The African pygmy hedgehog can eat vegetables and meat, but thrives primarily as an insectivore. In the wild this small, four-legged creature forages for insects, slugs, worms and small animals. Activity levels differ between wild and captive hedgehogs and can affect the appropriate diet. As a domestic pet in captivity, the pygmy hedgehog can eat a basic protein diet low in fat.
A captive pygmy hedgehog can eat high-quality cat food that is more readily available and economical than packaged hedgehog food. Some hedgehog food offers lower nutritional value than cat food. Dry cat food high in protein can help minimise dental problems because the solid food allows the hedgehog to exercise its teeth.
Cat food may result in fatty deposits and liver toxicity. Consequences can include a shorter lifespan and health problems such as obesity.
Serve food at room temperature or warmer. Cold or frozen food may lead to stomach or intestinal upset that causes diarrhoea.
While dry food provides a staple, a pygmy hedgehog should eat a variety of foods to supplement its diet. Benefits of supplements include increased activity levels, food consumption and sociability. Treats can offset a monotonous diet. Treats, which shouldn't be fed more than three or four times a week, include canned cat food with meat, cooked chicken, turkey, lamb, insects, fruits and vegetables. Offer these supplements for a maximum of 15 minutes, then remove.
Cook chicken, turkey or lamb, then chop in tiny pieces. Serve 28.4gr of meat per day. Boiled or scrambled egg finely chopped also adds variety. An insectivore diet can consist of 1 tsp of high-quality insects such as four small mealworms or one large mealworm offered live, boiled or dead. Occasionally include butter worms, ants, roaches, waxworms and silkworms. Freeze-dried versions, such as earthworms, are also acceptable and convenient. A natural source of fibre comes from the cricket's shell. Crickets and mealworms have a high fat content. Monitor closely the amount of crickets and mealworms fed to a captive hedgehog to avoid obesity and other health problems.
Vegetables as a supplement include cooked carrots, green beans, peas, endamame, mashed potato, sweet potato, broccoli and tomato. Fruit portions can consist of apple, applesauce, banana, berries and melon. A pygmy hedgehog may or may not find these treats palatable.
Introducing New Foods
Gradually introduce new foods, one at a time, to the pygmy hedgehog. Combining one food with small amounts of cooked meat or vegetables can offer a variety of nutrients. If the pygmy hedgehog does not like eating a new food on its own, he may accept the food as a mixture. Experiment with one new food for a few days before adding a second new food.
Because pygmy hedgehogs cannot process lactose found in milk, do not serve milk or chocolate. Choking hazards include nuts, dried fruit and seeds. Grapes and raisins may cause renal failure. Never serve sugary, high fat, spiced or salty foods. Avoid raw meat and meat with bones.
Insects caught outdoors pose serious problems if fed to pygmy hedgehogs: bacterial infections, parasites, viruses. Insects may be exposed to dangerous materials, fertilisers, pesticides and vehicle fluids. Certain insects, such as the firefly, are toxic. Serve insects purchased from a reputable pet store or source that raises healthy insects.