Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)
Hedgehogs are not tiny cats or spiny hamsters. Before getting a hedgehog as a pet, you need to understand their unique needs so you can keep your new pet healthy and happy.
How to Care for Your Hedgehog – Veterinary Medicine at Illinois
Dr. Spencer Kehoe explains everything you need to keep your hedgehog happy and healthy, from diet, to exercise, housing, and veterinary care.
Where to Keep Your Hedgehog
Dr. Kehoe recommends using a solid-sided cage, such as a glass aquarium, so your hedgehog can’t climb up the walls.
Dr. Kehoe also advises having only one hedgehog per enclosure. “Hedgehogs are solitary in the wild and may fight if housed together.”
Bedding for your hedgehog should be soft and absorbent.
“Bedding will need to be changed frequently. I recommend daily spot cleaning to remove feces, a midweek change of bedding, and a thorough cage cleaning (everything removed and the cage washed) at the end of each week,” says Dr. Kehoe.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they are going to be active at night. Their cage should offer a place to hide and sleep during the day.
Have at least two thermometers inside the pet’s enclosure to ensure that the temperature range stays between 75°F and 85°F.
What to Feed Your Hedgehog
Hedgehogs are considered insectivores. In the wild they eat insects and other invertebrates, eggs, vegetation, and on occasion small vertebrates.
“The best diet for your hedgehog is a commercially formulated diet specifically made for hedgehogs, or an insectivore diet.”
Hedgehogs should also be given a variety of vegetables, such as beans, cooked carrots, squash, peas, tomatoes, and leafy greens. Dr. Kehoe warns that only very small amounts of fruits—less than ¼ teaspoon per day—should be offered as treats. Fruits are high in sugar.
Caring for Your Hedgehog
Hedgehogs typically live 4 to 6 years, and Dr. Kehoe recommends a veterinary checkup every six months. Common health concerns in hedgehogs include obesity, fatty liver disease, cancer, wobbly hedgehog syndrome, skin disease, and dental disease.
One warning about handling hedgehogs, though: hedgehogs can carry the salmonella bacteria without showing any symptoms. For this reason, it is very important to use caution and wash your hands after handling your pet.