Is a hedgehog a good pet?

Hedgehogs become increasingly popular. They are cute, exotic and very individual. By all these characteristics, many people forget that these pets have high demands and special needs that must be met. The organization PETA is even recommending, that no one should buy a hedgehog.

We are not that strict, but of course, hedgehogs are not for everyone. In the following paragraphs, you will learn more about hedgehogs and their requirements. Our goal is to find out if a hedgehog is a good pet for you. If you decide to get one you should definitely have the right expectations.

Hedgehogs might be a good fit

A hedgehog is probably a good pet for you, if

  • You have a 9 to 5
  • You are calm at home
  • You have a deep sleep
  • You travel infrequently or have a good sitter
  • You respect your hedgies need for privacy

A hedgehog is not the right pet if

  • You want a pet to cuddle
  • You are a child and want a companion for the hours after school
  • You are going out often
  • You have plenty of visitors and live in a small flat
  • You have to locate the cage in your living room
  • You have a light sleep

Species Overview

When talking about hedgehogs as pets most people refer to African pygmy hedgehogs. They are not only the smallest but also the cutest among all 17 different hedgehog species.

Atelerix albiventris is the scientific name. They become 5 to 8 inches long and are weighing between ½ and 1 ½ pound. Hedgehogs of this species live usually 3 to 6 years, but some make it up to 8 years.

Hedgehogs are prickly

Girl handles little hedgehog

Hedgehogs can be very sweet and we can understand, that many people want to cuddle them. This might be different in reality. The beloved hedgie will curl-up into a ball of quills. That does not feel as good to touch as you have probably imagined.

It will take some time until your prickly pal gets to know you. But over time he will learn that there is no reason to be threatened when you pick him up. At the beginning of your relationship, you can use a towel to hold him with more comfort.

If you spend just a little time with your critter, chances are high, that your pet will remain nervous and curled-up when you handle it.

Hedgehogs are shy

Even if, you can build companionship with your hedgie, its nature is still shy. In general, he will not crave for interacting or cuddling with you.

When time goes by and you get to know each other, you will have to learn to read the moods of your hedgie. These can be very complex and you have to watch out for little signs that tell you he is free for some one on one time.

Hedgies are solitary pets

Hedgehogs definitely are solitary pets. As we already wrote in the paragraphs above, they love to be on their own and even don’t want you to be around all the time. With cage buddies, it is even more difficult.

Usually, they will fight each other. This is for all gender combinations. When you have other pets like cats and dogs, make sure, that there is only very little interaction between them and your hedgie.

They own the night

This is a point, that must be clear. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and very active when you are asleep. Their schedule has to be fully accepted and they are not a good fit if you are a light sleeper.

Hedgehogs are not silent at all. They tend to exercise a lot on their wheels which can be quite noisy. Apart from that, they make different sounds. Some of these express their moods, this is especially by puffing, clicking and whistling. Other sounds, like snuffling, are part of exploring the environment.

Further, you must be sure, that your activities during the day will not disturb the critter. If you choose the location of the cage wisely, you will ensure both, your sleep at night and your hedgies’ after sunrise.

Common health problems

As for every species, there are some health problems that are common for hedgehogs.

That are:

Apart from that African pygmies are more prone to eye injuries than other species.

In general, hedgehogs don’t need to go to the vet very often. If there is nothing conspicuous, you will be fine with a round-up check once a year.

Make sure they are legal where you live

It sounds strange, but it can really be an issue. In most states hedgehog keeping is legal, but some have restrictions and you might need a health-certificate. This is due to the ability to carry foot and mouth disease, a very serious illness for cloven-hoofed animals.

In these states hedgehogs are illegal or restricted:

  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York City

There are human disease risks

There are some risks for humans too. They are enacted to salmonella, hedgehogs can carry in their stool and fungal spores that cause ringworm.

To reduce the risk you should wash your hands after you had contact with your hedgie. Cleaning the cage regularly is an additional preventive measure.

You have to meet their needs

As exotic pets, hedgehogs demand high standards of their habitat, food and accessories. For species-appropriate care, you have to be well informed and fulfill the different needs.

Housing

Hedgehog in his cage watching into the camera

This topic is so complex, that we wrote an entire article about finding the best hedgehog cage. You definitely have to ensure that you have enough space, as a cage should have at least 2 to 3 square feet. Accessories must not be of cedar as it can be toxic and cause several problems. That is especially for the bedding of your hedgie.

As the critters are very active, you need to buy a wheel for hedgehogs. Only then your little friend will get enough exercise.

For hiding and sleeping, a small enclosure in the cage is a necessity.

Food and Water

Hedgehogs have very special demands for their food. There are very good hedgehog foods that are developed to provide the exact nutrients. Sometimes these foods can be difficult to find. In these cases, grain-free cat food can be a good alternative. But you will need to supplement with mealworms, crickets and other treats.

Feeding live crickets is also good for mental stimulation as it comes near to the foraging behavior in the wild.

It is easy to overfeed your hedgehog especially because he will leave out other food for insects. That will make him get fat and brings the risk of calcium deficiency and brittle bones. A restricted and varied diet is best for hedgehogs.

You should at least feed once a day, better twice. The best practice is to offer the first dish in the early evening and the second one before you go to bed.

Water in the bottle or bowl has to be changed daily.

Temperature

Temperature is very important to hedgehogs. It should be consistent and needs to be between 74 and 80-degree Fahrenheit (75-degree Fahrenheit is 25-degree Celsius). If you leave this interval hibernation or aestivation will occur. This can lead to serious health problems and even death. You can ensure the right temperature by installing some ceramic heat emitters.

Cleaning

As Hedgehogs tend not to use litter pans, you have to clean the cage regularly. Once a week is a good number and should be doable. This not only prevents your hedgehog and his cage from starting to smell. It will also reduce the risk of skin problems, ear mites and respiratory diseases.

Where to buy a hedgehog

If you still want to own a hedgehog after reading this article you should, under no circumstances, buy one in a pet shop. Instead, we recommend looking for a local and responsible breeder. At best the standards of the International Hedgehog Association are met.

Summary

Hedgehogs are very active nocturnal critters that have special demands. They are not for everyone and you have to be totally clear about your possibilities to take good care. We hope that you make a responsible decision.

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