I am asked this question a lot. How much time and money does it really take to care for a hedgehog properly?

All animals require time and commitment and a pet should never be purchased on a whim. I’m happy to report, though, that hedgehogs ARE a low maintenance pet.

Cage Cleaning

Expect to spend about fifteen minutes to a half hour per week cleaning your hedgehogs’ cage, food bowl, water bottle, wheel and other toys. The wheel will require the most “work.” I have a lot of wheels to clean, so I’ve found that just putting them in a bucket or sink to soak for about 10 minutes works the best for me. Hedgehogs WILL go potty on their wheel. There are very few hedgehogs that I’ve ever seen that keep a fairly clean wheel. Usually, those hedgehogs just aren’t using the wheel very much.

Time Commitment

Hedgehog playtime is what you make of it. Since hedgehogs are solitary animals, they will not get depressed or angry if you do not have loads of time to spend with them. It is important, however, to get your hedgehog out every day to be sure he is not ill or injured. I recommend getting a collapsible type of small animal playpen to allow your hedgehog to have out of cage time without the worry of watching him every second. (They are quick to run for a nice dark hiding spot under the sofa.) Hedgehogs do bond with you  and enjoying spending time with you, but they won’t be angry if you don’t have hours to spend with them.

Food and Water

You will need to feed your hedgehog daily and refill the water bottle every couple of days. Treats can be fed a few times per week. Treats are not necessary. My hedgehogs are all fed Purina One Beyond Chicken and Whole Oat Meal Recipe cat food with mealworms occasionally as treats. The food is easy to find at any pet store.

Bedding

I personally like and use Kiln-dried pine shavings for my hedgehogs. They enjoying burrowing down into the bedding. Avoid cedar shavings and scented pine shavings (not kiln-dried). Aspen shavings can also be used, but I have heard of cases where hedgehogs have been allergic to aspen. Bedding will need to be changed weekly. Bedding can be purchased at pet stores, department stores and farm stores. I buy mine at The Tractor Supply company. The negative to buying from a pet store is that mites are more likely to be found in the bedding.

Heating

Temperature is one concern with hedgehogs. You will want to purchase a small animal heated pad to place under your cage since hedgehogs are most happy and healthy at temperatures in the upper 70s. Hedgehogs will attempt to hibernate if the temperature drops. I personally like the K&H Small Animal Heated Pads.

Cost

Expect to spend about $5-$10 per month for food and $10 per month for bedding. They do not eat much and their dry staple cat food is not expensive, but you will want to feed some mealworms, cooked chicken, scrambled eggs or other foods as treats and even tiny bits will add up. A general veterinary well visit is also recommended for hedgehogs. This will cost around $40-$60. A good cage set up will cost around $60-$75 and $30 for a heated pad.


I get a lot of e-mails and phone calls when temperature begins to fluctuate, especially during the Fall and Spring months. It seems that hedgehogs are not really happy when the temperature isn’t fairly stable for them. It can really stress them out and lead to things like quill loss, grumpiness, loss of appetite, weight loss and more serious things such as respiratory infections and attempted hibernation.

Hedgehogs enjoy burrowing down into their bedding. If you think about it, a heated pad under the cage is the most natural way for them to get some extra warmth. In the wild, hedgehogs burrow down to a temperature that is comfy for them. In captivity, heated lamps or space heaters are not the best solution for heat. The heat is more difficult to keep stable and hedgehogs do not go out in the sun to bask like reptiles. For that reason, heated lamps are best suited for reptiles.

In the wild, hedgehogs are out and about during the coolest part of the day. It can actually get chilly in their natural habitat during the nighttime. For this reason, I feel it is important to create a warmer sleeping spot. If you place a small animal heated pad under their igloo, they will really appreciate it.

I recommend the K & H Small Animal Heated Pad.


treats

So, of course you love your hedgehog. Who wouldn’t? But, can you love your hedgehog too much?

Possibly.

Imagine a family with a child who loves hot dogs and chips. What child does not love hot dogs? It is not too hard to imagine. Now imagine that the parents give the child hot dogs and chips every single day.

Obesity

Obesity is one of the leading causes of death in hedgehogs. Treats shouldn’t be fed every day. A basic healthy staple food should be the majority of every pet’s diet. Treats should only be fed sparingly. I’d recommend no more than a few times per week (e.g. a few mealworms at a time).

Over the years I have heard many pet owners tell me how spoiled their pets are and how they are given treats all the time. Just as often I see overweight and unhealthy pets. Our pets depend on us to provide a healthy diet, just the same as children depend on their parents.

We as pet owners sometimes feel that a pet’s diet is boring and monotonous, so we want to spice it up by adding lots of treats. Ultimately, the health of the animal should be more important. (more…)


Hedgehogs and Mites

miteHedgehogs are prone to mite infestation. If your hedgehog starts losing patches of quills, mites are probably to blame.

Source

The bedding that you buy may be contaminated with mites or they could be transferred from another pet in your house. Whatever the case, your hedgehog will need to be treated.

Treatment

Many people confuse fleas with mites. Fleas are pretty uncommon in hedgehogs. Most flea treatments are dangerous for hedgehogs, so avoid trying any over-the-counter flea treatments. Mites can be treated with Revolution (prescribed by a vet).

Ivermectin can be used topically/ or orally to treat hedgehogs, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have had good results with it in the past. I do use it on rabbits, but hedgehogs are smaller making it harder to get the dosage correct and you will need to administer 3 doses at 2 week intervals. I have also heard of cases of hedgehogs dying from Ivermectin, possibly from overdosing or  fatal injections. Revolution clears it up in just one dose, so I’ll be sticking with that.

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Feeding Your Hedgehog

cat_beyond_chicken_package-bowl

There are so many commercial foods out there. You may be confused by the selection and quality of hedgehog food. When I first did my research, I was naive and believed that if it was labeled for a hedgehog, it must be a perfect diet. I was completely wrong. Unfortunately, the hedgehog diets on the market are not well suited for hedgehogs. Since hedgehogs are a fairly new exotic pet and are even illegal in many states, many animal food companies still do not have a handle on the nutritional requirements of a hedgehog. If you ask most breeders, they will give you a variety of different cat foods and hedgehog foods that they have tried. I have tried a good many of the ones labeled for hedgehogs, but I’m still most happy with the cat foods.

What do they eat?

Hedgehogs are insectivores. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be fed to your hedgehog in very small amounts from time to time, but treats should mostly consist of live insects. Other good treats would be: cooked chicken, cooked eggs and cottage cheese, to name a few. My hedgehogs have really liked Sunseed Hedgehog food as a treat, too.
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What Can I Expect From a Pet Hedgehog?

Friday, July 17th, 2009 | Posted in Care Tips, General Advice | 14 Comments »

Iggy the HedgehogI’m sure you have decided that they are just absolutely adorable, but what kind of pets do they make? Hedgehogs are not a perfect pet for just anyone. But, they are a wonderfully unique choice.

Hedgehogs are mostly nocturnal, which means they sleep much of the day and are most active in the evening through morning. If you are planning to provide your hedgehog with a wheel and keep him in your bedroom, you might not get much sleep!

Can I pet my hedgehog like a dog or cat? Well, obviously no, but they do enjoy a little petting on their soft underbelly. Baby hedgehog quills are very pointy and can break the skin. I actually get a tiny allergic reaction to the baby hedgehog quills, but nothing that bothers me. It just gets a little bit red and itchy. Once the duller adult quills come in, you shouldn’t have those troubles. Young children may have trouble trying to hold hedgehogs due to their quills. For this and many other reason, hedgehogs are best in a home without young children.

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