If you're thinking of keeping hedgehogs as pets, you'll need to know about them before you go get one. Here we cover the most important facts you'll need to consider before bringing your new hedgehog home.
The most common hedgehog kept as a pet is the African Pygmy Hedgehog. If you want to buy a hedgehog, I advise that you buy one from a breeder.
(See Where to Buy a Hedgehog?)
The following are some basic things you should know before buying a hedgehog. Knowing what your pet needs is essential for a good life for your hedgehog.
Reasons to Keep Hedgehogs as Pets
1. Hedgehogs Don't Spread Dander
If you want a pet but have allergies, then hedgehogs are a great pet for you.
Hedgehogs don't spread dander, and therefore, don't trigger allergies. Hedgehogs are hypoallergenic. This means they have a decreased tendency to cause allergic reactions.
2. Hedgehogs Are Quiet
Hedgehogs don't squeak or bark. You may hear your hedgehog running on a squeaky wheel. They may also huff or growl if they are upset, but for the most part, hedgehogs aren't noisy pets.
3. Hedgehogs Are Small
Hedgehogs are likely to be allowed in areas that only allow small pets.
There are restrictions for owning a hedgehog (as for other exotic pets) in some countries, states, and towns.
Even though hedgehogs are small, that doesn't mean you should keep your hedgehog in a little box. They should have enough room to run freely.
4. Hedgehogs Don't Smell
Unlike other small animals such as ferrets, a maintained cage and a healthy hedgehog don't smell.
(See Do Hedgehogs Smell?)
5. Hedgehogs Are Easy to Care for
Hedgehogs are simple to look after. Most of the time, they will care for themselves.
The most work you would do is bathe them every month or so, and clean their cage once a week.
Of course, there are some messy hedgehogs out there that may need multiple cage cleanings throughout the week.
6. Hedgehogs Are Not Rodents
Since hedgehogs are not rodents, they don't have the tendency to chew or gnaw.
There are many factors that separate them from rodents. The main factor for classifying rodents is their jaws and teeth.
Hedgehogs, unlike rodents, have canine teeth, just like cats and humans.
7. Hedgehogs Are Ridiculously Cute
I mean, how can you not want a ball of cuteness!! Did you know hedgehogs can smile?
Hedgehogs are also very entertaining. Watching them scurry around in their cage, they come up with the weirdest ways to entertain themselves. Hedgehogs are cute in so many ways.
Things to Know Before Buying a Hedgehog
1. Hedgehogs Are Prickly!
Hedgehogs use their quills for protection. You need to bond with your hedgehog, but until it gets used to you, it might poke you. It will also poke you if it is grumpy or upset.
2. Hedgehog Age
You shouldn't buy a hedgehog younger than two months old. Hedgehogs must stay with their mother for at least the first two months of their life.
I've heard about people who have bought hedgehogs younger than this, but it is a good idea to only buy a hedgehog older than two months.
3. Some Hedgehogs Are Mean - Avoid Buying Them
Some hedgehogs may have been mistreated in their previous home. This could cause them to be mean and hard, if not impossible, to handle.
You should always hold the hedgehog before you buy it. Some hedgehogs are grumpy and won't let you hold them.
Holding them before buying them will help you avoid buying an unfriendly hedgehog.
4. Hedgehogs Are Nocturnal
This means they are sleepy during the day and wake up in the late evening. You must let them sleep until they naturally wake up.
Waking a hedgehog up before this makes them grumpy and more likely to poke you with their quills.
5. Hedgehogs Do Best in 73˚- 80˚ F Temperature Ranges
African pygmy hedgehogs are sensitive to cold and changes in temperature.
You must be ready to provide additional heat if your house is maintained at a cooler temperature in the winter. 73° is an ideal temperature for your hedgehog.
6. Hedgehogs Should Have a Large Cage
Hedgehogs should have enough room to run around. Nobody likes being locked up in a small box that you can't move around in.
A four-square-feet floor is the smallest your cage should be. You should get you hedgehog a bigger cage if possible.
You should leave the cage in a place that gets enough sunlight, and it should also be well heated.
Hedgehog cages should not be left under stereos or areas prone to loud noises. Hedgehogs depend largely on their senses, and too much noise and/or activity around your hedgehog will be very distressing.
7. Most Hedgehog Foods Aren't Suitable for Hedgehog Diets
Hedgehogs are insectivores in nature. This does not mean you have to feed your hedgehog bugs!
Your hedgehog needs high protein, low-fat food. A bag of good quality cat food would make a great meal for your hedgehog.
8. Hedgehogs are Solitary Animals
It's not a good idea to put to hedgehogs in the same cage.
Hedgehogs live alone in nature, so putting two hedgehogs in the same cage could cause fights and injuries.
It is always best to keep each hedgehog in their own cage.
9. Hedgehogs Go Through a Process Called Quilling
Quilling is similar to other animals changing coats. It is a natural process that happens during adolescence.
This is equivalent to teething in infants, and hedgehogs can be very grouchy during this process.
Quills that have been shed should have a root at the end, just like the root of the human hair. If the quill's ending is soft, then the quill has fallen off for different reasons.
10. Hedgehogs have Teeth and Can Bite
Hedgehog biting is a means of communication.
The more you understand your hedgehog, the risk of being bitten is decreased. Hedgehogs may also bite out of curiosity or to learn about their environment.
Hedgehogs do not bite for defense - they use their quills for defense and not their teeth.
11. Hedgehogs Have a Self-Anointing Behavior
When a hedgehog encounters a new environment, it chews a little, creates a foamy saliva, and covers various parts of its body with it. It is unknown why hedgehogs self-anoint.
12. Hedgehog Personality Change
It is common for people to notice personality changes in their hedgehog after it reaches its new home. This is because of the stress caused by having a new person take care of them and a new environment to live in.
13. Everything Should be Ready Before Bringing your Hedgehog Home
You should set up your hedgehog's cage, and have food, water, bedding, and all the other stuff your hedgehog is going to need before buying and bringing your hedgehog home.
You should not bring your hedgehog home if you don't have a place ready for it.
1. Hedgehogs Don't Need Very Much from Their Caretakers
The most your hedgehog will need from you is fresh food, water, and an occasional bath.
The small amount of work that hedgehogs require does not mean is OK to neglect your hedgehog.
Hedgehogs, like every other pet, are a great responsibility.
2. Hedgehog Owner
A hedgehog owner should be patient. Hedgehogs are naturally shy and nervous.
You need to be patient until you gain their trust. A hedgehog owner should know about hedgehogs. This is pretty obvious, but I thought I should mention it anyway.
Your hedgehog depends on you for many things. It is important that you learn to notice when they need something from you.
3. Cage Bedding
The best bedding choices would be pine or aspen shavings. You should NOT use cedar shavings as your cage bedding.
Cedar is toxic to animals. Cedar contains a toxin called Plicatic Acid which can lead to several problems in small animals.
4. Water Bowl or Water Bottle
Both water bowls and water bottles are fine for your hedgehog.
If you will be buying your hedgehog a water bowl, you need to make sure it will not be easily knocked over.
Although many hedgehogs and hedgehog owners alike prefer water bowls to water bottles.
5. Hedgehogs Don't Need Veterinary Care Often
Hedgehogs don't need vaccinations, routine shots, or veterinary testing.
However, annual vet visits are strongly recommended. Most vets do not have training on exotic animals such as hedgehogs, so you should find a veterinarian that has experience with pet hedgehogs.
6. Getting a Hedgehog for Your Child
Hedgehogs have been captive bred for generations, therefore, they make great pets, unlike many other exotic animals.
However, hedgehogs need constant attention. You must observe your hedgehog's eating behavior, activity levels, and temperature every day.
Interacting with other pets
1. Hedgehogs Can Interact with Other Pets
You might have seen a picture of a hedgehog sleeping next to a cat, or a hedgehog playing with a dog. I have seen tons. Believe it or not, hedgehogs can form bonds with other pets.
2. Interactions with Other Pets Should be Monitored
Sometimes hedgehogs may not get along with other pets. This depends on each pet's personality.
Your pets should be monitored when together until you are sure they get along and will be safe together.
3. Hedgehog Health with Other Animals
It is possible for bacteria to travel from one animal to another. You should be cautious about this. A small disease in one pet can be a big problem in your hedgehog.
Hedgehogs and Humans health
Hedgehogs Do Not Carry Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can travel from animals to humans.
Hedgehogs are not known to carry any zoonotic diseases. Children and elders have weaker immune systems, though, and are more vulnerable to problems.
Washing your hands after handling your pet hedgehog is necessary to prevent any problems that might occur.