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Hedgehog Care FAQs From A Edison Park, FL Veterinarian

February 1, 2024

Every month has a few specific things that it is associated with. For February, it’s Cupid and, of course, the popular Groundhog Day tradition, which involves waiting to see if Punxsutawney Phil will catch sight of his shadow or not. (Interestingly, in 2024 Phil did not see his shadow, signaling an early spring. Over the course of this long-standing 138-year-old custom, this has only happened 21 times.) What many may not know is that this day also holds significance for hedgehogs. The Romans even used to watch Hedgie to determine if he would notice his shadow under the moonlight. Of course, these days hedgehogs are known more as pets than for their weather forecasts. In this article, a local Edison Park, FL vet will discuss some essential tips for taking care of hedgehogs.

Is It A Good Idea To Keep Hedgehogs As Pets?

This cute, charming, quiet, and playful quilled critter has won over a lot of fans recently, and is even becoming a popular social media star. Hedgie has a lot of things going for him. He’s not only absolutely adorable, he’s also quiet, and is small enough to meet the minimum size requirements landlords usually follow. Hedgehogs are also pretty easy to care for. However, a bit of research is required in order to understand their needs. It’s also important to go through a reputable breeder. 

Where Do Hedgehogs Come From?

In the wild, hedgehogs live in woodlands, parks, and, of course, hedgerows. Although there are 14 types of hedgehogs in the world, only two are commonly kept as pets: European hedgehogs and African pygmy hedgehogs. The latter is the most popular here in the States.

Is It True That Hedgehogs Throw Their Quills?

The hedgehog has a distinctive (and, in our opinion, charming) attribute – being covered in quills. Like porcupine quills, hedgehog quills are made of keratin, the same material that makes up our hair and nails. (Interesting fact: snake scales are also composed of keratin.) Although hedgehog quills aren’t as sharp as porcupine quills, they can still prick a bit. They actually serve as protection. When a hedgehog feels frightened, he will curl up into a ball. However, while your pet can release quills, he can’t shoot them.

What Do I Feed A Hedgehog?

The hedgehog is an insectivore, so in the wild, they mostly survive on bugs. A wild hedgehog will eat some produce: these guys won’t turn their noses up at a strawberry or an apple they come across. Their digestive systems, however, are better suited to creepy crawlies.

As far as feeding Hedgie, your top choice would likely be hedgehog kibble. Some also recommend high-protein cat or dog food. The most important factor is ensuring that Hedgie’s meals are rich in protein, but not high in fat. Other suitable options include cooked salmon, chicken, turkey, or eggs.

In addition to commercial food, insects can be beneficial for your pet’s diet, or given as treats. You can offer mealworms, earthworms, wax worms, silkworms, or crickets. Stick to store-bought varieties, as wild insects may carry parasites or diseases.

There are also foods that aren’t safe for your prickly pal. These include:

  • Milk
  • Grapes
  • Avocado
  • Raw Meat
  • Dried Fruit
  • Onion
  • Nuts
  • Hard/Raw Veggies
  • Raisins
  • Garlic
  • Bread
  • Tomato
  • Honey
  • Junk Food
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol

This is just a partial list. Do some research, and never give your pet anything without making sure that it’s safe. Also, be sure to ask your Edison Park, FL vet for specific feeding advice.

Water is also important. Keep in mind that some hedgehogs may not be used to drinking from bottles. If your cute little pet isn’t getting the hang of them, you may want to consider a sturdy bowl.

How Do I House A Hedgehog?

We would recommend getting a cage that is at least 4 x 2, but bigger is better. Make sure you get something with a solid bottom: mesh and wire floors don’t hold bedding, and can even hurt your little buddy’s toes and legs.

For bedding, you can use paper bedding, kiln-dried shavings, or a soft blanket, such as a fleece blanket. Avoid pine and cedar products, as they can cause respiratory problems. If you want to add a litter box, use paper towels or soft pellets. Avoid clay and clumping litters. These can cause dangerous intestinal blockages if swallowed.

Hedgehogs need exercise as much as we do. Get your little buddy an exercise wheel to run and play on. Choose a solid one: wire wheels aren’t safe.

Providing a place for your pet to hide or rest is also essential. You can find little habitats, such as pouches or igloos. You may also find good options by looking at ones that are made for reptiles.

Don’t forget toys! Many toys made for cats or small dogs will do just fine. Try to find ones with bright colors.

Ask your Edison Park, FL veterinary clinic about specific cage setup tips.

What Is The Best Place To Put A Hedgehog Cage?

As the saying says, location, location, location. You want your little buddy to be comfortable, so put him in a spot that will stay at room temperature, or between about 70 and 80 F. Do not put him in direct sunlight or drafty areas. Keep your little buddy away from loud places.

If you have a dog or cat, you may want to elevate the habitat. Your hedgehog won’t feel very safe with Fido and Fluffy staring at him. Of course, you’ll need to make sure he can’t fall or jump out.

For more information, contact your Edison Park, FL pet doctor.

What Is The Best Way To Bond With A Hedgehog?

It may take your little pal some time to warm up to you. This is normal: these guys are prey animals, and are quite timid by nature.

To help your prickly buddy form positive associations with you, put a worn t-shirt in his cage for him to cuddle up in. This will help him get used to your scent. He’ll hopefully start to associate it with feeling safe and comfortable. (Tip: Don’t change soap, lotion, detergent, or scents during this stage.)

It’s very important not to scare your hedgehog! These guys are quite timid and can easily become scared. They’re also wired to run rather than fight, which is why they curl up into a ball as a defense.

Here are a few tips:

  • This should go without saying, but you should never yell at or roughly handle a hedgehog.
  • It’s also important to keep in mind that hedgehogs don’t see well, so they rely more on their cute noses than their eyes. Shadows can be very scary to them. Whenever you select a spot for your pet or approach him, keep this in mind.
  • Don’t scoop Hedgie up from behind, or while he is sleeping. That can be very frightening for him!
  • Your pet might curl up into a ball if he gets scared. Just let him be until he feels safe enough to unfurl. 

With time, love, patience, and great TLC, you may find your tiny pal becoming more and more friendly. 

In Conclusion: Hedgehogs are very cute and charming little pets, but they do need specific care. Do plenty of research before purchasing a hedgehog, and consult your Edison Park, FL veterinarian if you have any questions. 

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about hedgehog care. We’re your local Edison Park, FL pet hospital!

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