It's hard not to fall in love with an African pygmy hedgehog with a face like that! However, knowing what your pet needs to be healthy and happy is important if you're thinking about getting a hedgehog. Here are a few things our Clarksville vets want you to know about owning a pet hedgehog.
Are hedgehogs good pets?
African pygmy hedgehogs are a popular pet due to their small size. However, it's important to research their personality and needs to see if they fit with your lifestyle before buying one.
Hedgehogs, like reptiles and other pets, can carry salmonella. For this reason, they're not recommended for families with children under 5 years old, seniors, or people with weakened immune systems.
Are hedgehogs cuddly?
Hedgehogs are solitary animals in the wild, so they may be shy and wary of people. Building trust with a pet hedgehog takes time, patience, and a gentle approach.
If you get a hedgehog when it's young and slowly acclimate it to being handled, they can be playful, but they may never become cuddly.
Once your hedgehog is comfortable being handled, you can stroke their quills, let them climb on your arms, and explore under your supervision.
How hard is it to have a hedgehog as a pet?
Hedgehogs may be smaller than cats or dogs but still need exercise, a healthy diet, and regular vet care. They have unique needs that must be met to keep them happy, such as a spacious enclosure, an exercise wheel, and toys to prevent boredom.
It's important to note that hedgehogs are nocturnal, meaning they're active at night and sleep during the day. Most hedgehogs will become active around dinnertime and sleep in the morning when you wake up.
Are hedgehogs dangerous?
There are a number of safety concerns to consider when it comes to owning a hedgehog as a pet.
Salmonella & Hedgehogs
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated several cases of salmonella linked to pet hedgehogs. They cautioned that even apparently healthy hedgehogs can carry salmonella. To avoid getting sick, take the following precautions when handling a pet hedgehog:
- Wash Hands Thoroughly: Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a hedgehog or cleaning its enclosure.
- Play Safely: Don’t kiss or snuggle hedgehogs; this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth. Don’t allow hedgehogs to roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens or dining tables.
- Keep Your Hedgehog's Environment Squeaky Clean: Clean and wash enclosures, toys, and supplies outside of your house when possible. Do not clean these items in the kitchen or any place where food is prepared, served, or stored.
- Hedgehog quills can penetrate skin and spread bacteria that may lead to illnesses in pet owners. If you get a puncture from a hedgehog quill, clean your hands and the puncture area thoroughly. Monitor the puncture area carefully for signs of infection.
- Although hedgehogs do bite, their tiny teeth are unlikely to cause you very much pain. The force of a hedgehog bite is typically linked to what your pet is feeling. A really angry hedgehog could cause a bite that hurts a bit. That said, hamsters and other rodents are far more likely to administer a really painful bite when angry or scared.
How much room do pet hedgehogs need?
In the wild, hedgehogs cover long distances each night in search of food. This roaming instinct means that pet hedgehogs require larger enclosures than you might expect, along with an exercise wheel.
To keep your hedgehog happy and healthy, provide an enclosure that's at least 24" x 24" (though larger is better). Give them the largest enclosure possible, so they have ample space to explore at night.
Note that hedgehogs are active and noisy at night, so keeping them in your bedroom isn't recommended.
What do hedgehogs need in their cage?
To keep hedgehogs happy and healthy, they must stay active and engaged. An exercise wheel is a must-have in any hedgehog enclosure, as are a litter box, sleeping box, and feeding area.
To keep your pet hedgehog occupied, offer a variety of tunnels and toys, such as stuffed animals or small balls.
What do pet hedgehogs eat?
In the wild, hedgehogs enjoy a varied diet of insects, plants, and roots. So to keep your pet healthy feed your hedgehog a high-quality hedgehog-specific kibble with at least 30% protein and less than 20% fat, supplemented with a variety of the following:
- Fresh fruits (apples, bananas, berries)
- Live or freeze-dried mealworms
- Live waxworms
- Cooked Egg
- Pinky Mice
- Cooked meat (chicken)
- High protein, low fat dog food
- Live or freeze-dried crickets
- Fresh veggies (tomatoes, green beans)
Are pet hedgehogs legal where you live?
According to some wildlife experts, hedgehogs could have a negative impact on local ecosystems if released into the wild. This is because hedgehogs would compete with native species for food and habitat. Many other exotic pets such as sugar gliders, ferrets and Quaker parakeets are also banned in a number of states for the same reason.
Never release a pet into the wild. Contact your local animal rescue agency for assistance if you and your pet need to part ways.
You are not legally permitted to own a hedgehog as a pet in the following places:
- Washington, DC
- All five boroughs of New York City
Is a hedgehog the right pet for you?
As we have shown, owning a pet hedgehog may not be as easy or straightforward as you thought. Still, by researching, visiting breeders, and speaking to an exotic mammal vet, you can decide whether a hedgehog is the right pet for you. For many people, hedgehogs are playful and amusing pets worth making the extra effort for.