So you might be wondering: are hedgehogs good pets? Well, the first thing you need to know is that hedgehogs are complicated pets to have and require a lot of work and care. But before that, here are some things to know about hedgehogs, in general.
- Hedgehogs can live 8 to 10 years when looked after properly.
- Hedgehogs are also solitary creatures that only get together to mate. This also means they need to live on their own or they will get into fights.
- Hedgehog pet owners must handle them every day to get them accustomed to being held by humans.
- They need to be bathed daily because when hedgehogs run about, they poop and pee as they go.
- Wild hedgehogs travel up to 2 miles a night on average – sometimes more.
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal which means they will sleep all day and run about all night looking for food and mischief-making.
- So pet or captive hedgehogs need a lot of exercise for this very same reason too.
Are Hedgehogs Good Pets? Just the Species that Can be Pets
You can’t keep just any hedgehog as a pet. In fact, the only species that is recommended for being kept as a pet is the African Pygmy Hedgehog
This is a Hybrid of two different species of African Hedgehogs. African Pygmy hedgehogs are bred in captivity and are also the only species happy to live in captivity.
All other species of hedgehogs are wild animals and no attempt should be made to keep them as pets.
Wild hedgehogs will get stressed if kept captive. In such cases, they quite often stop eating and become ill.
It is also illegal to keep our native European Hedgehogs captive in the UK.
How to Take Care of a Pet Hedgehog
Where to Keep Them
African Pygmy Hedgehogs need to be kept in a vivarium or tank where you can control the temperature.
They need to be kept in temperatures of between 24 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees Celsius. Anything below 18 degrees Celsius makes them go into a torpor (which is a form of hibernation).
This is because they are accustomed to warmer and arid climates.
A pet hedgehog can also be kept in a suitable cage that is placed in a room at the right temperature range. Or, you can keep it warm with a small animal heat pad where his or her Hidy house is. Alternatively, place a heat lamp over the cage. This cage from Heritage Pet Products is a good size and idea.
Or you can go for an adorably cute option, such as this one from Winterworm. This small animal pet cave is ideal as it can be placed on top of a heat pad. As you can see by this pet African Pygmy Hedgehog, it is a nice and cozy house.
Where and What to Play and Exercise With
1. A Wheel
Your pet will need a specially designed wheel for hedgehogs. Alternatively, you can also go for one destined for chinchillas.
No matter which you go for, the wheel must be mounted. One great example is this Kaytee Spinner,Giant Wheel:
2. A Playpen
You can also get a small animal playpen and put in things for them to investigate. Consider hiding bits of food for them to forage and keep them active and stimulated as they search for their food. This Amakunft Portable Small Animals Playpen is a great option.
3. The Bedding
A hedgehog’s bedding should be made of shredded paper for carefresh white. Wood-based bedding such as wood shavings and chips contain oils that are toxic and can cause respiratory problems.
What to Feed a Pet Hedgehog
Hedgehogs are omnivores – in the wild, they eat insects, beetles, snails, slugs and worms for their main food. They also forage for some berries and nuts.
However, pet hedgehogs need to be fed either a specially formulated hedgehog food or meat-based kitten biscuits. For example, you can give yours a chicken, duck, turkey or meat-based wet cat food in jelly or pate form. There is also a Spikes hedgehog wet meat food for a bit more variety.
And now, we’ve reached the subject of nuts, sunflower hearts, and mealworms. Or the hedgehog muesli that some companies produce – this too is full of nuts, sunflower hearts, and mealworms.
Well, you should know that the general consensus is not to give these to your pet hedgehog or to their wild cousins. This is because they comtain high levels of phosphorus – too much can cause metabolic bone disease.
Hedgehog Metabolic Bone Disease
The most common effect and metabolic bone disease among hedgehogs is that their bones become too soft.
This will cause them to wobble when they walk and might also lead to them starving because they can’t eat.
There is no cure or treatment for this condition and any hedgehog with this will have to be euthanized by a vet.
This is what I feed hedgehogs – but there are other types of hedgehog food and chicken kitten biscuits can be just as good.
Keeping a Clean Habitat
Pet hedgehogs need to have their homes cleaned regularly and their exercise wheel cleaned daily.
If you don’t do this, the wheels, homes, and cage will likely get soiled by the hedgehogs’ own waste. Not to say that their feet will also get very dirty.
Hedgehogs are messy and dirty creatures.
They traipse through their food and water bowls and will generally leave no. 1 and no. 2 behind as they wander around their homes.
They will quite often sit in their food bowls to eat and defecate at the same time. So you can imagine that in just one night, they can get their vivarium quite dirty – hence the need for regular cleaning.
This also means that they need to take regular baths – often daily – to keep them clean and smelling fresh.
But don’t worry, they do get used to this and often enjoy the warm water on their feet and bodies. They will also enjoy cuddling up in a towel on your lap while they dry off.
Getting Specialized Help & Assistance
Hedgehogs are classed as an exotic pet and many vets do not have the experience to treat them when they are ill.
So you will need to find a vet who has experience in taking care of them or has contacts who have expertise in their care. People who care for sick wild European Hedgehogs are often contacted by vets for advice and help in treating pet hedgehogs.
In the US, you will need an exotic animals vet for your pet hedgehog.
For those of us lucky enough to live in countries where we have the European Hedgehog and have them visiting our gardens, we can help them by creating Hedgehog Highways.
Hedgehog highways are little entrances into our backyards they can use to roam from garden to garden. This way, they can hunt for their main source of food: insects, worms, slugs, and snails.
We can also make food stations and leave hedgehog food or cat kibble for them to supplement their diet.
Leave fresh water dishes for them to drink from. Also, put ramps or stones at the sides of ponds (if you have them) so that if hedgehogs fall in, they can get out again and don’t risk drowning.
We can also make or buy nest boxes and fill them with hay and leaves – like these ones in my garden below. Hedgehogs can come and hibernate in them after it gets cold in winter.
Helping Out Hedgehogs
We can also help out hedgehogs when they get sick. A hedgehog shouldn’t be out and about except in summer when nighttime hours are short.
So if you see one out in the middle of the day or a very small one out in late autumn, then its ok to pick them up with gloves and pop them in a box.
Then either take it to your local wildlife vet or contact the nearest hedgehog or wildlife rescue to get them the help they need.
Small hedgehogs in late autumn will be juveniles that are too small to hibernate and which should spend winter at a rescue.
So, Are Hedgehogs Good Pets? A Conclusion
This is just a basic round-up on hedgehogs that will have helpfully answered some of your questions and given you new information.
If you decide that you really want to have a pet hedgehog, then it is best to do lots of research on them and to make sure you have everything in place and set up before you bring him or her home.
Preparing beforehand can help make sure they stay happy and healthy and that you too spend lots of years together.
But what do you say, are hedgehogs good pets? We are especially curious to hear the opinions of other people that already own one (or more). Comment and let’s chat!
Recommended Read: Best Toys for Hedgehogs