Caring for Your Pet Hedgehog
Recently hedgehogs have become quite popular as exotic pets. Although hedgehogs are found throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, pet hedgehogs are usually interbred from the white-bellied hedgehog and the Algerian hedgehog. These are often mistakenly called African pigmy hedgehogs.
The interbreeding has created a great variety of colors and markings.
If you like positive feedback from your pet like purring or joy at seeing you, the hedgehog is not for you. It is quite indifferent to you and doesn’t crave being held; in fact it may take some training to hold your hedgehog.
Ok, you do want a pet hedgehog. For starters, make sure that they are legal in your state. Some states, California and Arizona, for example, ban the keeping of hedgehogs as pets. Check with your local humane society.
If hedgehogs are legal, you need to find a breeder. Check the Internet, your phonebook and local pet stores for breeders in your area. If there are no breeders in your area, hedgehogs can be shipped but the cost is around $200 on top of the cost of the hedgehog that runs from $60 to $100. If you find a breeder, make sure the animals are kept in clean quarters and that your hedgehog has been weaned. Most breeders do it as a sideline because they have fallen in love with hedgehogs.
Once you get Hedgie home, make sure she has enough room. Her cage should ideally be about 4 square feet. If the cage is wire, make sure the bottom is solid as the hedgehog can get her feet tangled in the wire. Spacing on the sides of the cage should be I inch or less. You should have only one hedgehog per cage as they don’t like other hedgehogs and will fight with each other. The cage should have a hiding place, like a cardboard box with a cutout entrance. Your hedgehog will also need a large exercise wheel. Cover the bottom of the cage with shredded newspaper. Do not use wood chips, as the hedgehog is allergic to many woods. Include a litter box with non-clumping kitty litter. In the wild hedgehogs are insectivores but they are opportunists and will eat carrion, eggs, fruit, etc. You can feed Hedgie kitten (not cat) food but now there is food developed especially for hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs have been around since the dinosaurs roamed the earth so they are quite successful little creatures. Their quills are not barbed so they will not injure you. When threatened they curl into a ball and raise their quills into little points. A hedgehog can be trained to be held by starting slowly and gently and by rewarding Hedgie with a treat each time she is held.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal but they can gradually be changed to day by gently altering handling and feeding.
Hedgehogs have a very peculiar behavior called self-anointing. When they encounter a new or strong smell or substance, they will lick the substance and then produce a foamy substance that they then apply to their quills.
Hedgehogs live for 4 to 6 years and their owners get very attached to them in spite of their seeming indifference to humans.