But they also require a lot of attention, just like any other baby. So if your thinking of taking home one of these little guys home for an addition to your family there's some information you should probably know. If you've been looking into hedgehogs and you've read some info, thats great. We'll cover stuff you've probably already seen, and some you may have not. If your just starting to read about hedgehogs, this page will teach you a lot of the basics from getting your baby hedgehog to growing up.
When you get your baby hedgehog he should be 6 weeks old, any younger than that and there could be complications with his diet and you may have to bottle feed him. Any babies you receive from us will be at least 6 or 7 weeks old. You can visit when they are 5 weeks old. At this stage it will be prime bonding time for you and your hedgie. There are cloth bags called hedgie pouches, a lot like ferret bags or sugar glider pouches, that will be a great addition to bonding with your hedge hog. He can nestle in and feel safe while sitting on your lap getting used to you and his new surroundings. You may want more than one since they will get used in and out of the cage.
Hedgehogs usually like someplace that's dark and soft. They are timid by nature, although some can be very adventurous! Be sure that you handle your hedgehog daily, even if its for 10 minutes. Being left to their solitary desires will make an unfriendly hedgehog. Its nothing wrong with them per-say, but its generally how they are when in the wild. I would recommend that you handle your hedgehog for at least a half an hour a day. If your watching a movie, why not put your hedgehog in his hedgie bag an set him next to your hip or lap.
They may be in a ball when you first pick them up and "huff", this is normal. The more they get to know you and your scent the faster they will unball. If you wake them up they will be momentarily grouchy, and have to go to the bathroom. It is wise to have a "transfer box" or blanket that they can run around in for 5 mintutes so they can go to the bathroom before handling. Try scooping them up from the front, they need to be able to smell you. They
cant see very well so what they hear and smell is
amplified. Touching them from behind will probably
scare them momentarily, while letting them smell you
first will let them know that its safe to not be in a ball.
African Pygmy Hedgehogs like it warm, since they come from the very warm continent of Africa. All hedgehogs you get from us will be African Pygmy Hedgehogs. A very important aspect of these hedgehogs is that they have to be kept in a room that is at least 73 to 80 degrees. This is something that cant be compromised, if the temperature goes lower that 73 degrees there's a very good possibility that they could go into hibernation, and hibernation for them is lethal. If your worried about being able to provide a stable temperature, there are some solutions that can make it less daunting.
A ceramic room heater $10-$50
Animal hot and cold pouches $3-$35
Reptile heating pads $15-$120
Heat Lamps $50-$80
If you are looking for localized heat instead of heating up a whole room, heat lamps are a great way to keep your hedgie warm. If you have a moderate sized cage a 100 watt black ceramic heat bulb should be strong enough. Make sure it is a black bulb, otherwise it will always be bright in their cage, which can mess up their internal clocks. If you have a large cage two lamps may be recommended or try a 150 watt bulb. Its always good go with a 10 inch dome lamp or higher to make sure heat distribution is wide enough, and make sure you have a regulator which you will need to plug your heat lamp into. I cant stress enough how important it is to have to have a temperature regulator with CHE setups, or you may fry your hedgehog! Remember that you're going for a nice "medium bake" at 75 degrees rather than crispy hedgehog at over 85 degrees. These setups are often referred to as CHE (Ceramic Heat Emitters) setups. You will find that most of the heating products used for hedgehogs are mainly used for reptiles. Some people only use heat lamps and swear by them. Others just use ceramic heaters for the whole room, and occasionally reptile heat pads. But I would not recommend the heat pads since they do not provide adequate heat within the cage itself. You can find full CHE setups in our Hedgie Store.
Do not use a regular heating pad meant for humans, it can get too hot and will only stay on for 4 hours. You can get reptile heating pads but they have been know to burn hedgehogs or be too warm. They should not be considered for their main source of heat. Animal hot and cold pouches are good (which can be found on Etsy as flaxseed or kernal pouches) especially if your traveling, but they will ultimately need something that will keep them warm while they walk around too. We use a ceramic heater that has a temperature knob and gauge. You should always have a thermometer near or in your hedgies cage that is separate from your heater. Make sure that they do not break a traditional thermometer inside the cage since most have mercury and can be poisonous, we use a digital thermometer for reptile cages.
DIET & EXCERCISE:
Their diet consists of mainly cat food. I know weird right? But like cats, hedgehogs need a certain set of nutritional properties. You can also get special hedgehog blends, but a high quality cat food is probably cheaper. Also hedgehog food is usually more like fast food. And you don't want to be feeding your hedgehog Mcdonalds for every meal. The one hedgehog food that has not been ruled out entirely as bad for hedgehogs is Spikes Delight, although we recommend you mix another high quality cat food in. You can use a blend of 3 different high quality cat foods as a regular source of diet. We use Pure Balance Wild & Free and Purina One Sensitive Systems for our hedgehogs. It sounds expensive but at $8-$14 for a 5-7lb bag, it lasts a very long time for only $30. Look for a high protein cat food that's low in fillers and peas. Hedgehogs have a hard time processing phosphorus, which peas are high in. Make sure to keep their food in an air tight container and feed them about 3 tablespoons once a day. 3 tablespoons usually consists of a small handful. If you find they they are becoming an unhealthy weight according to this diet, adjust it accordingly. Hedgehogs usually weigh 300 grams, but each hedgehog is shaped differently. So pay attention to what their normal weight is.
Most hedgehogs absolutely LOVE meal worms. You can pick up some live meal worms at your local pet store for about $3 and a freeze dried insect medley usually used for Turtles and Bearded Dragons. Though they wont get a lot of the protein benefits from freeze dried insects that they would from the live ones. You should think of anything freeze dried as treats and not a source of their consistent diet. I would recommend 1-3 dried meal worms a day. Live meal worms do contain a bit of fat, but are not as bad as wax worms. Feeding your hedgehog 5-15 live mealworms is a day is recommended rather than feeding the same dosage in freeze dried or roasted mealies. Do not feed them super worms, they actually have small teeth and can bite your hedgehog. They also love crickets, you can actually have your own cricket farm and enjoy the ambiance, or pick some up at your pet store, usually costing $1 for 8 crickets.
Hedgehogs also drink a moderate amount of water, so getting them a 16 ounce water bottle wont be over doing it.
They especially drink more water when you first bring them home because they will be stressed out. You may also see them have green feces within the first week of bringing them home, don't be alarmed, this is from the stress of a new environment and the coloring should go back to normal within a few days to a week.
Hedgehogs need to be able to run, it keeps obesity and boredom at bay. Hedgehogs can run up to miles a day, and since they are nocturnal they will mostly run at night. You can usually find something called "bucket wheels" at most pet stores for about $20. You will need to use at least an 11 inch wheel, otherwise it will be too small for them to run properly and eventually will produce skeletal muscular problems. So do NOT try and use a hamster wheel. I highly recommend Carolina Storm Wheels, which are found on Etsy. They are silent and easy to clean.
Like cats, hedgehogs have pointy teeth and claws. So they have no need to "trim" there teeth and chew like hamsters or rats. You will eventually need to trim their toenails with some cat claw trimmers. Giving hedgehogs a bath is a major source of fun. Use an all natural baby or kitten shampoo, although your should not bath them too often since it can dry out their quills. Every two weeks should be the most often you bath them. Once a month is ideal. We understand sometimes your hedgehog may get dirty, so try to lightly bath or "spot clean" in between baths. You can usually use pet wipes to do spot cleaning, just make sure that there isn't any citric acid in the wipes. We use Johnson's all natural lavender-oatmeal baby shampoo. They are fantastic swimmers and can even float on their backs with enough practice. Sometimes floating can be too stressful and its good to use caution when first training your hedgie to float. You can use a toothbrush to clean there quills and feet.
They also like to play with new toys and love tunnels. Giving them a toilet paper roll is a great and inexpensive way for them to have fun. But make sure that you cut the roll down the middle so they don't get their heads stuck, hedgehogs have died and gotten injured from getting stuck. They also love cat toys, plumbing pipes that you can find at hardware stores, and sometimes will even play tug-o-war. They also really seem to love catnip mint sticks.
DISEASES, ALLERGIES & HARMFUL CONDITIONS: There are a few things that hedgehogs are prone to getting, so its good to know the signs in case your hedgehog starts exhibiting symptoms. Here are the top things that hedgehogs can get:
3: Dry Skin
4: Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS)
6: Gastrointestinal Problems
Mites: Dry, itchy, lethargic, quill loss, being grouchy, white crust around the hedgehogs face (mostly eyes and ears). Dry skin will sometimes have the appearance of scales. If you suspect mites you need to freeze their bedding for 24 hours, totally disinfect everything in their cage and give them a bath. We love a mite killing spray that is called Ovitrol Plus, its safe for you and your hedgehog and is vet approved. Spraying your hedgehogs bedding and cage every cleaning can drastically reduce or eliminate mites, talk to your vet about using Ovitrol Plus for further instructions. Ovitrol Plus has a high alcohol content and should not be sprayed directly onto your hedgehog. If your hedgehog does have mites they will need to be treated with Revolution, which is what vets use to get rid of mites. Revolution is a topical treatment that is regularly used for cats and dogs, it is the safest and most effective treatment for hedgehogs and can be found of most online pet stores. Most Revolution must be prescribed or have a prescription, if you buy Revolution online without a prescription please consult with your vet before applying. If a hedgehog is left having mites and is untreated, infections will most likely occur. Lavender & rosemary scented oils that are safe for hedgehogs are also a great way to deter mites, we sell some called Hedgicorn Oil in our Hedgie Store. If mites persist after 4 days of noticeable signs, take your hedgehog to the vet!
Obesity: Not being able to roll fully into a ball, having a back "hump", fat pouches right above their legs. Obesity for long periods of time can cause something called fatty liver disease and can kill hedgehogs. Adjust their diet to smaller portions and encourage running. Make sure you are using a high protein, low saturated fat cat food that has actual meat as the first ingredient. Not any kind of meal, like chicken meal. Sometimes scattering food away from their hideaway or hut will help to encourage walking around if they are a homebody.
Dry Skin: An ashy tone to your hedgehogs face, white flakes around quills. Make sure that they are not "water striking" from a new water bottle and are dehydrated. Hedgehogs will sometimes "go on strike" from something new. Dry skin can also be from quilling, where they lose their baby quills or from dry weather like during winter. Our Hedgicorn Oil is specially formulated to help with quilling and dry skin.
WHS: Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a neurological disorder caused from inbreeding, much like Parkinson's. They will start to "wobble", eventually not be able to eat or drink and become paralyzed to the point that they cant move. WHS is usually always fatal and there are no known treatments. Hedgehogs will usually develop symptoms at 1-2 years old, and most times will take months to years to progress to the point of no return. Take your hedgehog to the vet if you suspect WHS. Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome can only be truly confirmed with a necropsy/autopsy, but a vet should be able to give you a diagnoses if symptoms progress. Note: If your hedgehog is wobbling make sure that your hedgehog is not trying to hibernate or is possibly dehydrated first.
Hibernation: Hedgehogs can't come out of hibernation of their own, they were not born with the mechanism. If the temperature gets too low they will attempt to hibernate. They will be sluggish, not want to eat or drink, and be cold to the touch. Ways to help: Wrap them in a hedgie bag and place them next to your chest or stomach. If you have a heater, do this next to the heater. If they do not perk up within 12 hours take them to the vet.
Gastrointestinal Problems: If your hedgehog is pooping too much or too little, feeding them either pumpkin, sweet potato or squash baby food in a feeding syringe is a great way to clear it up. Keep an eye on them if they have too much diarrhea, they can quickly become dehydrated. Make sure that when switching them over to a new food that your slowly integrate the new food into the old food by mixing them together for at least a week. If you're introducing them to new foods like veggies, fruits, cooked poultry, or eggs, start by giving them a little bit every other day. Do not feed your hedgehog packaged processed meats, only feed them raw meat that your have prepared and cooked. Ready to eat processed meats contain high sodium levels and spices that could potentially harm your hedgehog. Please make sure you are not feeding them any foods they could be allergic to.
Please only use puppy, kitten or baby shampoo when bathing your hedgehog. Our human hygiene products carry ingredients that can be very harmful to hedgehogs including Tea Tree Oil, & Grape Seed Oil. Hedgehogs are also lactose intolerant, and you can permanently damage or kill them by giving them dairy products. They do not have a second set of intestines in their body to process milk, which is also the reason they cannot process phosphorus very well. However you can give them kitten formula.
When feeding your your hedgehog food use this cheat sheet to make sure you're giving them food they're not allergic to:
CAGE SETUP's & REQUIREMENTS: The top cage setups that people use are guinea pig cages or sterilte bins. C&C (Cubes and Chloroplast) is gaining in popularity as you can customize them very easily.
There are 3 rules to buying a good cage; It needs to be at least 1.5 feet by 2 feet in diameter so that your hedgehog has enough space to move freely. It needs to have smooth flooring, no grated bottoms! And lastly it needs to have high walls. Having smooth sides does increase safety because hedgehogs like to climb the grated walls. So if you do use a guinea pig cage setup or use C&C use caution. Applying chloroplast to the sides of grated walls will help keep your hedgehog from climbing. Hedgehogs don't do well with multi-platform cages that they can fall off of. There should be barrier between levels, and if there is a ramp it should have a railing like the one below.
We personally use large clear sterilite bins and use a special drill bit attachment to drill holes for specific kinds of water bottles, and in the lids in case you need to put a top on your cage (for those master escapees). While it make seem jankier or less elaborate than other options, it is the most cost effective and pre-safe cage that you can find easily. You can do a DIY and make it yourself, or purchase one of our starter cage setups in our Hedgie Store.
There is some debate on what bedding to use, but a good rule of thumb is to use Aspen, Fleece or Paper. Pine has oils that can be harmful or scents that are too strong and have a high dust rating. Cedar is also not good for small animals and can have the same problems as pine. Aspen, while is does have a little bit of scent, is low on oil and has a low dust rating making it ideal for small animals. Fleece is also a good choice since mites usually cannot burrow into it, although you will usually find a hedgehog underneath the fleece even if they have a hideaway. Which is something to keep in mind when making C&C cages. Paper bedding is a great choice, if you do get pelleted paper keep in mind that sometimes males can get the pellets stuck in the penal shaft. Though it rarely happens, its something to watch out for.
LITTER PAN TRAINING:
Potty training a hedgehog is easier than you may think. You can use the litter pans kits that we sell or you can use a large shallow tupperware dish. Some extra crafty hedgehogs may climb on the backs of regular small animal litter pans to escape. A good litter to use is some kind of pellet. Paper pellets are the best to use, but you can also use kiln dried pine pellets since the oils have been burned off in the kiln burning process. Do not use regular cat litter, corn cob litter or crystal
litter. It can get lodged in their urinal tract and cause an infection. Some hedgehogs will get the hang of using their litter pan right away and others may take a couple weeks for them to fully understand the concept. Generally the best way to start is to place the litter pan in the spot they already like to go to the bathroom, which will generally be away from their food and hut. Then place a couple of their droppings in the litter pan, and keep putting a couple droppings in their litter pan until they get the point and start to use their litter pan. They may try to take "dust baths" in the litter at first and purposely try not to use it as a litter pan so that they can keep using it as a dust bath. Although this may give the misconception that they may need to take dust or sand baths, hedgehogs do not need to use sand baths like chinchillas or other exotic pets. Usually litter pans need to be changed at least every 3-5 days. If it isn't changed often enough they may start to protest by pooping in their food bowl or water bowl. Litter pans are a great way to keep your hedgehogs cage clean longer.
ANOINTING & QUILLING:
Hedgehogs are curious creatures, and we love them to death but some things that they do don't necessarily seem quite the norm. Anointing is something that hedgehogs do because they feel that they are a prey animal that needs to blend in to their surroundings. They will lick or chew on something that smells different or strong that could be a threat and then spit that smell on their backs, as part of a camouflage. Some people think its cute, and each to their own. But typically it looks pretty weird. So if a hedgehog starts licking you, nibbles your finger or a piece of clothing...chances are they're getting ready to anoint.
Quilling is something like teething, but with quills. Hedgehogs will quill twice after they are 6 weeks old. They will start losing their baby quills and growing their teenager quills when they are about 6-7 weeks old till about 10-11 weeks old. At 4 months old they will start to lose their teenager quills for some adult quills. Hedgehogs will typically be slightly grouchy during quilling, may not like to be pet or held as much and will have irritated, dry skin. You can help their dry skin by putting drops of oil on their skin in between their quills and then either using a brush to move the oil around or massage it in with your fingers. We sell oil that is specifically formulated to help quilling hedgehogs and can add on brushes if you don't feel comfortable massaging the oil into the hedgehogs back.