Hedgehogs Northwest Basic Hedgehog Info and Care
Hedgehogs are a very unique pet, although very prickly for young children, with proper care, patience and regular handling, hedgehogs are fun for all ages. The breeding and selling of hedgehogs is closely regulated by the USDA.
In the wild they live a solitary life, always foraging for insects under rocks and in the dirt. About the only time 2 hedgehogs come together is for reproduction and that is only for a few minutes. They live an average of 3-6 years, but have been known to live as long as 10 years. Gestation is 35 days with an average litter size of 4. Babies are usually born with a thin membrane around their quills and the quills poke out within about an hour of birth. When born the quills are actually very soft and harden up after only a few days. Hedgehogs like dry warm environments (75-80 degrees they should NEVER be in a room below 72 degrees without supplemental heat) and are mainly insectivores but some hedgies enjoy fruits and vegetables occasionally.
We recommend thoroughly cleaning your hedgehog's cage at least once per week. This means that you want to use a cage that is easy to maneuver to wash. We recommend guinea pig cages with a solid plastic tub bottom and a removable wire top for housing. 40 gallon aquariums (or larger) do also make adequate housing, but they are much more cumbersome to clean. Hedgehogs should, under no circumstance, be housed in an enclosure that has any wire flooring because they can easily get their feet caught between the bars and potentially break their legs while trying to free themselves.
Anytime your home is 72 degrees or below, your hedgehog will need supplemental heat. Ceramic heat lamps are the most efficient and safest option. A human heating pad without an auto-shutoff feature can also suffice. Most heat mats designed for reptiles get too hot and can burn your hedgie. If you do choose a heat pad or heat mat, it is also recommended that you place a breathable blanket over your hedgehog's cage at night.
We recommend Carefresh Ultra litter for lining your hedgies home or towels or cloth cage liners if changed daily. Pure pine or pure Aspen shavings are okay, after your pet reaches at least 4 months of age. Never use mixed woods or cedar shavings! Aromatic oils in cedar shaving and some other wood shavings can cause respiratory problems.
Fresh clean water should be available at all times and changed daily. They can use an 8 to 16oz. hamster water bottle or a heavy shallow dish for water. Water bottles are preferred to water dishes in that they are easier to keep clean than dishes.
We feed our hedgehogs a primary diet of Select Diet Premium Hedgehog Food and a variety of insects, cooked chicken and cooked chicken eggs for treats. We strongly recommend keeping your hedgehog on this food. We have included some other diet options below in the event that you decide to change your pets diet. Changing your hedgehogs diet should be done slowly after it has settled in with you. Sudden changes in diet can lead to runny stools, refusal to eat, or other illness. Our experience is that this is most hedgehog's favorite food and getting them to switch to another food after they have had this one is difficult and usually results in weight loss and not as healthy of a hedgehog.
Please note: Most commercial hedgehog foods are not designed for the unique nutritional needs for a hedgehog. Select Diet Premium Hedgehog Food is the only hedgehog food on the market that should be fed to a hedgehog. In the event you decide to change your pet's diet, DO NOT feed another type of hedgehog food as it will not meet your pet's nutritional needs. Instead, choose one of the alternate diets below:
-Select Diet Hedgehog Food; In most cases, you can free feed this food, meaning, you can feed your hedgehog as much as it will eat. On rare occasions, your hedgehog may become overweight. If this happens you may have to limit its food. (
You can order Select Diet from our website by clicking here
Insects, at least 3 times a week, daily is ok (10-20 meal worms, 1 or 2 crickets, 2or 3 superworms, 3 or 4 wax worms, etc)
1-2 Tablespoons of chopped cooked chicken and chicken eggs can also be offered on occasion. On days when you are feeding chicken or chicken eggs, do not feed insects.
Alternate Diet #1 (for one adult hedgehog) per day:
1 heaping tsp. bird of prey or insectivore diet
1 heaping tsp. high quality kitten food (Science Diet , Iams, Nutro Max Kitten, etc)*
1 heaping tsp. fruit/vegetable mixture** 10-15 med-large mealworms or 1-2 crickets
Alternate Diet #2 (for one adult hedgehog) per day
3 heaping tsp. high quality kitten food*
1 heaping tsp. fruit/vegetable mix** 10-15 med-large mealworms or 1-2 crickets
Alternate Diet #3 (for one adult hedgehog) per day
3-4 tsp. commercial insectivore diet (ex: Pretty Bird Intl , Reliable Protein Prod )
10-15 med-large mealworms or 1-2 crickets
Remember baby hedgehogs should have as much as they want to eat, they are growing! *When choosing a kitten food, make sure you find one that has at least 30% Animal Protein and 15% Fat. The higher the protein the better. Also, check the ingredient list to ensure that meat is the first ingredient and that corn or other fillers are much further down the list. Read the labels carefully! Many foods are made up primarily of vegetable proteins. Hedgehogs cannot absorb vegetable proteins.
** Fruit/vegetable mix: chop together 1/2 tsp. diced leafy dark greens (spinach, kale, leaf lettuce), 1/4 tsp. diced carrot, 1/4 tsp. diced apple, 1/4 tsp. diced banana, 1/4 tsp. diced grape or raisin, 1/4 tsp. vitamin/mineral powder (Vionate or crushed Feline Favor tab). If you discover that your hedgehog will not eat the fruits and veggies, you can discontinue the fruits and veggies. You do need to ensure that your hedgehog has another source of fiber available, however.
Toys, Handling and Exercise:
Hedgehogs don't usually play with toys but almost all hedgehogs love to run on wheels. Choose a solid plastic wheel that is marketed as a good size for a chinchilla or guinea pig. Clean your hedgehogs wheel regularly to avoid foot infections.
Hedgehogs also need to be provided with a safe hiding place to sleep in during the day. Plastic Igloo Houses are ideal for this, because they are easily cleaned. If you are wanting to build a safe playground for your hedgehog, try a children's' wading pool with a thin layer of dirt or shavings on the bottom and a few live crickets or mealworms. They'll love hunting for their treats and you won't have to worry about them getting stuck under something. A large exercise ball can also provide safe out-of-cage time for your hedgie.
When picking up and handling your hedgehog we recommend scooping them up from underneath with some of their shavings with both hands, this way you don't get prickled as much. Once you have your pet up in your hands slowly work the shavings out much like separating a yolk of an egg. Once your hedgehog can feel the skin of your hands on its underside they start to relax and lay their quills down. It is a natural reflex when anything startles them or approaches them from above to huff up their quills and to click in order to protect themselves.
If they get really excited about a smell they will start to lick and foam at the mouth, this is referred to as anointing. In most animals licking is a sign of affection but not in hedgehogs, it means either food, or something they think might evade a predator. They generally do not bite unless extremely agitated or if they think it's food. Don't be startled if your hedgehog starts foaming at the mouth.
Any animal with teeth can bite and will bite if provoked. While this is not a typical hedgehog defense mechanism because they are covered with quills and if they are agitated, they curl up into a ball and huff/jump to tell you that they want to be left alone, biting is something to discourage. If the animal starts to lick you, sometimes this means that they are tasting you and think that something on your skin smells like food. If they start to lick you, we recommend putting the animal down and washing your hands to remove the smell that they are interested in and then continuing to hold them to remove the temptation to bite.
Bathing and Hygiene:
It is important to keep you hedgie clean. You will notice that their feet will show signs of filth before the rest of your hog will look dirty. It is very simple, and important, to regularly bathe your hedgie to keep its feet (and the rest of it, clean) Do this by running an inch of warm water in the sink. Place your hedgie in the warm water and use a tooth brush and baby or puppy shampoo to gently scrub your hedgehog. Also, be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry your pet.
Regular nail trimming is also very important. You will notice that the two inner nails of the back feet will grow much faster than the rest of your hedgehogs nails. When you notice that they seem too long, carefully trim them. If you find that your hedgie isn't very cooperative in this process, you may find it easiest to trim their nails while they are having a bath.
All hedgehogs possess one bad habit: They all LOVE to run on their wheels to the point that they will not get off their wheel to poop or pee. Because of this, they will poop and pee on their wheels and then proceed to run in the poop. This makes a mess of their feet and wheels causing both to need frequent cleaning. The babies are especially are bad about this. Adults do also do it some, but typically, by the time a hedgehog reaches adulthood, it is in limited amounts. We find that most adult hedgies only need their wheels washed weekly during normal cage cleaning.
Soiled wheels are easily scrubbed with hot, soapy water. To avoid the need to scrub you can soak your hedgehogs wheel in hot, soapy water for about 10 minutes. This will make it easily rinsed and wiped clean without the need for scrubbing.