Keywords: faq pet hedgehogs
Last-modified: 20 October 2008
HEDGEHOG FAQ (part 4 of 7) -- HEDGEHOGS AS PETS
Compiled and edited by Brian MacNamara (email@example.com)
Additions, corrections, and suggestions for this file are welcomed.
This document is copyright 2008 by Brian MacNamara. See section [0.6]
for authorship information and redistribution rights. In short, you
can give it away, but you can't charge for it.
The basic Hedgehog FAQ has seven parts, all of which should be available
from wherever you obtained this one. A complete table of contents for
all seven parts is given in part I.
Please note: While my knowledge of hedgehogs has grown (far beyond my
wildest expectations when I began the FAQ), my knowledge is still quite
limited, especially in areas of health care. I did not write, or verify,
all the information in this FAQ. I have done my best to include only
accurate and useful information, but I cannot guarantee the correctness
of what is contained in this FAQ, regardless of the source, or even that
it will not be harmful to you or your hedgehog in some way. For advice
from an expert, I recommend you consult the books listed in part 2 [2.1],
or, especially in the case of a suspected medical problem, a veterinarian
who is familiar with hedgehogs.
Subject: CONTENTS OF THIS FILE
5. *** Things you'll need ***
<5.1> What will I need to take care of my new hedgehog?
<5.2> Do I need a cage? How should I set it up?
<5.3> The pet store uses wood shavings as bedding. Should I?
<5.4> Litter boxes and what kind of litter should I use?
<5.5> I'm having problems litter-training my hedgehog. What should
I be doing?
<5.6> Hedgehogs and wheels
<5.7> Making your own wheel
<5.8> Any suggestions on toys?
6. *** Basic hedgehog care and training ***
<6.1> How can I best hedgehogproof my home?
<6.2> What should I feed my hedgehog?
<6.3> Commercial hedgehog foods and nutrition
<6.4> What are good treats?
<6.5> Any suggestions on bathing, cleaning ears, and clipping nails?
<6.6> Biting and nipping
<6.7> HELP, my hedgehog is LOST! (or Hedgehog Hide-and-Seek)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. *** Things you'll need ***
Subject: <5.1> What will I need to take care of my new hedgehog?
A brief list of things needed right away is covered in section [4.5], and is
meant as a getting started list. This section, and the ones that follow, are
meant to provide information in greater detail.
There are only a few things that are essential to keep a pet hedgehog.
Basically a warm place to live (either a large cage/pen/aquarium, or a room
-- if you want to let your hedgehog run free), a food dish (preferably one
that is not easy to tip over), a water bottle, such as for Guinea pigs,
(water dishes can tend to become soiled and baby hedgehogs can easily drown
in them, but adults often like them), and last but not least, something big
enough for your hedgehog to hide in as a den. Of course food, water and
other treats are a given!
It is also a good idea to have a shallow litter box or pan (although not all
hedgehogs seem inclined to use them), and some type of bedding (aspen
shavings, clean straw, etc., but NOT cedar [5.3]).
An exercise wheel [5.6] and [5.7] (big enough for a hedgehog) is also
strongly recommended -- especially for hedgehogs that don't have the run of
the house. Hedgehogs tend to be surprisingly energetic, and need the chance
to use up some of this energy. In addition, it appears more and more that
hedgehogs who have and use wheels live much longer and generally seem not to
come down with some of the more common serious ailments, such as Fatty Liver
Disease. Because of this, I am quickly reaching the opinion that a proper
wheel is more of a necessity than a luxury. Given how easy (and even fun) it
is to make a wheel, there really is no excuse for not having one.
Subject: <5.2> Do I need a cage? How should I set it up?
This is largely a matter of choice, yours and theirs. Some hedgehog owners
wouldn't dream of caging their prickly little friends, while some breeders
use large cat carriers to keep their hoards in (one hedgehog, one carrier).
I personally use large wire cages that were intended for medium to large dogs
as homes for my hedgehogs. These cages measure about 2' wide x 3' deep x
2.5' high (frankly I wouldn't put a dog bigger than a Chihuahua in something
this size, but the labels claim they were designed for collies and similar
I should point out that organizations, such as VEZ [2.7], recommend ``one
square meter (approximately 1 sq. yard) of floorspace for [each] hedgehog.''
This is a good rule of thumb, since hedgies are not as small as hamsters or
gerbils, and do need space to roam in. The alternative is to give them a
good play time, each night, to roam about a larger area under supervision.
You should be careful to make sure the grating in the cage you use leaves
narrow enough holes that your hedgehog can't get out, or even get his head
wedged in between the wires. Chicken wire is probably not a very safe
choice. Hedgehogs will often attempt to escape with an astounding amount of
vigor and can be quite single minded about doing so. Younger hedgehogs can
easily get out of cages with openings between the wires as small as 1/2''
(1.5 cm) -- trust me on this, Sprocket earned the middle name Houdini for
just this achievement, while Pocus would gleefully climb to the top of the
cage looking for even the smallest niche to squeeze through.
Probably the most cost effective cage system I'm aware of is to use the large
clear plastic bins (with lids) that look like giant Tupperware containers,
and are available inexpensively from most hardware and department stores
these days. Drill plenty of holes in the top (small enough that a hedgehog
won't fit through, but large enough to provide lots of air), or even along
the sides, towards the top, and you have a very easy to clean cage, that is
also easy to get at to get your hedgie out.
The best part of the plastic bin idea is that, if you find ones that are not
big enough, just use two, or three, or create a whole complex of them. Using
inexpensive plastic plumbing pipes and fittings, you can create a hedgehog
palace in a short time. Just beware to make sure tunnels slope at an angle
that hedgehogs can manage comfortably.
Skewer lives in one such plastic bin that was far too low to give clearance
for his wheel. Since leaving the top off was a guaranteed escape in the
making, we solved the problem by cutting out a section of the lid, and
putting another small, but deep, plastic bin over it, glued to the larger
lid. This dome roof covers his wheel nicely, and ensures he only wanders
(escapes from the cage) when it's intended (i.e., gets out for playtime).
Bedding, such as aspen shavings [5.3], is recommended in any cage, and most
importantly, some sort of place to hide is needed. Alternately, you can use
astroturf, or something like non-clumping cat litter [5.4] (make sure it's
not dusty), or even epoxy coated aquarium stones (some sort of soft bed area
is recommended, though). Do watch out for the pieces of litter or bedding
getting caught in sensitive places as mentioned in sections [5.4] and [9.1].
The most frequently recommended den is a section of 4'' (or 6'' for larger
hedgehogs) diameter PVC (plastic) plumbing pipe. You can get this at almost
any hardware or plumbing store for a couple of dollars.
For a home, or den, I have used a variety of items. For Velcro I used two
wicker bread baskets (about 4'' x 6'' and 2-3'' deep) tied securely together
with a door cut towards one end (about 3'' x 3''). Velcro preferred this
over either the PVC pipe home, or a hollow log, however, Popeye, who
inherited Velcro's cage and den won't have anything to do with it, preferring
to sleep under a hedgebag (a cloth bag with no seams). Pocus, however,
preferred the PVC pipe or especially a hollow log, and wouldn't have anything
to do with the basket (except as a toy -- Pocus tossed it like a seal with a
ball). Hedgehogs *can* be fickle! For Quibble, Quiver and Pepper, who live
together, we use a stackable plastic bin, turned upside down, which provides
(almost) enough space for three plump hedgebutts to snuggle together at
A word of caution about using old socks or cloth with a loose weave to it:
Don't use anything fabric for them to hide in. I did have an old sock...
Koosh liked to climb inside it, but the vet told me of an instance where
a hedgehog got his leg caught in a thread, tried to get out, only made it
worse, and the thread ended up slicing through her flesh to the bone. He
said he was able to save the leg, though.
-- Kathleen Close
If you're going to use an aquarium, I would not recommend anything less that
a 20 gallon size, and preferably larger, as a basic home for a hedgehog --
they are much too active for anything less, and small enclosures will quickly
lead to an overweight and unhealthy hedgehog.
Cages at the large end of being suitable for Guinea pigs or rabbits are
likely fine. Keep in mind that hedgehogs like to explore, and they are great
escape artists. They can climb anything they can get their claws hooked
into, and by rolling into a ball and leaning forward, they can manage to get
down quite safely from virtually any height that didn't need a long ladder to
get them up to.
Tammy Baer sent in the following, interesting twist on the pet carrier home.
I think this has some real merit for people who currently use a carrier, and
want to give their little friends a better quantity of space to live in.
Each hedgie has a large dog kennel as a cage, but not in the traditional
way. I took the cage apart and placed the top upside down and face to
face with the bottom. That way the top half of the entrance meets the
bottom and they have twice the room to roam. I use two clamps on either
side to keep the halves together, and they overlap just enough that
there's no gap for little feet between halves. They still have their
exercise room at night, but if I ever have to leave them for a couple of
days I know they're just fine. One of the great advantage to using the
kennels is cleaning is a snap as bedding and even messes just wipe out.
The sides are smooth and not easy to climb keeping adventurous hedgies
inside. This only works if you have nothing for them to climb that is
close to the edge. I found Zoe was fond of making what seemed like
impossible jumps to get out. The cage is also very open and low enough
to give excellent ventilation for good breathing.
-- Tammy Baer
The point about not having climbable items in this kind of cage (in fact, any
open topped cage, needs some stressing. Hedgehogs are very adept at
escaping, and they are quite able to pile things against the side of a cage
to get out. I've seen it done, and I've heard more stories on this than I
care to admit. ;-)
If you are not certain the place you are trying to keep your hedgehog in is
warm enough to keep him from going into hibernation [7.3], you might want to
consider placing a heating pad (on its LOWEST setting) under the part of the
pen where your hedgehog sleeps. Make sure your hedgehog is not going to come
directly into contact with the heating pad, and that he has the ability to
get to an area away from it, should it be too warm for him.
If your hedgehog gets too cool, you risk a number of problems, including
pneumonia. Pneumonia can be especially bad, since you may not know he has it
and even if it clears up, the effects of scarring on the lungs can result in
death sometime later, when things otherwise appear perfectly fine.
Other suggestions from Katherine Long are to use heating elements intended
for lizards, or those for keeping germinating seeds warm.
Ambergris much prefers to sleep under a thick towel rather than in
her pipe. Actually the towel is draped over a half hollow log and
the pipe on top of the pad that is on top of the lizard warmer pad.
She crawls between the towel and the pad cover, in preference to
-- Katherine Long
I have also received suggestions of caution from Kirby J. Kerr, about using
heat rocks as designed for lizards as they are quite prone to overheating,
and generally erratic behavior. In other words, do be careful when using
Another idea for keeping hedgies warm is:
There are ceramic reptile heaters that are similar to light bulbs
(but give off no light). They screw into a regular light socket
and can be positioned to radiate heat into the cage. They run
about $25 mail-order, $40 retail, and come in various wattages. If
you want to add a thermostat, it gets pricier.
-- Christine Porter
NOTE: When using these ``heat bulbs'' you must only use them in a ceramic
light socket. My thanks to Ron Adrezin for this caution, and the following:
The company that makes the heat bulbs also sells ceramic sockets with a
clip at the bottom so that it may be attached to the cage. I also use
baggie ties on the clip to make absolutely sure that it cannot fall over
and start a fire.
-- Ron Adrezin
Here are some other ideas that show just how imaginative people can be when
it comes to dealing with hedgehogs. This next idea was actually something
created for keeping a too-small European hedgehog warm enough to avoid
hibernation, until he could pack on enough weight to survive the ordeal, but
it would work equally well for pets.
[I created a] warmer - it was a biscuit tin inside which were 2 x 15
watt pygmy bulbs, in series. (In series to reduce the heat output and
lengthen the life). It was just detectably warm to the touch after an
hour on the kitchen table.
Another way, this time using less electrical engineering, would be to
use one of those electric germination trays that you get in garden
shops, they are typically about 10 watts (i.e. close to what I get
with my 2 bulbs in series) and of course they are built to be
waterproof and are readily available. If you worry about water-logging
from rain or urine, it would do just as well upside-down, heat (or
rather, hot air) rises.
-- Michael Bell
If your room temperature doesn't get too cool, you may be able to make do
with an idea like this:
My daughter has come up with a neat idea to keep our heggies pretty warm.
She has made them sleeping bags out of fleece and lined it with thin
-- Mary Novak
Just beware that there aren't any loose threads (or hairs) that can get
caught around busy hedgie legs.
Feel free to be inventive when it comes to keeping your hedgehog warm during
the cooler months of the year. As long as there is a warm area where your
hedgehog's den is, and you haven't created a fire hazard or some other
impending disaster, you can pretty much use your imagination when it comes to
It's imperative that your pet hedgehogs stay warm during the winter.
Hedgehogs will go into hibernation [7.3] if not kept warm, and if they don't
receive enough hours of light, and this can have disasterous consequences.
Subject: <5.3> The pet store uses wood shavings as bedding. Should I?
In most cases the answer is maybe. In addition to wood shavings generally
making for a more comfortable place to root and burrow around in, many
hedgehogs are not overly particular as to where they defecate. Using
shavings makes cleaning up after them quite a bit easier.
I have heard of a few cases where hedgehogs were allergic to wood shaving
bedding, but these have been relatively uncommon cases. In all the cases
I've heard of, the hedgehog has experienced what appears to be a bloody nose
most nights while roaming about its enclosure. The solution was to use a
more natural bedding (closer to their natural habitat -- for example, real
dirt and grass). Another possibility might be to increase the humidity, but
the best solution is to switch from using wood shavings.
I have also seen numerous warnings against using cedar shavings, especially
for baby or young hedgehogs where the strong aroma can actually overpower and
even kill them. Do not use cedar!
The ``Safe Beddings FAQ'' now exists and is posted to the rec.pets Usenet
Newsgroup on a monthly basis. It is also available via the WWW at:
My thanks to Rick Russell for the original pointer to it, and to Christine
Porter for the pointer to the new address.
I have to admit that, in 1994, when I acquired Velcro at 8 months of age, he
came in a pet carrier complete with a bedding of cedar shavings and was none
the worse for wear from it (though he also lived in a very well ventilated
cage). Since then I have used pine shavings, aspen shavings, Yesterdays News
(recycled paper cat litter), and astroturf.
It now appears that pine, also being an aromatic softwood, `can' cause many
of the same effects as cedar. While generally not as strong as cedar, it is
better to opt for aspen or other non-aromatic woods. Personally, I believe
that pine, as long as it isn't that strongly odoured (isn't very resinous) is
an okay choice for bedding in open cages (as opposed to tanks). Strong
smelling pine shavings, however, are not a good choice for a bedding
The rule of thumb for any bedding material is, if it has a noticeable scent,
it probably isn't terribly safe.
I have recently been in touch with Gerald McKiness, who had lost five of his
hedgehogs to the use of pine shavings -- the cause being borne out by the
necropsies that were performed. After switching away from using pine, he has
had no further losses. Here are some of the details about the symptoms:
Our first casualty was a hamster. A pet of about 3 yrs. of age. He died
after about 3 weeks to a month of respiratory distress and digestive
failure. My hedgehogs began dying about a year later. The symptoms
always started with a loss of appetite, then loss of mobility in the
hindquarters. They would have a wheeze to the breathing. The
excretions would be a bright green. In about three weeks, despite
everything, bottle feeding, antibiotic injections, veterinary care,
The necropsies would all show respiratory distress, fluid in the lungs,
liver distress, and NO PATHOGENS.
-- Gerald McKiness
While aspen shavings do not have what some people consider the pleasant cedar
or pine scent, nor some of the insect (mite) repelling qualities of cedar,
everything I have seen strongly urges against the use of cedar and also pine
bedding for hedgehogs (and other small animals).
Aspen is, unfortunately, more expensive than either cedar or pine, but the
safety factor is paramount. If you are unable to find aspen, and are using
pine, make sure you do so in a well ventilated cage or pen, not one that is
enclosed with limited airflow, as this will help limit the dangers. For
cedar, the answer is simply to avoid using it.
Mike McGary has the following words of wisdom on a further advantage of using
One of the benefits of aspen shavings is that they are digestible.
This can prevent problems resulting from eating the bedding (our
babies have all eaten some bedding).
Another side effect of wood is that shavings of most kinds involve quite a
bit of dust which can have unpleasant side effects on small lungs. Aspen,
which appears to be shredded rather than chipped, seems to be less dusty and
much better than pine or cedar.
For those of you who want an alternative to wood shavings of any kind,
especially for those who might have allergies themselves to the bedding,
Kathleen Close passed along the following idea, courtesy of her veterinarian:
Use terrarium lining or astroturf. It's much cheaper in the long run.
He suggested buying two lengths, washing them about every 3 days, and
while one is drying, put the second one in.
After trying out the astroturf idea (make sure it's the newer, soft, almost
carpet-like astroturf, not the older tinsel-like plastic grass), I wound up
wondering about the edges where it seemed to unravel a bit. Terri Lewis
provided the following great solution:
Use a soldering gun or iron [to melt the edges]. That should stop it
from unraveling unless your [hedgehog] is really chewing on it and not
just pulling at it.
-- Terri Lewis
I've also found that careful use of a candle along the edges works well, but
I do stress being careful!
I can now attest to astroturf working quite well, and I've found that my
hedgehogs appear to be more active on it than with wood shavings, though that
may have just been their anticipation of spring being in the air, at the
Janet Jones sent along some information on a new product that also shows some
1051 Hilton Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98225
This information was taken directly from their packaging:
CareFRESH Pet Bedding - The safest, healthiest bedding for your pet.
For hamsters, gerbils, mice, rabbits, birds, reptiles, guinea pigs,
cats, dogs, ferrets, skunks and other pets.
CareFRESH is a patented pet bedding made from reclaimed wood pulp waste.
This short fiber virgin pulp can't be made into paper so would normally
be sent to a landfill or burned. CareFRESH helps save scarce resources.
CareFRESH contains no added inks, dyes or chemical contaminants. It's
better bedding, naturally.
I use this bedding for all my small animals, i.e., hamster, rat and
hedgehogs. They have been on this bedding for about a month and seem to
like it quite well. The female hedgehog I just recently got loves to
burrow underneath it, as do the rat and hamster. I previously used corn
cobs as I have allergies and wood chips of any kind make me ill. The dust
in pine is terrible. The corn cobs are pretty good, but they still are a
little dusty and kind of rough. The only downside I found about CareFRESH
bedding is that it is kind of expensive and hard to find. But it does
seem to last quite a while, so maybe in the long run it really is not as
expensive as it seems.
Note: Some problems have been reported with some young hedgehogs eating and
subsequently choking on CareFRESH bedding. I suspect this same problem can
occur with virtually any pelletized bedding material, and the best suggestion
is to keep it away from the dinner area and to be careful with baby and
Yesterday's News cat litter, made of pelletized recycled newspapers, also
works quite well. They produce a variety for `ferrets' which has a smaller
pellet size than the cat litter variety, but I've found no complaints from
the quilled crowd over the larger, cat litter sized pieces. Note: they also
make a `lemon' scented variety, which is probably not a good choice, both
from the aromatic point of view, and the fact that hedgehogs are usually not
overly fond of citrus.
Another suggestion is to just use non-clumping cat litter. This may have two
potential dangers: dust and especially for male hedgehogs, getting caught in
the penile sheath -- the same as if you used it in a litter box [5.4], [9.1]
(there can also be problems for females, though these are not as frequent).
Corncob litter is not recommended as bedding for hedgehogs, for a number of
reasons. The danger of it getting caught in delicate places still exists,
though not as likely as, say, clumping cat litters. There have also been
many cases of mites that pointed back to the use of corncob bedding as the
source. Corncob also tends to become mouldy when it gets damp, as well as
just rotting and causing odour.
Shredded office paper can also be used as bedding, although make sure it
doesn't contain any metal (such as staples or paperclips) or odd chemical
impregnated or carbon paper. It can, however, be quite dusty.
Although most bedding for pets is treated to prevent mites, bedding is still
one of the major sources of these little pests [8.2]. I have heard from a
couple of people who have reported that their vets told them that corn cob
bedding can be especially prone to mite infestations. I do have to temper
that thought with the idea that if a particular brand or batch in the area
that these people lived was bad, it could have been the source for numerous
problems over quite a period of time. Still, if you have mite problems, it
is probably worthwhile to switch to at least a different brand of bedding, if
not a different type -- at least for a while.
Looking still further afield, you can use the brightly coloured aquarium
gravel (the type that is epoxy coated). This is not absorbent like the other
bedding options, nor as warm, but it does provide a pretty safe, and
non-allergic alternative. Cleaning and disinfecting can, however be awkward,
making this better for particular areas rather than as a general bedding.
Subject: <5.4> What kind of litter should I use?
When it comes to the litter box, the primary concern is that you do NOT use a
clumping type litter. Clumping litter can stick to your hedgehog when s/he
uses the litter box, forming almost a layer of cement, which can quickly
Almost any brand of non-clumping cat litter is relatively safe. A clay based
litter may be preferable, as most hedgehogs like to dig in it, as they would
in soft soil or sand. Here again, you should ask the expert (your hedgehog)
for his/her preference.
It is possible, however, for even non-clumping litter to become caked on, so
you should check your hedgehog frequently.
I have seen clay litter clump on one of our hedgehogs. I let her
walk around in the tub full of shallow water until it is softened
enough to remove gently.
-- Mike McGary
Male hedgehogs can also get pieces of almost any kind of litter and bedding
(especially clay and corncob) caught in their penile sheath. You should
check hedgehogs of both sexes daily (or nightly, as the case may be) to
ensure that there aren't any such problems.
As with bedding, there is a need that the litter you use not be too dusty.
Hedgehogs also like to dig and root in sand, and will often end up using
their litter boxes for this, instead of for the intended purpose. If yours
does this, you might want to try offering a sandbox [5.8] as a play area.
Here's yet another option that sounds like it might be cost effective, and
should work well as both litter and bedding (my hedgies still want to know
what the difference is, sigh!).
I use firewood pellets for litter, for the hedgehog, ferrets, and cats,
it's non toxic (aside from pine oil..) cheap, and easily available in
most of the US. I got the idea from a cattery that breeds bengals and
savannah (or serengeti.. they keep changing names..) cats Petsmart uses
it for cats, birds, and small animals but they generally charge 6 dollars
for a 2-3 pound bag... if you go to your local fireplace center or ranch
and home supply, you can get a 50 pound bag for about 4 dollars! It
doesn't clump or stick to the hedgehog, and when they urinate on it, it
fluffs up and absorbs all of it. The ONLY draw back is that it doesn't
absorb odor too well; our cat was sneaking ferret food and was starting
to get very plump and his feces smelled RANK (which is why I'm also
against feeding hedgies ferret food) so we had to switch off of that for
a while till we found out why it was so stinky.
-- Zack Lessley
I can relate to the food theft - my cats sit on top of the hedgehog cage
waiting to pounce on the odd piece of food I lose when feeding them. Taste
is irrelevant. They aren't supposed to have it so it MUST be good. One day
they will get into the cage, and learn, yet again, that ``ones with fur should
not triffle with the ones with quills if one wants one's nose and fur intact.''
Subject: <5.5> I'm having problems litter-training my hedgehog. What should
I be doing?
I wish I knew the answer to this one! Velcro and Popeye insisted that one's
so called master is there for the express purpose of feeding tasty tidbits
then cleaning up the results wherever they decide to leave them. As for the
litter box, well that's just a playpen for digging in, isn't it? On the
other hand, Sprocket and Hocus as well as Pocus seemed to just naturally seek
out and use a litter box, and so do some of my current `ladies,' so there was
no training involved. Now if I could get them to teach Popeye some manners!
That having been said, the recommended approach (which did not receive the
Velcro stamp of approval, I might add) is to put all the droppings you find,
into the litter box, daily. The idea is that the hedgehog will come to
associate the litter box with where the droppings are supposed to go. Some
hedgehogs apparently take to this quite readily.
In all seriousness, I suspect that hedgehogs which are taught from birth to
use a litter box, will generally do so quite happily, while those that have
not been taught, or didn't receive adequate training while quite young may
not be keen on using the litter box, but persistence may pay off eventually.
For what it is worth, cleaning up hedgehog droppings is not exactly a
difficult or messy task. In a pen with pine or aspen shavings it is simply a
matter of quickly sifting though the shavings with a cat litter scoop to
clean up the droppings. Fortunately, there is virtually no odour, and the
droppings are big enough to clean up easily.
In addition to everything above, here are some interesting, and very
promising tips on litterbox training:
I had the same problem [not using the litter box -- ed.] with my
hedgehog Quincy. To resolve the problem, and he still misses the
mark at times, I built a cardboard enclosure with a small entrance
opening to fit over the litter pan in the corner of his cage - He has
one of the small animal corner litter pans. Unable, to resist a small
opening, Quincy soon began doing his business in there. I put him in
there every time he finished eating, and it didn't take long before he
got the idea. Before, I added the cardboard cupboard, he would only use
the litter pan as a ``sandbox,'' and could often be spotted sitting in
the pan, eating the corn cob pellets. Thankfully, he doesn't do that
-- Michelle Baker
Given the appeal of small openings to hedgehogs, it's a wonder why nobody
thought of using that for any number of hedgie herding or training actions.
My thanks to Michelle for this -- I'll definitely give it a try with my
Hot on the heels of the idea above, came the following suggestion from
Neither of my hedgehogs were litter trained when they came home, but I
figured out how to train them. My male was easier to train because I
just put some of her [the female's] waste in his litter pan and of
course he had to cover up someone else's smell, and he never stopped
using it. The female just naturally took to the litter box when I but
it in the corner where she went and she took to it.
This is another fine example of "why didn't I think of that!" I suspect this
would generally work best with males, who tend to be somewhat more
territorial than females, but the idea of using a different hedgie's
droppings to coerce one into knowing where to go has a lot of merit.
As with all things hedgehog, patience is the key. These ideas aren't likely
to result in instant results, so be patient, and keep at it.
Don't expect perfect results, however, hedgehogs are just not going to be
that fastidious about things. There are going to be exceptions, no matter
Some factors that will, however, make `mistakes' worse, are things like
wheels. Remember that hedgehogs feel an almost irresistible need to go while
on the go. As a result, you can often count on wheels becoming an alternate
litterbox (not to mention a poop slingshot of sorts). Some hedgies will also
get into the habit of stopping briefly, to hang their backsides over the edge
of the wheel to `go' making it a bit easier to clean up afterwards.
In the end, there is no magic bullet to getting a hedgehog to use its litter
box. Try the ideas above, and if it doesn't work out, it's not that bad --
trust me, I know!
Subject: <5.6> Hedgehogs and wheels
Most hedgehogs dearly love to run, and a hedgehog wheel provide the
opportunity for plenty of important exercise. Although there are problems
associated with using improper wheels, the positive effects of having and
using a wheel are virtually enough to make one a necessity (unless your
hedgie has free run of an entire room).
One of the most tragic maladies found in hedgehogs these days is Fatty Liver
Disease, though for all the cases I have heard of, none have occurred in
hedgehogs that have and use wheels. This includes cases where siblings have
each had the same diet, but one has not used a wheel, and the other has.
Exercise is very critical to our little friends, and for almost all of them,
the only option available to get them enough exercise is to give them a
Here are a few thoughts on hedgehogs and wheels from Nathan Tenny:
They adore exercise wheels, and will run upwards of five miles a
night (at a top speed of 12 mph!); their feet get stuck in the
regular wire wheels, though, and screen is hard to clean (they
seem to like defecating while on the move, which makes sense, I
All is not wonderful with hedgehog wheels -- there are a few serious problems
that need to be considered.
(1) It is necessary that the wheel have a solid surface.
A hedgehog wheel should not just have a set of wires running across it
as on most wheels for hamsters, gerbils, etc. Without a solid surface,
your hedgehog will get his legs caught in the wheel, and/or develop
sores, or worse problems. There are a number of ways to adapt wire
wheels, so that they have smooth surfaces, from liners to duct tape,
just use your imagination. Having a solid wheel leads us to the next
(2) Hedgehogs tend to leave their droppings all over their wheels:
There's still one pending problem with the hedgehog wheels I've seen:
Hedgehogs tend to defecate on the run (reasonable enough), and the
wheel eventually gets pretty icky. If you don't clean it, so does
the hedgehog. Unfortunately, hedgehog feces stick to wood fairly
effectively (that's quite the understatement -- I'm thinking of
marketing it as a new extra strong glue -- ed.). A heavy coat of
enamel paint makes them easier to clean off, but I'd sure like to
find a surface that they'll just wipe away from. Teflon wheels?
Here's my fiancee's suggestion: If you live near a glass supply
store, you'll find that they sell sheets of a sort of sticky
vinyl---intended as masking for people who sandblast glass.
Anyway, we have one wheel that has strips of this stuff along it,
for traction, and she says that the strips are noticeably easier
to clean than the plain wheel. Just a thought.
-- Nathan Tenny
Velcro's wheel was lined with some cheap vinyl placemats (the smooth,
shiny, padded kind) that were cut into strips and stuck together with
anti-slip strips (sort of like self adhesive sandpaper to put on stairs
and things to keep people from sliding away). The anti-slip strips were
there as a vain attempt to help Velcro keep his nails worn down a little.
It wasn't too slippery, and definitely passed the Velcro approval test
(by that, I mean it needed a thorough cleaning most mornings)!
(3) Pad any spokes you have on your wheel.
Hedgehogs have a tendency to suddenly look around to the sides and
behind while they are running -- to see how far they've gone. This
almost always results in getting hit in the face with a spoke from the
wheel. Unfortunately I know of at least one hedgehog who has lost an
eye because of this (the hedgehog is fine -- it was properly treated by
a vet). The only sensible solution I can see is to pad the spokes so
that they don't cause injuries when they hit, or if you are really
inventive, maybe design a spokeless wheel, maybe suspended on a roller
from the top of the cage?
I received a reminder recently, from Teresa, that to help cure a squeaky
wheel, you can use petroleum jelly, and not have to worry about any harmful
consequences from it being licked at by a curious hedgehog. I know from
experience what happens to your nerves when a wheel (or two, or three, or...)
is squeaking, when you're trying to get to sleep. ;-} I've also found that
both Linatone and vegetable oil will work, but they do tend to become sticky
over time, while petroleum jelly usually will not, and tends to last longer.
For those of you who do not feel up to tackling the job of constructing your
own (see section [5.7], if you are up to it), there are a number of sources of
ready made wheels for hedgehogs and suitable for them. Unfortunately, few
pet stores carry wheels that can be used for hedgehogs, even with adaptation,
so it is usually necessary to revert to mail-order, or to building your own.
Probably the most common wheels are the RoundAbout wheels by Balanced
Innovations. Balanced Innovations is now owned by Ain't No Creek Ranch
[2.8], so they are probably one of the best sources for these wheels.
Ain't No Creek Ranch
2553 W Offner Road
Phone: (708) 946-9750
Fax: (708) 534-3277
RoundAbout wheels are also available from Brisky Pet Products:
Brisky Pet Products
South Main Street
P.O. Box 186
Franklinville, NY 14737
phone: 1-800-462-2464 (toll free, US only)
or: (716) 557-2464
fax: (716) 557-2336
Other sources for hedgehog safe wheels are places such as Transoniq Wodent
Wheels (my thanks here to John Masinter for the info). These wheels are
enclosed with round openings. The larger wheels are big enough for hedgies,
but you may need to enlarge the openings for many hedgies -- especially if
the reason for the wheel is to trim down a plump hedgehog. You can contact
them through email at wodent-webersREMOVE_TO_SEND@transoniq.com or via:
1402 SW Upland Drive
Portland, OR 97221
toll-free hotline: 1-800-548-8925. This line is automated, so be
ready with your charge number, name and address, and order items.
Haba Exotics also make an innovative, and very safe wheel, which avoids both
the problems of spokes and non-solid running surface.
Haba Exotic Animals and Enclosures
17650 1st Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98148
phone: (206) 244-0285
fax: (206) 248-7205
Subject: <5.7> Making your own wheel
There are a wealth of ways to make your own wheel(s) for hedgehogs. This can
be a fun, and easy project, and can save you considerable costs -- especially
if you're on a budget or have a number of hedgies to equip. This section
contains a number of ideas on how to go about it. The keys are to make sure
you get something big enough, and with a safe, solid surface to run on -- and
something that won't keep you and half the neighbourhood up all night. ;-)
Here are some rough pointers on making your own hedgehog wheel from Nathan
We've begun making wooden wheels out of Popsicle sticks and cross-stitch
circles (the 12'' size; 10'' is just slightly too small). The axle is a
thin dowel, and the spokes are just lengths of plywood (1'' x 0.5'', I
think). Depending on where it's being set up, such a wheel can be
mounted in a bunch of different ways -- hung from the top of the tank
[or cage], for instance.
Chuck Stoup passed along the following variation on building a wheel that
Over the weekend I made a hedgehog wheel as described in the hedgehog
FAQ. I made several improvements that I thought I'd share with everyone.
On the FAQ the treadmill was made with Popsicle sticks. I picked up some
of the plastic grid in the sewing store that is used for yarn rugs and
the like. I cut several strips the width of the treadmill and used a
string to tie them together so its length was just longer than the
circumference of the embroidery hoops. I used 2 9'' hoops. Then I
wrapped the plastic mesh around the inner hoops and secured it with the
outer hoop and tightened. Then I cut some sand paper lengthwise just
wide enough to fit in the treadmill of the wheel. I used a hot glue gun
to hold the paper down. Brillo seems to really like it.
I used sand paper for two reasons. The first was the [editor] of the
FAQ mentioned about this great adhesive quality of hedgehog dung and how
they seem to defecate on the run. I figured sand paper would make an
excellent surface that I can remove and discard when it gets too dirty.
The plastic wont mind getting wet either. The other reason I used sand
paper was I figured if Brillo used it she would wear down her nails and
I would not have to trim her.
If you are going to use sandpaper, you should make sure you are using a very
fine grade (probably 400 or higher grit), and you should also watch out for
foot problems. Some hedgehogs can run their feet raw, or even to the point
of bleeding (yes, they are that insistent on running, that even bleeding feet
won't give them pause to stop). If this happens, remove the sandpaper.
When I asked Chuck about using this information he also sent along the some
more good ideas:
As you know, I used that plastic mesh for the running surface, but I
didn't have spokes that I thought were any good. At one point I decided
that the same plastic mesh would make a good set of spokes. I cut two
pieces shaped like a cross and tied the tips of the cross to the mesh on
the wheel. To mount the axle I bought some eye-lets for clothing and
swaged them in the center of the mesh as a hub and used a coat hanger as
an axle. Runs very smoothly with no noise.
I'm not sure about using the 9'' hoops (ours are 14'', and that seems just
right), but that depends entirely on the size of your hedgehog, and the
amount of space you have available. The whole idea certainly sounds easier
than the Popsicle stick method.
From Tirya come more ideas on do-it-yourself hedgehog wheels:
We bought a Ferret wheel at the local pet shop - they're like hamster
wheels, only about 10'' in diameter instead of 6'' (some say ferret
wheel, some call them rat wheels). We also got some plastic canvas
from a craft shop - the kind used to make needlepoint and
cross-stitching stuff. It's flexible plastic with a gridwork of holes
and comes in a variety of colors (we used black so it wouldn't show
dirt). We cut wheel-wide strips of the plastic canvas and sewed them
inside the wheel, so the hhog would run on it instead of on the wire
cross-spokes. Our wheel ended up being 33 canvas squares across, and
it took 2 1/3 strips to go all the way around the inside.
We also took some plastic aquarium tubing (the clear plastic stuff used
to get air to ornaments and such), slit it open on one side, slipped it
over the cross supports of the wheel (where the stand goes in), and
hot-glued it in place to make a little bit of a buffer in case Brillo
turned her head and got hit by the metal cross supports while she was
One point of caution is that hedgies can get their toenails caught in the
plastic canvas holes (I have found this out the hard way, along with others
passing on similar experiences). Many hedgies will do just fine on it,
Kathy and Donald Zepp have also allowed me to add their variation on the
do-it-yourself hedgehog wheel:
We have made wheels for our herd of 60 Hhogs by weaving plastic gutter
screen through the metal bars of commercial wheels. This stuff (designed
to keep leaves out of gutters) is cheap, easy to work with, easy to clean,
readily available, and seems to provide perfectly adequate footing. We
simply scissor-cut it to length, weave it in & out, and then fasten the
ends together with a little hot glue. Quick, cheap, & easy.
Yet another variation on the d-i-y wheel comes from Ken Steigenberger:
About the running wheels. What I do, from the advice of a friend, is
cut a length of old jean material and weave it through every third or
fourth spoke. Josie seems to have no problem with this. I also have
three or four extra strips. changing them every two days. Then all I
have to do is wash them on laundry day.
Finally, Randy Starcher has set up the following web page which shows how to
construct a wheel (and the end result in happy use).
For those of you unable to visit the site, the basic premise is the bottom of
a plastic bucket, mounted on its side. This makes for a very safe wheel, and
one that is easy to clean. The mounting can be done to a cage frame, or to a
simple stand. The hardest part is to make sure the bucket can rotate freely
enough, without wobbling too badly, or coming apart. Innovation is almost a
necessity when trying to look after hedgehogs.
Subject: <5.8> Any suggestions on toys?
Hedgehogs like to explore, and in spite of appearing to have almost nothing
in the leg department, their legs are actually quite long (as you may be
amazed to see during scratching and/or the contortions that accompany
self-anointing [7.1]). Whether because of their long legs (or maybe that's
why they are so long...), hedgehogs like to explore and run. Probably the
best toy for most hedgehogs is a proper hedgehog wheel [5.6] and [5.7], which
most hedgehogs will run on.
Aside from wheels, another toy that is recommended by numerous people is a
toilet paper tube (preferably, without the toilet paper still attached).
Many hedgehogs will pick this up and carry it or push it around for ages.
Beware though, certain hedgehogs, who will go nameless (but whose initials
were Velcro) managed to get an overly busy nose stuck in these and after
completely destroying the cage, had to be helped free in the morning.
You might want to make a cut through from end to end, and possibly even bevel
the corners of the cut a bit to make sure your clumsy little friend doesn't
get stuck and/or hurt himself.
Another favorite `toy' for hedgehogs is a sandbox or grass plots. Here are
some more detailed descriptions from Mary Anne, courtesy of a keeper of
nocturnal animals at a nearby zoo:
[One idea] was to dig up clumps of sod with tall grass growing and place
them in the area for the hogs to root in. She said live mealworms would
burrow in the clumps and the hedgies would root for them. These sod
clumps should be fairly dry like the wild hedgie environment. [There is
some chance that this might allow parasites to be brought into the house,
a fact that even Mary Anne considered. The chances of this are fairly
low, but they do exist. -- ed.] We have not tried this yet but we DID
try her other suggestion -- to provide a sandy area for the hogs to roll
around in (like bird dust baths). It is natural mite-control and our
hogs LOVE it. We bought 12'' plastic flowerpot saucers and a 50 lb bag
of playsand (this has the silica washed out -- silica can cause lung
problems). An inch or two of sand in a saucer provides a good bath. Our
hedgehogs twist, turn and boogie in the sand -- it's fun to watch. From
what I've read, some hedgehogs do this sort of thing in kitty litter
[you better believe they do - ed.] -- the added advantage of sand is that
it's more like their natural environment and helps keep them clean while
discouraging mites. Hope this info helps you and your hedgies enjoy each
other even more.
One idea that I've rather shamelessly lifted from Dawn Wrobel is the idea of
a playpen. In her case she uses plastic kids' wading pools, with some
shavings in the bottom, and a bunch of toys scattered around in the pool.
This makes a great place to explore and to let various hedgehogs meet on
neutral ground. Her idea has actually evolved into a fun sort of contest at
many hedgehog shows and gatherings, these days, where the hedgie who
`explores' the most toys and objects, wins. In any case, even inflatable
pools work very well for this -- just beware not to use the wading pools with
the built in escape ramps (also known as slides).
Shelley Small passed along the following suggestion for a different kind of
hedgehog ``pool'' that her hedgehog loves to play in:
[His pool is] what I call his Rubbermaid box with the Styrofoam
popcorn in it since he sure does love to ``swim'' in it!!)
If you offer your hedgie a foam-pool, just make sure the container is low
enough that he can manage to get back out again, after a grand old burrowing
session. You should also make sure that you supervise the activity, both in
case your little friend gets into trouble, and in case he escapes (now would
a hedgehog do that?!?!) One other thought -- make sure the foam chips don't
give off a strong odour, or they may have much the same dangerous side
effects as cedar bedding [5.3]. It might also be a good idea to watch out
that your hedgie doesn't eat any of the foam, as it could cause intestinal
As far as other toys go, hedgehogs do like to climb, even on something as low
as a hollow log turned upside down. Be careful that your hedgehog isn't
likely to fall and hurt itself. I would also expect that wire frame climbing
levels, as are in some cages available for small animals would be better off
being covered with something to make a solid surface (to keep busy little
hedgehog legs from slipping through and getting caught, and to limit just
where the little demons decide to do their climbing).
From Finland, Marcin Dobrucki has the following idea for toys, that is
especially good for those who can/do let their hedgies run free:
More toy stuff: the other hedgie owners are are familiar with have
implemented a system of boxes along their stairs, and some cardboard
pipes between them. The pipes are such as used for rolling up maps, or
drawing paper and stuff. The hedgies seem to love ``sliding down'' the
pipe, then climbing back up, and going down again. Some stick-on
sandpaper at the bottom of the pipe assures a breaking point.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
6. *** Basic hedgehog care and training ***
Subject: <6.1> How can I best hedgehogproof my home?
Simple, make sure there's nothing to climb onto, off of, into, or out of,
nothing that can fall, and finally no kryptonite. A little too much to ask,
you say? Oh well, let's try for a more realistic approach based on what
hedgehogs will try to do if allowed to run free.
Seriously, ``hedgehogproofing'' is a lot like ``childproofing,'' and the most
that you can ever really hope to achieve is to ``hedgehog-resist'' your home.
Hence, the stress on supervising your prickly kids, below.
A free roaming hedgehog will climb anything it can get its claws hooked into.
African pigmy hedgehogs in particular (as opposed to Egyptian hedgehogs) are
notorious climbers, and escape artists. They are also not afraid of jumping
off household cliffs (we call these precipices counters and tables) by simply
rolling into a ball and leaning forward, using the quills as springs for
landing. That pretty much means your hedgehog needs run of the floor, and if
you have stairs, you will either have to block them or keep him on the lowest
Next, hedgehogs will get under just about anything they can. This includes
any piece of furniture that has any more than about a 1'' gap between it and
the floor. The problem here isn't so much the hedgehog getting under there,
but that there may be dust or other things accumulated there that are not
good for your hedgehog.
The best guide is probably to get down to the hedgehog's level and try to
imagine any place your frisky little friend might even consider trying to get
into, and what it would be like.
Beyond keeping these activities in mind, make sure your hedgehog has a warm
place that's easily accessible for a den, as well as access to water and
food. Hedgehogs will usually prefer to leave their droppings on wood
shavings or a similar bedding, if, that is, you are as successful (or rather
unsuccessful) as I have been in the litter box training department (at least
as I was with Velcro).
Although Ambergris has sawdust that she uses 1/2 the time, she also
has chosen 2 other spots in her room for droppings. I put paper
towels there. So far that is working great and she is not tracking
saw dust everywhere.
-- Katherine Long
Subject: <6.2> What should I feed my hedgehog?
Anything he wants, preferably MEALWORMS!!!
Sigh, that's what happens when I ask for advice from a hedgehog.
There are finally a number of good quality, properly developed ``hedgehog
foods'' starting to appear on the market. While I have outlined these in the
following section [6.3], I can see things soon reaching the point where using
one of these foods will no longer be the `best' thing to do, but the `only'
appropriate course of action. Unfortunately, they are not yet well
established or widely available, enough, for me to take that position.
Without the benefit of a properly formulated hedgehog food, the next best
option is probably ``insectivore food.'' Unless you can get some direct from
a local zoo, this is largely a do it yourself job. One caveat I would place
on this is to either cook it, or use cooked meat -- never never NEVER use raw
meat or egg for hedgehogs. One commercial source of this `type' of food is
Unfortunately, true hedgehog food is not available everywhere, and some of
the `hedgehog' foods available appear to not always be the best option. So
the next best widely available thing, is to feed your hedgehogs high quality
cat, dog, or ferret food, such as Hill's Science Diet, or Pro Plan (don't use
IAMS with hedgehogs that don't have and use wheels -- see below, though even
then it can possibly be associated with problems). Both dry and canned food
should be provided, as this most closely matches what their natural diet
would be like, and wherever possible, it is best to use diet or light types
of food -- hedgehogs do not need the concentrated protein of
regular/maintenance type foods.
Many breeders I have talked to use cat food with very good results, although
most have now changed (or are changing) to hedgehog foods, so while it may
not be the most optimal diet for hedgehogs, now that other options are coming
available, many happy, healthy, long-lived hedgehogs have thrived on cat and
dog food since the dawn of pet hedgehogs. That said, there are some problems
associated with it (see section [9.5] on wobbly hedgehogs). It seems likely
that some sort of vitamin supplement is needed, though exactly what vitamins
or trace elements are lacking is not really known, at this time.
Up to this point, it has generally been felt that using a diet composed
mainly of dry foods is best to help avoid tooth problems such as tartar
buildup, and even abscesses. Research into other animals has recently begun
to point out that problems such as tartar appear to be more related to the pH
(acidity) of the food being used, rather than how hard and crunchy it is. My
thanks to Leslie H. for reminding me that this almost certainly applies to
hedgehogs as well as other animals. As she also pointed out, the ``issue of
hedgie teeth wearing down'' (which can happen in some cases), is likely as
much or more of a concern as tartar, and is much harder to deal with, when it
Dietary needs for hedgehogs are finally starting to be addressed. One such
recent study demonstrated that hedgehogs need more fibre in their diet than
we have been tending to give them. Unfortunately, while the study pointed
out that more is needed, the question of how much and how best to provide the
extra fibre is still up in the air.
In general, it is likely wise to offer your hedgehogs some fruit and/or
veggies which are high in fibre, as a supplement to the basic diet you are
currently using. I can only suggest that you try a variety and see what, if
any, your little friends will decide qualifies as a food item. As with any
such experimentation, moderation is a good idea -- at least until more is
known. The good news is that we are learning, and hopefully hedgehog
nutrition will start to move out of the dark ages.
Over the past several years, information has come to light about possible
problems with feeding IAMS brand cat and kitten food to hedgehogs.
Apparently, long term feeding of IAMS cat or kitten food can result in
severe, and often terminal liver problems in hedgehogs. The exception to
this rule appears to be hedgehogs that have and use wheels -- almost no
reports of problems have appeared in hedgehogs like this that are getting
plenty of exercise (just a nightly run on a bed is not enough). I have had
two reports where the autopsies showed fatty liver disease, where the
hedgehogs ate IAMS and also ran on wheels regularly, but so far, only two
such case have come to my attention. I do want to stress that this is still
largely speculative, and reflects my own observations of the cases I am aware
of. I will keep watching this issue, and keep things updated here.
The problem appears to be limited to IAMS brand as far as research has been
able to tell, at this point, and I want to STRONGLY stress that IAMS is just
GREAT for cats (as all 5 of mine will attest to), but was never intended for
hedgehogs. If I learn more, I will pass along any additional information.
My source for this information is somewhat nervous about potential legal
repercussions if they came out and officially stated the problem, due to the
position that they hold. This tenuous position will likely remain, at least
until having done much more extensive research (actual, direct research into
the problem would require the cost of numerous hedgehog lives, I might add,
which is one reason why none has been done). As a result of all of this, I
have agreed not to list their name(s). That said, I will acknowledge that my
source(s) for this information is/are (a) well respected hedgehog
expert(s). I leave it to you to decide based on some of the comments that
were passed to me.
The first sign of trouble in hedgehogs that have been fed this
food for extended periods of time is yellowish looking fat deposits
under the front ``arm-pits''. Virtually every one of the animals that
has been necropsied after death has died of impacted fatty liver
disease. If taken off of IAMS and given a [different] quality cat or
kitten food, they will recover. Both the fat and the protein should be
derived mostly from poultry.
[I] have heard of this serious problem from more than 100 owners and
it has been documented by vets.
If you have been using IAMS, don't panic -- as was pointed out, changing the
food will apparently lead to any of the effects clearing up. Also if a wheel
is offered and used, the problem is likely to dissipate quickly.
From what I've heard, the problem is due to the types of fat, and possibly in
conjunction with certain additives, rather than just the absolute level of
fat in the food. My thanks to Christine Porter for pointing out this
confusion. As noted, the problem generally only occurs with hedgehogs that
don't get enough exercise. Increasing the exercise seems to allow hedgehogs
to burn this fat that would otherwise build up in their bodies, culminating
in Fatty Liver Disease. While all hedgehogs should probably have a proper
wheel [5.6] [5.7], a wheel is likely critical to those that are eating IAMS,
and can't be switched to a different food.
I should also point out that if, indeed, the problem is due in any part to
the additives, or the type of fats, rather than just the quantity of fat,
then use of lite, or canned food would have no effect on avoiding problems.
The following information, from Elizabeth Galante, is somewhat speculative
with respect to hedgehogs, but may have some bearing on the fatty liver
problems. She described a problem that resulted in the death of one of her
cats a few years ago from fatty liver disease:
The fat in his body started to accumulate in the liver and the liver could
not function normally, because it was overloaded with fat deposits.
I guess for a hedgehog if it gets too much fat too quickly then it gets
deposited under the arms. If the owner decides to put the hog on a
diet then the fat gets processed through the liver. If it gets
overloaded it shuts down and eventually the kidneys will also causing
the animal to die.
It is not unreasonable to consider that a slight diet, or drop in food intake
at the wrong moment could trigger the problem. It might be wise to ensure
that you don't put your hedgies on a diet at the same time as switching them
off of IAMS, or at least to phase it out, rather than going cold turkey.
Again, this is speculative, but with so little information to go on in this
area, anything can be useful to consider at this point.
Hedgehogs not fed a good, balanced, commercial hedgehog food may require
vitamin suppliments. These can be very important for hedgehogs to avoid ear,
skin, and other problems. The vitamins included in commercial cat and dog
food, while good, are not adequate for what hedgehogs really require. It can
take some imagination to find a suitable supplement in some places (remember,
those intended for rodents are probably not adequate) but the results of a
happy, healthy hedgehog are well worth it.
I would suggest that for people seeking a vitamin supplement to use, look to
those formulated for animals which live on a primarily insect diet, such as
some birds. Also, beware not to overdo the vitamins, which can be even more
dangerous, than too little.
Another diet that has been suggested is to use high quality dog food
(especially frozen varieties), with cottage cheese as a supplement. Cottage
cheese also makes for a good treat on occasion, even if you don't use it as
part of the standard diet.
However, do be a bit wary of the Cottage Cheese Zack Lessley reminded me that
that hedgehogs ARE loctose intolerant, as are many animals. So use cottage
cheese (or any milk based product) with care and sparingly. Zack also notes
that you might also want to be wary of Kitten food for the same reason. While
many are not going to contain cows milk products directly (cats and kittens
are also lactose intolerant with respect to cows milk), kitten food is just
not an ideal diet for hedgehogs.
Here are a couple of comments on diet from Cathy A. Johnson-Delaney, DVM:
I was very glad to see you mention ferret food, as commercial ferret
food is far closer to an insectivore/carnivore diet than feline
science diet - either growth or maintenance. I like a modification of
the diet used by the San Jose Zoo (published in the Journal of Small
Exotic Animal Med) - I substitute Bird of Prey diet with the ferret
chow (three different brands).
Since this time I have learned that some brands of ferret food `can' cause
allergic reactions in hedgehogs.
The reactions to ferret food are the same as they are with any food that
a hedgehog may be allergic to. They break out in a rash. It sometimes
appears over the back and can be mistaken for mites or ringworm, but it
usually shows up on the underbelly. Nice big, sore red spots all over.
-- Bryan Smith
Obviously, if any sign of these symptoms does appear, discontinue feeding the
ferret food you are using immediately. It would also be prudent for your
hedgehog to visit a vet at this point as allergic reactions can be quite
Continuing on with the topic of Ferrit food, now that there are actually a
number of decent hedgehog foods available, Zack Lessley pointed out that many
Ferret foods are often too high in fats, etc. to be good for hedgies:
Ferret food- one of the most common problems with hedgehogs is obesity
and fatty liver disease. I have ferrets, and have given my hedgie the
food but honestly it's WAY too rich and fatty for them in my humble
opinion. Ferrets are very oily little critters that love oily food and
oil (see Feretone.. they go crazy for that stuff)
-- Zack Lessley
This does not imply that all ferret food should be avoided -- far from it --
but that you should be watchful when you start using a particular brand.
Here are some more thoughts and suggestions from Nathan Tenny on food and
They should eat fruit, but many don't want to; various fruit-based
baby foods seem a little more palatable. Cottage cheese is a good
semi-regular source of calcium, but seems to cause diarrhea if they
eat too much too often. We haven't yet gotten ours to eat crickets,
but we're assured that they will if we keep offering them, and they're
supposed to be very good for them. They'll also eat earthworms and
pinky mice, and possibly mealworms (though the last are reputed to
cause intestinal blockages).
Other sources and hedgehog owners I've heard from frequently offer mealworms
as treats with no apparent ill effects, but I suspect they might not be a
good recommendation as the sole source of food for a hedgehog.
Mealworms are used as a treat. So far she won't eat crickets and
earthworms cause anointing. She will eat the occasional flake of
oatmeal which is substrate for the mealworms and will chew and then
spit out Kale.
-- Katherine Long
One caution that has come up is that you should remove and discard any dead
mealworms from the container you keep them in. It is possible for the other
mealworms to develop and pass along dangerous bacteria as recounted here:
[I] Observed [my] hedgehog ``Bandi'' had not consumed either food or
drink from overnight Monday into Tuesday morning. Peeked under her
blanket to see a very lethargic and distressed animal. She remained in
a ball and hissed, refused to uncurl, and observed her ``smacking'' her
lips and kind of allowing her tongue to just loll out weakly.
[I] Got her into the vet within a couple of hours and it was determined
that she had very high levels of bacteria in her intestine (found after
putting her out and doing a rectal swab.) Cause appears to be a common
bacteria associated with decaying insects (mealworms in this case) and it
overtaxed her system. Antibiotics [were] prescribed and am pleased to
report she was her normal self by Wednesday afternoon!
It was the vet who noted all insects carry the bacteria, and all hedgehogs
also have a quantity of the bacteria, but our vet said the decay process
makes it a little harder on the hedgehog gut to handle.
-- H. Swaggert
All in all a very wise precaution, and an example of someone who was observant
enough to know when their hedgie needed help. The result was a happy ending
and good information for all of us.
While we are discussing mealworms, a number of people have expressed worry
that it might be necessary to cut the heads off or otherwise kill mealworms
before feeding them to hedgehogs. This is due to the fact that feeding them
to various herps who swallow their food whole, can result in the still live
mealworms causing injury or death by biting into or through the stomach
lining. This doesn't apply to hedgehogs as hedgies will chew up mealworms
quite thoroughly -- the chances of a hedgehog swallowing a still live
mealworm are nil, as anyone who has watched an apparently ravenous hedgehog
tear into a mealworm treat. Did I remember to say watch out for your
The following thoughts on proper diet for hedgehogs were sent along to me by
Willard B. ``Skip'' Nelson, DVM. While I agree with his suggestions,
including limiting cat food, I would also like to point out that all of the
breeders I've talked with, and heard about have had their herds thrive on a
diet of cat and dog food, though more and more are now using proper hedgehog
food, as it becomes more widely available. I think the answer is to aim as
close to the ideal as you can, but know that your hedgehog can do quite well
on the basic cat/dog food diet, just watch out that your hedgehog doesn't
become a hedgeball. That said, let's take a look at what Dr. Nelson has to
Zoos have worked for years on insectivore diets and have yet to agree
on the best mix, but they do not bother trying to raise, breed or
maintain hedgehogs on cat food, as is being touted around currently.
Indeed, they rarely use more than 20 or 30% cat food, even in small cat
diets, but that hasn't stopped the ferret and hedgehog people from
trying. I see obesity as the main problem in cat food diets, but one
day we will have more data. Dr. Anthony Smith recommends a mix of bird
of prey diet, diced fruit, vegetables, some dog or cat food, crickets
and mealworms. He notes diets including mice and other exotic
ingredients, and cautions feeding proper Calcium Phosphorous ratio of
Pet trade magazines attempt to promote cat food, claiming that ``although
insectivorous, the hedgehog could be considered as a carnivore under
captive conditions.'' What does it do, change its dietary needs when
brought into a domestic setting? I doubt it!
Drs. Wallach & Boever describe their diet including a variety of insects,
worms, small vertebrates, carrion and small roots and plant material.
They recommend zoo diets with a maximum of 30% commercial cat or dog
foods. The rest is meats, insects and mice.
I recommend an insectivore diet from Reliable Protein, 70-105 Frank
Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270-2202. But I don't recommend that
clients write for information and then try to decide whether or not to
feed it. The public is being hoodwinked into believing that they are
Ph.D.'s in nutrition and can read a label list of ingredients or a crude
analysis and make meaningful decisions, it's much more involved than
that, and I don't know who has written any good material on the ``pop
nutrition'' craze to put it into proper perspective.
Dr. Nelson's final comment is even easier to apply to other pets, and even
ourselves. It's probably best to look for recommendation by a veterinarian
association, when trying to determine quality, rather than trying to second
guess what is good based on what ``someone who wants to sell you something''
says. Also, remember, what's healthy for you, might be really bad for your
pets (and, um, er, vice versa -- just in case it isn't obvious).
Melissa Kallick managed to track down the contents and analsys of Reliable
Protein Insectivore Diet:
Porcine By-Products, Fish Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Shrimp Meal,
Wheat Flour, Dried Bakery Products, Crushed Roasted Peanuts, Dried
Kelp, Fructose Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Water, Spirulina, Lactic
Acid, Phosphoric Acid, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Iodized
Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Concentrated Carotene, Calcium Chloride,
Propylene Glycol, Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Vitamin A Acetate
with D-Activated Animal Sterol (source of vitamin D-3), Vitamin B-12
Supplement, Riboflavin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Choline
Chloride, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (source of Vitamin K
activity), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamin Mononitrate, Ascorbic
Acid, Sodium Selenite, Manganous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper
Sulfate, Ethylene Diamine Dihydriodide., Magnesium Sulfate, P-Amino
benzoic Acid, Folic Acid, Sulfur, Biotin, Natural and Artificial Flavors.
Now with taurine added
Crude Protein Min...20.00%
Calcium (CA) Min.....2.00%
Crude Fat Min........7.00%
Phosphorous (P) Min...1.00%
Crude Fiber Max.......6.00%
Melissa noted there are definitely some iffy items on the ingredients list,
at least by human standards, but more importantly, she noted that hedgehogs
apparently don't find the taste terriby appealing. However, hedgies can be
amazingly fickle and will suddenly decide to devour a food they used to
despise (and yes, turn their noses up at food they used to love).
She also noted that the Reliable Protein have another interesting item:
Finally, there is one interesting product on their web site: Freeze
dried Asian tree ants and eggs. Here is the info:
Ants available - Freeze Dried or Frozen
Crude Protein.....55.5 %
Crude Fat.........20.5 %
Crude Fiber.......12.0 %
Asian Tree Ants and eggs...100 %
That might make a good treat for hedgies, and there is some more fiber...
-- Melissa Kallick
One thing you should never feed hedgehogs is raw meat. Hedgehogs have an
amazing tolerance for naturally occurring toxins, such as those produced by
salmonella. This means that if you feed your hedgehog food that is or
becomes tainted by salmonella by accident, it probably won't bother your
prickly little friend any. However, the chance then exists, that your
hedgehog might self-anoint and you then hold him, or he might lick your
hands, the result being that you come down with it. If you do, this is NOT
the hedgehog's fault, it's yours for not taking proper care. Sorry for being
a bit testy about this, but if anyone remembers the outcry over salmonella
carrying turtles in the early 70's when turtles were banned everywhere, and
many died for their dangers. Hedgehogs, unlike these turtles, are not
inherent carriers of salmonella. While there has been a strain traced to
hedgehogs, unlike the turtle situation in the 70's most hedgehogs that have
been tested have proven to be free of salmonella. The cases which did occur,
were very isolated, limited to specific groups, and happened some years ago.
It is very important to avoid the same thing that happened with turtles from
being applied to hedgehogs, where the situation is very very different.
Hedgehogs are insectivores, and as a result are essentially carnivorous, as
opposed to Guinea pigs, rabbits, and most small rodents, which are generally
much more vegetarian in nature (although many are somewhat carnivorous, often
in the form of insects or scavenging to some degree).
The quantity they eat will vary depending on their age, sex, amount of
exercise, etc., and, of course, on the type of food you are feeding them. A
rough rule of thumb is somewhere around 2 tablespoons worth per hedgehog per
day. More if they are young, pregnant, or nursing. Less if they are tending
towards becoming a hedgeball.
Hedgehogs do tend to eat at least twice per day. In effect, their stomachs
don't hold all that they need in one go, so after their dinner, they tend to
rest for some time while they digest what they've eaten, then it's back to
the dinner bowl for another helping, usually later in the night, or early
morning. This is what leads to the two main ``active'' periods of late
evening and early morning.
One last point, feeding a hedgehog a purely vegetarian diet is nothing short
of deliberate cruelty. The proteins and nutrients necessary to keep your
hedgehog healthy cannot be gotten from a purely vegetarian diet, so please
don't try it.
Subject: <6.3> Commercial hedgehog foods and nutrition
After a number of early attempts, there are finally a number of good quality
hedgehog foods showing up on the market. It will take time for these to
actually spread around and become more available, but it is starting, and the
results are very encouraging. Within the next couple of years, I expect that
the only answer to the question of what to feed a hedgehog will be `hedgehog
food' at last.
Accu-Feed is available is from Brisky Pet Products. This hedgehog food
appears to have been well thought out and is far more appropriately
formulated than many of the earlier foods on the market. Brisky Pets sells
by direct mail-order, and is in the process of setting up distributors, so
that it can be available in pet stores. You can contact them at:
Brisky Pet Products
South Main Street
P.O. Box 186
Franklinville, NY 14737
phone: 1-800-462-2464 (toll free, US only)
or: (716) 557-2464
fax: (716) 557-2336
Along with the food comes plenty of information on feeding, and on how to
help convert your picky pricklier over to a new diet. Brisky Pets seems to
be very friendly and responsive and many people have reported good results
with the food. My thanks to Jon Simmons for helping arrange things with
Brisky Pets to be shipable to Canada, and for getting me most of this
Brisky's has also come out with a flavoured variety of its hedgehog food to
help solve some of the problems with overly spoiled and very picky hedgehogs.
Because of Dick Brisky's insistence on using only natural ingredients and
flavourings, it took a while to find something that would work. The solution
appeared to be garlic, and the new garlic flavoured Accu-Feed is apparently
much easier to switch picky hedgehogs to.
Brisky Pets hedgehog food was being distributed in Canada by Jenny Jones at
Markham Creek Exotic Pets (covering Ontario and presumably Eastern Canada),
and by Brenda Basinger at ABC Pet Products (covering Western Canada), though
I'm not sure if either still act as the distributors. If you have no luck
with them, you can always contact Brisky Pets at the address above.
Markham Creek Exotic Pets
10966 Ninth Line
Canada L6B 1A8
Tel: (905) 642-4753
ABC Pet Products
195 McDonald Blvd,
Canada L7J 1A9
Local: (519) 853-1966
FAX: (519) 853-9981
The `flavoured' version of this food does highlight the biggest problem with
this food in that it is not considered very `tasty' to many hedgehogs. In
fact many simply will not eat it -- especially, if they are used to something
with much more flavour, like cat food. The food also tends to be rather dry,
which only serves to increase its lack of appeal to these hedgies. Possibly
dampening it slightly might help increase the appeal.
I've had a number of people tell me that Accu-Feed also seems to cause much
greater quantities of droppings, which are much softer than other foods. In
light of recent studies suggesting that greater quantities of fibre are
needed in hedgehog diets, I can only say that this food probably best
addresses this problem, and that overly dry or hard droppings are much more
likely to result in health problems. If anything, small hard droppings
should be more of a worry.
Another excellent hedgehog food that is on the market is Select Diet (not to
be confused with Science Diet cat/dog foods). This, like Brisky's Accu-Feed,
is a complete hedgehog food, meaning you don't need any supplements with it.
It does seem more palatable to most hedgehogs than the basic Accu-Feed's
does, but it is also harder to find, as yet. There are starting to be a
couple of distributors, but they are still few and far between.
I personally was using Select Diet (for the hedgies -- before anyone gets
any wise ideas!), and found that even my overly picky eaters seemed to like
it. While I do like the Brisky's, most of my hedgehogs just wouldn't eat it
(I have not tried the flavoured variety), but they do have a reputation for
not eating things which are good for them (sigh!). So far the results have
been great, with happy, healthy, and very active hedgehogs.
Courtesy of Dawn Wrobel, I've heard of another new hedgehog food that is
apparently on the market, now, called Ultra-Blend Select, from a company
called 8 IN 1 Pet Products. The early indications are that this food is very
good, and it does appeal to most hedgehogs it has been tried on. The biggest
advantage to this food is availability -- it appears to be showing up in
major pet supply chains, and should prove to be easier to find than most
other hedgehog foods, at least for the time being.
8 IN 1 Pet Products also produces an Ultra-Blend Fruit N' Veggie Treat for
hedgehogs. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this in the same way as the
actual hedgehog food. Whoever formulated this `treat' clearly did not bother
to learn much about hedgehogs before tossing it together. Among its contents
are whole sunflower seeds (in the shell), and dried corn kernels. Not only
will hedgehogs not eat these, the risk of them getting caught in the roof of
their mouth is great enough that these should be removed before putting the
rest into the hedgehog's bowl. I've had several reports of hedgies having to
have these removed (not necessarily from this particular `treat' food), and
even a couple dying from this. None of my hedgies would even touch it. It
got a thorough paws-down on being a hedgehog `treat' -- something I've heard
from others who've also tried it with their hedgehogs.
In December 2006, we found another new (to me) hedgehog food at one of larger
pet stores where we live called Sunseed, Sunscription Vita Hedgehog Formula,
African Species. This certainly has the appearance of something that is made
for hedgehogs, based on the content (it's primary ingredients are Fish, Shrimp,
Crab meal and Mealworms) being primarily protein based. It's also in very
convenient sized pellets (very small, and not too hard) which will not get
stuck in hedgie mouths. The one down side that I can see, based on my own
experience, is that you have to be careful not to overfeed, as my hedgeies
will inhale every last tibit of this food that they can get at. This is,
hands (paws?) down the most popular (with the hedgies) hedgehog food I've
I don't know how widely available it is, but the company is of some size and
I hope it does well. Here's what information I have on the maker, from the
Sunseed Company, Inc.
Bowling Green, Ohio 43402
Note that when I last checked their website, it did not show any information
on the Hedgehog Formula, but they clearly produce a wide range of pet foods.
In July 2003, we discovered a new hedgehog food in a pet store, called Brown's
Nutrition Plus, Premium diet. This food is in the form of very small pellets
about 3mm or 1/8 of an inch in size. Mixed in with this are various extras,
such as raisins, dried vegetables and fruits, and even cheese meal. What
really caught my attention was that all the dried veggies have been cracked
and broken into pieces that are a safe size for hedgehogs, so they don't get
caught in the roof of their mouth or throat. This is decidedly not just a
repackaged food for some other animal, but is clearly well thought out for
The Brown's bag also stresses the fact that this is a low iron diet. That
is a real plus as some of the other foods tend to be very very high in iron.
I do have to admit it wasn't an overwhelming success with my hedgehogs (they
would really have preferred a nice piece of chicken) but unlike most new
foods, they did eat it. That is certainly a positive sign. There is a
fairly strong scent of banana from it, which is not surprising as that is
one of the ingredients, and banana does tend to overpower most other smells.
All in all a very promising looking food.
I'm not sure how widely available it is, though it is made in Pennsylvania,
and I purchased it just outside of Toronto, in Canada, so it doesn't appear
to be a limited availability. You can probably find a source by contacting
the manufacturer at:
F.M. Brown's Sons INC
Sinking Springs, PA, 19608 USA
Here are the contents and nutritial analysis of Brown's courtesy of Melissa
Top Ten Ingredients: Corn, Wheat, Wheat Flour, Soybean Meal, Soy
Flour, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry Meal, Soybean Oil, Alfalfa Leaf
Meal, Steamed Flake Corn
Peyton Creadick kindly sent the following information on the Pretty Pets
Hedgehog food produced by Pretty Bird International Inc.:
Pretty Bird International Inc.
Stacy Minnesota 55079
It says to keep males on the maintenance diet and females on the breeder.
It comes in 8 and 20 lb bags and it is red and smells fruity like all
Pretty Bird stuff (UGH!).
Ignore the red stool that starts after they have been on it a week or so
and the stool colour goes away after a week or so. [This was due to the
red dye used in early varieties of the Pretty Pets Hedgehog food, which
appears to have been dropped, now -- ed.]
There have been some suggestions about problems with the Pretty Bird's
hedgehog food, including from Peyton herself, although I have heard from
breeders who swear by it. I have no hard and fast details either way at this
time. One very common side effect appears to be very smelly, soft stools
from the hedgehogs eating it. Another aspect of it is that many hedgehogs,
just plain don't like it. They will eat it if nothing else is available, but
it usually gets put at the bottom of the preference list. Pretty Bird has
apparently changed their formulation a couple of times over the past couple
of years. As they appear to be trying to improve things, I do have to give
There is also a hedgehog food available from Vitakraft, thanks go to Tirya
for the following information on it:
Under feeding suggestions, they say to offer ``1-2 tbsps daily as the
basic meal to which you may add cooked lean beef or veal (chopped or cut
up into very small pieces). Beef and/or poultry heart may also be
added. The hedgehog loves poultry and hard boiled eggs. For dessert,
sweet fruit such as pear and banana may be given. The hedgehog also
enjoys eating meal-worms.'' (news flash! ::grinz::)
Laura Jefferson passed along the address for Vitakraft to me for anyone who
might want it:
Vitakraft Co, Inc.
Chimney Rock Rd.
Bound Brook, NJ 08805
The Vitakraft strongly resembles muesli, containing grain, cod-liver oil,
dried shrimp, and honey, among other things, and they really like it.
I've heard both good and bad things about the Vitakraft food. The good
comments seem to center around many hedgehogs liking it (no mean feat),
though I've also been hearing an increasing number of negative comments which
seem to focus on the fact that it is primarily vegetable based, whereas
hedgehogs are primarily carnivorous by nature. It would appear that
Vitakraft is not a complete food, but rather one that needs to be
supplemented with meat (remember, cooked only!), or cat/dog food to cover all
the bases, rather than being given as a staple on its own.
One actual warning I've heard repeatedly, is that the peanuts in it can get
stuck in a hedgehog's mouth. The number of cases of this that I've now heard
of have reached the point where I really have to recommend against using
Vitakraft for hedgehogs. Even with the peanuts removed or crushed, it still
does not provide a complete diet. There are much better options out there,
including cat or dog food. If you do want to use it, remember to please be
careful and either remove the peanuts or break up the peanuts into smaller
pieces before feeding it to your hedgies.
That said, it is probable that the fibre content is much higher than most
other hedgehog foods currently available -- a fact that is quite important,
as it is becoming clear that hedgehogs need more fibre in their diet than we
are generally feeding them.
It does seem to be becoming quite widely available, and between the lack of
being a complete food (not clearly noted on the packaging) and the peanut
problems, it does create the potential for some nutritional and other health
problems. I have heard that Vitakraft is working on solving the peanut
problem (and in the future they will likely either be crushed or removed
entirely), though I don't know if the food basis itself will be improved to
where it can be a staple on its own. The fact that they are looking to
improve this is definitely a point in their favour.
Janet Jones has also provided the following information on yet another source
for hedgehog food:
I attended a exotic animal show and found a company that is now carrying
``Zoo Fare'' aka ``Hedgehog Fare'' diet. I spoke with David from Pawprint
last night to find out if they would shipped outside of Washington State
and was told that would be no problem. They also carry the Pretty Pets
Hedgehog dry kibble diet.
P.O. Box 843
Mercer Island, WA 98040
Tel: (206) 230-8017
To add another option to the fray, Del sent me information on a hedgehog food
from the Exotic Nutrition Pet Company.
Exotic Nutrition Pet Company
437 Summer Drive
Tel: (757) 930-0301. Office hours are 9:00 am - 4:00 pm EST M-F.
Fax: (757) 930-1505
The food sounds interesing and looks to be produced specifically for
hedgehogs, as opposed to being a more general food just being something
remarketed for hedgehogs.
Exotic Nutrition also carry a couple of varieties of Insectivore diet, and
something they refer to as Hedgehog Booster. The latter appears to be
a vitamin supplement. The also carry a number of other hedgehog products and
items that are suitable for hedgehogs. As an added bonus, they appear to be
quite happy to ship internationally.
Melissa Kallick sent along the ingredients and nutrition from Exotic's
Hedgehog Complete food:
INGREDIENTS: blood meal, soybean meal, ground corn, corn gluten meal,
whole roasted soybeans, tallow, cane molasses, dried beet pulp, dried
mealworms, yeast culture, L. Acidophilus. Francium, S. Cerevisiae,
choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, copper sulfate, zinc
proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, colbolt
proteinate, thiamine monoitrate, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D,
vitamin E supplement, zinc oxide, biotin, folic acid, niacin
supplement, pyridoxine HCL, dehy alfalfa meal, pantothenic acid,
Crude protein (min) .... 35.01%
Crude fat (min)..........14.07 %
Crude fiber (min)....... 17.5%
Crude fiber (max).........4.43 %
Vitamin A (min)........9042.52 IU/LB.
Vitamin D (min)........2150.0.00 IU/LB.
Vitamin E (min)..........80.34 IU/LB.
Aside from the ``Hedgehog Complete'' food, Exotic Nutrition also have an
``Insect Eater'' food:
``They also have a new canned food that might be interesting: Insect
Eater Diet" This is a canned food. Ingredients: Chicken Meat, blood
meal, whole eggs, apples, pears, bananas, carrots, sweat potatoes, wheat
germ, honey, whole crickets, whole mealworms, whole grasshoppers, Fish
oil (source of omega-3 fatty acids) lecithin (source of phospholipids),
Taurine (amino acid) vitamins and minerals.''
Crude Protein, min......26.1%
Crude Fiber, max.........6.3%
Crude Ash, max ..........6.5%
Moisture Content, max.. 59.6%
Calcium (CA), min .......2.2%
Phosphorus (P), min......1.1%
Melissa also had a great suggestion on getting veggies into your hedgie,
to which she added the caveat ``IF they will eat them, is available via a
company called ``Beak Appetite:''
They have something called ``Apple Carrot Heaven'' and ``Veggie
Delight.'' You can reconstitute small amounts at a time, as needed.
The veggies are in small pieces already (for small birds).
-- Melissa Kallick
Currently, the key problem with hedgehog foods is availability. There just
isn't enough demand (or obvious demand) for pet supply stores to stock
hedgehog foods. This in turn means that the quantities being produced remain
low, and that keeps the costs up. It's a vicious circle, that will only
slowly change as more and more people start to buy hedgehog food for their
pets. Still, it is improving, and I expect things will be much different
within the next couple of years.
As a quick sidebar to the availability issue, I've found it somewhat
difficult of late to find what I would consider decent hedgehog food for my
own little friends. As a result, I've been working with my vet to try a
combination of commercial hedgehog foods, along with high fiber, and diet
type cat foods. These are foods that are only available through a vet --
in effect prescription type foods. So far things are quite positive, but
I would prefer to feed my hedgies something formulated specifically for them.
One other factor that is finally having an effect on commercial hedgehog
foods is that some research into hedgehog nutrition is starting to happen. I
have to give a great deal of credit to Dawn Wrobel, here, as she has almost
single-handedly spearheaded much of the research that has been done and
published to date. While answers are still very far from certain, we are
starting to see some of the nutritional needs of hedgehogs defined.
The first glimmers of information started appearing a couple of years ago, in
the form of suggestions that a much greater level of fibre is needed in their
diet. More recent, studies have started to suggest percentages of various
nutrients that are important. The good news is that the better hedgehog
foods are generally not too far off the mark, although cat and dog foods, by
themselves are generally a poor fit. I'm sorry that I don't have the details
to publish, here, but hopefully they will become publicly available in the
not too distant future.
Subject: <6.4> What are good treats?
There are a number of different things that can be given to hedgehogs as
treats -- but all in moderation. Among the things that hedgehogs tend to
like as treats are occasional small amounts of fresh fruit, and from personal
experience I can tell you that all of my hedgehogs, will kill for a mealworm
or a small taste of cream, and love raisins (but Velcro generally just chewed
on them rather than actually eating much).
Other ideas are crickets, hardboiled egg which is finely chopped, and cottage
cheese. Mealworms are available from many pet stores and are also available
by mail order (at least in the U.S.) from companies like Rainbow Mealworms
[2.1], and GrubCo.
Here's a suggestion from Anja van der Werf for live food treats:
You can ``enrich'' mealworms by feeding them fruit or a vitamin supplement
for a few days before you feed them to the hedgehogs.
You can also ``gut feed'' mealworms by feeding them for a few days on dry cat
or dog food before feeding them to your hedgehogs.
While small amounts of these are great as treats, beware that they should not
be given as the mainstay of the diet, nor too often, as they do not provide
all the necessary proteins and nutrients needed to keep your hedgehog
It is also possible for a hedgehog to briefly suffer from diarrhea after
imbibing too much in these treats. This is generally not harmful, but
indicates that too much of a good thing isn't. If the condition persists,
consult a veterinarian.
Subject: <6.5> Any suggestions on bathing, cleaning ears, and clipping nails?
Some of the literature I've seen suggests that you should not bathe a
hedgehog unless it is absolutely necessary, because there is a chance of
drowning. This is especially critical for babies and young animals.
However, I have been told by several hedgehog owners that not only is it not
a problem to bathe adults, but that they can often enjoy swimming in a pan or
tub of shallow water (preferably on a warm day).
If you do bathe your little friend (say, because your hedgehog got into
something he shouldn't have), you must make very sure he has a warm, dry
place with no draughts to dry off in (after you do your best to dry him off
with a towel first). The bath water should be shallow enough for the
hedgehog to be able to stand and keep his nose safely above the surface, and
should be at room temperature, not warm or cool. One good thing about
hedgehogs in water is that rather than quilling up, they generally put their
quills down smooth, and for the majority who dislike baths, concentrate on
trying to get out. It's probably best to just gently lower the piggy hog
into the water and slip your hand out from underneath. As far as shampoo
goes, if you really must use one, make sure it is formulated for pets,
preferably something like puppies or kittens, which will ensure it is very
mild and safe. Make sure you don't get any shampoo into their ears or eyes.
I find using an old toothbrush works well to work the shampoo into the
quills. Finally, make sure that you rinse him thoroughly, so that there is
no soap left on him, then as mentioned above, dry him completely and ensure
he stays warm enough. One quick warning: do NOT use a hairdryer -- this is
almost guaranteed to leave your hedgie severely stressed (besides, if he was
that fashion conscious, he wouldn't have gotten into this mess in the first
It is occasionally necessary to clean their ears. This is best done by a
Q-tip moistened with mineral oil. It is also preferable to have a patient
(or is that tolerant) hedgehog. If you do clean their ears, you must be very
careful. Also, see section [8.3] on tattered or ragged ears.
Hedgehog nails can get quite long and if your hedgehog doesn't manage to wear
them down naturally, they may need to be clipped. As with any health related
concern, the best cure of all is prevention. It is likely a good idea to
provide your hedgehog with a rough surface like a flat rock that will work
like an emery board as he scurries around. This may not guarantee you won't
have to clip his nails, but it can certainly help.
Okay, let's say your attempt at a natural manicure doesn't do the job -- how
do you go about doing it the hard way?
Hedgehogs' nails do, indeed, need to be trimmed occasionally. The
crescent-shaped nail clippers that are used for dogs [and cats] work
well. The hard part, of course, is getting to the nails---you have to
seize the hog's foot and hold on for dear life, letting it struggle to
its heart's content. It will put up a terrific fight, but it won't hurt
-- Nathan Tenny
Here's another great idea, especially if your hedgehog is open to bribes, and
not too nervous:
I've found this idea for ferrets works well for hedgehogs: take their
favorite treat (hopefully in a semi-liquid form so they have to lick it)
and put it on their belly. They have to stick their little paws to the
side to lick the treat off of their belly and while they're distracted,
just quickly trim their nails! I usually trim their nails around bath
time (both ferrets and hedgehog) so having a messy belly isn't much of a
-- Zack Lessley
I'm not sure if that would work with my hedgies, but it sounds like it would
be throughly entertaining at the very least.
It's a good idea to keep something nearby to stop potential bleeding when
clipping hedgehog nails, just in case you accidentally cut too close to the
quick and find your little friend bleeding. Given how profusely hedgehogs
can bleed, it can become quite a scary situation.
There are a variety of things that work well for stopping the bleeding. One
is an ``antiseptic first aid cream'' made by Hagan for just this purpose. It
stops bleeding and coats the injury, and worked extremely well when we had to
There is also a powder called ``Quick-Stop'' designed exactly for this
purpose, that apparently works very well. Many pet stores will carry it at
or near where nail clippers or grooming supplies are kept.
Steve Turpin has passed along the following tip, that you can also use
cornstarch to stop bleeding quickly and painlessly, and is often available
when other things might not be.
By the way, speaking of painless, or not. I have it on good authority that
Quick-Stop hurts like #$%! if you're foolish enough to try it yourself
(fortunately, I wasn't -- I have much too low a pain threshold for that).
Now, what you do about doctoring your hands (which, no doubt, have been
severely prickled) is beyond me... :-) This is probably one of the few times
that sometimes justifies wearing gloves while handling your hedgehog, but
keep in mind that you should avoid gloves any other time unless absolutely
Rather than always trimming nails, there are some things you can do to try
and help wear them down naturally. There are some suggestions about using
fine sandpaper on the surface of wheels in section [5.6]. Another idea comes
from Kelly Hodge, along with tips on how to trim the nails:
One suggestion: get him a clay flowerpot. I bought a clay flowerpot for
Jimmy for 36 cents and he LOVES it! It is slightly bigger than he is,
and he sleeps in it all the time. If I take him to visit friends, I MUST
take his flowerpot in the travel cage. He always scratches in the
flowerpot and this keeps his front claws quite short. He doesn't scratch
nearly as much with the rear feet, so those claws are longer and I trim
them occasionally. Hold him in your hand, fingers slightly spread.
When one of his legs falls through the fingers, clamp the fingers
together to trap the foot and have someone else clip the claws before he
can snatch his foot back. It helps to do this when he's sleepy, but be
warned, he may treat your hand as a porta-potty.
-- Kelly A. Hodge
Subject: <6.6> Biting and nipping
Most hedgehogs rarely if ever bite, however, as with any animal, it does
happen, and some just `are' biters. Many young hedgehogs will nip at almost
everything -- it's their way of testing the world around them, so they can
learn what is and what isn't food. Others will nip if they want to be left
alone or are feeling a bit stressed (this often occurs just after they arrive
at their new home -- don't be discouraged if it happens).
Regardless of the reason, if your hedgehog nips you, you want to discourage
it. Here are some tips on how to curb little nippers before they get carried
Wayne Clendenin sends along the following advice on whether hedgehogs bite
and other useful advice on hedgehog as pets:
[Hedgehogs] seldom bite, it's not a usual trait. The short teeth and
dog-like mouth don't cause any damage, unlike a hamster or gerbil bite.
We have found that a pup will usually lick before tasting a finger or
hand...but we also have a real mean female. Maybe she's overly
protective, but she bites without the warning lick. (She also spent her
first 6 months unhandled in a pet shop). We usually don't recommend
hhogs as pets for kids under school age...those spines can be sharp to
tender little hands. I've never had a pup ``nip'' or even an adult
``chomp''...break the skin...but, I wouldn't bet on that with a very
If your hedgehog isn't the overly nervous type, one suggestion you can try
for hedgehogs that nip or bite is to blow gently into their face either when
they do it or, if you can tell, when they are about to. This doesn't hurt
the hedgehog any, but they don't like it and it can have the desired effect
of stopping the bite and being gentle punishment.
One of the most effective ways of curbing biting comes from Dawn Wrobel, who
has dealt with numerous rescue cases, many of which were quite upset, nervous
and hence prone to biting. She recommends using a Q-Tip dipped in isopropyl
(rubbing) alcohol applied to the end of the nose. This won't hurt the
hedgehog, but they dislike it intensely and will let go. Dawn suggests that
at most 3 or 4 applications will usually dissuade even the most insistent
Linda Wheatley, an experienced breeder and hedgehog lover, provided the
following advice on hedgehogs and biting:
It is not common for a hedgehog to bite, but it does happen. There seem
to be 3 reasons for biting. One is for tasting and this is the one
usually preceded by licking. Another is due to stress. If the animal
is new to a situation, and is not left alone to get used to or familiar
with it they will bite but it is the animal's only way of saying ``leave
me alone!'' The last type of bite seems to be certain animals' way of
identifying people (as painful as it may be). I had a male hedgehog
returned to me due to its habit of biting. It did not bite me for a few
days and then one day it really latched on. He attached himself to a
meaty part of my hand which was not too painful so I let him hold on.
He let go after 30 seconds. He did this a couple more times with no
reaction from me and that was the last he ever bit. I have had some more
hogs do this with the same scenario.
If a hedgehog bites, don't pull back, which, of course, would hurt more,
but instead push whatever it is biting towards it. This causes them
discomfort and they will let go. If the biting has caused the owner
to be hesitant, I tell them to get an inexpensive pair of work gloves.
Put one glove on and rub your other hand on it briskly to put your
scent on it. Do the same with both gloves. Then pick up the hog and
hope that it bites! If it does, then push back -- not hard but firmly.
I personally do not like the idea of blowing into a hedgehog's face to
discourage biting. This would seem to cause a shy hedgehog to be even
Subject: <6.7> HELP, my hedgehog is LOST! (or Hedgehog Hide-and-Seek).
Don't panic. Here are some tips for finding a lost hedgie.
Hedgehog are experts at hide-and-seek. They like to sleep under pieces of
clothing, in jacket sleeves, pants legs, etc. They may even crawl into a
sock (and get stuck)! Don't move heavy objects that might injure a hiding
hedgehog. Check furniture before sitting on it -- especially sofabeds. Many
wall units, bookcases, and even built-in cabinets have a hollow base. The
back of the unit may allow access to the base. This is a favorite hedgie
If your hedgehog makes a huffing/hissing noise when he is disturbed, you can
use this to your advantage. Carefully disturb potential hiding places and
listen for a huff. Knock on the base of furniture and cabinets, holding your
ear to the base to listen for a startle response. Repeat several times. One
escaped hedgehog was found inside a stereo speaker because he huffed when his
owner walked by (luckily, before he was blasted by loud music)! If you find
your hedgehog in a difficult place you may opt to wait for him to come out on
his own, rather than risk injuring him (or your back!). Blowing the scent of
his favorite treat into the hiding place may help lure him out, but only if
he's calm and ready, and, most importantly, warm enough to function.
If you cannot find your hedgehog, or need to wait for him to voluntarily
leave his hiding place, consider whether he might get cold. If he could be
in an underheated place (e.g. near an outside wall, on a cold floor) TURN UP
THE HEAT. Make it downright tropical if you have to. If he gets too cold,
he may enter into a dangerous semi-hibernation state, and will not be able to
wake up and come out. (Of course, make sure he's not hiding in heat vents or
behind radiators before you do this!)
A special thanks goes to Christine Porter for providing the entire section
above! You'll be happy to know that Pokey, who inspired the piece, was
tracked down and safely returned to where she belongs. I wish I could say I
can't relate to what Christine wrote, but I can attest to its accuracy.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Brian MacNamara - macnamara@HedgehogHollow.COM
Hedgehog Hollow: http://HedgehogHollow.COM/