When it came to choosing the best bedding for our African Pygmy Hedgehog, we came up with a list of tips to make sure any bedding we checked out was suitable for our hedgehog.
What is the best bedding for a hedgehog? The best hedgehog bedding options include fabric bedding, shredded paper, old newspapers, certain litter pellets to wood shavings like pine. Some bedding can be toxic like cedar wood shavings, whilst others can be dusty, cause irritation or be eaten by hedgehogs.
Bedding is essential for hedgehogs as they need bedding to keep warm and absorb their urine, fecal matter or any water spills from their water bowls or dispensers. Hedgehog bedding also needs to be able to allow them to dig as they forage or when they feel threatened.
The following part of this article will look at some important tips we came up with around hedgehog bedding.
Any bedding choice needs to be non-toxic and not contain anything that could be toxic or is itself toxic. Cedarwood shavings as bedding is a big no-no and many hedgehog owners and breeders have stipulated cedar wood as being toxic to hedgehogs.
The bedding must not also be made of anything that could react with the poop or urine delivered by the hedgehog, this could be as innocent as a different smell or more sinister change into a chemical that’s toxic to the hedgehog.
It’s best to check with a reputable pet shop or even a vet to make sure the bedding you plan to use isn’t going to be toxic to your pygmy hedgehog.
2. Easy to clean
Choosing bedding which can be easily cleaned is a must. Our choice of fleecy fabric allows any dried up poop to be picked off with ease by using the front nozzle of the portable vacuum cleaner we use, allowing easier removal by then sucking up dried poop.
If we had bedding where poop would seep in and get embedded, or bedding where you ended up having to be extra careful not to vacuum up bits of the bedding with the poop, this would make it much harder to remove the poop and would make the daily poop clean a real chore.
The last thing we want is a real chore as you end up arguing over who’s the unlucky one to have to clean the bedding each night instead of just doing it with ease with the right bedding in place.
An important point to consider is how easy is the bedding to wash if it needs to be washed regularly, as it needs to be washed at a higher temperature (to help get rid of any dust mites) and needs to be washable effectively with a gentler detergent, as a strong detergent may leave residues behind that could be problematic for hedgehogs.
Bedding can become expensive if it’s not reusable and this recurring cost could be spent elsewhere on your hedgehog or better still on your family. As we use the fabric-based fleece lined bedding, this is inexpensive as we only needed to buy two pieces of bedding. One is in use whilst the other is being washed or in the process of being dried as it hangs off one of the radiators.
If we used bedding which was used one time only and we had to change this at least twice a week, over a year the costs could mount up compared to bedding that’s washable. Then there’s the issue of disposing of this one time use bedding and we have a limited pickup for waste and this additional waste will need some thought on how we could fit it in with our normal waste.
Bedding needs to be safe for the hedgehog in that it doesn’t get stuck in their spines or worse still gets wrapped around their limbs causing a loss of circulation. The latter loss of circulation could result in an expensive trip to a vet and an amputation, which isn’t nice for the hedgehog and can be very upsetting for owners. We always check for any loose threads on a regular basis.
As they are walking around a lot in their cages at night the bedding needs to be soft enough for them to walk on without any discomfort including getting their nails caught. Having hard-surfaced bedding wouldn’t be a good idea or bedding with bits that have protruding or sharp edges.
Bedding needs to be able to not allow the development of mites, mould or other parasites and to achieve this needs to be easily cleanable and washable at high temperatures (we wash at 60C, that’s 140F) if it’s reusable. A high-temperature wash will kill any nasties and protect your hedgehog.
We always wash any bedding we use at a high temperature when we get it new as it may contain mites and nasties from where it was stored in the shop or the warehouse where it came from. This hot wash will help dispense of anything that shouldn’t be there in the bedding.
Water vapour in the air can build up especially when there are people living and breathing. Any bedding must be able to absorb any excess moisture to stop mould building up. Black mould is particularly bad as it’s dangerous to humans as well as pets, so to minimize on mould, precautions to keep the room where your hedgehog is kept, well aerated.
Generally opening a window for a few hours will be sufficient but this may not be practical in the colder months. We have invested in a dehumidifier that we run on a regular basis, helping reduce the moisture in the air and stopping any mould from forming in the room or in the cage and bedding.
Harmful oils, especially in some wood shavings, as well as chemicals can be harmful and this type of bedding must be avoided at all cost. If you do plan to use wood shavings, please check thoroughly the suitability of the wood used and whether any chemicals and oils have been added. I’d also be wary of any nasties being hidden in the wood shavings which could cause health issues like mites and parasites.
Being able to control what our hedgehog eats is very important to us and this also means that he doesn’t chew and inadvertently end up eating pieces of his bedding. So our selection of bedding isn’t easy to chew on and we keep an eye on checking to see if our hedgehog isn’t eating his bedding over a period of time, as this could make him ill.
Bedding needs to be able to cater for the items that rest on it in the cage, such as the running wheel, the house, feeding and drinking bowls. The last thing we’d want is our hedgehog to bump into his running wheel and this to slide and topple over on top of him. The fabric fleecy bedding we use is quite good at keeping things in place as he explores the night away.
5. Low Dust or Dust Free
Dust can be a problem for pygmy hedgehogs and cause them respiratory problems, so it’s best to make sure any bedding options consider the ability of dust build-up and attraction.
Bedding such as sawdust, for example, is particularly problematic in producing its own dust and attracting household dust, making it a very poor choice for bedding, one that should be avoided.
Our fleece fabric bedding keeps dust levels low and combined with regular cleaning and washing, the dust levels are at a satisfactory level in our hedgehog’s cage.
We also vacuum around his room using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, helping pick up more dust around his cage.
The absorbency of bedding is important as we don’t want cold puddles of water or urine building up in his cage. This is especially important in the colder months where we need to make sure he’s not overly cold.
When we used bowls for holding his drinking water, he would occasionally spill these over as he moved around the cage, spilling the water but fortunately, the bedding soaked up the water with ease.
He’s also prone to spilling water when he’s drinking from his more rigid water bowl as he moves between this and his food bowl but the bedding absorbs all this water and his pee with ease.
We chose fabric-based, fleece-lined bedding as not only was it easy to clean and absorbent, it met all the other criteria we’d selected as being important.
7. Environmentally friendly
As I’ve stated earlier we’ve chosen reusable bedding as it’s more cost-effective but reusable makes it more environmentally friendly.
Bedding that isn’t reusable ends up being thrown away and if it degrades poorly then it’s an environmental issue.
8. Burrow friendly
Bedding needs to be easy to burrow under and when we wake up our hedgehog in the late evening, he makes a beeline for the side of the bedding and burrows underneath with ease. We end having to remove the bedding sometimes to make sure he eats and poops before we can take him out of the cage and start cleaning.
We also have an additional fleece tunnel next to his house, allowing him to burrow inside. He uses this if his house gets too hot or if he’s disturbed whilst exploring to quickly dart into and burrow along.
9. Keeps cold away
The base of cages will get cold, especially if it’s plastic-like ours, so we needed a layer to keep this cold out. Our fabric fleecy bedding has been very good at keeping the cold from the base out.
Bedding that keeps the base of the cage exposed like straw, doesn’t, in my opinion, provide a good way to keep the cold of the cage base away from contact with hedgehogs.
10. Doesn’t get eaten
Bedding is for bedding and not something to be eaten but some forms of bedding will get eaten by pygmy hedgehogs, such as the paper pellets. So it’s very important to keep an eye out and watch for signs of diarrhoea or constipation as this could mean the pygmy hedgehog is eating the pellets.
WARNING: There is always a choking risk with using pellet based bedding especially with softer products.
Paper pellet bedding
A lot of the paper bedding I’ve seen being recommended on hedgehog advice websites is only being recommended because it’s good repeatable business for them. They wouldn’t make as much if the bedding was a one time purchase and reusable like fleecy fabric-based bedding.
Others who recommend paper-based bedding actually don’t own a hedgehog or they own another small pet and think a pygmy hedgehog would be no different.
What’s in the paper pellets?
So the first question you need to consider when it comes to this type of bedding is what’s in the paper pellets?
There could be chemicals left over from the previous use of the paper, as a lot of the pellets are made from recycled paper.
Are the pellets choking hazards?
Pygmy hedgehogs are inquisitive by nature and will invariably chew on new things. This can be problematic if they chew on something which gets wet and sticky, ending up getting stuck in their mouth or worse still their throat.
Will the paper pellets get eaten?
Unfortunately in some cases, pygmy hedgehogs may decide to eat the paper pellets, affecting their digestion, leading to diarrhoea or constipation. It is vital to keep an eye on your pygmy hedgehog when introducing new types of bedding, to make sure they are not suffering from reacting to the bedding or from eating the bedding.
Scented is bad
Some of the paper pellet bedding I have seen is lightly scented, it’s generally marketed as ‘odour-control’. I think this is more for the owner’s benefit than the hedgehogs.
I’m concerned about this because hedgehogs have a very strong sense of smell and I’m always conscious of using something I feel could cause distress to our pet.
Paper pellet bedding isn’t reusable and this means it needs to be regularly purchased. This can be a costly regular exercise and one we avoided by electing to use reusable fabric-based bedding.
I’ve read quite a few reviews for paper pellets where owners have complained of bugs being in the packaging. This is worrying as it shows the poor quality manufacturing and storing from the manufacturer and I would always stay from manufacturers who exhibited poor quality.
Wood Pellet bedding
Pellets made from wood are used by some pygmy hedgehog owners for bedding. I’m not a big fan of this type of bedding either, as it has a lot of similarity in the issues experienced with paper pellet based bedding.
Including issues such as the type of wood used to make the pellets, as it could be toxic (Cedarwood especially), contain chemicals and oils, detrimental to a pygmy hedgehogs health.
Cat Litter pellet bedding
Cat Litter pellets are used by some pygmy hedgehog owners for bedding. These pellets are made from paper or wood predominantly. I’m not a big fan of this type of bedding either, as these pellets are designed to minimise odour from cats poop and as such may contain chemicals to do this. Such chemicals can be dangerous to pygmy hedgehogs.
Paper, Wood and Cat Litter Pellets not good enough
In conclusion Paper, Wood and Cat Litter Pellet bedding are not good enough. They may be fine for other small pets but I’ve always felt hedgehogs are a little bit special and extra care is required when deciding what’s good for them.
Fabric type bedding
We use fabric-based bedding with a fleecy lining and this has been an excellent choice for our hedgehog. It’s easy to clean and wash, it’s absorbent and keeps the cold of the base of the cage at bay. It keeps the items in the cage in check, stopping them from slipping or falling over.
We’ve extended this type of bedding to include his tunnel and a pouch in his house, allowing him to burrow into the pouch and settle himself down to sleep.
I think fabric bedding is also good for insulating the noise around, as we have wooden floors and walking around must send vibrations towards Hynee’s cage.
I tend to go for fabric fleece bedding as I don’t trust other bedding options. I will always give the bedding a wash before using it.
If you plan to use wood shavings, it’s vital you ensure the wood shaving are from a wood deemed safe for hedgehogs and doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals or oils. As stated earlier cedarwood is a no go option for hedgehogs and is toxic to hedgehogs. Cedar and Pine wood-based options are dangerous to pygmy hedgehogs as they are toxic. They can cause respiratory problems, hair loss and skin problems.
I’m not a fan of wood shavings as they seem a bit too harsh as a form of bedding and don’t provide the comfort bedding like fabric would provide. Many owners advocate this type of bedding as being more natural for them allowing them to burrow and kind of experience the life they would do in the wild.
Aspen shavings are often touted as the best form of wooden shaving bedding however there have been some cases where pygmy hedgehogs have had allergic reactions, so it’s vital to keep an eye on your hedgehog is you plan to use this form of bedding.
WARNING: There have been reports of wooden shavings injuring pygmy hedgehogs, from getting lodged in their private parts to making cuts on their limbs, so I would be very careful of using this type of bedding.
Having no bedding in the pygmy hedgehog’s cage isn’t really a viable option as not only will it not limit the cold from the base of the cage being felt by the hedgehog but the poop will end up sticking to the cage base, making it difficult to remove.
When the poops dried on the cage floor it becomes an obstacle for the hedgehog to manoeuvre around without tripping on it. On the fabric bedding we use for Hynee, the poop dries up but doesn’t stick as much to the bedding so it’s easier to clean and easier for Hynee to knock out of the way as he’s moving around the cage.
Urine will leave puddles of coldness and increase the likelihood of the hedgehog getting more of this on their body as they trundle through it, soaking into their fur and making them smell even more. This may result in having to give them more opportunities for bathing, whilst this would keep them clean, too much bathing bring its own problems like their skin becoming drier.
Bad bedding choices
Here is a list of what I would assume are poor choices for bedding:
- Gravel (painful for their feet);
- Sawdust (causes breathing problems);
- Cedar shavings (toxic);
- Pine shavings (toxic);
- Soil; and
Hay and straw can also be dangerous as pygmy hedgehogs can get their feet wrapped in it and this can cause limb damage and amputation in worse case scenarios.
There’s also the risk of what nasty could be hiding in it, this would also be the case for leaves and soil. So it’s best to stay clear of these types of bedding.
What is the best bedding for an African Pygmy Hedgehog house? We have found the fabric-based fleece lined bedding is a good choice for our hedgehog’s house as it keeps him warm and is very absorbent.
Can I use towels for African Pygmy Hedgehog bedding? Yes, you can as long as you make sure any loose threads are cut away quickly so they don’t hurt your hedgehog. Quality towels are good at absorbing any excess liquids like their urine and providing warmth.
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