Sure, they are cute spiky balls who have adorable noses and tiny little paws, but they can be a handful if you don’t know how to take care of the little thing properly! So here are the top 5 things you should know before getting a Hedgehog.
Housing is a very important thing in your hedgehogs’ life as they need many things in their life to keep them comfortable and happy. The top items being:
- Spacious cage to rummage around
- Barrel wheels (nothing with holes in them as they can cause injury/bumblefoot)
- Hidey House (somewhere to retreat to when they are scared, nervous or want to sleep)
- Ceramic or glass food/water bowls (plastic is too light and can be tipped over easily)
- OR a water bottle will suffice, but please monitor as some of your spiky friends can’t figure them out!
- 24-hour heat source (this is a MUST as they are from warmer climates and not used to our colder weather!)
Hedgehogs have a strange defence mechanism where they roll themselves up into a tiny tight ball when they feel threatened! Once in this ball, it is very hard to uncoil them because they have incredibly strong muscles on their back. Once in this ball their spikes stick straight outwards and are surprisingly sharp! They can also make all sorts of crazy sounds like grunting, squealing, snorting or snuffling (not to be mistaken for a sneeze!) When angry or nervous you can also hear them huff, puff, click or hiss. All of these sounds can also be a warning for the owner that your hedgie is in an uncomfortable situation. Not all sounds are bad, and they can whistle or purr when happy!
They Can Carry Diseases
Hedgehogs can carry some zoonotic diseases, meaning they can be transferred to people. One of the more popular diseases being Salmonella bacteria in their stool. This is why cleaning their cage safely is so important. In the wild hedgehogs are known to have bowel movements while they run, leaving their feces behind them. In a household setting they still do this however they do this while on their wheel, due to this your hedgies boots can get very dirty quite often! Doing a small boot bath doesn’t hurt them especially when owners are going to be handling them daily. It is very important that as a pet owner you wash your hands after holding your pet to prevent the spread of Salmonella!
Handling and bonding with the owner:
If you handle your hedgehog, enough these little critters can be quite friendly and learn to remember your smell and sound of your voice. Often hedgehogs that are not handled daily can become skittish and huffy. To help your pet remember you, you can do as follows:
- Lay a worn t-shirt over the cage allowing your scent to flow through
- You may sleep with a piece of fleece or blanket and place it directly in their cage to lay on
- Any new scents you may have such as perfumes and lotions can confuse your pet
- Having a radio playing in the background while you are out can reduce the fear of sounds; such as a door closing or general loud noise of you arriving home.
- Your voice should be a comfortable sound that brings enjoyment and calmness. When you snuggle with your pet talk to them quietly, it can put them in a happy state!
Food Do’s and Don’ts
The best type of food you can feed on a daily basis is dry cat food as it is high in protein. The ideal diet amount your pet needs is approximately 1-2 tablespoons per day! As a treat, they can have up to one tablespoon of any Meat/Fruit/Vegetable/Dairy listed below up to 3-4 days per week! They can eat nearly anything in your kitchen, but be very cautious they don’t get too heavy. Listed below are do’s and don’ts items you can feed your spiky friend:
- Meats (cooked): chicken, salmon, tuna, lean steak, cooked eggs and mealworms
- Vegetables (washed and cooked is always better): lettuce, greens, broccoli, asparagus, green peppers and carrots
- Fruit: apples, bananas, cherries (pit removed), pears, melons, mango, peach, plum and berries (blueberries without skin)
- Dairy (very small amounts): cottage cheese and yogurt
- Meats: canned or processed meats, raw, fried or seasoned, insects from any bait shop/backyard
- Vegetable: onion, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes
- Fruit: grapes, avocado and citrus fruits
- Dairy: milk
- Other: nuts (all) and chocolate!
Written by College Manor Veterinary Hospital