How to Take Care of a Hedgehog

When you bring home a new pet to join your family, you commit to giving them the best life possible. Hedgehogs are unique pets and require specialized care. We have some tips to help you learn about caring for a pet hedgehog before you decide to adopt.

Having Hedgehogs as Pets

Hedgehogs are often called “pocket pets” because they are so small, growing to be only five to eight inches long. Hedgehogs are cute, spikey creatures that roll up into balls when they feel scared. 

They typically live to be around five years old, so before you adopt, make sure you can commit to having your hedgehog long-term.

Creating a habitat for your hedgehog. Hedgehogs don’t need a huge space, but they are very active, so make sure your pet has adequate space to run around. Cages designed for pet hamsters and rabbits are a good size for hedgehogs. Keep in mind that hedgehogs have very tiny feet, so be sure to have a plastic bottom on the cage. An open grate will make it difficult for them to move and may cause harm to their sensitive feet.

Toilet training. Hedgehogs aren’t the kind of pet you can easily potty train, although they do like to have clean spaces. Use recycled paper or shredded paper towels in the bottom of the cage as a litter box. This makes cleanup easy. Simply remove the soiled paper, wipe down the bottom of your pet’s space, and then add in more shredded paper.

Nutrition and diet. In the wild, hedgehogs primarily eat insects, and so your pet needs a diet that matches those nutritional needs. Mealworms and crickets are common treats for hedgehogs and will fulfill your pet’s instincts. However, pet stores carry hedgehog kibble that is specially formulated. You may be tempted to feed them cat or dog food, but the ingredients won’t match the needs of your hedgehog.

Caring for Your Pet Hedgehog

Invest in Veterinary Care. A veterinarian who is familiar with hedgehogs can partner with you to ensure your pet has a long, healthy life. During visits, your vet will:

  • Make sure your pet’s behavior matches what is expected of their breed
  • Ask questions about their cage and living arrangements
  • Talk to you about how to provide proper nutrition for your new pet
  • Talk about the possibility of vaccines and other preventative care
  • Check general health stats like heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing
  • Talk to you about cleaning their teeth, since hedgehogs are very prone to dental disease

Continued

Keeping active. Since hedgehogs are active, a running wheel should be included in their cage. Since their feet are sensitive, be sure to wipe it down each time you clean the cage to remove any fecal residue and urine. Hedgehogs are more active at night and may run several miles on their wheel and around their cage. If they don't get enough exercise, your hedgehog will begin to feel depressed and act lethargic.

Holding your hedgehog. Even though they shouldn’t be left to roam free, you can still hold your pet hedgehog. Keep in mind that it is much easier for baby hedgehogs to acclimate to handling than adult hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so try engaging with them in the evening when they are waking up. If you interrupt their rest during the day, they may be resistant. Before picking them up, give them the chance to sniff your hands and walk into your palms voluntarily. 

Your hedgehog may roll into a ball, so be patient with them as they adjust to being held and begin to feel comfortable. They may also bite your hands, but their teeth are so small that their bite will only prick your skin without causing any significant damage. Giving treats is a great way to entice them to relax. Eventually, they will associate being held with getting treats and readily step into your hands. Hedgehogs can live 8-10 years.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 01, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Ethos Vet: “Pocket Pets – Small Mammals.”

Santa Rosa Veterinary: “Are Hedgehogs a good choice as a pet?”

The Spruce Pets: “Hedgehog Handling Tips and Basics.”

“Pet Hedgehogs.”

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