What should you expect from your hedgehog?

Hedgehogs are noiseless, odorless, inoffensive, and nondestructive in their manner. They are nocturnal and therefore are active in the evenings. If they are allowed to run in the house, they tend to hide in corners or under furniture. Many hedgehogs dig in carpets or in houseplant dirt, if accessible, and will forage for spiders and insects in the home. Most hedgehogs prefer dim, quiet environments and may react with fright at loud noises or bright lights.

Hedgehogs are solitary by nature. When encountering something new in the environment, a hedgehog may taste it, then begin hyper-salivating and creating foam, which is then spit onto itself. The process is called "anting" or "anointing".

What should you feed your hedgehog?

The hedgehog diet is omnivorous, high in protein and low in fat. High fat foods adversely affect the hedgehog's health and longevity. To minimize obesity, free feeding of adults should be discouraged. One should feed in the evening a portion size that is almost completely consumed by morning. Only a small amount of food needs to be present during the day for a snack.

A sample diet for an adult hedgehog for one day is: 2-3 Tbsp dry (or mixture of dry and canned) reduced calorie cat food; 1-2 Tbsp mixed fresh vegetables and 3-5 insects about 3-4 times a week. Invertebrates are important to the diet, especially for breeding sows, and may include mealworms, worms, insects, and crickets.

Commercial complete hedgehog diets are being developed and should be used if available. To introduce individuals to new diets, mix new foods gradually into the old. It helps to have all chunks or pieces of the new and old diets the same size and relative consistency.

What do hedgehogs do all day?

Hedgehogs need lots of exercise and are competent climbers. Logs can be arranged in the enclosure to form caves, tunnels and arches. They will use exercise wheels, but do not play with toys. When at ease and during warm weather, hedgehogs like to sleep in a half-ball position or completely flat, legs outstretched.

Are hedgehogs tame?

Although the African Pygmy Hedgehog is being commercially bred and raised, it is essentially non-domesticated, and is an extremely timid and nervous animal. Young hedgehogs do not mind being held, but many adults struggle to be let loose, especially males. Their first defense is to roll up into a tight ball of criss-crossed spines, with the head and legs in the center of the ball. hedgehogs are not aggressive, but they may bite if provoked. Adults also vocalize with a hissing sound when bothered. Some hedgehogs will uncurl with back stroking of rump spines, a quiet environment, and subdued lighting.

How can you keep your hedgehog healthy, happy and safe?
  • Feed once a day in the late afternoon or early evening, preferably in heavy crocks
  • Fresh water must be available at all times, offered either from a sipper bottle or crock.
  • Prevent obesity. Free feeding may not be appropriate.
  • Weigh your hedgehog at least once a month.
  • Take your hedgehog to a veterinarian specializing in exotic animals, such as those at Saukville Veterinary Clinic, for an annual physical examination.
  • Routinely brush its teeth and provide veterinary scaling of the teeth.
  • Prevent chilling; provide heated environment with dry bedding.
  • Clean toys frequently.
  • Handle a tame hedgehog every day to keep it tame.

Housing for your hedgehog should:
  • Be a smooth-walled enclosure that is high enough to prevent escape. Aquariums 20 gallon or larger are acceptable.
  • Contain newspaper or recycled material bedding to a depth of several inches, should be changed frequently, and kept dry.
  • Be maintained in the optimum environment temperature range of 75-85 degrees.
  • Include accessories for climbing/hiding: box, untreated fruit tree log, or flower pot.
  • Offer smooth, clean rocks for spreading out on, gnawing, scratching and as face-rubbing surfaces.

Things you must keep away from your hedgehog:
  • High fat diets
  • Unlimited food
  • Wire enclosures
  • Wire rodent exercise wheels
  • Cat or dog food as sole diet
  • Sawdust, pine, or cedar shavings
  • Wet bedding
  • Garden soil (may contain parasites)
  • Dogs, cats, and small children
  • Pesticides