Buying a cage for an African Pygmy Hedgehog is an important decision to make. It is probably the next most expensive thing to purchase after buying the hedgehog, as we found out.
What is the best cage for a hedgehog? The best cage for hedgehogs needs to be more than 3ft (91 cm) long and 2ft (61 cm) wide, be designed to retain heat when it’s cold, be easy to dismantle with good access for regular cleaning and have good ventilation to avoid the cage becoming too hot for the hedgehog.
Any choice of cage must ensure it is safe for the hedgehog and doesn’t pose any risk to the rest of the household. Here’s my 7 detailed to help you make the right choice for your pygmy hedgehog.
1. Right size
It’s important to get a decent sized cage for your African Pygmy Hedgehog as these creatures are small but they do need a little bit of space to live comfortably.
The cage we use is the ZooZone Habitat Large cage. This cage is 3 feet long (100cm), allowing plenty of space inside for the hedgehog and all the paraphernalia associated with him from his toys to feeding bowls.
African Pygmy Hedgehogs love to explore and on an average night in the wild they can cover several miles, so whilst a cage can only provide a few feet, it does need to have space for a running wheel to fit comfortably.
African Pygmy Hedgehog’s walk large distances relative to their body size each night and maintaining this ability through exercise is essential to avoid them becoming obese and suffering associative health problems like diabetes.
Food & Water
We used to use a single long water and food combo bowl which requires space on the side of the cage, we could split this into two bowls, for water and food respectively but we found early on as our hedgehog moves around his cage a night, he kept knocking these small bowls over.
So, we invested in some heavier bowls that are joined together, as shown below. These ceramic bowls are very difficult to knock over and have made it easy to keep the food in the bowl instead of spilling over onto the bedding.
It wasn’t too bad with the food, as this was still edible, albeit it was spread over the bedding but the water was lost, as it soaked through the bedding. So having a large combo receptacle for food and water was an absolute must without compromising too much on the space within the cage. Fortunately, the ZooZone Habitat Large cage was big enough to allow for the food/water combo.
Running wheels take up a lot of space and our ZooZone Habitat Large cage is big enough to cater for this and allow us to position the running wheel away from his food and water to minimize any poop being flung and soiling his food and water.
Otherwise having a smaller cage wouldn’t just be cramped for our hedgehog but the health issues arising from soiled food and water wouldn’t be good either.
A large part of the cage, about a third of the cage, is used for housing our hedgehog with his plastic house taking up this space. There’s still plenty of space around the sides of his house for him to move around and if becomes too warm for him, he’ll sleep next to his house in one of the fleece tunnels.
Cage height is an important factor to consider when there’s a need for an additional level to be added to a cage, allowing for the hedgehog to walk up a ramp thereby increasing the space available to them.
We don’t have an additional level in our cage even though the cage height is sufficient but we are looking at suitable options to allow us to do this in the future.
The thing that puts us off is the worry of our hedgehog falling off the ramp and hurting himself. My daughter reckons because pygmy hedgehogs eyesight isn’t particularly good they may find it difficult with depth perception and not realise there’s a drop to the side of the ramp and assume it’s still the ramp.
For us, until we are comfortable with a solution that keeps Hynee safe thereby giving us complete peace of mind, we’ll carry on investigating the options available.
We initially started off with a litter tray but found it to be too large for the cage and decided to remove it. Anyway, we found it wasn’t as effective as we originally thought it would be, as he would use it only some of the time and it didn’t make sense to put something so large and space-hogging in his cage which wasn’t as effective as we thought it would be.
Opting for a smaller litter tray introduces the problem it being knocked over as it’s lighter while a larger litter tray being heavier can take many a bump and still stay upright and near enough in place.
2. Retains warmth
Keeping a cage warm effectively is important for African Pygmy hedgehogs as they have evolved in warmer climates and are not used to colder climates. Resulting in the possibility of falling into hibernation and starving to death, as they simply don’t have enough body fat to survive.
It’s imperative to make sure any cage chosen can provide a good basis for keeping the hedgehog warm.
The choice of the cage needs to reflect on how effective is it to keep warm. Not all the cage needs to be kept warm as this can be prohibitively expensive but at least the sleeping area needs to be within the sweet spot of temperatures of between 72F (22C) and 80F (26.5C).
Otherwise, the hedgehog could be at risk of falling into hibernation during the colder months of the year. If the room temperatures can be maintained between 72F (22C) and 80F (26.5C), then there are no issues with having a bigger cage, otherwise, the cage will, in reality, become smaller as the hedgehog will refrain from venturing into the colder areas.
Need a place to stick the thermometer, as the inside temperature of the cage is what’s really important, as the outside temperature may be higher than the inside, giving you a deceptive feeling of reassurance and putting your hedgehog in danger.
As a rule of thumb, the larger cages are more difficult to heat but this doesn’t mean they should be discounted, as the size of the cage is also important in keeping the hedgehog healthy both physically and mentally.
We can’t heat the whole cage but do have heating in the area where our hedgehog spends most of his time, his sleeping area. We are completely reassured during the colder months, there’s enough heat in his heat mat to make it comfortable for him to sleep without any worry.
As our cage is made from plastic, the choice of heating was limited to a heat mat, as using a ceramic heat emitter could be considered dangerous by introducing a fire risk. It’s important to understand the risks of heating the type of cage chosen for your hedgehog.
Any cage chosen needs to be able to keep a majority of the cold air out, as cold air will circulate in rooms. Our hedgehog’s cage’s height is made of plastic, stopping any cold air coming into the cage, whilst cages without a solid perimeter just as cages made purely of metal grill walls will provide little in terms of a barrier against cold air.
It’s important to be sure there are no cold drafts at hedgehog height coming into the cage and using a candle around the cage and watching which way the flame flickers can give a good indication of air direction.
Cages with more permeable walls such as meta grills instead of solid ones will also lose heat from within the cage, so it’s important to get an effective type of cage with solid side (minimum 50% solid sides at the bottom part) to be able to retain some heat and not lose heat away to the surroundings quickly.
Otherwise getting a cage made completely of bars will let the cold air in easily and make it difficult for the cage to retain any heat generated within the cage.
We’ve found our plastic-based cage doesn’t lose too much heat and is generally warmer than its surroundings. More so with the fabric bedding which provides an insulating layer to keep the heat in and the cold out.
3. Well ventilated
Just as too little heat is bad for hedgehogs, too much heat can also be dangerous and lead to aestivation, heatstroke. So in warmer months, the cage needs to be able to release heat and not allow it to build up to dangerous levels.
Vivarium’s for example, can end up becoming greenhouses in the warmer months and need to have some mechanism of dissipating the excess heat or otherwise the hedgehog could literally end up being cooked in the heat, leading to it suffering from heatstroke.
Our mostly plastic cage with a metal grill on top is great in allowing the temperature not to build up. We can open a few doors and windows in the room where the cage is kept, allowing the air inside the room to cool subsequently letting the air in the cage cool, as the air circulates around the room.
The inside temperature of the cage is the most important aspect of keeping a pygmy hedgehog within the safe temperature range, so keeping an eye on the temperature is vitally important. Even with air conditioning to cool the room, the cage temperature may not necessarily cool as expected and put the hedgehog’s health at risk.
4. Safe cage
Cage safety is paramount not only for your hedgehog’s well-being but also for the rest of the householders. Choosing a cage that’s a potential fire risk isn’t a wise move and one that’s recommended.
As we use a predominantly plastic cage, we’ve had to be very careful in our choice of heating and to be safe have elected to use a heat mat. As ceramic emitting heaters (CEH) could pose a very serious fire risk with our plastic cage.
Do any of the components used in the manufacture of the cage toxic to hedgehogs? Some types of wood especially Aspen is toxic to hedgehogs and should a cage made of this be used, it could be curtains for the hedgehogs.
Areas of injury
Are there any areas of the cage with sharp edges which could cause injury to a hedgehog? Or are there places where their little heads could end up becoming stuck and cause serious injury?
What about wire floors, they could get their feet stuck and injure themselves quite seriously?
Our plastic cage is flat with no edges on the inside that could cause injury or any areas where they could get stuck and hurt their heads, limbs or any other part of their body.
It’s important to appreciate they’ll be wandering around at night in the dark with their poor vision, with only their hearing and sense of smell to really guide them, meaning it’s absolutely essential to make sure their cage is safe.
5. Easy to clean
African Pygmy Hedgehogs are messy by nature and coupled with their poor eyesight they invariably knock over items in their cage and create even more mess.
This means buying a cage to clean easily is a must as there will need to an effective cleaning routine established to make sure the mess doesn’t become overbearing, not just for the hedgehog but the smell can build up.
We have three parts to our weekly cleaning routine, a light daily clean, a midweek clean and a full clean at the end of the week.
Easy poop removal
The daily clean involves removing any poop from the cage and as the cage we use is made of plastic, any poop that gets onto the sides ends up hardening and sticking against the sidewalls, allowing us to easily nudge it off as we clean.
We use a portable vacuum cleaner and nudge the sucking nozzle against any dried poop to easily shift from the sides of the cage. Any poop which is partially on the bedding and the sides of the cage comes off easily with a tug from the bedding.
This ease of removing poop from the cage is important because it saves time from having to scrape poop and makes the daily clean routine a breeze.
Easy pee removal
When you gotta go, you go and our hedgehog is no exception with his urinating. The urine doesn’t soak into the cage minimizing the chances of any odours lingering on, so a quick wipe is all that is required to soak up his pee of the plastic base.
6. Easy access
The cage needs to have an easily accessible lid, which can be removed to allow access to the items inside the cage. This makes it easier to clean the cage as we can remove items out quickly, vacuum up each night and place the items back just as quickly.
Our cage has a lid consisting of a light metal grill which can be flipped up or just as easily detached and put to one side. This not only allows us to take items out of the cage but allows us to detach the cage parts and give the inside of the cage a thorough clean once a week.
If we had a cage requiring a lot of effort to dismantle for cleaning, the likelihood of sticking to a weekly full cleaning schedule would become more difficult, as it would become a chore instead of a breeze as it is now.
This one is more of personal preference, as we do have to move our hedgehog’s cage around occasionally especially when we get visitors, so having a lightweight cage makes this a breeze.
I can put our hedgehog into a little special box and unplug the heat mat and put the wires and thermostat inside the cage and my husband can quite easily carry the cage around the house, even take the cage upstairs to my daughter’s room or the spare room.
If the cage was made of much heavier materials, this would become quite a chore and it would require some planning along with assistance from my husband and take at least two of us to carry it. Obviously, if you have no intention of moving the cage around then a heavier weight cage could be an option.
My daughter spent a lot of time researching the best cage for her pygmy hedgehog to make sure he remained healthy.
We bought a Zoo Zone Habitat Large cage as this was big enough for our hedgehog to run around in, had space for all our hedgehog accessories, was lightweight carry if we had to move it, was very easy to clean, kept the heat in during the colder months and allowed cooler air to circulate in the warmer months.
Can African Pygmy Hedgehogs eat scrambled eggs? Yes, as long as nothing else is added to the eggs like milk or other substances detrimental to hedgehogs health. Plain boiled eggs can also be given to hedgehogs.
Can African Pygmy Hedgehogs eat nuts? Nuts can be a choking hazard and also a source of high amounts of fat. This makes nuts a bad choice for hedgehogs and it’s best to avoid nuts.
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