As we keep our African Pygmy Hedgehog in our main living area in our house, any hedgehog smell could be a problem. We did do some investigation into the smells to be expected and what we could do to keep them at a tolerable level for ourselves before we bought our hedgehog.
Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs smell? African Pygmy Hedgehogs can smell especially if their cages are not cleaned regularly and they are not given a bath at least once a month, as their urine and faeces can build up on their fur, in their spines and on their feet, contributing to them smelling more.
Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to minimize a pygmy hedgehog’s smell with a detailed discussion in the rest of this article.
1. Keep poop smells at bay
Hedgehog poop can smell and my cousin found out the hard way how much it can smell. When my cousin and his family came over from the US a few summers back, my cousin had to sleep downstairs in the room next to the hedgehog as his snoring was making it difficult for the rest of his family to go to sleep.
On the first morning after he’d been asleep downstairs he said the smell from the hedgehog was unbearable and he had to open the windows to get the stink out.
I asked him whether the noise from him in his cage or him running on his running wheel didn’t disturb him and he said absolutely not it was just his stink.
I explained to him as the hedgehog is running on his wheel at night, he’s also pooping at times and the more he runs, the more he can poop. This poop when it’s fresh it does smell as we normally only come into the room in the morning when the poop has dried and the smell has diminished.
So there wasn’t much more I could do, as I couldn’t move the hedgehog to another room because we had no space and the conservatory room whilst warm in the day would get cold at night.
I opened another higher up a window allowing the air to flow across the room and the next morning he said, the smell wasn’t so bad and opening the windows in such a way had probably helped.
Excellent, he could sleep now and more importantly my cousin didn’t disturb our hedgehog at night 😉 I made sure too that the heat mat was still plugged in and functioning just in case it became a little bit colder for our hedgehog.
2. Keep pee smells at bay
Hedgehogs also need to pee and this can smell especially if it gets soaked into their bedding. When we wake our hedgehog up and take out everything in his cage apart from his food and water, he will invariably after eating and drinking have a poop and a pee.
The pee at this time doesn’t smell, as it’s just a puddle on the plastic floor of the cage or maybe it doesn’t smell as much because the poop smell is stronger and masking out the pee smell?
When the pee gets soaked into the bedding then we do tend to notice the smell and the only way to stay on top of this and ensure the smell goes away is to regularly change their bedding.
I remember when we were looking at a suitable hedgehog breeder to buy our hedgehog from, one in particular sticks in my mind, well the smell of pee stick in my mind.
They had a couple of hedgehogs but their cleaning routine must have been pretty lax because as soon as you entered their house, the smell was overpowering.
We know our cleaning routine is pretty good as visitors often to compliment us on there is no strong smell coming from our hedgehog when they come around.
3. Establish a daily cleaning routine
It’s imperative to keep the smells to a tolerable level you adopt a daily routine to clean your hedgehog’s poop. My daughter uses a handheld vacuum which sucks up the poop deposited in the cage, taking care to remove her hedgehog to another room where I look after him as his poop is being removed.
Poop can be anywhere including in his water, so this needs to be changed and his water bowl cleaned. Sometimes the lazy so and so, even poop in his house in his pouch, more so in the colder months, which is understandable to a point so extra vigilance is needed to make sure all the places where he could possibly poop are checked out.
4. Do a mid-week bedding change
During the middle part of the week, it’s best to change their bedding and we tend to do this more often and change his bedding at least three times a week, with one of those changes being part of the full clean as described below.
This is a fairly simple change to do, with his bedding swapped out including the pouch in his house and a new fresh set added.
5. Do a full weekly cage clean
As the pee can seep into the bedding and then out onto the cage floor, a full clean once a week is needed. We also find the poop he deposits on the edges of the bedding also seeps into the cage floor when it’s fresh and still wet. This poop then hardens to the plastic cage floor and needs to be removed to get rid of the smell.
The full weekly clean involves taking everything out of the cage and then using soapy water, a thorough wash of the cage floor. The cage is then thoroughly rinsed out to make sure there’s no soapy residue left behind, likewise if you’ve use wipes then any chemicals left behind could be detrimental to your hedgehog’s health.
We also clean any other objects in the cage during our full clean including his toys, as these also get peed and pooped on.
6. Swap out running wheels
The running wheel also gets clogged with poop and sprayed with urine as he’s running during the night leading to more smell. Cleaning the running wheel regularly is highly recommended but it can be difficult to scrub the dried poop off.
We brought two wheels, one which is actively used whilst the other is left to soak overnight in a large plastic box. When we come to swap the wheels, the one that’s been soaking all night, just needs a quick rub with tissue to remove the loose poop and to dry.
We then swap the running wheels putting the clean one in the cage and the dirty one into the plastic box with fresh water to soak overnight. Originally I did try to scrub the running wheel under running water but it took ages and was a filthy job, now with overnight soaking it’s really easy and quick.
7. Bathe at least twice a month
Bathing gives a great opportunity to clean your hedgehog as he’s most likely picked up poop on his feet which has dried out and he’s probably got poop and pee on his underside, which has matted into his fur.
Whilst bathing is a good way to keep smells at bay by cleaning your hedgehog, you must be careful in not overdoing bathing as this can lead to drying their skin. Dry skin can crack and lead to infection, so we only bathe our hedgehog a maximum of twice a month and use an oat wash to provide some moisturizing.
We firstly give our hedgehog a foot bath where in just a centimetre (a third of an inch) of water, he can stroll through the water to loosen any poop on his feet and on his underside, especially the poop that’s matted into his fur. We then gently rub the poop away from his feet and his fur before then using freshwater to carry on the bathing.
The next stage is to remove the water and with fresh warm water, add some oatmeal. We put the oatmeal inside an old sock and soak this in his bathwater, allowing the moisturising effects of the oats to seep out into the bathwater and make it cloudy.
He likes it when we pour water on his back (carefully avoiding his head) this is probably relaxing for him but it also cleans out his spines, as the water cascades across his back.
8. Do not use scents
Do not be tempted to use any scents or chemicals to mask your hedgehog’s odour and this includes any scents in the room like scented candles. As these could cause hedgehogs distress as their sense of smell is very profound and what may not be troubling to humans could be very troubling to hedgehogs.
In the warmer months we will open windows to let the smell out as it’s warm enough but in the colder months, it’s too cold to do this. Coupled with the fact that as the nights are longer, our hedgehogs been on his running wheel longer, there will be more poop and pee than usual, as he’s probably eaten more for the extra energy required to use his running wheel.
Fortunately, the drier air normally dries up his poop so the smell is diminished slightly and bearable. We will occasionally open a window but only for a very short period of time when it’s cold, taking care of the overall temperature of the house doesn’t fall too much.
In conclusion, keeping your hedgehog and their cage clean can minimise the smell and it’s important to appreciate there will always be a smell, it’s just the level of smell we can try to control, by implementing cleaning routines for your hedgehog, their cage and the items in their cage.
How Often Do You Bathe Your African Pygmy Hedgehog? We bathe our hedgehog twice a month and this gap of roughly 2 weeks makes sure that our hedgehog’s skin doesn’t dry out too much and crack.
Are African Pygmy Hedgehogs Hard to Maintain? No, pygmy hedgehogs are not hard to maintain as long as effective routines are established. We also found our hedgehog was easy to leave home alone for a few days without having to worry too much.