Hedgehogs: That’s One Quilled Critter
As with the arrival of any new pet, it’s important to consider the care that they need, whether it be what type of habitat they may need or what kind of food they need to eat. A hedgehog can be quite a different type of pet, but once your hedgehog becomes used to you, it will be a rewarding experience.
Hedgehogs are generally clean animals. They groom themselves as other pets would, but sometimes they may not be able to clean certain spots, so it is important to inspect his quills regularly and clean him off if he is dirty. Check the feet too. You can use the bathroom sink or a small tub for his bath. Fill with enough warm water to cover his feet. A toothbrush or a soft baby brush can be used to clean through his quills. Then rinse well and dry him off thoroughly with a towel.
There are 15 species of the hedgehog, but the most commonly seen as pets are the African pygmy hedgehogs. In the wild, hedgehogs generally live 2-3 years, but pet hedgehogs can live up to 10 years if given the proper care. Hedgehogs use the quills on their back and sides for protection. If they sense danger is near, they draw in their stomach muscles and curl up into ball. This protects their face and undersides, which are covered with soft shaggy fur. When the spines on the forehead are erect, the hedgehog is shocked or cautious. They will also erect the spines on only one part of the body in the direction of whatever has disturbed them. But when the spines are laid flat, the hedgehog is comfortable and relaxed.
Bring Home Baby
Don’t be alarmed if your hedgehog acts distrustful of you the first few days after coming home. He may roll into a ball or butt you with erected spines on his forehead. But he will quickly become acquainted to his new home and new people, and you can win him over that much more quickly by offering him mealworms or other treats. Handle your hedgehog daily in the evening or early morning for short periods of time. This will allow him to get used to your scent and touch. Hedgehogs have very good senses of smell and hearing but they cannot see very well, so abrupt noises will startle them.
A House is a Home
The indoor cage should not be too small as hedgehogs are very active and need lots of space to exercise. Make sure to have a proper cover on the cage to keep them from escaping. The cage should be well-ventilated. Keep the cage away from drafts and direct sunlight, and during cooler months be sure to monitor the temperature. Hedgehogs prefer warm climates, but if it gets too cold or too hot, they will go into hibernation. Like hamsters, hedgehogs sleep during the day and are active at night, so it is important to provide a good hidey hole for sleeping, preferably one that can block out light. Hedgehogs also love to explore, so they can spend time outside of their cage in the house or outside in good weather. Don’t forget to supervise, and block off areas that may be dangerous to your pet.
You don’t have to go out into the garden to catch bugs to feed your hedgehog. There is a specialty dry food made just for hedgehogs that can be found at pet stores. Dry food will help to clean their teeth because the crunchy kibble will scrape their teeth as they eat. Use a heavy food dish that cannot be tipped over, and fill a water bottle with fresh water daily. Feed your hedgehog once a day, in the late afternoon or early evening depending on when he wakes up, and be sure to monitor for weight gain.
NEED TO KNOW
- Never force a hedgehog to uncurl because this could harm him. Dangle a tasty treat by his mouth and wait for him to uncurl.
- Sometimes, hedgehogs will start foaming at the mouth and begin spitting on themselves. This is called self anointing. Scientists are still unsure why hedgehogs do this.
- Hedgehogs can do well with other animals, such as dogs, cats or rabbits. Supervise their first meetings.