Hedgehog Care

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Tonto riding around in my jacket pocket!

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WHAT IS AN AFRICAN PYGMY HEDGEHOG?

The African Pygmy Hedgehog is an exotic pet, about 6-8" long and between 225 grams and 700 grams in weight. They have soft fur on their bellies and face, and hard, pointy spines, or quills, on the top portion of their body. They have a special muscle that runs along their back that allows them to tighten themselves into a ball if they are frightened or threatened. They can also cross their spines as a form of protection. They come in a variety of colors from white to black, and their spines are banded - meaning they have multiple stripes on each spine. They have 5 toes on their front feet and 4 on their back. They are not rodents, but instead, part of the family Erinaceidae. Hedgehogs life span is 3-9 years, but generally live to be 4-5 years. 

DO THEY BITE?

They CAN bite, but generally speaking, they are not known to bite. You will almost always know before your hedgehog decides to bite you if you pay attention to the signs. Usually, they will lick you first, then after a lick (or five) they can bite and proceed to anoint. 

WILL THEY GET ALONG WITH MY DOG/CAT/CHILD?

Hedgehogs are solitary animals and should not be housed with other animals - including other hedgehogs. 

Dogs and cats may see your hedgehog as prey. It is not advisable to leave your other pets alone with your hedgehog while he is out of the cage. If you do own a cat or dog, make sure the cage you choose is secure and your dog/cat can't get in. 

Your children may not be used to what a hedgehog feels like, and could be frightened by the hedgehog if it suddenly goes into a ball and pricks your child. Please use caution when letting young children (under 7) handle hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are living animals and should be treated carefully, really young children may swat or throw your hedgehog when frighten. Hedgehogs can live for 5 or so years - they are not disposable and if your child wants one, it may become your pet when your child tires of it. Please consider this before purchasing one.

CAN YOU PLAY WITH THEM?

They're similar to hamsters or guinea pigs - you can pet them, they have personalities, and they are fun to watch, but you can't really teach them to fetch or sit like a dog. They will bond with their owners and get to know your scent. Depending on the hedgehog's personality, some would rather chill out with you, while others will like to explore! 

HOW DO I GIVE MY HEDGEHOG A BATH?

Hedgehogs are clean animals and do not need bathes often. 

Sometimes bedding, dirt, or other matter may become lodged in their quills and will need a bath. You will need towels, a toothbrush, and a sink. Shampoo isn’t always necessary and can dry out the skin. When purchasing shampoo, go with mild or baby/puppy/kitten shampoo. This will help avoid dry skin.

Fill your sink with about an inch of warm water. Do not fill the sink too deep and make sure the water is lukewarm. Place your pet in the sink and wet his back with the warm water. Try to avoid getting water near their eyes, ears, and face.

Take the toothbrush and gently comb his quills from front to back. Once the bath is complete remove your hedgehog and place him in a towel. Gently dry him and try to remove as much water as possible. You want your pet to be completely dry before returning him to his cage. If your hedgehog isn't completely dry, this can cause fungus to grow on your hedgehog's skin. 

Please note: Hedgehogs create very little, if any, dander and are nearly hypoallergenic to humans. They don't need deep baths to rid themselves of dander like dogs and cats. If you think your hedgehog is giving you allergies, try changing your bedding to paper or fleece. 

 
ANOINTING
Anointing is a hedgehog's way of trying to smell like their surroundings. Hedgehogs will chew or lick anything that smells new to them... INCLUDING YOU! If they start to lick you, be warned, they might bite you just out of curiosity! Once they are sure they have the taste in their mouth, they will make a foamy, spitball, and perform yoga to place it on their back.
 
QULLING
Quilling is the time when a young hedgehog starts to shed their baby quills and replace them with their adult quills. Quilling normally starts between 5 weeks -12 weeks old. They will have several other quilling processes over their lifetime.
 
During this time you may notice several changes in your hedgehog. One of these changes is that you are going to start to see a lot of quills being lost. Keep in mind that it is common for an adult hedgehog to occasionally lose a quill or two, but during quilling your hedgehog may lose a dozen quills in one sitting. If you look closely at your hedgehogs skin you will notice new quills poking through their skin. This will cause their skin to become tender and sore. Your hedgehog may have never balled up before this time, and now he won't uncurl and hisses and pops constantly. It is also common for a hedgehog to not eat as much during this time as well. Don't be alarmed; hedgehogs normally go back to their previous attitudes after the quilling ends. But make sure that you still handle your hedgehog during this time as some hedgehogs that were not handled during quilling continued to be huffy afterward.
 
Behavior during quilling:
  • One might compare teething in human babies to quilling in hedgies.
  • Some hedgehogs show no discomfort during quilling while others might become very grouchy.
  • Hedgehogs that are uncomfortable might huff and puff more and relax less.
  • Instead of attempting to “pet” your hedgehog simply hold it or allow it to crawl over you and explore.
  • You don’t want to avoid handling your pet during the quilling process, but you certainly don’t want to increase their agitation by petting them if their behavior indicates they are uncomfortable.
  • The good news is that with consistent handling the grouchiness will get better.
Quilling can last about two weeks to a month. A way to ease their pain is a warm bath. Just remember that this will pass and you need to be patient with your baby during this time. 
WHAT DO I NEED?
Do not use wire or grated bottoms or cages with levels. 
Keep in mind: Hedgehogs are known to be escape artists!
Cage: Wire bottom cages are dangerous and hedgehogs can get hurt if their legs get stuck in the holes. I recommend using a cage that is no smaller than 30" x 18" x 16" and does not have multiple stories. You can use a large container such as 105 quarts or 116 quarts but you should steer clear of them if you're not prepared to drill holes for ventilation. Use something with solid flooring.
Shavings: This is your preference, but do not use cedar or pine shavings. They have been known to cause respiratory problems in hedgehogs. We prefer fleece or paper bedding. Check out the section below for more information on the fleece.
 Fleece Liners:  Fleece is a WONDERFUL option for your hedgehog! Comfortable and easy to clean! Check out https://helenandharper.com/ for all your fleece needs! Use "HEDGEHOGHEAVEN" at check out for a 20% discount!
Hut: Get a plastic hut or fleece for your hedgehog to hide and sleep in. This is a must since they are nocturnal and need a dark place to sleep during the day.
Water: I am currently using water bottles for my hedgehogs. You may use a ceramic dish or a water bottle! 
Wheel: Wire wheels catch on toenails and will tear them off, even causing nerve damage to a hedgehog's feet in the process. Only use solid, plastic wheels like Comfort Wheels. There are many wheels available from the Comfort Wheels to the Silent Spinners to the Carolina Storm Wheels so research your wheels and make sure they fit you and your pet's needs. The wheel must be at least 12". 
Litter box: Some hedgehogs take to the litter box, others do not. Tonto used the litter box and Minnie would not. It just depends on your hedgehog. If you choose to use a litter box, get a ferret corner litter box and use non-clumping litter, and preferably unscented litter. You can buy some cheap litter from the grocery store. We use Tidy cats non-clumping litter (yellow bag). 
Heat source: You MUST have a way to keep your hedgehogs area between at least 76 to 80 F. This can be accomplished with a heat lamp, a small animal heating pad, or a space heater. I highly recommend having a thermostat gauge to regulate the temperature. This gauge will cut the heating device off or on when it reaches a certain temperature to ensure that your hedgehog ever gets too hold or cold. Hedgehogs can go into hibernation if they get too cold and this can be fatal!!
** Heating pads can be safe, BUT they can cause burns if they get too hot! We recommend a heating lamp with a ceramic bulb over a heating pad or space heater. **
FOOD
Hedgehogs are insectivores. Cat food has the right amount of nutrients they need to be healthy and happy. You are roughly looking for at least 20-30% protein, no more than 15% fat, and at least 2% fiber.
We are currently feeding Purina All natural cat food 
You could also use...
- 4Health 
- Innova
- Blue Buffalo
- Wellness Core
- Royal Canin
- Natural Balance etc... 
For your pet hedgehog, you want to provide a well-balanced diet that is high in protein. How much you should feed him depends on his activity and metabolism. If you notice your hedgehog is becoming fat, cut back on his portions. If you notice he eats all his food and is lean, add more. Also, you can feed insects as treats.

DO THEY GET SICK?

Yes, every animal can get sick! But they are relatively healthy little guys if they are acquired from a reputable place. 

The most common issue here is mites, which are tiny, tiny bugs. Your hedgehog would start losing fur and quills if he had mites. You might also see them in the bath. If this happens, you should take him to the vet for some medication. This is contagious to other hedgehogs, and possibly other animals like birds or small animals. It's very common here in Texas because of the warm climate, to obtain mites from bedding at pet stores. This is an easy fix with some medication from a vet! 

They can get an upper respiratory infection - which would be signified by a lot of sneezing and snot. This would require antibiotics, again from your vet. It is highly contagious to other hedgehogs if your hedgehog has this.

Other things to watch out for would be diarrhea, constipation, not eating or drinking, blood coming from anywhere. They bleed a lot when they bleed, and often if they cut themselves, they are fine once you find them and the mess is worse than the injury. If they continue to bleed, you should take them to the vet.