Hedgehogs need a diet that is high in protein and low in fat. Before purchasing the food, make sure to check the ingredient list. High quality cat foods will list a real meat, such as chicken, lamb, or turkey, as the first ingredient. A hedgehogs best diet consists mainly of chicken. Avoid foods that have fillers such as corn, wheat, rice, or meat by-products as the first ingredient on the list. We use 2 specific brands: Blue Wilderness Chicken for Kitten (which is what I recommend= high protein/low fat). I also feed Purina One (Chicken is the 1st ingredient)as it is recommended with a high fat content that is good for our nursing mamas and young babies that are weaning. We send home a baggie of Purina One for you to mix 50/50 with Blue Wilderness this makes the transition easy on little tummies.
I recommend Blue Wilderness Chicken for Kitten
This video is about food portioning and heat pads. PLEASE WATCH
Depending on the temperature of your home, you may also need a heat source for your hedgehog. Hedgehogs need temperatures of at least 72 degrees at all times to prevent hibernation (both in the wintertime when our homes can be drafty and also in the summertime when we run air conditioners). We recommend an 11 inch x 16 inch reptile heat pads and have them available in our store to purchase.
Insects are a very important element of a hedgehogs diet. Hedgehogs are insectivores and bugs help their digestive systems to process store bought crunchy cat food. A hedgehog can become constipated, live in pain and shorten their lifespan without insects in their daily diet. We feed both live and freeze dried mealworms . 8-10 per day are a recommended supplement to a hedgehogs daily diet. Crickets, grubs, slugs, earthworms, superworms, waxworms, etc. are also very nutritious alternative. We recommend not putting insects in the food dish but instead scatter thru out the habitat and allow for your hedgehog to hunt for them.
Toe Nail Care
Nail trims should be done as needed. Most often the front nails are worn down from running on the wheel but the back nails can grow uncomfortably long. A human nail trimmer, or better yet a cuticle scissor can be used. Cut only the tips to avoid the quick. The picture on the right here is what can happen if proper monthly grooming of toenails is not done. (The pinky toenail grew out and curled under and was poking in the bottom of the hedgehogs foot causing him pain to walk and to run on his wheel.)
Grooming / Bathing / Itching / Dry Skin
Hedgehogs are fairly clean animals, but like any pet, they do need occasional grooming. I recommend bathing your hedgehog at least once a week. Fill a sink with 3-4 inches of warm to hot water and use a toothbrush to gently brush the quills and feet clean. Make sure to get under the toenails as litter can get stuck. Plain water is all that is needed, but a drop of Dawn dish soap is okay too. Dry your hedgehog off with a towel when finished and keep warm. If you notice your hedgehog is itching and scratching excessively then add a teaspoon or so of Aveeno oatmeal bath powder (available at Target) to the bathwater. At different seasonal times of the year, a hedgehog can show dry flaky feet and ears, a remedy for that is a little coconut oil rubbed on them will help sooth the itcheys away.
Handling & Bonding
The correct method for picking up a hedgehog is to place your hands, palms up, on each side of the hedgehog and gently scoop them up from underneath. Allow them the opportunity to smell you before petting. Their bellies are soft and covered in fur, not quills. Baby hedgehogs go thru quilling (loosing sharp baby quills and re-growing softer adult quills) 4 x the first year of life so the sharpest a hedgehog will be is when they are a baby and still learning how to lay their quills down. Quills are not actually sharp enough to cause any real injury. Remember to always wash hands after holding all kinds of pets. Hedgehogs have been found to be able to carry salmonella and washing hands will prevent from sickness.
Handling Techniques, Care Tips, Cage Setup
Here is a video we made to assist families in handling a hedgehog.
Hedgehogs need plenty of exercise, so an all plastic wheel is necessary. The wheel should have a solid running surface and a sturdy base. Do not use the wire wheels commonly sold for hamsters at pet stores. Hedgehogs enjoy going thru tubes and tunnels along with burrowing. Your hedgehog will also need a cozy place to sleep. Plastic pet igloos are popular.
12" Giant Wheel
Hedgehogs like to burrow so add a thick layer of bedding to your habitat. Aspen, pine or paper bedding are great choices. Cedar shavings must be avoided as they are toxic to hedgehogs. We use pine shavings as we find it easy to clean, inexpensive and I enjoy watching hedgehogs burrow, roll and play in the shavings. Some people may have allergies to pine shavings and Carefresh paper bedding is a great alternative that still gives the hedgehog the ability to burrow, play and tunnel around their habitat. I purchase pine bedding from WALMART as it is much cheaper than pet stores!
My personal thoughts on Fleece......after 11 years of raising hedgehogs.
Some people want to use fleece and I try to encourage them NOT to. Hedgehogs love to burrow and play in shavings. I use the example of taking trees away from squirrels, but besides that fleece has a very bad odor if your baby hedgehog has an accident. In general hedgehog habitats (with bedding) do NOT stink. If you choose to use fleece, I would suggest cutting up a multitude of pieces piled in your habitat 2 to 3 inches throughout the entire habitat so your hedgehog can still burrow and keep warm. The fleece must be spot cleaned daily, and all of it should be washed every 1-2 days to eliminate the odor that will occur.
Otsego Hedgehog's babies come mostly potty trained. Our mama's start carrying them to the litter box at 3-4 weeks of age and teach them to potty there. We use a low dust, clumping cat litter and find it makes their habitat cleaner and easy to maintain. I have not experimented with pellet litter or paper shredding's as I have found cat litter to be very effective. This litter is sold at WALMART & MENARDS and is sold in handy 4 packs. 1 pack fills our custom litter box perfectly.
Habitat Set up Video