Hedgehog Care and Feeding: What You Need To Know

It may come as a surprise to some people, but hedgehogs make for excellent pets. While they're not as common as cats, dogs that are great pets for children, or even hamsters, you can have one of these cute, cuddly hedgehogs in your home (provided, of course, that they're not illegal in your jurisdiction).

With the right hedgehog pet care and feeding, your hedgehog will thrive.

Therefore, if you're interested in getting one of these fun little creatures, here's everything you need to know about hedgehog care!

Pick the Right Hedgehog

There are seventeen hedgehog species that you can find in this world. Only one, though, is suited to be a pet. That breed is the African pygmy hedgehog. This hedgehog is the one that you likely see the most in pictures online. It's got a white underside, with white spines, and a brown back. It looks quite adorable, even if it is prickly!

There are a few reasons why this domesticated hedgehog is best suited for being a pet. Most notably, they're the smallest of the hedgehogs, so they're easiest to provide enough space for in your home. That makes it easy to provide them with high-quality hedgehog care. African pygmy hedgehogs also have a warm temperament, which makes them particularly well-suited for being a pet. The other species of hedgehogs aren't particularly suited for staying in a cage and may become aggressive.

Good Hedgehog Care Starts With the Right Handling

If you're going to have one of these cute creatures as a pet, you're going to need to learn how to handle them properly. The quills on their back are sharp, so picking them up is a little like trying to pick up a cactus. Suffice it to say, picking them up is not incredibly comfortable.

At first, you may need some gloves when handling your hedgehog. In the beginning, your hedgehog won't know you, so it will be more inclined to stick out its quills as a defense mechanism. If they do, and you don't have gloves on, it could hurt.

As time progresses, though, your spiny pet will become more familiar with you. It will likely stop sticking its quills out, and you'll become more familiar with how to pick it up. At this point, you'll be able to hold the hedgehog in your bare hand.

Provide the Right Environment for Your Pet

The right environment for your pet hedgehog starts with a high-quality cage. Cages that are at least two feet by three feet are the bare minimum. In the wild, hedgehogs are up all night roaming the forest and searching for food. So, even a 2' x 3' cage will feel small. If you can have more space, that's ideal.

Please also keep in mind that hedgehogs are brilliant climbers. If you have metal bars on your cage and the top is open, they'll almost undoubtedly find their way out. Therefore, a smooth-sided home is usually the best option. Many hedgehog owners use aquariums. The sides are all glass, which means that you can see your pet, and they can't climb out of it! If you go this route, use at least a 30-gallon aquarium.

Make sure the cage you have has a solid bottom. Wire meshes where the hedgehog is walking can cause injuries (if the pet gets their foot stuck).

Feeding Your Hedgehog

Feeding a dog is quite simple and you might be thinking that feeding a hedgehog is complicated. The truth is, it's probably quite a bit simpler than you think! As an unconventional pet, you can't go to the pet store to find food for them. There isn't a hedgehog aisle there.

Fortunately, though, a hedgehog's nutritional needs is similar to feline nutrition. So, buying any dry or moist cat food will suffice for your domesticated hedgehog, and that's trivial to find at your local pet store! 

For snacks and treats, you can give your hedgehog fruits, vegetables, and insects. They love treats, and it's a fantastic bonding opportunity for you and your pet!

One word of caution, though, hedgehogs will overeat and gain weight if allowed to do so. Keep your hedgehog's weight in mind and, if they're starting to look a little bulky, consider slowing down some of the treats.

What Is a Hedgehog's Lifespan?

With the right hedgehog care, these cute little friends will live for about five years. However, this is an average. There have been hedgehogs that have lived for more than eight years. 

Of course, you want your hedgehog's lifespan to be as long as possible. To accomplish this, you'll need to make sure that it is getting the right nutrition, appropriate levels of exercise, and that you're taking it to the vet regularly (yes, some vets will do exams for pet hedgehogs).

Hedgehog Care Isn't Too Stressful

Overall, hedgehog care isn't too stressful. With a big enough area to roam, ample cat food, and the right vet, you can have one of these cute little friends in your home. 

Of course, if you're looking at getting one of these little animals, please consider adopting a hedgehog rather than getting one from a breeder. While they're not as ubiquitous as cats and dogs, there are shelters in the U.S. that do have them. Giving one of these cute little pets a second home is one of the best feelings in the world!

Are hedgehogs good pets?

For the right person, a hedgehog is a phenomenal pet. However, because they are unconventional pets, they require quite a bit of care and learning to keep them happy and healthy. Before getting a hedgehog, please make sure that you know about these little creatures.

Do hedgehogs smell?

No. Hedgehogs are naturally odorless animals. With the right feeding and care, hedgehogs shouldn't have an offensive or problematic odor.

Can you have a hedgehog as a pet?

In most states, yes. It is against the law to have a hedgehog in California, Georgia, and Hawaii. It's also illegal to have one in New York City, Omaha, NE, and Washington, D.C. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. Other states and cities may have restrictions, so please check your local laws before getting one.

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Written by Leo Roux

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