How to Care for a Pet Hedgehog
Sure, hedgehogs are cute as heck tiny spiny balls of fun that look like fuzzy hamsters crossed with small turtles. But if you’ve ever held one in your hands, you know that these guys aren’t exactly cuddly pets.
They’re also pretty darn expensive (a full-grown adult can run upwards of $500). So unless you have deep pockets, you might want to consider taking a break from adopting one until you get more experience under your belt.
How to Care for a Pet Hedgehog
But if you still think owning a hedgehog will bring you joy, here are some tips on how to take good care of them. Hedgehogs are adorable, fastidiously groomed critters who require just as much time and money as other pampered pets do. You’ll need to give them lots of love and attention, too, which means you’ll probably end up being a bit overprotective at first. Once you get used to having an animal around all day, you may not even mind!
Here are eight things to keep in mind if you decide to go ahead with this quirky new addition to your home.
1. Know What You’re Getting Into
If you’re thinking about buying a hedgehog, there are two types you should know about before making any big decisions. First off, there are African pygmy hedgehogs, which are smaller than European hedgehogs. Second, there are three main species of hedgehogs: white-throated, black-backed and spotted.
It’s important to find out which type yours falls into, because each has different needs. For example, African pygmy hedgehogs don’t hibernate during the winter months, so they don’t need a heated cage. On the other hand, spotted hedgehogs tend to live longer lives than the others, so they may require more frequent vet visits.
2. Take it Slow
Buying a hedgehog is less about finding the right pet for you and more about figuring out whether you can handle a particular animal. If you don’t like rabbits or birds, hedgehogs won’t change your mind.
The key to success is starting slowly, giving yourself enough time to adjust to having a small mammal living among your daily routine. That way you’ll be able to enjoy watching your hedgehog hop around its habitat without feeling overwhelmed by all those eyes staring back at you.
3. Keep Them on Schedule
Keeping track of time isn’t easy with animals, especially ones that move so slowly. When picking out a hedgehog, choose one that already knows the basics of house training, such as using a litter box. This will help you better understand what times of day your pet likes to sleep, eat and play best. Plus, it gives you peace of mind knowing that while you’re away from the house, your furry friend will be doing all the necessary bathroom business.
4. Provide Plenty of Space
Your pet bunny loves running through tunnels and hopping across beds, but hedgehogs like nothing better than chilling out in spacious enclosures. Since they’re only 2 inches tall, hedgehogs need cages that offer plenty of room to stretch out. In fact, you’ll see people keeping them in cardboard boxes lined with hay. While hedgehogs aren’t known for chewing furniture or shredding carpeting, it’s best to avoid letting them escape onto hard surfaces whenever possible.
5. Make Their Environment Comfortable
Aside from providing adequate space, you’ll also need to make sure your hedgehog feels safe and secure in its enclosure. A clean cage filled with fresh water and food is essential, but adding toys is optional.
There’s no need to spend tons of money on fancy hedgie gear, since hedgehogs are fairly low maintenance creatures. Just make sure whatever you use is sturdy enough to withstand rough handling.
Hedge Springs and hammocks are great options. Another idea is creating a “water wheel” for your hedgehog to swim in with its own safety net. These contraptions allow your pet to glide around inside its habitat while preventing injuries.
6. Give Them Attention When Needed
When your hedgehog seems unhappy, check to see if it’s hungry or thirsty. They could also be suffering from loneliness, cold temperatures or anxiety due to a recent relocation. If you notice anything abnormal going on with your pet, consult a veterinarian immediately.
Hedgehogs are delicate creatures whose health depends largely on proper nutrition and warmth. You may want to consider bringing your pet along to sessions where you visit local rescue organizations, shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers. You never know when you’ll meet someone who can share their knowledge and expertise with you.
7. Don’t Try to Be Super Mom or Dad
Picking out a hedgehog doesn’t mean you suddenly become their mother or father overnight. Like other pets, they’ll require regular feedings, grooming and exercise. However, unlike cats and dogs, hedgehogs are pretty picky eaters. Most hedgehogs prefer leafy greens, though you may have to supplement their diets with specially formulated foods if they refuse to indulge. Also, remember that hedgehogs don’t usually bark or whine, so if you miss their meows, hoots and whines, you’ll have to rely on visual cues instead.
8. Be Patient
It takes time to acclimate to a new pet. Even if you adopt a hedgehog expecting instant results, you’ll likely be disappointed. Remember that you’re dealing with a wild creature, and it may take several weeks or months to figure out what works for both you and your pet.
At least you’ll always know where you stand: Your pet hedgehog is either very attached to you or very independent. Either way, your relationship will evolve. And after you’ve spent years caring for your pet, you’ll feel rewarded every time you watch it scamper around its habitat.