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Hedgehog Facts You Should Know

With that adorable little face, who could help but fall in love with a hedgehog? If you're thinking of getting a pet hedgehog, it's important to understand your pet's needs so you can keep them healthy and happy. In this post, our Leighton vets share some true facts about the hedgehog. 

Are hedgehogs good pets?

African pygmy hedgehogs may be compact in size, but they can bring a lot of love into your home. It's no surprise that they are the most common species of hedgehog kept as a pet.

While this adorable little critter can make an ideal pet for many people, it's essential to do your homework before purchasing to be certain that a hedgehog's needs and personality align with your lifestyle. 

It's important to note that similar to reptiles and many other domesticated animals, hedgehogs can carry salmonella. As such, hedgehogs are not recommended for families with children under five years of age, seniors, or those with compromised immune systems. 

In this article, we'll share information about pet hedgehogs, including facts about this adorable animal. 

Are hedgehogs cuddly? 

Hedgehogs spend most of their time alone in the wild, except during mating season. Due to their naturally solitary nature, they tend to be shy and wary of people. You'll need patience and a gentle hand to form a solid, lasting bond with a pet hedgehog. 

That said, if you get your hedgehog when it is very young and take enough time to gradually let your new pet get used to being handled, hedgehogs can be quite playful, although they may never reach the "cuddly" status you might be used to with a puppy or kitten. 

Though cuddles may not be their thing, once your pet hedgehog has gotten used to you, their new home, and being handled by you, you'll be able to stroke their quills and let your hedgehog climb up your arms. They can even explore different spaces with supervision. 

Are hedgehogs smart?

A hedgehog's intelligence is equal to that of a hamster. While they may learn certain behaviors through positive reinforcement or conditioning, this will only occur at a very basic level. 

Hedgehogs are known to be communicative when expressing their needs, and often make a low purring sound when they are content or happy. 

How many spikes does a hedgehog have?

Hedgehogs have notoriously prickly spines. This mammal's back is covered in a thick layer of spikes known as quills. A typical hedgehog will have between 3,000 and 5,000 quills covering their back. 

What are some interesting facts about baby hedgehogs? 

If you're looking to find out more about baby hedgehogs (also known as hoglets), here are some facts to remember:

  • Baby hedgehogs can be as small as three to four inches in size, and the smallest species can weigh as little as 10 - 15 grams at birth. They can grow to be as large sa 10-14 inches long, and between 0.2-2 kilograms in size. 
  • Hoglets are born blind and deaf, and they are born pink and without quills. Little white quills will start to appear in about an hour. 
  • A hoglet will usually have doubled its birth weight in its first seven days and will be about 10 times its birth weight by about six weeks old.  
  • Baby hedgehogs need a quiet, calm atmosphere and should not be handled until they are at least 15 days old. This is because a mother hedgehog that thinks its nest is in danger may abandon or kill of the litter.
  • Hoglets must be kept in a warm room. 
  • Hoghlets will typically start to become independent at about six weeks old, and will often forage for food outside the nest, with the mother close by. 

How hard is it to have a hedgehog as a pet?

Hedgehogs do still need exercise, even though they are significantly smaller than dogs or cats. A nutritious diet and regular veterinary care are also high on the list of priorities. Plus, hedgehogs have a list of things they'll need to stay happy and healthy, such as an exercise wheel and toys, all contained in a large enclosure so they won't become bored, but also won't be able to escape. 

Because hedgehogs are nocturnal, you'll want to think about whether having a pet that stays awake all night and sleeps all day. You can expect most hedgehogs to wake and become active around dinner time, then be tucking themselves into bed just as you're waking. 

On average, hedgehogs live between four and seven years when kept as pets. 

Are hedgehogs dangerous?

When it comes to owning a hedgehog as a pet, there are several safety items to consider. Here are the most common: 

Salmonella & Hedgehogs 

In 2019, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) looked into several cases of salmonella linked to pet hedgehogs and issued a warning that even hedgehogs that seem to be perfectly healthy can carry salmonella. After you handle your pet hedgehog, take measures to protect yourself from this condition by: 

  • Washing Your Hands Thoroughly - Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after feeding, touching, or caring for a hedgehog or cleaning its enclosure. 
  • Play Safely - Avoid kissing or snuggling hedgehogs, since this can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and face. Don't allow hedgehogs to roam freely in areas where food is stored or prepared, such as kitchens or dining tables. 
  • Keep Your Hedgehog's Environment Squeaky Clean - Wash and clean enclosures, toys, and supplies outside of your house when possible. Do not clean these items in the kitchen or anywhere where food is stored, prepared, or served. 

Hedgehog Qulls 

Hedgehog quills can puncture the skin and spread bacteria, which may lead to illness in pet owners. If you end up with a quill in your skin, clean your hands and the punctured area thoroughly. Carefully monitor the punctured area for signs of infection. 

Hedgehog Bites

While hedgehogs can bite, they have tiny teeth that are unlikely to cause you much pain. The force of a hedgehog bite is typically linked to what your pet is feeling. An angry hedgehogs may cause a bite that hurts a bit. That said, hamsters and other rodents are far more likely to cause pain by biting if they are scared or angry. 

How much room do pet hedgehogs need?

In the wild, hedgehogs will travel for miles each night foraging for food, this instinct to roam means that hedgehogs require larger enclosures than you may expect, and a wheel for exercise is an absolute must. 

If you want to keep a happy and healthy hedgehog for a pet you will need to provide an enclosure that measures at least 24" x 24", (although larger is recommended). Provide your pet hedgehog with the largest enclosure you can accommodate so that they have plenty of space to explore each night.

NOTE: Hedgehogs are busy little nocturnal creatures, so keeping your pet hedgehog in your bedroom is not recommended! They can be surprisingly noisy at night. 

What do hedgehogs need in their cage?

Hedgehogs need to be kept busy to stay happy and healthy. An exercise wheel is an essential part of any hedgehog enclosure, as are a litter box, sleeping box, and eating area.

To help keep your pet hedgehog busy, supply your pet with a selection of tunnels and toys such as stuffed animals or small balls.

What do pet hedgehogs eat?

In the wild, hedgehogs enjoy a varied diet of insects, plants, and roots. So to keep your pet healthy feed your hedgehog a high-quality hedgehog-specific kibble with at least 30% protein and less than 20% fat, supplemented with a variety of the following:

  • Fresh fruits (apples, bananas, berries)
  • Live or freeze-dried mealworms
  • Live waxworms
  • Cooked Egg
  • Pinky Mice
  • Cooked meat (chicken)
  • High protein, low-fat dog food
  • Live or freeze-dried crickets
  • Fresh veggies (tomatoes, green beans)

Are pet hedgehogs legal where you live?

According to some wildlife experts, hedgehogs could hurt local ecosystems if released into the wild. This is because hedgehogs would compete with native species for food and habitat. Many other exotic pets such as sugar gliders, ferrets, and Quaker parakeets are also banned in several states for the same reason.

Never release a pet into the wild. If you and your pet need to part ways contact your local animal rescue agency for assistance.

You are not legally permitted to own a hedgehog as a pet in the following places:

  • Pennsylvania.
  • Washington, DC
  • All five boroughs of New York City 
  • Georgia
  • California
  • Hawaii

Is a hedgehog the right pet for you?

As we have shown, owning a pet hedgehog may not be as easy as you thought, but by doing your research, visiting breeders, and speaking to an exotic mammal vet, you will be able to decide whether a hedgehog is the right pet for you. For many people, hedgehogs are playful and amusing pets worth making the extra effort for.

Exotic Pet Care at All Animal Clinic 

Whether you're thinking of bringing home a new pet hedgehog or have owned an exotic pet for years, you'll likely have some questions that require the. knowledge and experience of a team of veterinary professionals.

Our vets in Leighton are dedicated to helping your exotic pet live a long, healthy life. From performing routine preventive care and physical exams to assessing illnesses, health and behavior issues, we are here to help. We also accept walk-in and work-in emergencies for exotic pets. We look forward to addressing any questions or concerns you may have about pet health and ownership. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Do you have a new pet hedgehog in need of a wellness exam? Contact our Leighton vets today to book an examination. Our vets can help you provide the highest quality care possible for your hedgehog. 

All Patients Welcome

Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Leighton animals. We currently only take pets by walk-in, so bring your pet to us today and let us help ensure their well-being.

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