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Arch Creek Animal Clinic
Call us today! 305-945-1223
Give us a call today! 305-945-1223

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North Miami Beach,
FL 33162

Tips For Taking Care Of Hedgehogs

February 1 2024

February, like any other month, has its own unique associations: in this case, it’s the beloved traditions of Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day. (Interestingly, this year Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, a rare event that has only occurred 21 times in the past 138 years.) While many people are well-acquainted with Groundhog Day, what may come as a surprise is that the day also holds significance for hedgehogs. In fact, the Romans used hedgehogs to predict the weather! They relied on whether or not Hedgie saw his shadow in the moonlight. Though we no longer look to hedgehogs for weather forecasts, they have gained popularity as pets. In this article, a local North Miami, FL vet will offer helpful tips on caring for these adorable spiky creatures.

Basics of Hedgehogs

The hedgehog is similar to the porcupine in that it has chosen to wear spikes, or quills. These quills are made up of keratin, the same substance found in human hair and nails. Although they are cute, the quills are actually there to protect the hedgehog. Hedgie will curl into a ball when threatened, making it harder for predators to grab him. Don’t worry, though: your pet can’t shoot his quills.

There are 14 different types of hedgehogs in the world. However, only two types are commonly kept as pets: the European hedgehogs and African pygmy hedgehogs. The latter is by far the most popular here in North America. It’s easy to see why. These little guys are cute, charming, quiet, and playful, which is why they have gained so much attention recently.

While there’s no denying their cuteness, the hedgehog may not be right for every home. For example, Hedgie may not be a good choice for a house with a dog that is very prey-driven. Before making any decisions, talk to your veterinarian and do a lot of research.

How to Choose a Pet Hedgehog

Are you ready to adopt Hedgie? Start by seeking out a reputable breeder. A reliable breeder should provide warranties for specific health concerns, and may even offer to take the hedgehog back if needed. While certain pet stores do offer hedgehogs, the staff may not be very knowledgeable about them. Additionally, store-bought hedgehogs may not have received much handling or socialization.

You’ll want to select a healthy hedgie. Look for one with a good weight, bright round eyes, a slightly moist nose, and smooth skin. Signs that a hedgehog is sick include sunken or dull eyes, a runny nose, scaly or crusty skin, and/or fecal matter stuck to their bottoms.

For further information, consult your veterinary clinic.

Getting to Know Your New Hedgehog

Just like any other animal, hedgehogs have their own personalities. Some are just friendlier than others. However, it’s not uncommon for them to be very frightened and nervous in a new place. It may take some time for your new buddy to warm up to you. That’s fine!

Try putting a worn t-shirt in Hedgie’s cage for him to snuggle up in. That will help him  get used to your scent and hopefully begin associating it with feeling safe and comfortable. If possible, do not change your soap, lotion, detergent, or scents during this stage.

Be careful not to scare Hedgie. He may curl up into a ball if he feels unsafe. Don’t try to force him to unroll: just let him be until he feels secure enough to do so. (A friendlier hedgehog will relax fairly quickly, and may start waving his little hands around. We probably don’t have to tell you how cute this is.)

Hedgehogs don’t see very well: they rely on their adorable noses to gather information. Shadows can be very scary to them. Keep that in mind when you hold or approach him. Never scoop the little guy up from behind or pick him up when he is sleeping. That can (understandably) be quite scary. You probably wouldn’t appreciate a giant plucking you out of bed, either!

Picking A Hedgehog Cage

Cages for hedgehogs should be at least 4 x 2, but bigger is better. Be sure the cage has a solid bottom: mesh floors don’t hold bedding in, and can even cause foot and leg injuries.

As far as bedding goes, you can use paper bedding, kiln-dried shavings, or a soft fleece blanket. A litterbox is optional, but helpful. If you do get one, use paper towels or soft pellets for litter. Avoid clay litters and clumping litters, since they can cause intestinal blockages if swallowed. Pine and cedar products may cause respiratory problems, so we would recommend that you avoid them as well.

You’ll need to get some furnishings. Just like people, hedgehogs need to stay active. Get Hedgie an exercise wheel. Choose a solid one, since wire wheels aren’t safe. Your hedgehog will also need a good hide. You can use pouches, igloos, or even habitats made for reptiles.

Hedgie will also need enrichment and stimulation. Offer lots of fun, safe toys. Many of Fluffy and Fido’s toys are fine. Choose brightly colored ones, so he can see them.

For more specific advice, consult your North Miami, FL veterinarian.

Hedgehog Cage Placement

Where to put  your quilled buddy? Well, you should keep Hedgie in a room that stays between 70 and 80 degrees. Don’t put your prickly pal in direct sunlight or drafty places. Also, avoid putting his habitat in loud spots.

Another thing to keep in mind here? The hedgehog is a night owl, and is most active after dark. You’ll probably want to put Hedgie somewhere he can sleep during the day but play and run at night without waking you up.

How To Feed A Pet Hedgehog

Hedgie, like his wild counterparts, is best suited to primarily consume insects. Therefore, a diet that is high in protein and low in fat is ideal for him. Hedgehog kibble is a good choice. High-quality dog or cat food is also acceptable. Cooked salmon, chicken, turkey, and eggs can also be incorporated into your pet’s diet. Fruits and vegetables such as bananas, peas, apples, beans, corn, carrots, watermelon, pears, papaya, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are also suitable for hedgies. However, before giving these foods to your pet, remember to remove any skins, seeds or pits.

A few times a week, you’ll want to offer your cute pet gut-loaded insects, such as earthworms, waxworms, silkworms, or crickets. Use store-bought varieties, as wild insects may carry parasites.

You’ll also need to be aware of what isn’t safe for your prickly friend. That list includes tomatoes, honey, junk food, grapes, raisins, seeds, milk, peanuts, avocado, nuts, hard/raw vegetables, raw meats, bread, chocolate, alcohol, dried fruit, vegetables, garlic, and onion. This is just a partial list, of course. Always research new foods before handing them over to those tiny paws.

Ask your North Miami, FL veterinarian about specific feeding recommendations.

Common Signs Of Sickness In Hedgehogs

The hedgehog is susceptible to a variety of illnesses and diseases, including cancer, reproductive problems, and dental problems. Keep an eye out for warning signs. Lack of appetite, weight loss, respiratory problems, dull eyes, lethargy, diarrhea, lumps, and lumps or bumps are some common ones. You may also notice some uncharacteristic crankiness, such as grumbling or hissing. Call your North Miami, FL  veterinarian right away if this occurs.

In Conclusion: Hedgehogs are very cute and fun. Just do plenty of research before purchasing a hedgehog and speak with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Do you have questions about hedgehog care? Contact us, your North Miami, FL pet hospital, today!