Monday, July 15, 2013


A while back I had someone ask me about the care and keeping of hedgehogs. I received my hedgehog for Christmas last year and to be perfectly honest, I would have liked a little more prep time. Still, I appreciated the gift and the surprise. The presentation was a gift in itself, but that's a story for another time.

I thought I would set down a few things I have learned so far about hedgehogs as mine reaches close to his 7th month birthday. (Disclaimer: only the 2 photos below are of my own personal hedgehog. All others are web images.)
Hotchiwitchi, outside for a romp
Hotchiwitchi, my hedgehog

1) They are *super* nocturnal. You will not see your hedgehog unless you take him out and play with him during the day. Or you are an extreme nightowl. The earliest mine wakes up is 11PM and that's rare. Usually it's closer to 2AM. They also make the most god awful snorting noise you've ever heard. It sounds like a cross between a hiss and a snort. Startle one and you'll know what I mean. I guarantee it will make you jump when you hear it at 2AM. You have to scare the hedgehog first, though. Normally, they are really quiet. You'll not hear much other than its pitter patter over its bedding.

2) Hedgehog food is very expensive and relatively difficult to find. If you want a well balanced meal for your hedgehog, you must do your research. Some people feed their hedgehogs different kinds of catfood (because one kind doesn't have all the stuff a hedgehog needs) but that ends up being just as expensive as trying to buy pre-made balanced hedgehog food. I use Hedgehog Complete from Exotic Nutrition, but Hotchiwitchi liked Spike's Delight better. He's got good taste. Spike's Delight is more expensive. Both are available online. Unless you are fortunate to live in a place that has local hedgehog breeders, you'll most likely be buying food online.

3) Hedgehogs like to lick. I am not sure why they like to lick. If I am up when he's awake, I'll put my hand in his cage and he will lick me like he never gets enough salt. He's got a mineral block, and his food is supposed to be "complete". So, maybe he likes microbes or something. They will lick you, then they will do something called self anointing. It looks positively bizarre and will be alarming the first time you see it. They contort themselves in order to spread foamy spit on themselves. It is believed to be a defense mechanism.

4) They are prickly. You see people holding hedgehogs with their bare hands. Those are baby hedgehogs, most likely, whose quills are still soft. Hotchiwitchi's quills are not soft, though you can "pet" him if he's calmed down and you are rubbing his quill's the right way. I hold my hedgehog with leather gloves because I am allergic to cats, and quill pokes will poke any other dander into my skin. Hedgehogs themselves are very low dander animals.

5) Not all hedgehogs like baths. Hotchi does not like baths. He rarely needs one if his cage is kept clean. Don't use soft dirt, flaky bedding, or things that can get wet and sticky. They like to play in their water (use a water bottle if you don't want wet bedding) and things stick to their quills if you use too many bits and pieces. I use flat newspaper and dried grass cuttings (after the lawn mower's been through).

6) They *love* to dig and burrow. Whatever you do, make sure there is something that the hedgehog can dig under and hide in. Hotchi has chosen to bury himself under his newspaper. He's refused all kinds of different houses. *shrug* So, as long as they can dig under something, they will be happy.

7) They like wheels. Get a chinchilla sized rodent wheel and watch your hedgehog go to town. I still have to get mine a wheel.

8) They are faster than they look. Be sure you are supervising your hedgehog if you take him outside or allow him to roam free in your house. They will find the darkest, most difficult corner to get to as soon as they possibly can, especially if you have them out during the day.

9) They will bite. So far, I have rarely been bitten, and Hotchi doesn't bite that hard. It's usually when he gets a little too enthusiastic with his licking my fingers and nose. (Yes, he will lick your nose!) Use common sense and don't let your hedgehog get carried away.

10) Make sure you have a LARGE cage for your hedgehog. I have mine in an 10 gallon Rubbermaid box. They need to have higher sides than the under-bed boxes, because they can climb very well, but the walls do not need to be as high as a tall storage tote. The sides of mine are about a foot or so high. Below is a photo of the type of cage I will be graduating Hotchi to soon. Apparently you can get the parts at most Walmart stores.
I'll just have to be creative.

The Most Important Thing to do before you get a hedgehog: DO YOUR RESEARCH! I recommend finding a local breeder where you can pick up, rather than ship, your hedgehog, and don't purchase hedgehogs from a pet shop. Once you have a satisfactory amount of background knowledge, you will be on your way to hedgehog pet owning bliss. Good luck, do your research and enjoy!


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