Your Guide To: Hedgehog Care

hedgehog care hello all,

Hedgehogs are having a bit of a cultural moment, since they’re damn cute and relatively cheap to take care of. However, like with any pet, a newbie needs to know how to provide their new critter with the luxury they deserve. (There’s a special circle of hell for people who get trendy pets that they can’t take care of.) Here are the basics:

living space

Hedgehogs are interesting, because they can go from very curious to very shy in what seems like the same breath. Your hedgehog will need enough room to roam around and at least one place to hide. In the wild, they would wander around looking for food, so make sure to give the hog 4+ square feet. (This is for just one hedgehog, more hedgehogs means that you need more space.)

It’s also very important that the floor of the cage is solid; hedgehogs have little feet that can get stuck in wire cages. Curious as they are, they’re still pretty skittish. Kind of like turtles, a hedgehog without a hiding spot will quickly become stressed out, so make sure there’s a comfortable place for the hedgehog to curl up in while they sleep. Your hedgehog will need a wheel for exercise, and if you get your hedgie as a baby, make sure the wheel is big enough for the hedgehog to grow into. I’d advise that you get a pretty sturdy wheel, because they will run on that thing all night and you don’t want the base and the wheel falling apart constantly.

Hedgehogs also need certain lighting/temperature conditions. Even though they’re super nocturnal, they’re going to need a “normal” day/night cycle, meaning that you should provide your hedgehog with 12-14 hours of “daylight” so they can sleep. If the hedgehog’s environment is too dark and too cold, you risk the hedgehog going into hibernation which sounds okay but is actually incredibly dangerous for them outside of the wild. If your house gets cold in the winter, it’s worth it to set up a heater that will keep the hedgehog’s space at 70-80 degrees. (Plus it’s an excellent excuse to keep your bedroom warmer than the rest of the house, not that I’d know anything about that.)

Also, be aware of the obvious fact that you will have to clean this thing, and often. If you’re not ok with cleaning up after pets, maybe you shouldn’t get a pet. If you want to avoid it getting really gross, I’d suggest cleaning out the parts your hedgehog dirties up every other day, and clean the wheel twice a week. (My hedgehog pretty much only makes a mess out of one spot in her cage, which makes cleaning really quick: just remove the dirty bedding and pour some clean bedding into the cage.)

You have a lot of options on bedding, although I have to confess that I use pine wood shavings which is not really ideal. It works, but they can be irritating to some hedgehogs. If you want to be a better person than I am, you can use pelleted bedding, which bugs me personally but is better for hedgehogs.

 food

As far as feeding is concerned, you can actually just feed your hedgehog cat food. Go for a decent quality cat food that’s very protein-y, because on their own they’d be chowing down on insects for food. Be careful not to overfeed your hedgehog, because hedgehogs tend toward chubbiness which can reduce their little lifespans. As far as treats are concerned, you can supplement your hedgehog’s diet with small amounts of canned (ie wet) cat food, eggs, insects, grapes, peas, and/or corn.

Finally, make sure your hedgehog has clean water to drink. You can use a shallow bowl or a water bottle for this. Water bottles are nice because they keep the water clean, but if your hedgehog won’t drink from it then you may have to use a dish. I like to keep water in a bottle in the cage, even though my hedgehog won’t drink it, because sometimes I’m too lazy to go get water for the bowl at night, so I can just dump the water from the bottle into her bowl.

socializing

Ah, playing with your hedgehog. This is the meat ‘n potatoes of hedgehog ownership. You want to namedrop your pet to cuties. You want to fully capitalize on the social media potential of owning a hedgie by posting cute pictures with cute filters. I see your end-game. I get it, hedgehogs are cool. Here’s the thing: you gotta be sensitive to your new animal pal.

When you first bring your hedgehog home, like with any animal, you have to give them time to stop freaking out about their new surroundings. Let the hedgehog chill in their new habitat for a bit, and keep your hands off of them. After a few days, you can start playing with your hedgehog. Since hedgehogs are, duh, a little bit hazardous, you need to proceed with caution. Unless you’re trying to play with your hedgehog in the evening, your hedgehog may need to wake up before you can bond, and they may be a little grouchy. And when your hedgehog is grouchy, the spines may come out. Give them time to put their quills down, and handle the hedgehog gently.

At this point, you can teach the hedgehog to climb on you or hang out in a front pocket. They also love to explore, and you should let them. If you want to avoid the hedgehog getting stuck under furniture, you should watch them carefully and try to block off places you won’t be able to get the hedgehog out of. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a thick-ish piece of fabric nearby just in case you have to extract the hedgehog from a tricky situation. Remember: the key with hedgehog socialization is to be gentle and let them warm up to you. It might take some time before the hedgehog is comfortable with you, and that’s ok. Don’t do anything that will make it frightened or defensive, like handling it roughly when its spines are up. Given time, your hedgehog will warm up and bond with you.

Overall, a hedgehog can be a great pet to have around. They’re curious, sweet, and as cute as they come. However, it’s important to take proper care of your hedgehog, like with any pet.

take care,
Rori

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