See also: African Pygmy Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are native to Africa, the Middle East and Europe. They are imported to the U.S. as pets, not released in the wild. You can find breeders of hedgehogs in the U.S. A hedgehog can be an excellent pet for someone who is allergic to dogs and cats.
Climate plays a role in the longevity of Hedgehogs, from 3-4 years outdoors to 7 or more. Outdoors Hedgehogs may hibernate during cold winter months. Indoors if they do hibernate it’s only for a short period of time. Hedgehog quills feel more like a brush than those of a porcupine. The fur on face and belly is very soft. Size is usually between 4-9 inches long, but I personally have seen longer ones in my garden. Hedgehogs are very shy and curl into a ball to protect themselves. If you want one as a pet, it’s best to get a baby hoglet, about 8 weeks old.
Do you want a hedgehog?
Some things to consider before adopting a hedgehog:
- Hedgehogs are docile and fairly friendly but they do not seek out affection. When they have had enough cuddling they will make it known to you. When choosing a hedgehog, go for one which does not curl into a ball at first touch.
- A hedgehog needs a cage of at least 2-3 square feet of space, and because they are territorial, each one needs its own cage. Make sure you have adequate space for the number of hedgehogs you plan to adopt.
- Hedgehog cages need to be cleaned daily, or else your pet will be very grumpy. Do you have the time and willingness to devote to cleaning the litter and the cage?
- Hedgehogs will bite when they are upset, even people they know well.
- Please check laws in your area about keeping hedgehogs as pets. In some areas, they are not permitted.
Wire cages work well as long as your Hedgehog can’t squeeze through and escape or get it’s head stuck. While they don’t see or hear well, they have a strong sense of smell. Putting a worn article of your clothing in the cage will help your Hedgehog to recognize you. They like warmth so this can serve a dual purpose. You can add a sandbox and exercise wheel to the cage as Hedgehogs like activity. Hedgehogs also enjoy toys such as tunnels and mazes. Even a toilet paper tube can be used as a toy. Just be aware that they are nocturnal, so most of this activity will take place at night.
Never use cedar or pine bedding for your hedgehog as they can cause respiratory problems. Aspen shavings or clay litter that is free of dust is okay. The best type of bedding is recycled paper, some are compacted. Hemp is also a good bedding but can be hard to find. Fabric, such as a towel, is a good bedding. It’s absorbent and easily kept clean with washing. Some hedgehogs, but not all, can be trained to use a litter box. It’s certainly worth a try.
A litter-trained hedgehog can be allowed to free roam in the house if the house is hedgehog-proofed. This means moving wires, outlets, wood surfaces and poisons out of its reach. Since hedgehogs like to burrow under blankets and pillows, you must be careful before sitting down on your bed. Some hedgehog owners prefer to set aside a small portion of the house, such as a room or a fenced in portion of a room, where the hedgehog can roam. Your pet will enjoy the sense of freedom without you having to make major changes in your interior design.
Remember always to be gentle with your hedgehog. Scoop him up from the bottom, so you are not hurt by the quills. If he curls into a ball you can uncurl him by placing him on his back. Put a finger under his head, gently rocking him. When you can see the nose and feet gently put him down. Hedgehogs recognize people by their smell, so don’t wear gloves or confuse them by using hand cream or perfume.
In the wild, a Hedgehog’s favorite foods are moth larvae, caterpillars and beetles. Also sometimes, dead animals such as mice, rats or birds. They eat slugs and snails later in the year for fat needed to last through winter hibernation. In captivity you can feed tinned or dry cat food (not fish) and fresh fruits and veggies. They will also eat cooked meat. Never give your Hedgehog slugs or other insects that have been sprayed. Check with your pet supplier for dried insects that may be given to Hedgehogs. Water should be available at all times, since hedgehogs drink a lot.
The gestation period for a hedgehog is about 4 weeks. Mating usually takes place between March and July. Hedgehogs can have two litters a year. The average litter is three to 7 hoglets.