How to Care for a Hedgehog
Hedgehogs make great pets, mainly because of the fact that they are relatively low maintenance. Yet, there are still some things that need to be done to keep them happy.
(Please note: In some regions, you’ll need to obtain a permit to legally own a hedgehog as a pet. Check with your local authorities if you need a permit and where you can get one.)
Hedgehogs need to live in a medium-sized cage (think about the size of a hole in the ground). They like to burrow into things, so try to get a blanket, glove or sock of some kind. Wood shavings can work as the basis for their cage, as this will absorb their urine and mask the smell of their droppings. Hedgehogs like to hide in things. It’s in their nature. Make sure there is something inside the cage in which they can scramble into for refuge, such as a box or a plastic dome. When seasons change and the weather becomes colder, make sure they have a heating mat installed in their cage (underneath all the wood shavings). They can easily die from the cold if left without it.
Also, get them a water bottle (as seen below) for them to drink water out of. You can use any kind of bowl for their food. Try using a hard plastic lid for that.
Hedgehogs may be scared of your touch at first. When they hear something nearby, such as your hand, their first reaction would be to puff themselves up. One important thing to remember, is to never be afraid of their hissing. It’s simply a reflex, and they will calm down in a bit. Also, don’t be afraid to pick them up. Their quills are not sharp enough to puncture your skin. The most their quills can do is poke your skin and make it itch for a few minutes. To pick them up, simply reach underneath their belly and hoist them up with your four fingers (underneath their forelegs). By keeping your fingers tucked underneath their two front legs, they won’t be able to reach down with their head to bite you. If a hedgehog manages to bite you, don’t panic. Try to pry them off gently, and blow on them to discourage their behaviour. If you notice them foaming at the mouth and spitting on their quills, don’t worry. They do this to remember interesting smells and tastes.
Hedgehogs are like babies when it comes to hygiene, and they need to be bathed every week or so. Be careful not to bathe them too often. To bathe them, you’ll need a towel, a soft baby toothbrush and baby shampoo. Put them into a basin or shallow dish. Fill up the dish or basin with water of a pleasant temperature (not too hot and not too cold). Be mindful of the water level as they can inhale water fairly easily. They’ll scramble around in the water and try to escape, so keep an eye on them. Squeeze a dollop of baby shampoo on its back and work it along his quills with the baby toothbrush. After you’re done with his back, flip it over and repeat with its belly. At this point, the hedgehog will try to curl up on itself. As long as you can lather up the shampoo on his belly, it shouldn’t be a problem. Remember to be gentle with everything you do. After that, wash off the shampoo. Be sure not to leave any of it behind though, as this can cause skin irritation if left unrinsed. Dry off your hedgehog with a towel. If you can, use a hairdryer too. Just don’t use it on full blast and on its highest temperature setting. Make sure its ears are dry, inside and out. Now you can put him back inside his cage, but if you can help it, make sure you put him back in a clean cage with new wood shavings. After giving your hedgehog a bath, you might notice that a few quills came loose in the process. Be sure to collect them and dispose of them properly to avoid any nasty surprises later on.
Hedgehogs seem to favour cat food. Look for the dry pellets for kittens. The smaller the pellets, the better. Hedgehogs find insects to eat in the wild, so it’ll be a good idea to supplement their cat food with insects. You can give them various kinds of insects, including meal worms (which you can usually buy at your local pet shop) and small brown Christmas beetles (must be alive). They can also be given other kinds of food, such as veggies, scrambled eggs and a little hamburger patty.