Hedgehogs

Biological Facts

Like many of the first mammals, they have adapted to a nocturnal way of life. Hedgehogs’ spiny protection resembles that of the unrelated rodent porcupines and monotreme echidnas.African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris)

  • Native to West and Central Africa.  One of many hedgehog species found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
  • They live in brush piles, rock crevices, and burrows.  An insectivore related to moles and shrews
  • Average life span 3-5 years; can live up to 10 years
  • Reaches sexual maturity by 68 days, but first breeding generally does not occur until 6-8 months
Behavior
  • Have a very strong sense of smell which they use to identify their surroundings
  • Will “self anoint” if exposed to strong or unusual smell, foaming at the mouth then spreading the foam over their bodies
  • Nocturnal habits – more active at night than during the day
  • Need to be handled and well-socialized when young to make well-adjusted pets
  • Some adult hedgehogs may not like to be handled regardless of socialization when young
  • Will range up to 1 mile in the wild
  • Do not hibernate
  • Commercial hedgehog diet (light or reduced calorie, high-quality adult cat food may be used if hedgehog food is unavailable) about 3 teaspoons/day
  • 1 teaspoon daily of chopped mixed vegetables and/or fruits (beans, carrots, apples, pears, berries, squash, peas, potatoes, tomatoes)
  • Offer live insects such as gut-loaded crickets, mealworms, earthworms, 3-4 times a week (avoid waxworms because they are high in fat)
  • Diet is extremely important because obesity is one of the most common medical problems seen in pet hedgehogs!
  • Hedgehogs are best housed individually, but may be kept in small groups as long as there is only one adult male.
  • Prefer quiet, dim environments.  React with fright to loud noises or bright light.
  • Cage should provide enough room for movement and exercise.  A 20 gallon or larger aquarium, sweater box, or similar smooth-walled enclosure is preferred in order to prevent escape.
  • Enclosures with wire mesh bottoms are not recommended as these can cause foot and leg injuries.
  • Enjoy privacy and require a box or other suitable hiding spot
  • Aspen shavings or recycled newspaper bedding recommended (NOT pine or cedar, not cat litter)
  • Sipper bottle with fresh water should be available at all times
  • Average temperature should be kept around 70-85°F.  Low temperatures may induce hibernation.  Provide supplemental heat with under-tank heating pads and radiant heat emitters as needed.
  • Will use exercise wheels (solid plastic, not open wire wheels)
Diet
  • Commercial hedgehog diet (light or reduced calorie, high-quality adult cat food may be used if hedgehog food is unavailable) about 3 teaspoons/day
  • 1 teaspoon daily of chopped mixed vegetables and/or fruits (beans, carrots, apples, pears, berries, squash, peas, potatoes, tomatoes)
  • Offer live insects such as gut-loaded crickets, mealworms, earthworms, 3-4 times a week (avoid waxworms because they are high in fat)
  • Diet is extremely important because obesity is one of the most common medical problems seen in pet hedgehogs!
Housing
  • Hedgehogs are best housed individually, but may be kept in small groups as long as there is only one adult male.
  • Prefer quiet, dim environments.  React with fright to loud noises or bright light.
  • Cage should provide enough room for movement and exercise.  A 20 gallon or larger aquarium, sweater box, or similar smooth-walled enclosure is preferred in order to prevent escape.
  • Enclosures with wire mesh bottoms are not recommended as these can cause foot and leg injuries.
  • Enjoy privacy and require a box or other suitable hiding spot
  • Aspen shavings or recycled newspaper bedding recommended (NOT pine or cedar, not cat litter)
  • Sipper bottle with fresh water should be available at all times
  • Average temperature should be kept around 70-85°F.  Low temperatures may induce hibernation.  Provide supplemental heat with under-tank heating pads and radiant heat emitters as needed.
  • Will use exercise wheels (solid plastic, not open wire wheels)
Preventive Care
  • Routine physical examination every 6 to 12 months
    • Consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic pets if you have any questions or concerns about your hedgehog’s health.
  • Annual fecal examination for parasites
  • Blood tests as recommended by your veterinarian
  • Dental disease and gum disease can largely be prevented by feeding an appropriate diet, routine brushing and scaling may be needed
Common Medical Disorders
  • Salmonella infection causing anorexia, diarrhea, dehydration, and weight loss.  May become carriers and can spread the disease to humans or other pets
  • Dental disease, gingivitis, loose teeth
  • Mite infestations leading crusting, flaking, loss of spines
  • Fungal skin disease
  • Neoplasia
  • Obesity
  • Injury to the eyes
  • Leg and foot injuries
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Respiratory infections
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