When people see our hedgehog for the first time, they always ask about any difficulty in maintaining one as a pet. They always assume it must be hard to keep regular routines in place to keep him healthy.
Are hedgehogs hard to maintain? Hedgehogs are not hard to maintain as they don’t need the care other pets might need and their dietary requirements are simple and cheap with dry cat biscuits being their main food source. They require little emotional contact and can be left alone for a few days.
Our 7 tips to help any prospective hedgehog owner come to understand the benefits of keeping one as a pet are listed in the rest of this article.
I’ve also included vet bills, as these can be negligible too, as we only have to take him every 6 months to get his nails clipped and he doesn’t need any expensive inoculations or medicines.
1. Food is cheaper
The cost of food for a hedgehog isn’t expensive either and all they need is a food regime that’s low in fat with a good balance of protein and carbohydrates. Generally, suitable foods with less than 10% fat are good and any suitable foods around 5% fat being ideal.
We feed our African Pygmy Hedgehog predominantly on dry cat biscuits and these don’t cost much. A £2 ($2.50) box of dry cat biscuits can last as long as three months with enough portions for every day, now that’s a real cheap cost in feeding a hedgehog.
Our hedgehog doesn’t gorge himself on food and only eats enough to satisfy his hunger. It’s important to keep an eye on whether you’re hedgehog is greedy and take remedial actions to stop them from putting on weight and becoming obese.
Actions such as carefully controlling their the amount of food you leave them and ensuring there’s suitable equipment in the cage for them to exercise, such as a running wheel.
Chitin is a protein required in a hedgehogs diet and you may need to buy mealworms or other suitable protein source insects. The good news here is they need only a small amount of this Chitin protein from insects and eating too many insects can be damaging for the hedgehog as the insect is like what candy is for humans.
So just as candy beyond moderation is bad for humans, insects beyond moderation can be very dangerous for hedgehogs health. We normally give him two mealworms every two weeks.
We also feed our hedgehog on leftovers like chicken which we break into smaller pieces for him to be able to eat without choking. The chicken is roast chicken without any oils, herbs or any spices added.
We generally don’t go out of our way to feed our hedgehog any extras and just give him the food we would normally eat that’s safe for him. Blueberries, cooked carrots, banana and small pieces of apple are some of the foods we give him over a typical month.
Hedgehogs need to have a regular supply of clean water and we change our hedgehog’s water every day. We have a water bowl in the cage and also have a water dispenser in one of the corners of the cage and this for the moment is the emergency water just in case his primary supply gets tainted by him accidentally pooping in it.
I’m still not sure whether our hedgehog uses the water from the water dispenser and when I’ve checked the water levels, I’m not completely sure the reason why the water level has fallen is down to him drinking the water or bumping into the water dispenser and causing it to drip water onto the floor.
2. Can be left home alone for a few days
Unlike other pets which you can’t leave home alone, our hedgehog is okay to leave alone when we are away for a few days. We leave our hedgehog with enough food for a couple of days.
We’re quite lucky in that our hedgehog doesn’t gorge himself on food and eats just enough to satisfy his hunger, so leaving a supply of food for a couple of days is fine.
Our biggest worry is always having enough clean water, so we leave an ample supply of water, which includes two extra small water bowls placed at the opposite end of the cage to their main water bowl. This is just in case, they soil their main water bowl and still have a supply of clean water available.
3. Easier to look after than other pets
Some pets like dogs need a lot of looking after with regular walks, whilst other pets need less looking after like cats as they are fairly independent. African pygmy hedgehogs are fairly easy to look after, requiring a minimal amount of care.
We spend about 15-30 minutes with him every evening and this is all part of the bonding process. As he’s nocturnal we bring him out late in the evening and during the day he’s normally fast asleep oblivious to what’s going on around him.
To keep them healthy, hedgehogs need to exercise regularly and this is easily solved by investing in a running wheel. They’ll run their little legs till they’re tired every night, pooping as their running, coming off to eat and drink.
We also bring our hedgehog out into our living room and let him scurry around and explore, it’s best to do this after they’ve had time to wake up and do their toilet habits, otherwise you could end up having to clean up after them.
Be careful your hedgehog doesn’t end up going into hibernation by controlling their environment. We use a heat mat to give him a warm place to sleep and go to if it gets too cold in the room.
It’s highly advisable to make sure any room you keep your hedgehog doesn’t get too cold by having a minimum temperature setting or periodically warming the room on by turning on the heating.
4. Easier cleaning routines
The cleaning routine for our hedgehog is easy to maintain and we established a sustainable cleaning routine early on and this is essential in not only keeping the hedgehog clean but also minimizing on any odours and strong smells building up around the cage.
We have a daily routine to clean the poop out of the cage and this used to be a bit of a chore before using a dustpan and brush but this became so much easier when we brought a little portable mini vacuum cleaner. It just effortlessly sucks the dried poop up and can be manoeuvred to push poop that’s stuck to his bedding off, allowing it to be sucked up.
In the middle part of the week, we not only clean out the poop as our usual daily chore but we also swap out his bedding with a fresh set. If you have a running wheel then it would be advisable to clean this too as the poop dries up on it and if left for too long could cause them an injury.
To make it easier for us, we have two running wheels, one we use in the cage, the other left to soak overnight to effortlessly remove the dried up poop.
At the end of every week we do a full clean, doing the daily clean, the midweek clean but only after we’ve cleaned the cage using soapy water and given it a good rinse. This get rids of any lingering odours.
Some people put a litter tray into their hedgehog’s cage, allowing a central point for their hedgehog to go and do their business. Whilst this works well, the litter trays can take up valuable space in the cage, so we elected not to use one.
As we also have a running wheel in the cage and when our hedgehog is running on the wheel, he can also poop (in the wild they poop as they travel) and this poop gets flung from the running wheel into the vicinity.
5. Easier bathing routines
Twice a month we give our hedgehog a bath which equates to every two weeks. We use a Rubbermaid Commercial Products Food Storage Bin as his bath, without using the lid, as this could suffocate him. Starting off with an easy bath to soak his feet, allowing any poop to easily come off that hardened and got stuck to his feet and legs.
Then replacing the water, we give them a wash using an oat bath (old sock with oats in it) and this helps to moisturize their skin.
We don’t put too much water in his bath, just enough to touch his chin and not make it too strenuous to keep his head out of the water.
Be careful by limiting bathing as too much can cause a hedgehogs skin to become dry and this can end up being painful for them, possibly leading to skin splitting and infections.
6. Easier emotional contact
Hedgehogs don’t need as much emotional contact either again, unlike other pets like dogs and cats. We normally spend about half an hour with our hedgehog most evenings, they may be evening when we don’t spend any time with our hedgehog at all as we’re probably too tired from coming back from a late evening out and this has no detrimental effect on his wellbeing.
They are solitary creatures so leaving them alone isn’t a problem but it’s highly advisable a bond is established with them, as a relaxed hedgehog is easy to look after.
7. Easier Veterinary Care
We only really use our vets to get our hedgehog’s nails clipped every six months or so and this isn’t expensive as it’s done by one of the veterinary assistants. We did originally try to the nail clipping ourselves but decided against this, as we didn’t want to make a mistake and hurt our hedgehog. Just make sure you get a decent nail clipper if you plan to do it yourself.
We control the environment for our hedgehog and don’t take him outside, this reduces the chances of him getting any disease or bacterial/fungal infection from the outside world.
Unlike other pets, hedgehogs don’t need as much attention or an expensive food regime.
How often do you bathe your African Pygmy Hedgehog? We bathe our hedgehog every 2 weeks but we also maintain a regular cage cleaning routine to ensure he doesn’t get too dirty from his own poop and pee.
How often do you clean your African Pygmy Hedgehog’s cage? We do a partial midweek clean and then a full clean once a week, taking care to remove any poop on a daily basis.
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