What To Feed Pygmy Hedgehogs
The staple of your pygmy hedgehog's diet should be high quality, dry cat food. As well as being top quality, the food needs to be very low in fat and high in protein, to maintain your hedgehog's muscle mass whilst managing his weight, making him less likely to develop liver and other obesity problems.
When considering your hog's diet, it's important to realize the following: nobody knows that much about pygmy hedgehog diet. We know it has to be high in protein and low in fat, and cat kibbles suffice this the best. It's important to mix at least three cat foods into their diet, so that your hedgehog is most likely to have a balanced diet.
Say each brand of dry cat food gives your hedgehog 80% of the nutrients he needs to be absolutely healthy. If he is regularly eating four different types of food, he is more likely to be healthy. This way, it's more enjoyable for your little pet, as you can give him a small percentage (10% of his diet) of a slightly higher fat dry food, and balance this out with an extremely low fat one. I know this works for my hedgehog. He also enjoys the different kibble shapes and sizes as they imitate the different shapes of insects he would eat in the wild.
In general, for dry cat food, you're looking for: a protein content of 30-40% (though more towards 30 is much more favorable) and a fat content of 5-15%, depending on your hedgie's age, activity level and weight. I will cover this more later, but KNOW YOUR HEDGEHOG before you put him on a low fat diet. He may need a food with 15% fat if he is a slim, fast runner or is a baby.
Some good brands of dry cat food for your hedgehog are: Innova, Blue Buffalo, Applaws, Encore, Royal Canin (light), Hills Science Plan, etc.
NO cheap brands like Whiskas, Felix etc. If the main ingredient is a by-product or 'meat meal', don't bother with it! You want it to say the meat, such as '50% chicken'.
NO fish or pork! You want chicken or duck based kibbles, but chicken is best.
If you wouldn't eat it if you were a cat, don't give it to your hedgehog!
Hedgehogs are Insectivores: I Should Feed Mine Insects, Right?
Hedgehogs are insectivores, meaning that insects make up the vast majority of their diet in the wild. And, African pygmy hedgehogs are close to their relatives in the wild (not that domesticated), so it's important to feed them insects. Right?
Not necessarily. Your hedgehog doesn't need insects to live at all, BUT it is preferable to supply him with some every week or so.
You can give your hedgehog dried, canned (insects are juicy and in a liquid - to be kept in fridge), or live insects. Live are by far preferable as are obviously more natural. My hedgehog won't eat dried ones, but canned are fine.
This seems simple enough, but all of the insects and bugs that you'll find at your reptile store are quite fattening, which does not suit the modern hog! You have to work around this, as you absolutely cannot catch wild insects to give to your hedgehog as disease will almost be inevitable.
Another tip: DO NOT FEED YOUR HEDGEHOG GIANT MEALWORMS. They can latch onto their stomachs and make them bleed to death. Horrific.
Let's compare some fat contents of insects. All of the insects and 'bugs' mentioned here are of equal benefit nutritionally to your hedgehog, so fat content is the deciding factor.
Crickets: 15% fat
Mealworms (small): 26% fat
Grasshoppers: 2% fat
Waxworms: 22% fat
As you can see, grasshoppers and crickets are lowest in fat content. However, my hedgehog does not like these, and most people would not enjoy keeping live cricket-type animals in the house. They need a cage bought for them to keep them alive (and healthy for your hedgehog to eat), and need to also be fed well for the same reason. That means getting hands on with them, and they're pretty creepy at the best of times. It also seems crueler to let your hedgehog slowly kill a hopping cricket as he devours one leg at a time.
I would recommend buying live mealworms or waxworms every month, giving your hedgehog 10 every other day (using tongs) before they die or begin to smell disgusting. Then, you can release the rest into the compost heap, which is far more humane that putting them down the toilet. They are too fattening to feed your hedgehog every day for a month, but if he exercises and is not obese or diabetic, then he should be fine having them for a couple of weeks a month every other day.
Finally, onto feeding your mealworms and waxworms. Just spray some water daily into their tub and give them a flat sheet of lettuce or some cucumber slices. They will eat any vegetable, and my hedgehog certainly prefers fat, healthy worms with green tummies full of cucumber juice! :)
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Fruit and Vegetables: Five a Day?
I would say that, cat food and insects being the first and second, fruit and vegetables make up the third most important factor of your hedgehog's diet. I would recommend giving your hedgehog a teaspoon size of green matter every three days. Vary the fruit or veg!
As a rule of thumb, your hedgehog can safely eat most fruits and vegetables that you would naturally consider for him. You'd know not to give him a piece of lemon and would probably feel nervous feeding him some acidic pineapple, right? If not, keep reading.
Good fruits and veg:
Apple, pear, cucumber, parsley (cilantro for you folks of the US), carrot, cooked peas, red, orange or yellow pepper (SWEET pepper, people! No lumbering your Mexican left-overs on your spikey friend!)
Lettuce is generally bad, as is any dark leaf. Avoid any sour or citrus type fruits.
I would personally stay clear of too many 'sweet' fruits, such as too much pear. I know it's only a myth that sweet things can cause diabetes, but that mith hasn't been fully dispelled yet..
Thanks for reading my hub guys!
Treats for Your Hedgehog
You can further treat your hedgehog by supplementing his diet with occasional tiny chunks of freshly cooked chicken, beef or duck. He may or may not like them, but it's worth a try!
Here's a recipe for a treat:
Make scrambled eggs without the egg yolk and without milk. Whip up the egg whites in a gently heated pan with some mealworms and red pepper chopped in. Use olive oil in the pan. Serve slightly warm!
As your hedgehog ages, his weight should stay the same or drop slightly from his ideal adult weight.
The same goes for females
When and How Much to Feed?
As hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, your pet is unlikely to 'come out' of bed at all during the day to eat. This is when you should prepare his bowls.
Feed about 50 dry cat food kibbles (20 grams). Your hedgehog will most likely eat less, but if he exercises a lot that particular night, may eat a lot more. Unless he's on a diet for obesity, it's best to leave margin for a strong appetite :).
Fill up your hedgehog's small ceramic water bowl to the brim, with natural spring or mineral bottled water. Tap water presents too many heavy metals.
Every two-three days:
Feed some insects or bugs of choice (preferably mealworms), and a small selection of fruit and veg.
Every month: Feed a little portion of plain, unseasoned cooked chicken (think - leftovers of your Sunday roast).
This is just a guide but, along with other top-notch care, will present you with a very happy bundle of spikes!
There are some foods that are bad for hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are lactose-intolerant!
They shouldn't eat egg yolk. Therefore, when making them scrambled eggs as a treat, you should NOT use milk or egg yolk. Whip up some egg whites with a little olive oil. Maybe chop in some chicken or mealworms.
Avocado, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, onions, chocolate, sweets, anything sugary or salty or too human manufactured, fish, grapes and grape products should all be avoided. Grapes are known to cause liver failure in all animals, apart from you. You're safe.
There you go! Follow this guide to keep your beautiful little spikey guy or girl happy and healthy.