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Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] - Hedgehogs as pets
Section - <5.2> Do I need a cage? How should I set it up?

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] - Hedgehogs as pets
Previous Document: <5.1> What will I need to take care of my new hedgehog?
Next Document: <5.3> The pet store uses wood shavings as bedding. Should I?
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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
sized dogs!).

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 
    anywhere else.  
    -- 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
these products.

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
    thermal material.
    -- 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
impromptu heaters.

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.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
Hi, my hedgehog started running around her cage squealing so I took her out to see what was wrong. Her genital area was inflamed and she had open sores all around that area. I gave her a bath, but I'm really worried about her. Do you have any idea what this could be?
Thank you!

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] - Hedgehogs as pets
Previous Document: <5.1> What will I need to take care of my new hedgehog?
Next Document: <5.3> The pet store uses wood shavings as bedding. Should I?

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