Hedgehog Care

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Bringing Your Baby Home

 When you bring your hoglet home, place him in his new cage and let him have absolute privacy most of the first day. Hedgehogs rely on their sense of smell to compensate for their poor vision.  We suggest you take an old t-shirt you have worn and put it in the cage. This will let your new hedgehog get accustomed to your smell. You may pick him up and hold him once or twice for a few minutes the first day, but remember, it will probably be more like a week or longer before he begins to feel at home. Baby hedgehogs need quite a bit of sleep the first month after they come home with you, so don't be too concerned if he sleeps a lot at first.

Housing

 Your hedgehog will require a secure home since they are very good climbers and can easily escape from open-topped cages that are designed for animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits. If you do use a cage with an open top, it must have slippery sides that are at least 12" high and a floor space of at least 48” x 48”.  It needs to have moderate circulation and be well lit but not exposed to direct sunlight during the daytime. Place your hedgehog’s new home in a comfortable, warm, well lit area that is free of drafts and direct sunlight.  We are happy to help guide our owners in the different types of housing available.

Heating

 Hedgehogs are most comfortable at temperatures of between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. What you will need for your heat source will depend on what you choose for your animal's house, your breeder will be able to help you decide which is the best heat product(s) for your set up.  Here in Illinois, you will have to use an external heat source to maintain a safe temperature.  You can use a small animal heat pad such as K&H small animal heat pads which can be placed directly in your animal’s house and will only reach a maximum temp of 102 degrees, you can use Ceramic Heat Emitters,  these require a hood, a ceramic heat emitting bulb and a thermostat to control the heat (150 watt bulbs get over 600 degrees without a thermostat), these may also require additional equipment to secure them for safety, also available are Radiant Heat Pads these will reach temps of 150- 175 degrees and would also require a thermostat but provide a consistent heat at a lower wattage (28 -40 watts) 

Bedding

 Morning Star Hedgehogs recommends fleece bedding. Kiln Fired or Heat Treated Aspen or Pine can also be used. Never use Cedar it can be toxic to hedgehogs.   Paper Products such as Carefresh can be ingested and will expand which can cause an impaction and possible death. Crushed corn cob is safe to use for females and adults, but it SHOULD NOT be used for young male hedgehogs. Place approximately two inches of bedding material evenly over the floor of the cage.  Spot clean daily and replace the bedding once a week.
 

Food Bowl

 The food bowl needs to be fairly wide and heavy to prevent your pet from dumping out its contents and using it as a toy. Small ceramic crocks that are designed for small rodents are perfect food dishes for hedgehogs. The width or diameter of the dish can be 3 to 6 inches and it should be no more than 3 inches high. 

Water Source

 We prefer water bottles over open dishes. Hedgehogs love to fill open water dishes with shavings and tip them over, this prevents them from getting enough water to drink. 

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Hiding Place

 This can be as simple as a piece of 4 inch PVC pipe, an old plastic pitcher, or an old shoe box with a hole cut in one end. (this should be replaced every 2 to 3 weeks). 

Litter Box

 Your pet may use a litter box if you provide it with one. A small box that is 2” deep x 6” x 9”, paper toweling, pine pellets or critter litter is made for this purpose and you only need a small amount to lightly coat the litter pan. We find the greatest success with a litter pan under the wheel. 

Toys

 Hedgehogs are burrowers and foragers they will need items to keep them busy and provide enrichment. Small balls, cat toys, fleece strips, baby toys are all acceptable toys the more clutter the happier the hog!   An exercise wheel is a must and will help him to stay healthy and trim. Metal wheels are unacceptable for hedgehogs as their tender feet or ankles could get trapped and break. We recommend the Carolina Storm Bucket Wheels, but there are others that are acceptable wheels for hedgehogs. 

Nutrition

 There is much to be said about your hedgehog's diet and what is the best diet for them!  We always offer kibble to our herd as well as other meats, insects, commercially prepared raw diet and treats!  Variety is pinnacle to providing a balanced healthy diet!  Our primary diet consists of 5 to 7 different foods. The primary ingredients in our mix in order of preference are:  Essence Air & GameFowl Cat Food, Tiki Cat Chicken Laua Cat Food,  Fromm Mature Gold Cat Food, Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul Weight Management, Farmina N&D (any of the varieties) Merricks Purrect Bistro Weight Management .   It is highly recommended that you stay on the food your breeder is using. You are encouraged to add to your hedgehog's diet with a variety of other foods (treats) such as:  a variety of insects (live is always preferred over freeze dried), unseasoned cooked meats, baby foods (sweet potato is a favorite), always make sure the food you wish to offer is safe for hedgehogs before offering them. However none of these should be fed as anything more than a treat 3 or 4 times a week.  An adult hedgehogs should be fed 2 Tbsp per day. Obesity can become a problem if over feeding occurs, this can lead to other medical problems and shorten your hedgehog's life span. 

Healthy Weight

 255 – 600 grams.  A kitchen scale can be used to monitor your hedgehog's weight. We recommend keeping a weekly log of your animals weight.  Large gains or losses can signal health issues that would require medical attention. 

Annointing

 Anointing is a possible response that a hedgehog will exhibit when they encounter a smell or taste that they are unfamiliar with. In such an event the hedgehog will possibly bite or chew at the source of the smell, then they will froth at mouth to create a lather. Next they will deposit their foamy saliva on their quills by contorting their bodies. No one knows why they wipe the saliva on themselves, it is normal behavior. 

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Bathing

 Hedgehogs do a fairly good job of grooming themselves but sometimes, there are things they need help with. If you wish, you can bathe your hedgehog a few times a year. Run an inch or two (no more!) of lukewarm water into the bathroom sink. We recommend Hibiclens Surgical Soap or Curaseb Veterinary Care Shampoo (Oatmeal baths are very soothing and will help with their dry skin.) Use a soft bristle Nail brush, baby brush or toothbrush to help clean between the quills. After he has been thoroughly scrubbed, refill the sink with an inch of lukewarm water and rinse him off. Towel dry as best as you can but make sure you keep your hedgehog warm as he continues to dry.  Foot baths will be needed more frequently and are simply done by placing a soaked washcloth in the basin and letting your hedgehog run across it to loosen the caked on feces. (A soft bristle toothbrush can help with any stubborn spots) 


***NEVER EVER use oils on or in bath water, this can clog pores and follicles creating pools of debris and gunk that can become fungal infections 

Dry Skin

The more baths you give your hedgehog the drier his/her skin will be.  Winter is a terrible time for dry skin as well!  We keep the humidity in the hedgehog rooms to 35 - 40% During winter months we use a small humidifier.  At some point your baby will suffer from dry skin.  To help with dry skin we use using a minute amount of Nordic Naturals Omega 3 oil on their food once a week,  you must be very careful these oils are very rich and can cause diarrhea if over dosing...   These oils have many benefits to your little ones health beyond skin and quills... anti-inflammatory, brain health, heart health, ligament and muscular strength...


***Hedgehogs do not have the same skin type as humans they are created to be naturally dry due to the arid climate that is their natural habitat...Do not let people sway you to use oils on them EVER...  Even some of the oils we once recommended are now seen to have negative or no effect on them.

Handling

It is never a good idea to pick up your hedgehog with gloves. Although imposing in appearance, the spines are not sharp enough to cause any real injury and, unlike porcupines, the spines do not come out and they are not barbed. It is absolutely essential for your hedgehog to recognize your scent and to recognize it as being harmless.  The correct method for picking up a hedgehog is to place your hands, palms up and his head facing away from you, on each side and gently scoop him up from underneath. Once accustomed to you, he won’t bother to put his spines up and he will be very easy to pick up.

If he is rolled-up into a ball, he will, in most cases, soon unroll and put his spines down. If he is stubborn, though, getting him to unroll can sometimes be little bit tricky. The simplest and most effective means to do this is to gently rock him back and forth in your hand. He will soon pop his little head out. Be patient, some are more stubborn that others especially during quilling when handling can be painful for them. 

Quilling

 Quilling is the process your baby hedgehog will go through for the first year of his/her life.  It is when they lose their baby quills and the adult quills emerge.   It can be mildly uncomfortable to very painful and can have an effect on your hedgehog’s demeanor and attitude.  Even with the quilling process occurring it is important for their socialization that you continue to interact with your hedgehog. Of course we don’t want to be too rough is your baby is in pain.  If your animal begins dropping their small thin quills do not be alarmed this is normal.  If however, your animal is a year and half and begins dropping quills this is another issue that should be evaluated by a veterinarian.  ​
 

Does my baby need to see a vet?

 Changes in eating habits – sharp increase or decrease in appetite can indicate a problem
Sharp increase/decrease in water intake

Sneezing, especially with discharge from nose or mouth. Indicator of upper respiratory infection. Needs vet attention ASAP.
Changes in poop – hard stool, runny stool, changes in color can all indicate a health issue.
Changes in activity – lethargy (laying around, limp) or agitation can indicate a health issue.
Dark urine can indicate (in females – UTI or possible uterine tumor) an infection.
If your hedgehog is: eating, drinking, active, and pooping and peeing normally, you usually have 12-18 hours to monitor the condition before getting to a vet.
BLOOD IS ALWAYS A PROBLEM. 

Veterinary Care

Hedgehogs do not require vaccinations, it is beneficial for an annual exam. I recommend a visit to the exotic vet once a year once the hedgehog reaches 1 year of age.   We have a comprehensive list of the exotic vets in Illinois and can assist you in finding one in your area.  We recommend you have this information on hand should the need ever arise.