Pet Hedgehogs: The Ultimate Care Guide

A detailed and complete care guide for people looking to buy or adopt a hedgehog. We will discuss proper diet, exercise, veterinary care, and more.

Mar 1, 2024By Sara Rumrill
pet hedgehogs the ultimate care guide

Have you ever wondered whether or not you’d be a good pet parent to a hedgehog? Or perhaps you own one already and want to learn more about the best way to care for your pet? Either way, this article is for you!

Is a Hedgehog Right for Me?

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Some people want to own a pet, but adopting a dog or a cat is not right for them. The next most obvious answer may be to try adopting a small animal, like a hamster, rabbit, or guinea pig. But remember - each of these pets, or as they are colloquially referred to, pocket pets - has its own special needs. Before you decide to adopt or buy a hedgehog, be sure to do lots of research to ensure you have the right amount of space, time, and financial resources to take care of them. Keep in mind that hedgehogs can live up to 10 years if properly cared for, which is a much longer lifespan than most other pocket pets!

Remember that hedgehogs are not as social with humans as other pets, like cats or dogs. Each one has its own personality, but these may not be as cuddly as some other pets are. If you are looking for a very social pet, a hedgehog may not be the right choice for you. It’s also important that you check your local laws before buying a pet hedgehog - in some places, it’s illegal to own one.

Hedgehog Habitat

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You may think that since hedgehogs are small, they don’t need much space. However, they need an enclosure that is at least a few feet in width, length, and height. Remember, this is the absolute minimum - the bigger the better! In the wild, hedgehogs naturally cover a lot of ground during their day, looking for food. Their enclosure in your home should be big enough for them to move around freely.

Hedgehogs also have high energy levels and require an exercise wheel to keep them healthy and happy. Without one, your hedgehog could become depressed. Along with their wheel, hedgies should have access to hiding spots, a heat source, plenty of soft bedding, a water bottle and food dishes, and toys. Some owners use a lamp or a heating mat to offer a warm spot to their hedgehogs. Bedding can be made from a variety of things, including old towels, newspapers, or recycled paper.

Hedgehog Diet

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Hedgehogs have a very specific diet that consists of protein and plant based foods. They mostly eat insects in the wild, so a hedgehog-specific high-quality pellet is best for the bulk of their diet. You can also add insects in their whole form, like beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, earwigs, worms, fly larvae, snails, and more.

Although in the wild their diet consists mostly of protein in insect form, hedgies can also eat fruit and vegetables in small amounts. Apples, melon, tomatoes, green beans, and bananas can be given fresh. As a treat, your hedgehog can also eat small bits of hard-boiled eggs or even cooked chicken.

Hedgehog Hygiene

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Hedgehogs, like cats, are quite good at cleaning themselves, but they will sometimes need some help. If you notice their quills looking dirty, you can give your hedgie a bath in warm water with gentle soap. You can use a nail brush or toothbrush to help gently scrub their quills and feet clean. Be sure to also keep their cage, including their wheel, clean. Every few days, remove everything from their enclosure and wipe everything down with warm, soapy water, followed by a disinfectant.

Veterinary Care

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Just like owning a cat or a dog, owning a hedgehog requires that you establish care with an appropriate veterinarian. Keep in mind that many vets do not treat pocket pets - you’ll need to do some research to find the right doctor for your new friend. And don’t wait until your hedgehog gets sick; it’s always best to establish care as soon as you buy or adopt a new pet.

Your first appointment will likely include a weight check, a fecal test to check for internal parasites, and general questions about your pet’s diet, habitat, and enrichment to be sure they are as happy and healthy as possible. Most vets will recommend yearly checkups. Please keep in mind that hedgehogs have a higher than normal risk for developing cancer - follow all of your vet’s guidelines and remember to watch them closely. Any changes in their eating or exercise habits should be evaluated by your vet.

Enrichment for Your Hedgehogs

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Just like it’s important to be sure your enclosure is the appropriate size, you’ll also need to make sure your hedgehog has enough toys, exercise, and mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored. If you own a cat or a dog, you already know the importance of giving them toys and exercising them. The same goes for pocket pets! Hedgehogs love to play with toys, like balls, bells, and even everyday items you have lying around your home, like toilet paper tubes.

Bottom line - you should only adopt or buy a hedgehog if you are comfortable with all of the care, time, and financial responsibility that goes into pet ownership. Just because pocket pets are smaller than dogs and cats doesn’t mean they require less care!

Sara Rumrill
By Sara Rumrill

Sara lives in the US with six pets - a pit bull, a shi-tzu, and four cats, named Frankie, Morty, Ralphie, Stevie, Fritz, and Ayla. She has been in the veterinary field for over a decade and considers animal care to be her life's work.