Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Pet Hedgehog – UPH
Over the past few years, hedgehogs have become really popular as pets. This is not surprising given their adorable appearance in a variety of colors, interesting personality and low costs of maintenance and a high level of happiness they will bring into your home.
They are unique animals and require special care and consideration. We’ll cover a few things you should know before you buy a hedgehog.
What is hedgehog like as a pet?
Undoubtedly, according to most pet owners they are adorable as pets. However, your expectations should be based on knowing basic facts about hedgies and on your expectations of a pet as well as your preferences.
Pet owners who are looking for an exotic pet are attracted to hedgehogs because of their uniqueness. They do have the advantage that they have been captive bred for many generations. They are cute, curious and they can be cuddly, regardless of their spiny appearance.
They are not aggressive by nature and they use the spines as defense only when they are scared, nervous, or feel threatened. Another advantage is that they do not have dander like cats, dogs, or other animals, so they make better pets for people who have allergies.
Hedgehogs are not rodents, and they do not chew, gnaw on, or destroy their cage or your furniture. Also, they don’t bark or squawk and won’t disturb you or your neighbors. You may hear your little pet running on a squeaky wheel or roaming in his cage, but in general, hedgehogs are quiet pets.
On the negative side, they ARE prickly, nor as cuddly as some other small pets, they are quite messy and need a lot of care and some cleaning and maintenance routine on your part.
Hedgehogs have a lot of character as they like to explore, they are grumpy when you wake them up or refuse to give them treats. They may sometimes cuddle up in your hand but they are not particularly affectionate so you’re looking for a solitary, independent and resourceful pet, hedgehog’s personality and lifestyle will be perfect for you.
Hedgehogs do not come when called and they don’t actively seek human interaction.
They can, however, learn certain behaviors through positive encouraging or conditioning but only at a very basic level.
Most experts strongly believe that hedgehog personality is molded through owner interaction and affection. Proper handling and consideration of the hedgehog’s needs is paramount to successful bonding and enjoyable pet experience.
What is pet hedgehog lifespan?
Hedgies can live from 3 to 10 years, depending on their genetics, general health, living condition and owners care. Your hedgehog’s lifespan may vary greatly so do your best to make their life with you happy and pleasant.
There is commercially available hedgehog food, but it is not always in stock at some pet stores, so a chicken dry cat food which is high in protein is a solid alternative. Dry food should be the primary portion of your hedgie’s diet generally speaking.
In their natural habitats, hedgehogs are mainly insectivores, but they often eat whatever is available. They are known to eat insects, baby mice, frogs, fish, worms, small snakes, eggs and fruit and veggies.
Your pet hedgehog needs a well balanced diet which is high in protein. How much you should feed him depends on how active he is. If you see that your pet is putting on weight, you should cut down on his meals.
Overall, they eat various foods but not everything is good for them. Hedgehogs are insectivores and they require a varied, high-protein diet. Quality hedgehog or cat food can be the basis of a healthy diet but make sure to add freeze-dried meal worms, cooked meats, fruits and veggies, as well as other treats to keep your hedgehog healthy and happy.
Hedgehog price and maintenance costs
Hedgehogs range in price from about $70 to $250. This depends on the hedgehog’s breed, age, color, and temperament. Other costs include a cage and accessories such as a wheel, a hiding place, a water bottle and feed bowl.
Later on, you will be buying only food and bedding, so costs should be pretty low compared to most pets.
A quality cage – a cozy home!
Good quality hedgehog cages (insert internal HL when cages article is published) are widely available. Wire grate cage bottoms should be avoided since hedgehogs have small feet and will be injured if they slip through the grates.
Hedgies are quite active and need a roomy and cozy cage for a happy and active life. Most pets are around 5-8 inches in length so you need to buy a cage which is minimum 2 x 2 feet or bigger so that your pet has enough room to play.
Since they are quite active (mostly at night though), you need to provide them with enough room to move around safely and get plenty of activity. This will keep them happy and occupied but also prevent obesity due to little activity.
Typically, a hedgehog weighs between 6 ounces and 2 pounds and requires about the same amount of space as a guinea pig so a lot of rabbit and guinea cages are suitable, too, as long as there are hedgie-friendly sleeping area and accessories.
They need soft bedding such as a recycled paper material or towels that are replaced regularly. African pygmy hedgehogs, which are the most common breed in US, are sensitive to inappropriate bedding so avoid bedding made of clay pellets, wood chips or paper pulp. They have lots of splinters and broken pellets which can pierce the hedgehog’s skin or get lodged between their toes and up penile shafts. Avoid possible injuries and infections by investing in paper bedding from a reputable brand.
Cages should be placed in a warm, comfortable room in an area without drafts and away from direct sunlight. Normal sunlight in a room is fine. Hedgehogs seem to be most comfortable between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lower temperatures can be an environmental stress for your hedgehog which will affect the overall health of your pet and they may even go into false hibernation, which can be deadly. We have found hedgehogs tend to be healthier, more active, and eat better in warmer temperatures.
Handle with care (pun intended)
African pygmy hedgehogs have a lot of spines but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun to hold, as long as you know how to handle them. Tame hedgies will crawl into your hands, take treats from you and even enjoy being carried for a bit. Typically hedgehogs don’t like their heads being pat and will roll into spiny balls when scared.
They aren’t big fans of water so if you are having trouble cleaning your hedgies feet while holding him try giving him a shallow bath where just his legs are immersed in water or have him walk on a wet towel.
Younger hedgehogs are easier to tame than older ones, so your best chance to have a hedgehog that loves to cuddle and to be held is buying one at about six to eight weeks of age.
Here’s a short video about handling your hedgie:
Looking after your pet’s health
African pygmy hedgehogs are prone to a variety of illnesses and health conditions. In addition to upper respiratory infections, weight problems and skin issues, they’re especially susceptible to tumors, cancers and a degenerative condition called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. If you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to veterinary care in such cases, a hedgehog may not be the right pet for you.
Dental disease, skin issues including mite and lice infestations, intestinal parasites, and tumors are all known issues with pet hedgehogs. Spaying and neutering is recommended to avoid reproductive organ cancers and tumors later in life.
Dental checkups at your yearly exam and the occasional dental cleaning under anesthesia are recommended to prevent your hedgie from losing any teeth or developing a dental abscess. Some pet owners are able to brush their hedgehog’s teeth using a cat toothpaste and small head toothbrush weekly.
Spine loss is normal in small amounts but if your hedgehog is losing spines noticeable and has bald patches, he probably has a problem such as a parasite infestation. If this is the case it’s time for a checkup with his vet. With regular handling and checkups with your vet you’ll have many years of spiny love with your new pet.
Exercising and being active is also very important. A large running wheel should be provided for your hedgie to exercise. Don’t forget to buy a wheel with one side open, along with a hide box, food bowl, and water bottle. Make sure you cleaned the running wheel regularly to avoid fecal matter from building up and causing foot infections.
Hedgehogs are very active at night and will run several miles a day on their wheel or roam in their enclosed play area. If they are unable to get enough exercise they may become depressed, overweight, and develop foot sores.
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Hedgehogs produce quite a bit of waste. In order to keep you hedgehog healthy, hygienic and happy, you have to clean their cage at least once every three days. Dirty litter causes health issues, including upper respiratory problems and skin infections.
If the cage smells bad to you, it probably smells really bad to your hedgies. The average hedgehog cage needs to be thoroughly cleaned once a week but spot cleaning may extend the life of the bedding, too.
Different types of bedding have different absorbency levels so your cage may need to be cleaned more of less often depending on the size and general messiness of your pet.
Pelleted beddings may allow you to sift the good bedding from the soiled bedding to be reused after the bottom has been cleaned. It is a good idea to wash or soak the plastic bottom when doing a complete bedding change. Plastic can absorb odor and a good disinfection will help to eliminate lingering bad smell.
Hedgehogs also require baths, so, once a week, fill a tub with an inch of warm, soapy water and scrub your hedgehog’s quills with a soft-bristled toothbrush. This will keep your hedgehog clean and healthy.
To conclude, make sure you provide your hedgehog with a cozy home, a good running wheel, brightly-colored toys and deep, burrow-ready bedding. Hedgehogs do become lethargic and depressed without mental and physical stimulation, so it’s important to provide and maintain a healthy, playful environment for them.
A healthy diet is a must and don’t forget to handle them regularly to maintain a trusted and friendly contact. Hedgehogs are fascinating, intelligent and resourceful animals. As long as you provide proper care, close attention and a lot of love, it’ll be a truly wonderful pet experience. If you’re up to the challenge, a pet African pygmy hedgehog will really enrich your life.
Although pet hedgehogs are legal in most of the US, they might not be legal in your state, so check that before buying a hedgehog, as they can get confiscated and you will be fined. If there are pet shops and breeders selling them where you live, then hedgehogs are legal to keep as pets.
Georgia, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Maine, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and the five boroughs of New York City declared it illegal to keep hedgehogs as pets.