Hedgehogs are adorable small mammals that are usually shy and reclusive, but if socialized properly and handled with care, become a treasured pet. Hedgehogs typically have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years but have been known to reach 10 years old. They are almost odor-free and quite clean. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and have an extremely strong sense of smell. Because of this, they sometimes “self anoint” when they encounter a strong smell. They will foam at the mouth then rub the foam over themselves.
A commercial hedgehog diet is available for hedgehogs, but if unavailable, a reduced calorie adult cat food can be used. A small amount of mixed chopped vegetables and/or fruit should be offered as well. Some suggestions include beans, carrots, apples, pears, berries, squash, peas, potatoes, and tomatoes. Live insects should also be offered 3 to 4 times a week, but waxworms should be avoided as they are high in fat. Water should be available in a sipper bottle.
Hedgehogs should ideally be housed separately, but small groups are acceptable as long as there is only one male. The cage should be large enough to allow for exercise– usually a 20 gallon tank or similar smooth-walled enclosure. Wire or mesh bottoms are not recommended as they lead to foot and leg injuries. The cage should be in a quiet and dim environment as hedgehogs scare easily at loud sounds and bright light. The area the cage is placed in should be 70 to 85 degrees fahrenheit and under cage heating pads or radiant heat emitters may be used as needed. Aspen shavings or recycled newspaper are the preferred bedding materials as others may irritate the respiratory tract or cause blockages. Hedgehogs also enjoy their privacy, therefore a hiding box is recommended. An exercise wheel with smooth running surfaces may be included if desired.
Veterinary and Preventative Care
Hedgehogs are predisposed to obesity as well as dental disease and injuries to their legs and feet. An annual wellness and oral examination is necessary to ensure hedgehogs are healthy, and fecal screenings can check for intestinal parasites. Several diseases are commonly seen in hedgehogs. These include salmonella and fungal infections, liver disease, kidney disease, and respiratory infections.