Hibernation: passing the winter in a dormant or inactive condition.
Estivation: prolonged dormancy of an animal during a hot or dry period.
In the wild hedgehogs hibernate when the temperature gets too cool. However, in captivity, their attempts at hibernation are dangerous. Estivation is rare for pet hedgehogs but just as dangerous.
In captivity, hedgehogs should be kept in a controlled environment to prevent hibernation and estivation.
Signs Of Hibernation In Hedgehogs:
- The hedgehog is cool to the touch. This is the number one sign to look for if you suspest your hedgehog is attempting to hibernate. Touch the stomach, if it’s cool, your hedgehog needs warmed up immediately.
- The hedgehog is lethargy (sluggish). The hedgehog will not be able to unroll or roll up at all.
- The hedgehog has a lack of appetite. This could be a decrease in appetite or your hedgehog may not eat anything at all.
- Hedgehog is wobbling. The hedgehog can attempt to hibernation while it’s walking around. It is only looking for a warmer place.
What To Do If Your Hedgehog Is Hibernating?
If your hedgehog is hibernating, you need to take immediate action.
- Warm up your hedgehog slowly. You can do this by placing the hedgehog against your chest or stomach, warming the hedgehog too fast can be dangerous, your body heat will warm it up slowly. Place a blanket on the hedgehog’s back to keep the heat in.
- Increase the temperature of the cage. Use a space heater (no directed at the cage) or a heating pad on low under one half of the cage with a blanket between it and the cage or a ceramic heating lamp.
- Your hedgehog should be acting and moving normally before you put it back in it’s cage.
- DO NOT put the hedgehog in warm water.
- If the hedgehog doesn’t respond within 40-60 minutes, take it to the vet!
*Hedgehogs may attempt to hibernate again within the week. The cage must be kept warmer and the hedgehog must be given more care to ensure it doesn’t hibernate again.
What Causes Hibernation?
Hedgehogs need to be kept warm, if the temperature gets too low, they’ll hibernate. You have to keep your hedgehog warm.
Main causes for hibernation:
- Low temperatures
- A sudden decrease in temperature, even if it’s in an acceptable range.
- Old age. As hedgehogs get older, the temperature they are comfortable increases. A hedgehog that used to be comfortable at 70*F may attempt hibernation at 72*.
Signs Of Estivation:
Hedgehog will look for a cool place to lay down, ten lay down with their belly on the cool surface and their legs pointing out. If the hedgehog doesn’t cool down it will begin to pant.
What To Do?
- Lower the temperature of the cage.
- Place a cool piece of tile in the cage.
- You can place a bowl of ice on top of the cage, so the cool air trickles down.
- You can use air conditioning to lower the temperature of the cage.
- DO NOT cool the room to much or your hedgehog will hibernate, and try your best to prevent drafts, since this can cause hibernation.
Why Is Hibernation & Estivation Dangerous For Hedgehogs?
Hibernation and Estivation lower hedgehogs immune system and metabolism leaving them prone to diseases and illnesses.
Your hedgehog needs a temperature controlled environment to prevent hibernation and estivation, and it is your responsibility as a hedgehog owner to provide that environment for them.