Hedgehog Care

Hedgehog’s origins are an important factor to take into consideration, many species of hedgehogs live in areas like Africa and Eurasia, and so the temperature is warmer, so when the weather drops supplementary heating is important as hibernation can be fatal to your hog.

Also hedgehogs are solitary animals and even with same sex pairs can be extremely territorial so should be housed separately. Sometimes litter mates can live together, if brought up from a young age but fights can still occur. Males and mixed sexes should never be housed together.

Housing –

An adult hog will need plenty of room so a 3ft to 4ft long cage.

I recommend either vivariums or the larger version of ZooZones cages. Avoid cages with mesh or bars where the hedgehog might attempt to reach or climb as they could trap limbs or fall. With vivariums you may need added ventilation.

For a cage liner some people use fleece liners but I tend to use dust free aspen / sawdust. Dust free is the best option as even the best brands of sawdust that aren’t dust free can contain mites which cause upset and irritation to the hogs skin.

Accessories for your cage include a litter box. This is optional but Hedgehogs can be litter trained. A small shallow box snugly fit in the corner of the cage and filled with absorbing cat litter. With patients you can have your hedgehog minimizing the mess. You can also place your wheel either inside the tray, if it was slightly bigger or in front of the wheel. As hedgehogs do most of their business in the wheel the aim is for them to associate the litter tray with using the toilet and not when they run on their wheel.

Wheels should not be given to a small, young hedgie. Until a hedgie has turned 10 – 12 weeks as their muscles and bones are still developing as they grown and may cause health problems.

An ideal size for a wheel is about 30 cm or 12 inches and should be solid. Never choose a wire / mesh or bars as limbs, toes and feet can get trapped or broken.

Recommended wheels – ‘Silent Spinners’, ‘Flying Saucers’ or any type of ‘Bucket Wheel’

A wheel is a must have for your hog. It is essential as it is great fun for your hoggie late at night when you are sleeping, it gives them hours of entertainment and the most important is exercise. Hedgies are prone to obesity and all the problems that come with being an overweight hog so the wheel is a great way to keep your hoggie in shape.

A nest box or hide, somewhere sheltered they can sleep. Packed with more bedding or soft hay. The nest should be kept away from the light, giving them a quiet, dark, private place where they can sleep. It can be wooden box or plastic igloos or even a fleece pouch.

Cleaning –

I do a full cleaning of the cage once a week, and spot cleans every day, keeping the smell reduced. Many hedgehogs do most of their pooping when they are busy running on their wheels, so keeping an eye on the wheel and cleaning when have to.

I use beaphar which is a disinfectant especially made for animals, this is not as strong smelling as many disinfectants, which strong smells can confuse or upset you’re hoggy.

Only use a slight amount and keep the cage well ventilated till it is dry, meanwhile you can spend some time bonding with your hedgehog. Don’t return the hog until the cage is completely dry and most of the smell is gone.

Bonding With Your Hedgehog –

Even though you want to fuss over your new pet, let your hog settle into its new home before handling it. Your hedgie will be very stressed coming home for the first time, most likely they will hiss and stay curled in a tight ball with their spikes pointed. With all their new smells and noises the hog will need time to adjust.

Make sure you keep the house relatively quiet so it can become comfortable. After a few days, slowly open the cage up and sit there quietly and allow him/her to sniff and come accustom to you. For a few minutes a day scoop them gently into your hands, cupping them. Slid your fingers under the softness of their stomach and make sure they are secure on your hands, and let them open up a get used to being handled.

Also giving your hedgehog treats can work in your favour. Meal worms or small crickets are the favourite goodies for our prickles. Letting them associate treats with seeing you can help gain trust.

Slowly and overtime your hedgehog should let you handle them without or with little resistant. But you can expect, when you try and wake your hog up, naturally they will be upset. But we would be upset if we were suddenly awakened.

Normal sounds are ‘huffing and hissing’ this indicates that your hog is slightly uncomfortable or nervous, but it is perfectly normal. With patience and persistence your hedgehog will get used to you and allow you to bond without being grumpy.

Feeding –

Pygmy Hedgehogs are prone to gain weight so food with a high protein and low in fat is ideal. Varied diets is to prevent eating habits and keep them in good health.

I use Whiska’s Chicken but the version that is low in fat. Dry cat biscuits, anything poultry based, preferably chicken but never anything containing fish. The fat level should not be higher that 15%

Extra treats, to vary diets are some foods that CAN be given to hedgehogs. Just because you can feed your hedgehog these foods doesn’t mean there should be an excessive amount or that your hog will eat it. Trial and error to find out your hogs dislikes and likes.

Here are some foods that you can feed to you hog:

Hard Boiled Egg.

Cottage Cheese.

Boiled / Steamed meat, never seasoned and in small pieces.

Boiled /Steamed Vegies, Carrots and Broccoli again never seasoned.

Fruits – Strawberry, Pear, Watermelon and Strawberries.

Mealworms / Waxworms / Silkworms, Crickets, Locusts and Dubai roaches –as long as they are small- can be given dried [frozen] or alive.

FOODS YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY STAY AWAY FROM

NEVER feed your hedgehog -

Chocolate

Caffeine,

Nuts / Seeds / Raisins

Milk Products

Super worms [They have teeth, very dangerous] or Wild Insects like; Slugs / Snails or common garden worms.

Fruits – Grapes, Dates, Avocados, Oranges, Lemons, Grapefruit, Pineapple [any fruits with high acidy or citrus fruits or dried fruits]

Vegies – Onions, Lettuce, Garlic, Chives, Tomato

Raw Meat

Large amounts Bread

Do check before feeding your hog human food, it could lead to problems.

Water and food should be given in shallow bowls, but make sure that your hedgie cannot lift the bowls as they have a fun time tipping them over. This needs to be available at all times. Water bottles are not greatly used due to some hedgehogs chipping teeth, trapping of the lounge or the position they have to be in to drink.

Bathing Your Hedgehog –

Don’t use any moisturizers or oils that contain tea tree.

Quilling – To give relieve to a quilling hog, an oatmeal bath is the answer. Simply add 1/3 of oatmeal to some lukewarm water, not too much but enough to turn the water slightly cloudy. Or you could try some oatmeal-Aveeno lotion.

You should only give your hedgehog a full bath 5 times a year. Bathing can cause dried and irritate skin. Foot baths I use more frequently. Baths can be used to sooth the quelling process, where they lose quills, like moulting.

You can bath your hedgehog in a plugged sink or spare tub or some sort. Fill your sink / tub with a shallow layer of lukewarm water and if you hog is small, place a flannel or small hand towel for something for the hedgehog to grip on as the surface will be slippery.

Your hedgie will be nervous at first but make sure contact with your hog is kept at all times, NEVER leave your hog unattended. Make sure the hedgie is kept calm and no water gets into the, mouth, nose, eyes or ears.

To make sure your hog does not get dry, tender skin use Aveeno Oil or a similar product to keep the skin moist and keeps tenderness to a minimum when quilling.

Carefully manoeuvre around your hog, holding them tightly but gently and take a spare toothbrush to scrub softly over the feet, nails and quills.

While they are having a foot bath this is a great time to inspect their nails. If you look closely, there is a pink section and a cloudy white section, like humans. If the white section looks rather long take some nail trimmers and gently snip them. If you are worried about snipping nails, get into contact with a nearby vet and I’m sure they will assist you.

You will also need a spare warm towel to wrap your hog in after the bath. Gently rub your hoggie and make sure they are thoroughly dry before returning them to their cage. All this time you spend with your hog, helps with the bonding.

Anointing –

A strange behaviour the hedgehogs have is when they come into contact with new tastes or smells they like. They lather built up saliva and spread and like the froth on their backs and sides. You make think your hedgehog has rabies but no it is completely normal and healthy.

Sexing –

Sexing a hedgehog get’s easier as they become older. When they grow the difference become more visible.

Gently roll the hedgehog onto its back and focus on the area nearest the tail

Males have a larger gap between their genital, the penis sheath will be father up their tummy, which is known as their ‘belly button’

Female’s genital’s are extremely close to the anus.

Hedgehogs become sexually active from 4 weeks, female around 7 weeks so should be separated if you have mixed litters.

Hogs can be taken home as early as 6 weeks but never any earlier. Once they are fully weaned and have grown away from mom, eating solid foods and drinking on their own and health wise they seem strong and fit, they are ready.

Temperament –

Many people do not know the difference between a neglected hog or merely just a nervous one. This is important when buying a hog, to make sure they it is able to interact with humans and other hogs.

Hissing or a soft puffing sound is normal; this just means they are nervous and unsure of you.

A neglected hog will make a sharp and dull clicking sound which means it feels very threatened.

If it clicks, jumps or jolts in your hand, refuses to leave its ball or has a hissing tantrum that continues for a lengthy time, then this is not the hog for you.