Hedgehogs as Pets

Hedgehogs as Pets

If you are looking for a unique animal as a pet, bring home a hedgehog. Hedgehogs are tiny, petite animals. Here's all the information you'd need for keeping hedgehogs as pets.
Did you know?
There are certain American states and some other countries, where domesticating hedgehogs is illegal. These include the states of California and Georgia, alongside countries such as Canada and the Republic of South Africa.

INDEX
Having a Pet hedgehog
» Buying a Pet Hedgehog
» Handling
» Shelter
» Accessories
» Food
» Health Issues
» Grooming

Hedgehogs are small mammals, having a spiny protection over their body, resembling that of a porcupine. They are insectivores, which means that they feed primarily on insects, alongside some other smaller animals. They lead a nocturnal existence, sleeping during the day and roaming around during the night. The name hedgehog has been derived from their peculiar foraging technique. They dig through the hedgerows, where a bulk of their food is available - worms, snails, mice, frogs, snakes, etc. While making their way through the hedges, they make pig-like sounds, and so the animals have been named as 'hedgehogs'. Some other names for the animal include hedgepig, furze-pig, and urchin. The hedgehogs are native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. There are no native species of hedgehogs in Australia and New Zealand, and those which are present have been introduced by the humans.

Having a Pet Hedgehog

These days, some people consider hedgehogs to be very useful pets. They feed on garden pests, thus controlling their population. Besides, the hedgehogs are friendly, cute, and low maintenance animals to be kept as pets. If you are considering petting a hedgehog, here are a few points to keep in mind while bringing one home:

Buying a Pet Hedgehog

It is always advisable to buy a pet hedgehog from a breeder, rather than a pet store.
The breeder will have accurate information about the animal's age, habits, and the overall background.
If it is your first pet hedgehog, see to it that you buy only one and not more of them. You can opt for another one later, once you get used to its behavior.
If you decide on buying more than one hedgehog at a time, DO NOT keep them in a single cage. Hedgehogs are solitary animals and thus, can easily get into fights and hurt each other, sometimes severely.
DO NOT keep a male and a female hedgehog in the same cage, unless you intend their mating.
The hedgehog that you buy, should be at least six weeks old. You can opt for older ones as well. But, the younger animals bond with the humans faster than the older ones.
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Handling

Hold the hedgehog with care. The obvious reason is the quills on its body. Hold it gently, and never from above.
When your hedgehog is awake and in a good mood, lift it slowly by placing your palms under it.
The hedgehog can roll into a ball (one of their basic instincts to protect themselves from the predators) the first few times, so remember to keep your hands out of the way.
The more you handle a hedgehog, the more it will get used to you.
Even a kid can handle a hedgehog, if he/she knows the right techniques to do so.
Hedgehogs recognize their caretakers by their smell, so let them get familiar with your smell. DO NOT wear gloves while handling them.
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Shelter

Hedgehogs can be kept in cages as well as aquariums.
While looking for a cage or an aquarium, look for something large. A three to four feet wide cage or a twenty to thirty gallon aquarium may be ideal. This is because, the hedgehog that covers several miles every night in the wild, needs as much space as possible, even at home.
Cages with flat floors, and at least four to five square feet in area, should be suitable for domestic hedgehogs.
KEEP IN MIND that the cages should not contain wired floors (such as the cages for ferrets or rabbits). The hedgehog might slip through the wires and hurt its limb.
Hedgehogs have poor eyesight. So, if there are ramps within the cage, ensure that they are enclosed appropriately, or they might fall off and get severely injured.
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Accessories

Make sure that the area, where you place your pet hedgehog's cage, is draft-free and does not receive a lot of direct sunlight.
Temperature of about 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit must be maintained in the cage/aquarium, in order to keep their body temperature normal. Abnormal body temperature may make them go into hibernation, which can be fatal for them.
Cage liners made of cloth, such as fleece or flannel are best suited for hedgehogs. Those made from vellux are not recommended as they can tear easily and can also be colder than other materials, when wet.
The feeding bowl should be at least three to six inches in diameter, and not more than three inches in height.
Make sure that the feeding bowl is heavy enough for your pet, so that it does not spill out the contents and use it as a toy.
There should also be a separate bowl for water. Because your pet will drink water from this bowl, it should be kept clean and filled with fresh water repeatedly, after definite time intervals.
If you teach your pet to use a litter box right from the day you get it home, it will get habituated to the same. You will then need to keep a litter box in the cage as well. It should be at least six inches wide and two inches deep.
Hedgehogs love to play with toys. There are a number of hedgehog toys available in the market. These range from boxes to tunnels to balls, and many more.
A hedgehog wheel is a toy that is absolutely necessary for the animal. This wheel allows it to fulfill its basic instinct of running fast and covering several miles at a time. On the other hand, because hedgehogs are prone to obesity, running on the wheel provides them with a good exercising option.
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Food

As mentioned before, hedgehogs are basically insectivorous in nature and hence, their basic diet comprises insects. Meal worms, beetles, and caterpillars constitute the main diet of hedgehogs.
You can also feed your hedgehog with special foods like chicken or dry feline food.
The point to be noted is that any food that a hedgehog consumes, or is made to consume, should be extremely low in fat content, but rich in proteins.
DO NOT give them foods or treats with added sugar. Such foods would increase the risk of obesity and lead to further health complications.
The shape of the mouth of a hedgehog is such that it cannot eat nuts. However, it can be fed with nut butters, but only in limited quantities owing to the number of calories contained in them.
They are lactose-intolerant and so, dairy products are a big No-no for hedgehogs. Nevertheless, plain, low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese may be fed to them sometimes, but in very small portions.
Moreover, canned food, egg yolks, avocados, onions, grapes, and raw meat should never be consumed by hedgehogs.
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Health Issues

Cancer tends to spread easily in hedgehogs that are more than two years old.
Female hedgehogs may suffer from mammary, uterine, and ovarian tumors, whereas, the males might suffer from testicular tumors.
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) is a genetic disorder, common in the animals. Its symptoms are similar to those of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in humans.
Hedgehogs are also prone to bacterial pneumonia.
Other than these, a condition of stress is what they might display, with symptoms such as vomiting, green feces or problems in digestion.
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Grooming

Hedgehogs do not need much grooming. But, giving them a bath once in a while is all right.
You can also trim their nails, though they might curl into a ball when you try to do so.
You will have to trick them just like a small child. First, give them a warm bath and just while you are doing that, trim the nails.

The most common hedgehog species that are adopted as domestic pets are the Algerian hedgehog and the African pygmy hedgehog. Others include Indian and Egyptian species of long-eared hedgehogs. Though these animals have a limited life span of about four to seven years in captivity, the way their owners handle them and care for them, forms an important factor in the bonding that the hedgehogs develop with them. So, go ahead and get a cute pet hedgehog for yourself. You will definitely be in for a lot of fun.
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