Whenever people hear of hedgehogs, they think of an out-sized, meat-eating hamster with spikes cover, this sounding like the stuff of nightmares. However, hedgehogs make excellent pets and share some traits with a hamster, for instance, their preference of living alone, and they both are nocturnal creatures, run long distances at night, not forgetting they are charming.
In truth nevertheless, to live a long and happy life, hedgehogs require a different set of needs.
Having tapered nose, brown eyes and coat of quills makes these creatures photogenic, with this being one of the reasons for their rapid rise in popularity. Nevertheless, before purchasing one, you should be conversant with their needs subsequently providing them with a happy home.
First, carry out some research and find out whether in your state hedgehogs are legal. For instance, the African pygmy hedgehog is not a native species thereby some of the states have forbidden keeping them as pets to safeguard the local ecosystem and native wildlife.
States which keeping hedgehogs as pets is illegal include:
- New York City (5 boroughs)
- Washington DC
Hedgehog Rudimentary Biology
Now let us get up close and personal with your new prickly pet pal.
The African pygmy hedgehog is a tropical species with an average lifespan of three to five years. Maturity starts at a relatively young age of five months, with this being when they can commence breeding, therefore, always make a point of separating sisters and brothers before this age. Typically, a hedgehog pregnancy lasts anything from 32 to 50 days with the average size of the litter being three to four hoglets.
While in the wild their native Africa, these adorable creatures mostly dine on insects, this officially making them carnivorous as they enjoy a meal of things crispy creepy-crawlies and a little herbage as a side salad.
Like hamsters, hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, and once the sun sets, they start being active and they surely are active. Providing hedgehogs with an exercise wheel is a must and this is particularly critical since wild hedgehogs are known to travel up to eight kilometers in a single night. It, of course, may cause you disturbance while you are sleeping so be sure whether a pet which is active when are not you does fit into your plans.
Lastly, hedgehogs originate from a tropical environment and must keep warm. While in the wild, hedgehogs hibernate but in captivity, to keep them awake all year round, you should avail artificial heating.
Housing and Homing a Hedgehog
The essential items you need to attend to a hedgehog’s needs are;
- An appropriate secure cage
- A shelter or hide
- Safe bedding
- Ceramic bowls of food and water
- A heat rug or lamp
- Suitable food
A Safe Container or Cage
Typically, hedgehogs are solitary creatures and fancy living alone. Paired males or females tend to fight, and whereas mixed genders do mate, the same still applies.
Just like every other creature, hedgehogs need adequate space to display their wide range of natural behaviors; thus this boils down to a scenario wherein terms of a cage, the “Bigger the Better.” Preferably, hogs should have at least a four-foot length to potter in and a wheel for exercise.
When searching for a cage, opt for one with a solid floor that keeps the hog deep bedded, staying away from mesh floors since they damage the hog’s delicate paws. Various enclosures are appropriate for hedgehogs ranging from indoor rabbit system, vivarium or purpose-made cages. The factors to bear in mind include:
- Low level: Hogs usually think they can climb, but that is not the case. They are clumsy and frequently fall, and low levels falls are fine. Additionally, keep away from cages with a mezzanine level since the hedgehog might mistakenly attempt to climb consequently injuring itself.
- Space: There should be enough room for the hog to roll around and have separate areas to eat, drink, sleep, exercise and toilet.
- Flat Floor: Avoid mesh floors so not as to hurt the hog’s paws.
- Warm and well-ventilated: Vivarium are great at holding onto heat but frequently tend to be poorly ventilated, thereby necessitating you to drill extra ventilation holes.
The best options to go for include shredded newspaper, untreated wood chips or aspen. Nonetheless, every bedding has its bad points and good points, therefore, it is up to you to decide what works best for you and your hedgehog. You can certainly try and litter-train your hog using wood-based cat litter in a pan, following this up by using fleece as a type of hedgehog carpet.
Furthermore, always remember to spot tidy bedding daily, scoop out the soiled areas then to replace it, plus doing a thorough cleaning at least once a week.
A Shelter or Hide
Like every other creature, hogs like to be secure and private while they are asleep and for hogs, the idea of a luxury bedroom is a box, shelter or igloo with bedding where they can curl up inside and sleep all day.
Alternatively, you can use a hedgehog pouch as the hog’s shelter, with this being comparable to a hog sleeping bag except for the fact that goes has to go all the way inside to curl up and sleep. The main advantage of a hedgehog pouch is that you can easily lift the hog out of its cage when it is cleaning time. Some people find their hogs have trotted back into the pouch when they have had enough of playtime.
A Heat Lamp or Rug Usually, a hog requires steady temperatures ranging between 73 to 75 F day and night. Generally, a valuable rule of thumb is that whenever you feel cold, your hog needs added heat. But in case your centrally heated house is warm all year round, you are fine. Using a thermometer, observe the temperature levels, and in case it dips during the night, you should give your hog a heat mat or black lamp. Nevertheless, always cover the mat’s top with fleece or cover since the hog cannot lie directly on the rug due to thermal burns.
Always avoid temperatures of 68 F and below since this could trigger the hog to hibernate.
Ceramic Bowls for Food and Water
Ceramic bowls are weighty thus makes it difficult for hogs to tip them over. Moreover, they are easy to clean and scratch proof. Keep away from sipper bottles since the hog’s startlingly long tongue may get trapped by the spout’s ball bearing.
Just as the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, and therefore, where hedgehog food is concerned, diversity helps guarantee a balanced diet. While in the wild, hogs eat insects snaffling up whatever wriggles, hope or flies passing by. To simulate this, include wiggles such as silkworms, crickets, wax worms and mealworms to its diet with this found in reptile shops.
For the captive hedgehog, its primal diet should be a good quality of dry cat food with approximately a half tablespoon in a day. Add variety nevertheless by providing a supplement of:
- Lean cooked lamb, chicken or turkey
- Scrambled or boiled egg
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
Always confiscate any uneaten food every morning so that it does not get molds. Also, never give hedgehogs milk since they struggle digesting the milk sugar and lactose subsequently developing diarrhea.
While in the wild, hedgehogs do a lot of investigating and pottering thus you should mimic this by offering a cardboard tunnel to explore. Furthermore, it is mandatory you have an exercise wheel just like the ones designed for ferrets and make sure it is big enough so that the hedgehog’s back does not bend into a “U” when inside.
Also, have a safe space or room where you can occasionally let the hog out to stretch its legs and run around, with this being an ideal time to pet and fuss him to get used to your company. But finally, you will get fatigued and want to rest whereas the hedgehog still wants to play, therefore giving him cat-sized toys to play around with is an excellent way for the hog to amuse itself during the night.
Hedgehog Health and Habits
Hedgehogs are prone to a couple of health problems despite your efforts of keeping them in a clean environment and offering them a balanced diet.
- Respiratory Disease: The hog’s delicate lungs get easily damaged by ammonia. In the event the bedding becomes soiled, the high ammonia levels predispose them to pneumonia. Some of the symptoms of this include poor appetite, rapid breathing and staying in one place.
- Self-anointing: It looks shocking but is typical behavior with certain smells triggering the hedgehog to produce large amounts of saliva that thy then smear all over themselves.
- Bloat: Some vegetables, for instance, those from the cabbage family encourage the formation of gas in the bowel thereby causing the hedgehog to swell up. Whereas some hogs “deflate” on their own, others require help from the veterinary.
- Wobbly Hedgehog syndrome: It is a condition that causes the hog’s nervous system to degenerate thereby affecting its balance. With no known cure, this condition is thought to be genetic with about 10% of pet hogs affected.
Lastly, having a hog is a five years commitment thus make sure you are ready to face this test, subsequently being able to provide for your prickly pet for the foreseeable future. It is only then that your hog can lead a healthy life it deserves and have a happy home.