Caring for Your Hedgehog
CARING FOR YOUR HEDGEHOG
The hedgehogs at Petland are an African species, which have been bred in captivity for over 20 years. Although to some, hedgehogs look like miniature versions of porcupines, but they are not related. They are, in fact, related to shrews and moles. There are approximately 14 species of hedgehogs, all of which have an array of colours from snowflake to chocolate to cinnamon. Unlike other small animals, hedgehogs (hedgies) are virtually odour free. With patience, some can even be litter box trained! These tiny mammals, which grow from ½ to 1 ¼ lbs, have a peaceful and curious nature. They have a very good sense of smell and hearing and will quickly roll up into a tight prickly ball when they hear or smell danger. Hedgehogs can make a variety of sounds, from snuffles and grunts, when they are foraging around for food, to soft purrs when they are content. Hedgehogs have a quiet, gentle disposition, which makes them an easy pet to hold once you learn how. However, small children should always be supervised since hedgehogs have such prickly exteriors! Hedgies will bond with their owner for life, which can be anywhere from six to eight years. They are intelligent, fun to play with and enjoy being paid attention to. Their small size and easy-going, affectionate nature allow them to fit into just about any pet owner’s home. Both males and females make good pets.
*Hedgies may not be the cuddliest pet for a small child. If you own a hedgehog, hand washing before and after handling is important.
One Hedgehog, Two or More?
Hedgehogs are solitary mammals, so they are content with being on their own. They will also come to enjoy daily companionship from you. If breeding is what interests you, one male to one female is a fine set up, although the male must be removed before the babies are born.
Self Anointing – Your hedgehog may exhibit a behaviour that can be very unusual if you don’t know what he is doing. As previously mentioned, hedgehogs have a keen sense of smell. When they encounter a smell that they do not know, they will try and lick or nibble at it. Backing off, they will arch their body while foaming at the mouth. They will lick this foam off with their long tongue and distribute the foam onto their spines!
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your hedgehog, Petland recommends the following necessary, and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new hedgehog’s four basic needs: Environmental, Nutritional, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your hedgehog can live a long and happy life!
Your Hedgehog’s New Home – An aquarium will work well as your hedgehog’s home since this enclosure will help to maintain their preferred ambient temperature of 75°F – 85°F (24°C – 29°C). Your hedgehog will enjoy a home that is longer than it is tall. A comfortable size of home for your hedgehog will be approximately 24" x 36" (61 cm x 91.4 cm). As long as they have a solid flooring surface, and do not have wire floors – the more space the better!
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, which means that they are most active in the evening. Many hedgie owners report that their hedgehogs prefer to be up and active with them and tend to follow their routine. Regardless of when he sleeps, your hedgie will need a minimum of eight hours in a 24-hour period.
Ceramic Heat Emitter – In order to maintain the proper temperature your hedgehog requires in his environment, it will be necessary to use a ceramic heat lamp. This will provide heat without lighting up the environment, which is necessary for your nocturnal pet. In some Petland stores, the ceramic heat lamps will be located in the reptile section.
Thermometer – The use of a thermometer is the only way to know if the enclosure is maintained at the correct temperature. Stick-on thermometers are useful, although for accuracy a digital electronic thermometer is better. Place one thermometer where the heater is located and another at the other end of the enclosure. Care must be taken to ensure your Hedgehog does not have access to the thermometer, as he may try to chew it.
Hiding Place – Every living creature needs an area to call their own. Their hideaway is necessary in reducing stress and makes them feel secure. Their home can be made of ceramic or wood, but make sure your hedgie can get in and out easily. Your hedgie will grow, so purchase a large enough home to fit him when he’s all grown up!
Food – Hedgehogs are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. Hedgehog dry staple food will be your hedgie’s primary diet. This may be fed free choice. Keep in mind that hedgehogs can easily become overweight. For some hedgehogs, their eating habits are in preparation for a hibernation that never comes. Since they cannot hibernate – a balanced diet and exercise are the answer. If he is eating more than a suggested portion, reducing his portion size may be just the thing. The second reason for obesity would be lack of exercise. In the wild, a hedgehog will explore 1 or 2 km a night. Left in a cage without a wheel and/or out-of-cage activity, he may become over weight and certainly depressed. Encourage activity by letting him run around daily. As well, be certain he is provided with a wheel in his home.
Many small animals are susceptible to diarrhea, especially when new foods are introduced too quickly or they encounter a stressful situation (i.e. being adopted). By providing food that is familiar to them, their digestive systems will prevent this type of health problem.
Moss Hollow Adapt – Using Moss Hollow Adapt, while minimizing stress, can help your new pet adapt to their new home by promoting relaxation from stress caused by the environment (Echinacea), offering a prebiotic for building gut flora (Burdock Root), easing diarrhea (Psyllium Husk), increasing palatability (Wheatgrass), providing a natural dewormer (Diatomaceous Earth), and nutrient rich clay (Bentonite). This veterinary health product uses natural ingredients which can aid all small animals before symptoms emerge.
Treats and Other Diet Variations – Packaged treats provide your hedgehog with the variety he craves and the behavioural requirements (such as foraging) he needs. The following foods need to be offered three to four times per week; vegetables (removed after 30 min.), mealworms, crickets and a small amount of canned dog food (1 – 2 Tbsp).
Litter – Bedding made from reclaimed paper fibers (e.g. CareFRESH®) or pelleted litters made from recycled paper are good choices for hedgehogs. Cedar or other aromatic litters may not be used due to a hedgehog’s sensitive respiratory system. Your hedgie’s cage will need to be spot cleaned daily with a litter scoop and stripped once to twice a week using a pet safe stain and odour remover available for small pets, or hot soapy water, rinsing and drying well.
Cage Cleaner – There are pet safe stain and odour removers available for small pets. Many are enzyme-based formulas that work naturally to permanently break down stains and odours. Once to twice a week, you should clean his cage with a pet safe cleaner, or hot water and mild soap, rinse well and dry. Do not use bleach, or other household cleaners, which will irritate your hedgehog’s respiratory system, or possibly even cause fatality. *Please see Safety and Cleanliness for more information.
Litter Pan, Litter and Scoop – Some hedgehogs, with a little patience and persistence, may be litter trained. Litter training your hedgie will cut down on the amount of time you spot clean and certainly will keep his home tidier. There are many sizes and colours of litter pans to choose from, however, try to get a corner pan as it will fit snuggly into his cage. Small animal safe litter filled ¼ to ½ way full must be used. When spot cleaning with your litter scoop, always leave a few droppings left over in his pan so he remembers that is where he is supposed to go.
Crock Bowls – Your hedgehog will need one for his staple food, one for water, one for salad and for mealworms (with a lip so the mealworms stay in the dish!)
Toys – In the wild, hedgehogs are used to exploring large areas; during which time they experience all sorts of fun and sometimes dangerous encounters! These activities keep a hedgehog mentally alert. Although your hedgehog is captive bred, he still requires mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Plastic cat balls with bells, bird toys and ferret safe toys all may be offered to your hedgie. Although some hedgehogs ignore them, others may surprise you by playing with them. Daily out of cage time and made up games will be fun for you and your hedgie!
Exercise Wheel – Your hedgehog needs to stay healthy, which is why it is important he is provided with a means to exercise. A wheel is recommended. As previously mentioned, this will alleviate boredom while keeping him from becoming overweight.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your hedgehog’s needs.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.