state might even need you to get a license to keep them.
- Precautions: Breeding requires a healthy male and a fit female hedgehog. The female should be at least six months of age.
You can prepare a nest for the mother to keep her warm. To do this, take a plastic tube of 1 gallon. Keep it upside down and make a 4-inch hole on one side and a 1-inch hole at the top of the base.
Cover the bottom with sawdust and dry hay to serve as bedding for the mother. Replace this bedding three days prior to the due date of the mother.
The average projected date is 35 days.
- Temperature: Pregnant hedgehog moms prefer a warm nest that has a temperature between 60 F to 75 F. If the temperature is not warm enough, you can place a bulb on the top of the plastic tube or a heating pad underneath the lid to warm the nest up.
- Keeping The Baby Safe: Now, hedgehog moms aren’t quite like other animals. In fact, it’s the complete opposite here. If you fail to provide enough food, water and shelter to the mom after she breeds, she might cannibalize her little one to feed her stomach.
Therefore, never miss out on her meals and make sure she stays healthy all the time.
Can They Injure Humans?
If hedgehogs detect any suspicious activity from you they might attack but that’s rare.
You need to be extra careful in the early days of petting because hedgehogs take their sweet time to bond with their owners. They might attack you when you try to pick them up, cuddle them in the beginning. Therefore, make sure to keep a bit of distance in the early days.
Also, not too many people should try to come close to them too early. It can confuse the animal. They go into a fighting mode when they sense a strong scent.
This can make them take out their spikes or curl up into a ball. You should stay away from your pet at such times,
Can They Cause Allergies?
Hedgehogs do not produce much dander, which is the main cause or animal allergies. However, the bacteria, parasite, and germs found in the atmosphere can often lead to animal allergies that can even cause you to have an allergic reaction.
The rule of thumb is to wash your hands after touching, feeding them. Moreover, ensure to keep them and their cage clean. Also, ensure that you do not place the cage anywhere near the kitchen, water, or your bed.
In addition to this, you should also take your pet to the vet every few months. They do not require vaccinations but neutering and spraying can be a good option.
Can I Import Them?
You can import a hedgehog into the US but only in a few states.
For example, you will need to get a permit from the state department of agriculture to import a hedgehog in Wisconsin. On the other hand, states such as Pennsylvania do not allow importing a hedgehog.
You must get in touch with the USDA and find out if you can import one in your state.
The bottomline is that you can keep hedgehogs as pets. However, you’ll have to take care of them and ensure they’re well fed and loved.