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Frequently Asked Questions About Hedgehogs

Is a hedgehog the right pet for you?

If you have carefully researched hedgehogs, you should be able to determine if a hedgehog is right for you.  The following may help you with your decision.

  • You must be realistic about being stuck with quills.  It WILL happen.
  • You must be willing and able to provide temperatures of 75º F - 80º F for the hedgehog at all times.
  • You must be willing to handle LIVE insects.
  • You must understand that hedgehogs are live animals and poop.  Sometimes a lot.
  • You must be willing to clean the enclosure regularly.
  • You must be willing and able to provide veterinary care.


What is the life span of a hedgehog?

On average, hedgehogs live 4-6 years.  Some have lived as long as 10-11 years though this is not common.  If kept at proper temperatures and fed a proper diet, hedgehogs can live 5-7 years.
If all requirements are not met, hedgehogs will sadly only live to be 2-4 years old at best.


Are hedgehog quills sharp?

Yes.  They are comparable to sandspurs, burrs, stickers, or whatever they may be called in your region.  There are a few people on the internet who compare them to the bristles of a toothbrush but be assured that is not the case.  They can puncture or penetrate the skin.  When a hedgehog is calm and their quills lie flat, you aren't likely to get stuck at all but when they are nervous and raise them, you can very easily be stuck.


Do hedgehogs throw their quills or shed?

Hedgehogs cannot throw their quills.  Their quills are not barbed.  Their quills are not poisonous.

They do shed their quills the way we shed our hair, a few at a time, but they cannot make them come out at will and you should never see bald spots.


Do hedgehogs make good pets for children?

This is not an easy question to answer as it depends on many things.  If the child is mature and calm, and the hedgehog is social and sweet, it may be a good match.  If the child is immature and high-strung or if the hedgehog is timid or anti-social, it is not recommended.  The hedgehog will be scared, the child will get stuck and may end up dropping the hedgehog.  We strongly encourage parents to visit with a breeder and see if the child is able to interact with a hedgehog BEFORE purchasing.


Do hedgehogs bite?

Hedgehogs have teeth and can bite.  Their mouth is like a tiny version of a cat's mouth.  Hedgehogs rarely bite out of aggression.  If they bite it is most often because they smelled something that they thought was edible.  Downplaying the incident and washing thoroughly to remove any scents is the best way to prevent another bite.



Both males and females will "tend to themselves".  When they do, it can leave a sticky substance on their chest and/or abdomen which hardens as it dries.  This is normal behavior, much like a dog licking itself.  Some hedgehogs are discrete about it, others are not.  


Do hedgehogs require vaccinations or immunizations?

No.  There are no required, nor approved vaccines or immunizations for hedgehogs.  Do not allow a vet to administer a rabies vaccine as it could be fatal.


Can hedgehogs carry Salmonella and E. coli?

Yes. All animals can carry Salmonella, E. coli, and other infectious diseases.  Occasionally the media will mention cases of Salmonella that were contracted by handling animals.  This is real.  This is true.  The truth is, you could contract Salmonella, E coli, Staphylococcus, and several other illnesses from handling nearly any kind of animal.  It is important to always wash your hands with soap after handling animals.  Antibacterial hand gels are a good alternative but a thorough washing with soap and water is recommended.


Males vs. Females?

There is really no significant difference between the genders.  There are no gender-related differences in temperament, size, odor, etc.  Females do not have a heat cycle.  Males do not scent mark.  Both genders can be wonderful pets.


Adults vs. Babies?

Both can be a smart decision.  Sometimes an adult who is already properly socialized is a great choice for someone who isn't comfortable putting the work in on a baby.  Sometimes getting a baby is the best choice as you will have more years with the hedgehog.  It is always smart to meet the hedgehogs before choosing to ensure that you get one that you feel a connection with.


Can a grumpy hedgehog make a good pet?

Yes, absolutely!  Even a grumpy or anti-social hedgehog can be a good pet.  We call them "Watch Me" pets.  They aren't comfortable with being handled but most often they will become comfortable with allowing you to watch them play.  They do all of the same things that other hedgehogs do, they just prefer not to be handled by humans.  They will run the wheel, they will still play with a toilet paper tube, they will still burrow and dig and act silly.  If you have reasonable expectations about the hedgehog's tolerance of being handled, you can still enjoy a less-social hedgehog very much.


How do I properly socialize a hedgehog?

Babies and adults need to be handled every day.  This is especially important when they go to a new home because they need to get properly acquainted with their new humans.  That being said, do not over-handle them because this can cause them to be stressed physically and will discourage bonding.  Hedgehogs typically tolerate being handled for 15 - 30 minutes at a time.  After that amount of time, they need to return to their enclosure so that they can relax and return to the required temperature range.
Handling hedgehogs for hours on end is not advised.  Handling is important because the hedgehog needs to learn that handling is part of life and that the human can be trusted but if you are forcing it for long periods of time you are doing more harm than good.  Once they realize that handling IS going to happen and that no one is going to hurt them, they often settle into the routine and the relationship begins :)
It is important to continue handling your hedgehog even when you're feeling discouraged.  If the hedgehog is being anti-social, stick with it.  You never know when things will turn around and they will realize that you are their best friend.  Some will continue to remain apprehensive but become more tolerant of being handled.  Some realize that you are their whole world and give more love than you would ever imagine.
With all hedgehogs, it is important that you have a calm demeanor when you are handling them.  They can sense your emotions and if you are anxious, they will be too.  Being very still can often get a scared hedgehog to unroll.  Usually, once they have unrolled, they will tolerate movements around and being moved from one hand to the other.  This is the method that we use to get them accustomed to being handled … moving them from hand to hand until they are more comfortable with handling.
Tip:  Sometimes the very best thing is to place a towel across your lap and let them just hang out with you while you're watching TV, reading, visiting with company, etc.  If they wander too far, guide them back but otherwise ignore their presence.  If you're not constantly forcing them to interact with you, but simply allowing them to be in your proximity, they begin to trust a little faster in our opinion.


Do hedgehogs smell or musk?

No.  Hedgehogs do not have scent glands.  If you go more than a few days without cleaning their enclosure, you may smell their urine or feces but their bodies do not produce any significant odor.


What kind of cage should a hedgehog have?

We strongly recommend an enclosure with a solid bottom and solid sides for hedgehogs.  They have tiny feet and cannot be on cages with wire bottoms.  In our opinion, wire cages are dangerous.  The wire sides allow for climbing which can result in injury.  If a hedgehog gets its head through a wire cage and cannot pull it back through, they can literally hang themselves or at the very least injure themselves.  Wire cages also do not allow for easy temperature control as the heat escapes through the open wires.  We prefer Sterilite, Rubbermaid, Hefty, etc. bins/storage containers, 100 quarts or larger.  These bins are light-weight, easy to clean, easily modified, and inexpensive.  We suggest having an extra bin on hand so that you always have a clean enclosure even if you don't have time to clean at that particular time.  Aquariums are adequate if you remove all of the silicone caulking as it is dangerous if ingested, however aquariums are cumbersome to clean and if there are any cracks, it must be replaced.  Cracks in glass can cause injuries because hedgehogs are likely to rub their feet on it because it will get their attention.


What kind of bedding should I use?

We use kiln-dried pine.  You can also use paper bedding such as Carefresh but keep an eye on the hedgehog's skin for dryness as some hedgehogs have a reaction to paper bedding.  Fleece or flannel cage liners are also acceptable.  Disposable pad (puppy pee-pee pads) are also a good alternative.  NOTE:  Never use cedar or products with cedar in them as it contains toxic oils.


Can hedgehogs be litter trained?

In most cases, yes.  A very good percentage of hedgehogs will use a litter-pan.  Some will use it exclusively and some will only use it some of the time while continuing to "go whenever they need to go".  It is always worth attempting because cleaning a litter-pan frequently is much easier than cleaning their entire enclosure frequently.
When a hedgehog uses the litter-pan exclusively, you only have to clean the enclosure about every 10th day :)


What kind of litter should I use in the litter-pan?

We have had a lot of success with equine pine pellets.  You can also use paper pellets.  We do not suggest clay litter and absolutely no clumping litter of any kind.


Should I feed hedgehog food or cat food?

We use a mix of quality dry cat foods that do not contain artificial preservatives.  Commercial hedgehog foods are not nutritionally adequate for a hedgehog's requirements and are full of fillers and preservatives.


Can you bathe hedgehogs?

Yes.  Hedgehogs need to be bathed occasionally and a bath is good exercise.  We advise bathing only when necessary as each bath removes the natural oils from their skin and over-bathing will cause dry skin.


Do hedgehogs play?

YES!  Most hedgehogs will play with certain toys or just run and act silly.  Some will interact with humans in a playful way.  They are all very unique and individual so they each do their own thing but they do have a playful nature at times.  NOTE:  Toys should never have openings or holes that are large enough for the hedgehog to get their mouth in it; cat balls that have a cage-like structure for example.


Can hedgehogs go outdoors?

Yes.  However, you should never take a hedgehog outdoors at a location that has a pest control service.  If the hedgehog should happen to ingest a contaminated insect or get into pest control chemicals and anoint, it could be fatal.  Hedgehogs should always be well supervised when outdoors so that they do not consume or encounter anything harmful.


Can hedgehogs interact with other animals?

In nearly all cases we discourage allowing hedgehogs to interact with other animals even other hedgehogs.  Hedgehogs are solitary and do not need a playmate.  Contact with other animals could result in contracting parasites or diseases from the other animals.  They could also be injured.  There is also the possibility that the stress of being around other animals could cause health problems or behavioral changes.  If you do choose to allow your hedgehog to have an encounter with another animal please supervise them at all times and if your hedgehog shows signs of stress, remove them immediately.


How much do hedgehogs sleep?

A LOT!  Hedgehogs often sleep 16-20 hours a day.  It is very normal, especially for babies.  They are primarily nocturnal so the majority of their waking hours are at night.


Do hedgehogs have to have live insects?

Yes.  Hedgehogs need the content of the insect's gut.  Freeze-dried insects are not nutritionally adequate and can cause digestive issues.  There is no substitute.


Do hedgehogs need a playmate?

NO.  Hedgehogs are solitary animals by nature.  They often squabble and cause serious injury to each other if housed together.  Hedgehogs should be housed individually and we do not recommend play dates.
In addition to the risk of injury, housing hedgehogs together can prevent you from recognizing health issues.  If one hedgehog is not eating proper quantities, you will not notice right away.  If one hedgehog has an abnormal stool, you will not know who produced it.  Housing individually allows you to properly monitor each hedgehog.


Do hedgehogs chew things up?

Not typically.  They may bite a piece of fabric and give it a tug but they are not typically chewers.  Teething babies will sometimes chew a little but usually not to the extent of damaging the item that they are chewing on.


How do I choose a breeder?

A reputable breeder will:
Be knowledgeable about the species, happily answer questions, research to find answers that they may not have.
Provide humane and ethical care to the animals in their care and practice ethical breeding standards.
Provide a reasonable source of care information for the animals they sell (website, in writing, etc.)
Show you their licensing and credentials.
Have an adequate health policy and/or guarantee.
Have a return policy that allows you to bring the hedgehog back (regardless of refund.)
Provide buyers with a detailed receipt for all purchases.
Disclose all knowledge about the animals offered.


How do I choose a hedgehog?

If you are new to hedgehogs, find a hedgehog that is social.  If you are unable to pick up the hedgehog, you won't be happy with your decision to buy one.
Assuming that you are able to pick up/handle the hedgehog, you want to look at the following:

  • The hedgehog should be alert, attentive, and completely responsive.
  • The hedgehog should be clean
    • The hedgehog should not have any clumps of anything stuck to its quills (which would likely be feces).
    • There should not be crustiness or flakiness on the ears, face, legs, or elsewhere (this could indicate mites).
    • The nails should be reasonably clean and trimmed.
  • The eyes should be clean, clear (no cloudiness), round, beady, evenly protruding.  If you observe that one eye appears to be protruding more than the other this could indicate swelling or a shallow eye socket which could result in a health problem in the near future.
  • The ears should be smooth and uniform.  Pitted, tattered, or crusty ears could indicate a skin condition or mite infestation (or a prior one.)  If the breeder tells you that there was a prior issue but it has been treated, evaluate the level of healing.  Redness or sores indicates that it is not fully healed.  There are instances where there was a prior issue and the hedgehog is perfectly fine but the scars are permanent.  Unfortunate, but alright to purchase.
  • The nose should be completely clean.  No debris in the nostrils and no crust on the outside.  No bubbles or mucus.
  • Breath sounds should be clear.  No wheezing, sneezing, coughing, or rattling.  Never buy a hedgehog with a respiratory concern.  Infections can become life-threatening very quickly.
  • The body should have the proper tone.  The hedgehog should not be limp and lifeless but should also not be rigid or stiff.  Hedgehogs will often squirm when you hold them and you should be able to feel some muscles and some body fat.  He/she should not feel bony but should not feel "blubbery" either.
  • The undercarriage should be furry and clean.  The legs should be smooth and free of scabs or sores.

Most importantly, trust your gut.  If something doesn't feel/seem right to you, follow your instincts.  Don't be in a rush because there will always be another hedgehog available somewhere :)


How important are temperatures?

Temperatures are extremely important.  The ideal temperature range for hedgehogs is 75°F-80°F.  Around 72° hedgehogs begin to slow down and become inactive.  Hedgehogs cannot self-regulate their body temperature; they do not and cannot hibernate.  When they get too cold, their metabolism slows.  If left chilled for too long their organs begin to shut down and they eventually die.  A digital thermometer is absolutely essential.  Home thermostats cannot be trusted as they give the temperature for that exact spot in the home (and your hedgehog isn't likely right next to it) and are often inaccurate.  Having a heat source, such as a heat lamp with a ceramic emitter, is very important.  You may find that your hedgehog needs it more than you previously suspected.


What is anointing?

Anointing is when a hedgehog licks itself (typically on the shoulders/back) and creates a foamy patch of bubbles.  They do this when they smell something that they find interesting.  It is completely normal and harmless.  Once the saliva has dried it may flake away, similar to dandruff.  A quick rinse with lukewarm water (no soap) can remove the flakes and remaining saliva.


How do I pick up a hedgehog?

Slip your fingers under their belly and lift straight up.  If you grab them from behind they will instinctively roll-up.  Even when slipping your fingers underneath them, they may still roll up but they usually open right up once you have them in your hand.

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