Is a Pet Hedgehog the Right Pet for You? Everything You Need to Know About Caring for Your Hedgehog.
Why I am Writing This
Over the past few years I have went from site to site researching hedgehogs, so that I can provide the best possible care for my hedgehogs in my breeding program. I realized it was very time consuming and very confusing going from site to site to get information. So I have decided to compile everything I have learned and put it all in one spot. I am not an expert, nor am I claiming to be. I am just simply writing what has worked for me, and what my opinions are.
In this article you be able to make an informed decision if a hedgehog is the right pet for you, and if you can provide the care required for a hedgehog. I am also going to cover cage requirements, heat requirements, food, bathing, enrichment, Cleaning, lifespan, and wobbly hedgehog syndrome. I will also be linking to more in depth articles that I have written so you can make your own wheels, build your own cages, learn more about feeding your hedgehog, raising your own mealworms, and even dudia roaches.
Is a Hedgehog the Right Pet for Me?
So you have decided that you are interested in getting a pet hedgehog. First I want to compliment you on doing your research first, and not just rushing out and buying one. So let's answer the big question, is a hedgehog right for you? The first considerations that most people think about is price, and care.
Price- The first thing to consider is How much a hedgehog will cost you, not only for the initial set up but for the care every month and throughout it's life. Obviously when you first buy any pet that is going to be the most expensive part. But lets break it down a little bit.
Cage- $30.00 to $130.00 dollars. I know that is a huge gap but you can build your own cage or you can buy a brand new expensive rabbit or Guinea Pig cage. I will go over cages later on more in depth.
Supplies- $80.00 to $150.00 dollars. This includes food and water dishes, wheel, bedding, heating setup, nail clippers, soaps, toys, and hides or igloos for your hedgehog.
Food- $20.00 to $30.00 dollars. This includes high quality cat food, mealworms, Dubai roaches and other treats like fruits and veggies and meat. I have a whole section on food below.
Hedgehog- $150.00- $250.00 dollars. This is what you can expect to pay for your new baby.
Now if the initial start up cost has not scared you off then lets talk about care and the time they require.
Once you get your baby home you will have to handle and bond with your new baby, carrying him/or her around in a cuddle sack while he sleeps is the best way I have found. So while you are home watching T.V. or doing dishes keep your hedgehog close to you. Once they are bonded you can expect to have to get them out 30 minutes to 1 hr per day.
You also have to have time for daily spot cleaning of the cage and about 45 minutes every 1-2 weeks to deep clean their entire cage and all of their stuff in the cage.
They also have to have their wheel, food and water dished cleaned everyday.
Hedgehogs also have to have fresh food and water daily and at night about 3-4 times a week they should have mealworms, crickets, Dubai roaches, fruits, veggies, cooked chicken, or scrambled eggs to add variety to their diet.
Hedgehogs also will require regular nail trims, foot baths, and a good bath from time to time which I will go over more later on. If you are willing to provide all these things then you are ready for your new prickly friend.
Hedgehog Heat Requirements
Now that we have covered cage requirements, let's go over the heating requirements that your hedgehog needs.
Hedgehogs need to stay between 73 to 80 degrees. A lot of people use a ceramic heat emitter bulb, and a dome light plugged into a thermostat that keeps your cage at certain temperature. You can get these at your local pet store or on Amazon for a better price.
Others use in their hedgehogs room and have it set to a certain Temperature and use a thermostat in their hedgehogs cage to monitor the temperature. This is how we control our hedgehogs heat, because it seems safer for my family and my hedgehogs. space heaters
The heat emitter bulb is black and does not produce any light just heat. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and do not like light, so be sure you get a heat emitter bulb like the one listed above that does not give off any light.
The Thermostat will help regulate the temperature in the enclosure and keep the cage from getting too hot or too cold. It will automatically shut off and turn on your light as needed to keep a constant temperature in the cage. This is an invaluable peice of equipment, not only does it save your electric bill but it also reduces the risk of fire.
The dome light is just what you put the heat emitter bulb in, and is what you will plug into the thermostat to control it.
Hedgehog Cage Requirements
Now that you have decided to get a hedgehogs let's talk about the different cage options you have. Like I mentioned above your cage has a huge price range depending on what cage you decide is best for your hedgehog. Just keep in mind that the cage should be about 2ft wide and 3-4 ft long, and should not have any levels. Hedgehogs have bad eye sight and can fall off ledges and injure themselves. You also need to think about cage placement. The area you place them in needs to be warn, quiet, and free of any drafts, so I wouldn't place them next to a window.
Rabbit or Guinea Pig cages- These cages are usually large enough and are a great options for your hedgehog. They are a little more pricey than other options, but still offer a great option if you are willing to spend the money or don't have the time to make a cage.
Aquariums- Tanks are also another option, there is some debate if they are the best option or not but they are still an option and it's your decision. I do agree with the ventalation not being that good and I personally think they hold in a lot of excess moisture and smell, but they also are great for keeping in heat that your hedgehog requires. So you need to weigh out the pros and cons and do your research about the different options. I have never personally used them.
C&C cages- I love these cages! You can make them as big or as small as you want them, you can make them fit your space and you can even have storage for your hedgehog under it. They provide great ventilation, and plenty of room for your hedgehog. They can get expensive though depending on where you get them or how big you make them. you also have to buy chloroplast for the bottom and sides.
Critter nation cage- This another cage I love! They have plenty of room, but are pricey. and they have no sides to hold in bedding so you either have to modify it a little with chloroplast or just use fleece bedding.
Bin Cages- This by far my favorite cage. This is also what I use for all of my hedgehogs. you have to add ventilation to them but they work really well for hedgehogs. We add C&C squares to the tops of out bin cage lids and we add holes to the sides of the bin. One thing to consider though is the heat light on these cages. They hold in heat well but you also need to think about the fire hazard you are creating if you put a heat light on a bin cage. I would recommend using a space heater in the room your hedgehog is in if you do use a bin cage. The heat emitter buld they use probably isn't going to melt it, because they only need to be kept between 73 and 80 degrees, but for me it just seems risky. So I put a thermostat in my bin cages to make sure they stay warm, and set my space heater in the room to 80 degrees. Otherwise, these cages are great. They provide enough space, they are affordable, easy to clean, and bedding does not get all over. I will have a complete Bin cage tutorial if you want to make one for your hedgehog. Or you can buy a completed bin cage if you don't want to make one yourself.
Cleaning Your Hedgehogs Cage
Keeping your hedgehogs cage and supplies in his cage clean is very important, because it keeps your hedgehog healthy and clean. I have found it most helpful to have a set routine to provide consistent care for your pet. I know that every morning I need to get up early enough to spot clean their cage and have time to clean all the food and water dishes and their messy wheels.
Dailey Spot Cleaning
Every morning you will need to spot clean the cage. I have a small cat litter scoop right by my cage to scoop each little poop I see. This will also keep your hedgehog clean and keep him from getting what I like to call poop boots, EWWW! For those that don't know what that is, it's poop all over their poor little feet.
Then I take out the wheel and the food and water dishes and clean them all so they are fresh and clean.
Next add your wheel and dishes backing the cage and don't forget to add clean water and kibble to the bowls.
At night I will add treats like fruits or veggies, boiled chicken or eggs usually about 3 times a week. Don't add this in the morning because your hedgehog will sleep most of the day and it will be bad by the time he is up moving around. I also like to give them a few meal worms or 1 Dubai roach when I see them up and eating.
Weekly/biweekly deep cleaning
Depending on what bedding you use you will have to at least a biweekly deep clean of the entire cage inside and out.
1. remove all the toys, igloos, snuggle sacks, food dishes, and wheels.
2. In the sink soak all the plastic stuff like the food dishes, wheels igloos, and toys.
3. throw all your fleece or snuggle sacks in the washer. Be sure to shake them out outside first and I also like to wash my cuddle sack inside out.
4. Wash the whole cage inside and out with a hedgehog safe cleaner!
5. Add fresh bedding to the cage about 3-4 inches deep, because they love to burrow in it.
6. Now go wash all the plastic or glass stuff you had soaking in hot soapy water. Make sure it is all rinsed thoroughly!
7. Dry it all off completely and put it back in the cage.
8. Add fresh food and water and you are done.
You can make your own Hedgehog safe cleaner. It is very inexpensive and easy to make.
mix 1 part water with 1 part vinegar. That it! I like to use apple cider vinegar but I really think its a personal preference.
What Bedding Can You Use for Your Hedgehog
There are a few main types of bedding that people like to use for their hedgehogs. the type of bedding will also determine how often you have to clean your cage.
Fleece- fleece is a great option because you can reuse it, and you don't have to worry about it giving your hedgehogs mites. The down side to fleece is every other day at least you need to change it completely. I have also noticed that it stinks a lot more than other bedding types. I actually started out using and soon switched because it was very high maintenance and the smell after a couple of days even with daily spot cleaning was more than I could deal with. If you are worried about mites, or want save money with reusable bedding then this may be the option for you.
Pine Bedding- This is also a good option, its inexpensive, and easy to scoop poop out for daily spot cleanings. cons are that it could have mites in it. These is easy to avoid if you freeze it for a few hours before you use it. I like to freeze any bedding I get for 24 hours.
Paper Bedding- This is my personal favorite. It is very easy to scoop during daily spot cleaning, it is more absorbent than pine bedding, and in my opinion keeps down on the odor the best. There is also a down side to this bedding, it can also have mites in it. Thats why it is important to freeze any bedding for at least 3 to 5 hours before using it in your cages. I strongly recommend 24 to 48 hrs before you use it, but that is also just a personal preference.
NEVER EVER USE CEDAR BEDDING! It is toxic to your hedgehog.
Bathing and trimming Your Hedgehogs Nails
Bathing and trimming your hedgehogs nails are very important to the care and health of your hedgehog there are two different kinds of baths for hedgehogs that you will hear about. One is a foot bath, the other is a full blown bath with soap.
Foot bath- You will add warm water to your sink and let your hedgehog walk around to soak her feet, and get off any poop she has walked through or got on her from running her wheel. You will need to do this about once every week or every other week. I like to do it when I do my deep cage clean.
Full bath- For this you will fill up the sink with a little warm water but you will add a few drops of soap. I like to make my water all bubbly. You will then use your hands to splash water up onto her back, being carful not to get it in her eyes or ears. You will also need a small, soft bristle tooth brush. The tooth brush will help you clean her quills good and get her all clean and smelling fresh. I usually do a full bath about once a month. Hedgehogs have dry skin and giving them too many baths can cause their skin to become too dry and make them extra itchy. Also, make sure you thoroughly dry your hedgehog you don't want them getting to cold!
Nail trimming is also really easy to do while they are in the bath. They tend not to roll up and will let you trim them. I have tried many methods and in the bath is the best way I have found. I like to use safety first baby nail clippers. They are small and easy to use. When you are cutting your hedgehogs nails you just don't want to cut past the Qik they will bleed and it hurts.
Trimming Your Hedgehogs Nails
What to Feed Your Hedgehog
There is so much debate on what to feed a hedgehog and what is good and to good for them. So I am just giving you my opinion, what works for me and what my hedgehogs enjoy.
The main staple food I feed my hedgehogs is Kitten food mixed with mealworms. I feed them 2 tbs every day. 3 times a week I will add a dish of fruits, veggies, plain boiled chicken, eggs, and even Dubai roaches.
The main rule I follow for choosing my hedgehogs cat food is High protein and low fat. There are tons of good options out there. Here is a link to good Kitten or cat foods for your hedgehog.
Lastly let go over some quick tips to keep your hedgehog happy. Every hedgehog needs a wheel to run on. NO WIRE WHEELS! Although there are tons of options for a wheel now that are not wire, the perfect wheel for all my hedgehogs has been the Carolina storm wheel. They are quite, large and easy to clean and very fairly priced. Your hedgehog will run every single night on his wheel and make a huge mess in it but they love them.
Other things you can do for enrichment for your hedgehog is hide or scatter food for them to find, or even make some toys for them. If you look on Pinterest you will find a ton of DIY toys for hedgehogs. You can take them outside to explore when its warm and with supervision, or even just carry them around with you in a cuddle sack for the day while they sleep.
I hope this helps and gives you an idea of everything a hedgehog requires to live its best life. What are some things that your hedgehog loves? What have you found works best for the care of your hedgehog? Leave me your comments or questions below. I love to hear from you all.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2019 Nichole Thomas