Hedgehogs are not your usual household pets. They are small, spikey, and tend to roll into a ball when scared. The domesticated hedgehog is intelligent, friendly, and can make for a great companion. As with any pet, it is essential to research hedgehogs, their required care, food, habitat needs, and habits to help you take better care of them. As a hedgehog owner, you need to be patient and dedicated as raising and caring for these cute little animals can be a fun, rewarding experience. Here’s a guide on how to care for a hedgehog.
- Selecting your hedgehog
Before you start picking out a hedgehog, you must check to see if owning one is legal in your state. Since it is considered an exotic pet, keeping one may be subject to certain laws, and you may be required to get a special permit to own one. You can contact an animal welfare organization or one that specially caters to hedgehogs to help you find out about these regulations.
You also need to pick out the right hedgehog variety that is suitable for your lifestyle. There are several varieties available that make for great pets, but the African Pygmy hedgehog is a favorite among many hedgehog owners. Once you decide on a breed, you will want to get your cute little pet from a licensed breeder. This way, you are sure that the pet is healthy and comes from a great pedigree stock that is free from illnesses such as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS).
- Housing requirements
A hedgehog requires a cage that is large enough so that there is enough room but also one that is secure enough that it can’t escape from. You can keep your hedgehog in cages made for guinea pigs or rabbits. According to Hedgehog World, you also need to keep your pet warm by having the right heating pad or lamp. Also, make sure you get a solid-based cage or cover the bottom if it is a wired grate because the hedgehog can fall through and hurt itself. Add some soft bedding such as recycled paper that can be changed out often. The habitat should have a large exercise wheel, a heavy food bowl, and a water bottle. Also, add a few toys they can chew on, such as bells, balls, PVC pipes they can crawl through, and other things to keep them busy.
- Dietary needs
Unlike other pets, hedgehogs have different dietary needs. Considered mostly insectivores, these critters have a taste for things that creep and crawl. You can feed them mealworms and crickets or store-bought hedgehog kibble. This kibble is a mix of mashed up insects, with added vitamins and minerals to create a balanced diet for your hedgehog. You can also feed them ground up cat or dog biscuits; however, they should not be fish-based. Hedgehogs must have clean, fresh water to drink and can’t have milk because they are lactose intolerant.
Just like with any other pet, remember to keep an eye out for any signs of disease or odd behavior. With the right care, your hedgehog can be a fun, playful companion for many years.