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Caring For Your New Hedgehog
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Essential Care Items:
Hedgehogs are considered "pocket pets". Literally meaning they can fit and enjoy riding around in your shirt pocket. Before purchasing a hedgehog, be sure to check out if they are legal in your State (they are illegal in California and Georgia). Keep in mind that hedgehogs are nocturnal and will be most active at night. They are one of the easiest pets to care for but this does not mean that they do not require a lot of attention. Enjoy the prickly world of hedgehogs!
Housing - Hedgehogs are excellent climbers and require a cage that does not have wires on the sides for climbing or on the bottom where their feet might get caught. An aquarium makes a perfect house as long as it has a locking mesh screen. It is also a good idea to keep accessories away from the sides of the aquarium or near the water bottle so your hedgehog will not use them as ladders. The aquarium should be kept away from drafts and should not be placed in direct sunlight. Since hedgehogs like temperature ranges from about 70 degrees to 85 degrees, it is a good idea to get an under tank heater (usually found in the reptile department). The heater should only cover half of the cage so that your hedgehog can get away from the heat source if necessary. Hedgehogs are also burrowing creatures and will overturn most items placed in the aquarium. Therefore, a water bottle hung from the side of the aquarium keeps spills to a minimum and a ceramic bowl for food is a little heavier and harder to tip. The substrate used in the cage should allow for burrowing such as carefresh bedding. Stay away from cedar shavings as the dust and oils can make your hedgehog sick. Visit our Advanced Small Animal and FAQ's for more information on hedgehog care.
Food - A hedgehog's main diet should consist of a good quality maintenance dry cat food. However, we recommend that your also supplement your hedgehogs diet with a variety of extras since it is know that hedgehogs do not eat dry cat food in the wild. You can try cooked chicken, apples, corn, rice, beans, crickets and mealworms. Keep trying new foods several times. Your hedgehog may refuse one day and devour it the next.
Potty Training - Hedgehogs can be trained to use a "potty corner". The best way to train your new hedgehog is to set-up a corner in the aquarium with a "potty box" and put some fresh "potty" droppings in the litter so that your hedgehog will get the idea. It is important to note that hedgehogs are notorious for going potty almost every time they are handled. If you watch for a "pointing" tail and wiggling, you may be able to catch the accident. Keep lots of baby wipes handy!
Grooming - Hedgehogs groom themselves, however, you can give your hedgehog a foot bath when they become too soiled. A foot bath is made by taking a shallow baking dish and lining it with a towel. Next, add about an inch of water and let your hedgehog sit in the bath while you gently rub their feet to remove the dirt. Do not leave your hedgehog in the water unattended. Nails can become overgrown very quickly. To avoid those unpleasant nail trimmings, try to find a ramp that you can cover in fine grained sandpaper. This will help to reduce the number of nail trimmings.
Handling - At first, you may be a little nervous picking up something so small and prickly. Be assured that your hedgehog's quills will not come off like a porcupines. They can, however, prick you if you are not gentle. Your hedgehog's underbelly is soft and fuzzy. Hedgehogs are timid creatures and roll-up when threatened or scared. To unroll your hedgehog, gently bounce him on the palm of your hand being very careful not to drop him. Hedgehogs make several noises when distressed or happy. They range from purring, puffing air, clicking and a scream.
Toys - Hedgehogs are inquisitive and playful animals and enjoy discovering new things. Supply a variety of different toys that stimulate in different ways. Try solid rubber balls, toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls, a Kleenex box with the side cut out, climbing toys exercise wheels (solid flooring, no wires) and, for an extra treat, try a piece of sod for burrowing. Visit our Pet Tips for ideas on toys and treats.
Health - It is not unusual for hedgehogs to get mites and fleas. They can get these pests from the substrate used in the aquarium. A symptom of mites and fleas is a crustiness around the quills and dry skin. To prevent the mites and fleas, try using Frontline spray sold at your veterinarian's office. Check with your veterinarian prior to giving any medications. Hedgehogs are solitary animals. It is also best to keep females and males apart. If a female is disturbed with her young, she may eat them. it is absolutely normal for a baby hedgehog who is between 8 to 12 weeks to shed its quills. This process is called "quilling". It is not unlike when a baby is teething. The quilling process sheds the baby quills for the adult quills. It is also not unusual for your hedgehog to be grumpy during this time. Be patient they will soon return to their normal cuteness.