Domestic hedgehogs are often called African or pygmy hedgehogs and have earned a reputation for being some of the most exciting, socially friendly, and adorable animals to have as indoor pets. They’re easy to care for, economical, and incredibly kid-friendly. There are inquisitive by nature and spend their time exploring their environment. Hedgehogs can spend hours fascinated by the simplest of objects.
Your new friend needs a special home. When you pick a cage for your hedgehog, pick either a glass or plastic terrarium with smooth, high walls to prevent your pet from climbing out and escaping. You’ll find many options with the floor made of a thin wire grate. Avoid this at all costs as hedgehogs have tiny feet and wrists that are prone to falling through the cracks, getting stuck and causing injury.
The home should be fairly large with ample space to satisfy your new pet’s inquisitive nature, their need to explore and to prevent obesity. Ideally, the cage should be kept in a warm room. During the cooler winter months, consider getting at tank heater that installs on to the bottom of the cage. These are commonly available in the reptile departments of your pet shop.
Make sure you clean your hedgehog’s cage at least once a week. The bedding for your cage should obviously be nontoxic. Avoid wooden shavings, such as pine or cedar, as this can cause respiratory problems. The best bedding you can pick is shredded paper. It is soft and cost-efficient, and can be home-made. Avoid shredding magazines or other paper with glossy finishes or dyes.
Offer a shelter for your new friend. Choose ones that are small and dark, such as a PVP pipe, a small plastic pot lying on its side, or even a small tissue box. This gives your hedgehog a sense of security and a nice, dark area for the hedgehog to sleep.
Classified as insectivorous, hedgehogs eat insects. They’re famous for eating a diet consisting of Dubia roaches. Even so, they can be seen rummaging around for all sorts of plant and animal matter and are more scavengers than anything else. Commercial hedgehog diets usually consist of chitin, which is a material found in the exoskeleton of insects. Absent that, usually a low-fat/high protein cat food works well as a substitute.
Common problems that your hedgehog may face include mites, respiratory problems or diarrhea. If you ever suspect that your hedgehog is not in tip top condition, see your veterinarian immediately.
Hedgehogs are covered with quills – stiff, hollow hair that hedgehogs use as a measure of defense. The easiest way to handle your hedgehog is from the bottom, coming in contact with its soft, furry belly. Pick your hedgehog up from underneath and interact with it daily. This teaches your hedgehog social skills so that you can enjoy the benefits of this warm, cuddly and cute pet.
Remember that your hedgehog is a social creature with the same fight-or-flight tendencies that humans feel when we are in danger. Learn to recognize signs that tell you how to interact with your hedgehog – if they are curled in a ball, they are probably scared and it would be best to not aggravate it by attempting to handle it. As with all animals, respect is a two-way street. Treat your pet with all the love and care in the world and you shall earn their respect and love in return.