Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs Need a Heat Lamp? Step by Step help


Pygmy hedgehog being held

Heating is vital to keep an African Pygmy Hedgehog warm as they can easily go into hibernation and not recover if it gets too cold. My daughter Jinnee spent a lot of time researching heat lamps as heat source for hedgehogs.

Do African pygmy hedgehogs need a heat lamp? African Pygmy hedgehogs need a heat lamp called a ceramic heat emitter (CHE) to keep warm, as they explore and feed in their cage. The CHE only emits heat and not light, as any light at night could confuse hedgehogs into thinking it was day time, stopping them from coming out to feed.

Using a ceramic heat emitter lamp that doesn’t emit bright light with only warming infra-red is a option chosen by many pygmy hedgehogs to keep them warm.

Do we use a heat lamp for our African Pygmy Hedgehog?

We’ve read about many people using a heat lamp (ceramic heat emitters) to keep their hedgehogs warm but we ourselves don’t currently use a ceramic heat emitter lamp for our pygmy hedgehog. 

As we have a ZooZone Habitat cage with a large amount of plastic, using a ceramic heat emitter could be dangerous and introduce a fire risk.

Ideally, any heat source you use needs to be able to keep a hedgehogs sleeping area warm as hedgehogs can go into hibernation if they become too cold.

If you’re considering housing a pygmy hedgehog in a Vivarium then a Heat Lamp (CHE) is a good source of heat, as long as the correct wattage is used. A 100 watts should be sufficient to provide enough heat but careful temperature assessment needs to be done in the area where the heat lamp is, to make sure the temperature doesn’t exceed 82F (28C).

Other types of cages without plastic could be considered for a ceramic heat emitting lamp but you would need to do a proper risk assessment to ensure it was a safe option.

Whilst these types of heat lamps do provide an adequate amount of heat and with a thermostat, the levels of heat can be controlled, we felt we needed a heat source for the place where our hedgehog would spend most of his time, his house.

It just didn’t make sense to try to only heat part of his cage where he would only come to feed and play instead of the part where he would spend most of his time sleeping.

Some of the heat lamps especially the reptile heat lamps also emit light and this would be counterproductive as the light would confuse the hedgehog into thinking it was still daylight and they would not come out to feed.

We felt the place our hedgehog needed the most heat was in his house and the heat lamp wouldn’t be able to penetrate into the house, so we discounted this an option for our hedgehog. Instead, choosing a heat pad mat, placed inside our hedgehog’s plastic igloo house.

However, we are looking at getting another heat source other than a ceramic heat emitter (not advisable for plastic cages like ours) to keep the area where he feeds and plays warm.

It’s also important to note, we keep our house at a minimum temperature and if we didn’t do this, we would have to seriously look at investing in better heat sources.

The first step we took before buying our pygmy hedgehog was to find the best heat source to keep them warm and stop them slipping into hibernation. Our first port of call was finding out about the best way to keep a hedgehog warm.

What’s the best way to keep an African Pygmy Hedgehog warm?

Keeping your house warm is the best way to keep your hedgehog warm but this isn’t always practical as it can be an expensive option. Maintaining a temperature of between 72F (22C) to 80F (26.5C) all year round isn’t cheap as with rising heating costs, it doesn’t make sense to heat your house to keep a pygmy hedgehog warm.

Ideally, if you can keep a part of your house within these temperatures 72F (22C) to 80F (26.5C) and are happy with the cost of doing so then this could be the best way of keeping your hedgehog warm.

The warmer months of the year don’t cost as much as the colder months as heating is rarely used but it’s the cold months that can cause problems to pygmy hedgehogs.

Central Heating

We have central heating which is controlled by a thermostat and this is expensive to keep on all the time. Every year our heating bills keep rising as the gas and electric company puts up its charges. But we do put our heating on outside of the normal controlled times, especially if we’re going to give our hedgehog a bath.

We tend to put the heating on for an hour before his bath and then leave it running for another hour after we’ve dried him and put him back in his cage. This happens every two weeks, so the costs are bearable.

Space Heaters

We also looked at space heaters which are effective at keeping small spaces warm but these can also be expensive to run. As we have two main rooms without a door between them where we keep our hedgehog, a space heater would not make sense in trying to keep a small area warm which itself is inside a large area.

It’s best to check the running costs of space heaters to see if their cost is acceptable. A space heater can be cost-effective only if you know how many kilowatts an hour these heaters will use along with the cost you would have to pay for each kilowatt used per hour. I have seen some very low wattage heaters but I’ve not been able to determine their effectiveness and safety.

Set a minimum temperature at home

It’s also important to keep your house at a minimum temperature if you can’t keep your whole house at the temperatures suited for a hedgehog. We have set our central heating set to come on if the temperature drops below 64F (18C) in the colder months and along with other heating measures.

The house is never too cold but more importantly, the hedgehog’s house heating never drops below 72F (22C) so we never put our pygmy hedgehog in danger.

It’s vitally important to have a thermometer in the cage as the cage temperature generally tends to be different from the temperature for the rest of the house. I’ve noticed on many occasions the house thermometer and the cage thermometer have varied.

Log fires

Log fires are something I wouldn’t recommend as the smells produced from burning may cause distress in pygmy hedgehogs. As they have a very good sense of smell and prolonged exposure to a burning smell might not be good for them.

With any heating, it’s vital to make sure there’s no fire risk. If you can get professional advice about the heat source you plan to use in the location you plan to use it. Get a smoke alarm to be absolutely sure you and your family are protected.

Some other measures you could use for keeping a pygmy hedgehog warm could include:

Get the right cage

The size and type of cage is also an important factor and having a bigger cage means trying to find a better way to heat it. The cage needs to have a flat bottom as this limits any cold flows coming into the base of the cage. 

Do not use cages with wired floors as they will not keep the heat in and could also hurt the hedgehog if their feet get caught in the gaps. 

Check for drafts

Check for drafts using a candle around the cage especially at ground level, the flame will sway if there are any drafts. Try to place your cage away from any drafts as these will cool the cage down. We have moved our cage away from the patio doors to the other side of the room where it’s warmer and draft-free.

Use warmer bedding

The type of bedding used can help in keeping the warmth as fabric liners will be a better choice than straw or newspaper, as well as a lot safer. The fabric absorbs any urine instead of allowing it to settle and cool. The last thing you want is your hedgehog prancing through cold urine.

We also have a pouch made of fabric which we position on the top of his heat pad mat and this provides a cosy environment for sleep.

Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs need heat pad mats?

As most of a hedgehog’s time is spent in their houses sleeping, we felt it made sense to keep their house warm, allowing our hedgehog to sleep comfortably and snuggly. This is why we would recommend a heat pad mat for hedgehogs, placed in their house for them to sleep on.

Many times we’ve gone to check on our pygmy hedgehog and seen him rolled up on the heat pad mat fast asleep. Sometimes when he feels colder, he’s gone inside the pouch we’ve placed on the heat pad mat and this has provided him with a cosy warm place to sleep and when he’s feeling a bit warmer, he’s slept on top of his pouch.

As our pygmy hedgehogs get older, just using a heat pad mat may not be the only option we use and trying to keep the areas where our hedgehog eats and plays will probably require users to invest in a ceramic heat emitter lamp (if we change to a non-plastic cage) or another heat pad mat.

Are heating pad mats safe for African Pygmy Hedgehogs?

Yes, quality heat pad mats should be safe and you should ensure you’re buying from a reputable supplier. Cheaper heat pad mats may not only be dangerous to the hedgehog but could put you and your family at risk if they catch fire.

It’s vitally important to get a heat pad mat with a thermostat as this allows you to regulate the temperature of the heat pad mat. Our pygmy hedgehog’s heat pad mat only switches itself on automatically if the temperature in the cage drops below 72F (22C). The heat pad mat we use comes with a wire with a sucker with a thermometer at the end.

We’ve stuck this to the cage, making sure it’s not accessible to our pygmy hedgehog (as he’d probably chew on it) and this gives us an idea of the cage temperature and if it starts to fall, the heat pad mat has a thermostat to switch on the heat pad mat automatically.

Heat Pad Mat Covers

The heating mat needs to have a washable cover, ours has a zipped cover which we replace every week during our full clean. It’s not advisable for the hedgehog to sleep on a heat pad mat without a cover and do make sure any wiring from the heat pad mat is suitably protected. As our heat pad mat’s main cable is protected using a metal sheath and would be difficult for our hedgehog to chew.

Heat Pad Mat Placement

The placement of heat pad mats is also very important for safety and the best place is to put them is on the floor of the cage, ours sits on the top of their bedding. We did try to put it under the bedding, but some of the bedding we use it quite thick and the heat simply did not penetrate through.

Don’t try to use the heat pad mat as a heat lamp, that is placing the heat pad mat above the hedgehog’s house, as they don’t emit enough heat from distance and ideally should be used for the pygmy hedgehog to sleep on.

Heat pad mats are very inexpensive to run, costing a couple of cents a week to provide more than adequate heating for hedgehogs. It’s because of this very low cost we could also buy another heat pad mat and put this in the area where our pygmy hedgehog feeds, as he gets older.

Or we may just get a ceramic heat emitter (if we change to a non-plastic cage) which can be equally cost-effective to run.

Both could provide him extra heating as he gets older and becomes less tolerant to the cage warmth, providing us with reassurance he won’t go into hibernation.

Surge Protection

We have also connected our heat pad mat to a plug with surge protection, this ensures any electrical surges don’t damage the heat pad mat. It’s also vital to make sure you have a smoke alarm in any room where you have a heat pad mat as this could be an early warning should there be an issue with the heat pad mat.

Why do African Pygmy Hedgehogs hibernate when they are pets?

Hibernation can be fatal to African Pygmy Hedgehogs and because they are natively from a warmer climate, cold weather can be a serious issue to their wellbeing.

Evolving in the north Africa pygmy hedgehogs survive warmer drier climates using their the ability to build up enough reserves to deal with any cold snaps. They are not used to the colder weather experienced outside these countries especially in many countries where they are kept as pets.

In the winter where we live, the temperature can drop below freezing outside with the resultant temperature inside our house falling to around 64.5F (18C).

This could be cold enough for a hedgehog to assume hibernation but we have taken a number of steps to ensure the temperature in our hedgehog’s hose in his cage doesn’t fall below 72F (22C).

As the pygmy hedgehogs get older, just like humans their tolerance to the cold falls but unlike humans, this increases the chances of them hibernating. More attention has to be given at this time to ensure pygmy hedgehogs have enough heat.

What are the symptoms of hibernation for an African Pygmy Hedgehog?

It’s important to understand the tell-tale signs of potential hibernation as this will help in putting measures in place to protect pygmy hedgehogs. The following could be signs of the hedgehog is preparing to go into hibernation:

  • Difficulty uncurling or curling up;
  • Difficulty standing up or staying stood;
  • Eating less or have lost weight;
  • Feel cold to touch and behave lethargically.

It’s vitally important if you suspect your hedgehog is showing signs of potentially going into hibernation to make sure they have an adequate source of heating available to them.

As most pygmy hedgehogs will die if they go into hibernation either of hypothermia or they’ll just starve to death as they will not have built up any fat reserves in preparation for hibernation.

How do you revive an African Pygmy Hedgehog that’s gone into hibernation?

Appreciating what to do should a pygmy hedgehog go into hibernation is vitally important and could help save a hedgehogs life.

The hibernating pygmy hedgehog will need heat and the best source of heat will be body heat, so by placing the hedgehog next to a person’s abdomen with a towel on top of the hedgehog, could supply the heat required to warm them up. It’s best to ensure you wear a thin piece of clothing, allowing body heat to pass through to the hedgehog and a t-shirt is a good choice.

Using a heat pad mat is also a good idea but do take care if you are using microwaveable heat pad mats which can be heated up in a microwave as these can get very hot and could burn your hedgehog. We would recommend only using a heat pad mat with a thermostat where you can control the temperature.

During any period when the hedgehog is being revived, it’s important to supervise them and not to leave them alone for long periods.

Most importantly once the hedgehog has been revived, they will need to be taken to a vet and be assessed, allowing an understanding of the reasons behind them going into hibernation in the first place.

Related Questions

Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs need to be warm? Yes, pygmy hedgehogs need to be warm otherwise if it gets too cold for them, they can go into hibernation and die of hypothermia or starve as they simply have not built up any fat reserves for hibernation.

What temperature is too hot for an African Pygmy Hedgehog? Pygmy hedgehogs enjoy temperatures between 72F (22C) to 80F (26.5C), if it gets too hot for a hedgehog they may put their stomachs to the floor and spread their legs out.

Bal Kang

Hi I'm Bal together with my daughter Jinnee, we've created this website about African Pygmy Hedgehogs. We've learnt a lot looking after our hedgehog Hynee and share our knowledge, tips and tricks.

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