While they may not seem like the cuddliest of pets, hedgehogs can have very sweet and affectionate personalities that make them great to keep as pets. But like all animals, they require a specialised level of care, with proper feeding, housing and cleaning in order to maintain healthy and happy lives.
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Things you need
- Properly sized enclosure
- Food and water dishes
- Bedding/litter material
- Hide box
- Cleaning utensils
- Heavy-duty gloves
- Puppy/kitten shampoo
Set up proper housing for your hedgehog. These are very active little animals and will need plenty of space to run and play, or else they could become lazy and obese. Make sure their enclosure is at least 6 by 9 feet, with most of the floor space open and available for use. There should be a secure top to the enclosure, as hedgehogs like to climb and wiggle through things, and will escape if there is an opportunity to do so. Include a hide box inside the enclosure where your hedgehog can nest and sleep, and where they can escape to if they are frightened. Place their food and water dishes outside the hide box, on the opposite end of the cage if possible. Make sure the enclosure does not get too warm or too cold, and that there are no large drafts going through it.
Feed your hedgehog a well-balanced diet. These are insectivorous animals, and in the wild will feast on different insects including worms, beetles and even cockroaches. While you can regularly give them mealworms and super worms, it may be difficult to find beetles on a regular basis. By giving them a mixture of ground meat, rice or moistened oats, and low-fat wet cat or dog food, you can be sure they will get the protein and fat that they need. Also, regularly give them a calcium supplement to make sure they are getting all of the minerals they need. Vegetables and fruit can be given as well, but should be done so sparingly, especially in the case of fruit. Feedings can be done once or twice a day, but should not exceed more than a cup and a half of food altogether. If you overfeed your hedgehog it could easily become too fat.
Maintain cleanliness of your hedgehog and its enclosure. While they may be smart enough to learn when their feeding times are and respond to their handlers, hedgehogs cannot be housebroken. The enclosure must be cleaned of old faeces at least once a week, or more often if you have multiple animals or feel there is a need to. At least twice a year, bathe your hedgehog, as they can get dirty from running around in your house or outside (if you let them have supervised play time in your yard). Wear heavy gloves when performing this bath, as your hedgehog will probably not enjoy it. Use a gentle puppy or kitten shampoo and brush their spines lightly with a soft bristled brush.
Keep your hedgehog healthy. They can be susceptible to external parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites, so you must check the soft hair of their belly on a regular basis to see if they have these bugs. If you find any, spray them with an insecticide meant for puppies or kittens, and then put them in an enclosure with red cedar bedding. This bedding has phenolic oils and a heavy aroma that will drive most of the external parasites away. Aside from fleas and ticks, hedgehogs can also get internal parasites such as lungworms and threadworms. These are often caught by eating snails and slugs from your yard, which could be carriers. Most of the time these internal parasites can only be treated by a veterinarian, so if you feel that your hedgehog might have caught them you should seek professional help immediately. Other health problems to watch out for are pneumonia, eye infections, overgrown nails, obesity, diarrhoea from overeating, and loss of their spines.
Respect your hedgehog's boundaries. They may be cute and personable, but hedgehogs also have very specific needs based around their personal space. They do not like high-pitched or loud noises, and if startled by something may put up their spines in a defensive posture. Hassling them when they want to be left alone, or scaring them by grabbing or roughly handling them, may lead to getting bitten by them. When you first bring your hedgehog home, give them time to get used to you and their new surroundings. While they may eventually be willing to sit in your lap and "cuddle" with you, at first they will want some peace and quiet while they get used to you.
Tips and warnings
- Before or as soon as you buy a hedgehog, check with your local veterinary offices to make sure you can find medical help if you need it. Hedgehogs are considered exotic pets and not all veterinarians are prepared or experienced enough to deal with them if they get sick.
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