Hedgehogs are solitary creatures, so each one needs its own cage with at least 4 square feet of floor space. Wire cages are popular, but be sure to choose one with a solid bottom to protect their feet. Place the cage in a warm, quiet area with a consistent temperature of 72-80°F (22-27°C) because these animals are sensitive to the cold.
Recycled paper or aspen shavings are good choices for a substrate. Avoid cedar, it is known to be a cause of respiratory issues. Your hedgehog also needs a hiding spot; a small animal igloo or a piece of PVC pipe works well.
Hedgehogs are insectivores, but a diet solely composed of insects is not balanced. Offer a high-quality, low-fat food as a staple, supplemented with mealworms, crickets, and a small amount of fruits and vegetables. Be careful not to overfeed, as obesity is a common issue in pet hedgehogs. Fresh water should always be available.
Hedgehogs need regular veterinary care. Find a vet with experience treating exotic pets. Schedule an initial check-up soon after you bring your hedgehog home, and then continue with annual wellness exams. Regular fecal checks can help detect parasites, which are common in hedgehogs.
Watch for signs of illness, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, runny nose or eyes, or changes in stool. Hedgehogs are known for their propensity to develop certain illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, and they may require specialized care as they age.
Socialization and Handling
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they are most active at night. When awake, they need plenty of exercise. Provide an exercise wheel with a solid surface (no wire bars) in their cage. You can also let your hedgehog out of the cage for supervised exploration and socialization time.
Hedgehogs can be skittish, rolling into a spiky ball when scared. Regular, gentle handling can help them become more comfortable with human interaction. Always wash your hands before and after handling to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Hedgehogs are generally clean animals. However, their quills can trap debris, so occasional baths are necessary. Fill a basin with an inch of warm (not hot) water, and gently clean your hedgehog using a soft toothbrush and a small amount of pet-friendly shampoo. Always avoid getting water into their eyes, ears, or nose.
Stimulate your hedgehog’s senses with enrichment activities. Add toys that they can push or climb, like small balls or ramps. Include foraging toys to mimic their natural insect-hunting behavior. Change up the cage layout occasionally to provide them new exploration opportunities. The sky is the limit as long as the enrichment is safe for them.
Hedgehogs are endearing and fascinating pets, but they require specific care to thrive. Researching before adoption and being committed to their needs can lead to a rewarding experience with these small, sweer, quilled creatures. Remember, the well-being of your pet always comes first.
Disclaimer: This guide provides general information, but it is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Always consult with a qualified vet for any health concerns about your pet.