Last Updated: 4/19/20
New Hedgehog Owner Information
Having a pet hedgehog is a fun and rewarding experience. They come in all kinds of colors from light to dark and all sorts of cute facial markings. Some are a little smaller, some will be bigger, some LOVE to run on their wheels and others prefer to play with their toys. You may have a hedgehogs who's very outgoing or snuggly, or maybe they just want to run around all the time. Some just may be more temperamental. They each have a unique personality. As you get to know your new hedgehog, they are also getting to know you.
Hedgehogs are a breed of animal that often takes time and patience, but the rewards of that are worth it. Many people see super friendly hedgehogs doing really cute things on the internet and don't realize what normal hedgehog behavior is. Hedgehogs are a "prey" animal. Prey animals, such as rabbits, or other small animals, are often more prone to being skittish and not assertive like predator type animals, such as cats or dogs. A new hedgehog may be "huffy" with their new owner. They need to learn to trust you and know that you aren't going to hurt them. It may take some time, but once they get to know you, they become much more relaxed.
Hedgehogs are very smell and hearing oriented as they have poor eyesight. I often suggest to have a new owner put something of theirs such as a shirt or even a sock (after it's been worn, so it has your smell on it) in their hedgehog's cage. This helps the hedgehog to get to know the smell of their new owner quicker. Hedgehogs are also nocturnal, so the majority of their activity will be when the sun goes down
People often ask if they will get poked by their hedgehog. The simple answer is, yes. They have quills, you will get poked. This comes with the territory of owning a hedgehog and there is a likely chance that you will even step on a quill at least once during the lifetime of your hedgehog. It's good to remember though, that they are not sticking their quills out constantly trying to poke you. If they are scared or nervous, they will have their quills raised, however if they are calm, their quills lay down and you can pet them over the quills (it feels almost like if you run your hand through rice). Their bellies, however, are covered in soft fur.
You can find out more fun facts about hedgehogs on my FAQ page.
Below is a list of necessities that all hedgehogs need BEFORE they can come home. These are all things to consider before buying a hedgehog to make sure it's a good fit for your home.
- A cage: it needs to be at least 24"x24". Bigger is preferable. You can use large tubs (some people buy tubs that are big enough to fit an artificial Christmas tree), large tanks, or any cage that would be large enough to fit a guinea pig comfortably. You need to have a cage with the option of a top/lid as well, as hedgehogs can be great escape artists. I highly recommend this tub here, because it is spacious, economical, and hedgehogs can't escape the tall sides. Tubs are also very easy to clean. I have learned much and used to recommend cages that are wire. This is no longer something I consider safe as hedgehogs can get their heads stuck in between bars.
- A wheel: The wheel needs to be large enough for a hedgehog (about 11-12"). A baby will seem small for a regular sized hedgehog wheel at first, but don't worry, they'll grow into it. Don't buy any wheel that has gaps or spaces in it (for example, wire wheels that are sold in some pet stores). I highly recommend the Carolina Storm bucket wheels. They're MUCH easier to clean and work really well. Hedgehogs tend to poop as they run and they run on their wheel a lot, so there will be lots of poop and pee on the wheel. They also sell litter trays to go with them. Baby hedgehogs tend to poop and pee A LOT, so the wheel will get yucky pretty fast. As they grow into adults, they become much better about this.
- A hide: Hedgehogs need a place to sleep during the day. You can choose to have more than one hide in the cage (I often give 2 different choices so they can pick which one they like). They also like warm places, so snuggle sacks made of pill-free fleece or little hides made of soft material are popular. The igloos such as these are sold in most pet stores work well also. They may look small, but I've found that even my adults use them and like the tight feel of them and gives them security. You can also get large plumbing tubes for hedgehogs to run around in (3"-4" in diameter).
- Food & water dishes: I recommend a small ceramic dish for food and water. They work just fine and they are cheap at local pet stores or online (ceramic dishes are also harder to knock over or spill). I really like the Small Living Ergonomic dishes. You can also try Flukers Waterer for Small Animals. Be sure you give your hedgehog fresh water each day.
- Bedding: There are a couple options for bedding. You can use pill-free fleece, pine pellets (such as Feline Pine), paper bedding (such as Carefresh), or aspen shavings. I use pine pellets in litter pans under the wheels (it helps to catch poop and pee), paper bedding for near the wheel and a fleece blanket for under hides. Honestly though, you can choose just one of these and do just fine. You can find pine pellets at Farm and Tractor stores or in pet stores as a cat litter called Feline Pine.
- Toys: Hedgehogs don't like wide open spaces, so if the cage is messy or "crowded" with toys that's alright (you still want to make sure they have plenty of room to run around). They also love toys! Cat toys are popular to give them. They like crinkly toys, balls with bells in them, small plush toys, etc. Don't pick cat toys that have small holes in them (cat toy balls that have bells inside will sometimes have holes in them), as they can get them stuck on their mouth. The toys can be simple as well, such as toilet paper rolls or little paper cups (hedgehogs LOVE toilet paper rolls).
- Heater: You will need a heat lamp with a ceramic heat emitter bulb (it creates heat but no light) to keep the cage at a regular temperature of 75-78 degrees. The heat lamp and bulbs are usually sold separately. I recommend these lamps and these bulbs (150 watt CHE bulbs are best). You can also use a heating pad in the cage along with the heat lamp on top of the cage to help. You can't use just a heating pad by itself however. Also, you need to make sure that the hedgehog can get away from the heat source(s) if they get too hot.
To help control the temperature of the heat lamp you will need to get a thermostat controller that your heat lamp can plug into and help control the heat from the lamp, so it stays at the right temperature. Here’s an example: Thermostat Controller.
- Food: I use Spike's Delite mixed with some Blue Buffalo grain free kitten food and Royal Canin Mother and Babycat food. I will give you a small baggie of this mix and you can slowly mix in whatever new food you choose over 1-2 weeks. You need to pick a higher end cat food that has less fillers in it. Some people choose to mix different cat foods to help keep it rounded. You can also give them treats, such as dry cat treats, wet cat food, mealworms, dubia roaches, cooked meat (such as chicken or turkey), or fruits and vegetables sometimes. Remember, they are insectivores, so they don't NEED fruits or vegetables and they should only be given as treats. I will have a list below pointing out some good food brands, and food suggestions.
- Baths: You need to make sure you give your hedgehog baths! They don't need them too often, because their skin is sensitive and can dry out. You can purchase a toothbrush (make sure not to mix it with your own toothbrush) and put them in warm water. Some people use Aveeno Baby Wash (not the baby shampoo, since that's more drying), Hedgehogs and Friends wash, or go as simple as adding a little bit of Hibiclens to water. Make sure to always rinse your hedgehogs after cleaning them.
Be careful, they like to poop in water. You can bathe them about every 1-2 months or as needed if they made a giant mess on themselves. You can also give them a foot bath as needed, since their feet can get gross. Just put a small amount of warm water for them to run around in (without soap) so their feet can get clean. If you notice that their skin is looking excessive or severely dry, you can take them into your vet to make sure your hedgehog doesn’t have mites (they aren't invisible to the naked eye). It's an easy vet visit and fix though, so don't worry.
You will also need to trim your hedgie's nails as time goes on. I can always help trim nails if you would like. If your hedgehog is really stubborn and refuses to let you trim nails, you can try trimming them in water or during a bath. Hedgehogs will uncurl if they go in water. You will want to trim them every 2-3 weeks or as needed.
- Quilling: Baby hedgehogs will be going through a process called quilling for the first 6 months of their life. They will have phases where it’s worse and it seems like lots of quills are coming out to easier times when it’s just a few. This is completely natural as adult quills come in as they grow and take the place of their baby quills. It’s similar to a human baby going through “teething”. Your hedgehog may become crankier during the times that the quilling is particularly difficult. Don’t worry, they will be nicer again after the quilling slows down. Be careful to keep an eye out for quills wherever you take your baby as they can fall and you may end up getting poked or stepping on one.
As adults hedgehogs they can still lose a couple quills here or there. This is completely normal. If your hedgehog starts losing quills excessively or all in the same area so that there’s a bald spot without quills, this is not normal and they should be taken to a vet to make sure that everything is alright.
Don't introduce your hedgehog to any other hedgehogs it doesn't know. You never know if the other hedgehog has mites or other diseases, which could easily transfer to your hedgehog. Also, hedgehogs are loners. They don't mind being by themselves and will most likely fight with other hedgehogs.
NEVER put two male hedgehogs together. They WILL fight. Also, NEVER leave a male or female unattended as they can quickly get together and mate (even if they are brother and sister). Males and females MUST be housed separately.
These hedgehogs are African Pygmy hedgehogs and they come from a warmer climate. If your hedgehog gets too cold, it may attempt hibernation, which can kill them. If you walk in and your hedgehog is unresponsive and their belly is cold, you need to make sure you warm them up slowly, preferably with body heat or a warm towel. Do NOT try to heat them up quickly (such as using warm/hot water) as this can hurt them.
ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS! I put this in caps, because it's very important to remember to wash your hands. Hedgehogs are running and walking in their own feces and as with any animal, you don't want that going into your mouth.
Hedgehogs can be salmonella carriers, just like many other small animals. HOWEVER, not all hedgehogs have salmonella. They have to get infected with it, just like we do. Please do not kiss, lick, or snuggle your hedgehog close to your face. If you follow these precautions and wash your hands after holding your hedgehog you will be fine.
*** This next section will be easier to view from a computer rather than a mobile device.***
What to Feed Your Hedgehog
A high quality cat food is the staple to any hedgehog’s diet. Most commercial “hedgehog kibble” is nothing but fillers and many are too hard for your hedgehog to eat. You can feed your hedgehog both dry and wet food, as well as different brands for variety. Hedgehogs also require additional protein provided by insects. Mealworms and dubia roaches are great feeders for your hedgehog. When choosing a staple diet, be sure to consider protein, fat, and fiber content. Fruits and veggies and some baby foods can also be offered to your hedgehog as part of a well-rounded diet. Below, you will find a list of staple diets, as well as where you can purchase them. There’s also included approved fruits and veggies as well as what to avoid. I also love the information shared on this page here: Beginner Hedgehog Nutrition.
Brand & Formula Fat Protein Fiber
Sensitive Solutions 14% 32% 8%
Blue Buffalo (Petco)
Freedom Indoor 13% 32% 7%
Natural Balance (Petco)
Green Pea and Duck 12% 30% 4%
Natural Balance (Petco)
Green Pea and Chicken 12% 30% 4%
Nutro Natural Choice (Petsmart)
Indoor Chicken and Brown Rice 14% 33% 7%
Halo Holistic (Petco)
Chicken Liver Healthy Weight Indoor 13% 32% 5%
Fruits & Veggies: Be Sure to Offer Fresh Fruits and Veggies to your Hedgehog. Below is a List of Safe Fruits and Veggies as well as Toxic Foods
Fruits Vegetables Toxic
Apple Bell Peppers Avocado
Banana Broccoli Citrus (oranges, lemons, etc.)
Blackberries Carrot Chocolate
Blueberries Celery Dried Fruits
Cantaloupe Corn Garlic/Chives
Kiwi Cucumber Grapes/Raisins
Papaya Green Beans Onions
Pears Leafy Greens Peanuts & Legumes
Plums Peas Pineapple
Pumpkin Sweet Potato Pits & Seeds
Watermelon Zucchini Rhubarb Leaves