How Long Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs Live For?

Many pygmy hedgehogs outdoors

I wanted to find out how long African Pygmy Hedgehogs live for as pets on average. As well as whether I could influence the lifespan by adopting strategies to prolong their life.

How long do African Pygmy Hedgehogs live for? African Pygmy hedgehogs can live for 3-5 years as pets but tumors are common around 3 years of age and can be incurable. Pygmy hedgehogs live longer as pets than in the wild, where natural predators are the biggest cause of premature death. A good cage with good heating and a balanced diet with exercise can keep them healthy and prolong their life if they remain disease-free.

African Pygmy hedgehogs are prone to sarcoma type tumors, usually around the age of three. These tumors normally appear around the mouth and face, quicklyly spreading around the body and causing extensive damage to their organs.

We noticed a swelling on the right side of our hedgehog’s face and a reddening near the bottom of his mouth. When we took him to our veterinarian, he was diagnosed with teeth problems and we were told pygmy hedgehogs do tend to have problems with their teeth rotting.

Some of his teeth had become rotten in his lower jaw and had caused an abscess in his gums, so we had to have these removed, on the advice of the veterinarian. He had to have a course of antibiotics and painkillers to reduce the swelling and the pain.

During the operation, the veterinarian found a mass of cells around the same area as the abscess and asked us whether we wanted to have a biopsy of a small sample of these cells to make sure there wasn’t anything more serious. These sample cells were sent away to a specialized laboratory for analysis.

The veterinarian also removed as much of the mass of cells as possible and when we picked our hedgehog up, his swelling had come down but there was still some slight swelling there. We assumed, this was down to the operation and after a course of antibiotics the swelling would recede.

A week later we had a call to confirm our deepest suspicions that it was indeed a tumor, a sarcoma to be exact and it was incurable. This was a body blow, knowing our hedgehog might not survive the following few weeks to get to his fourth birthday.

Pygmy hedgehog with tumor swelling on side of face
Swelling on right side

The prognosis was to carry on feeding him and giving him painkillers twice daily, until he eventually stops eating. We will then need to take him to the veterinarian, where he will be sedated and put to sleep.

It took us a few days to come to terms with this terrible news but we were happy to have had him in our lives and will make sure his last few weeks, he can live with minimal pain and enjoy the foods he loves most.

We’re giving him Metacam, a painkiller to keep his pain at bay and at first found it difficult to give him this along with the antibiotic Baytril, as he would shuffle around so much, making it difficult to put any of these medicines into his mouth. We tried putting some on his dry cat biscuits but he wouldn’t have it, even when we had crunched the biscuits down for him to eat, especially in light of his missing teeth.

In the end, we found small pieces of cooked chicken, which he adores, allows us to squeeze the medicine on the pieces, taking care none of the medicine ends up on the fabric below and is totally absorbed by the chicken. You can see him eating chicken in the video at the bottom of this page.

With diseases aside, by looking after the pygmy hedgehog, it may be possible to ensure they live a long and healthy life. I’ve come up with 17 tips that may help.

1. Get the right cage

The size of the cage and what the cage is made of can impact the lifespan of pygmy hedgehogs. Having a small cramped cage can be detrimental to their well-being and the materials used in the manufacture of the cage could be toxic to them. 

Cage size

After the pygmy hedgehog, the next most expensive purchase decision will be the cage and it’s imperative to make sure you get not only the right size of cage but the right cage. We chose the ZooZone 2 Habitat large cage for our pygmy hedgehog.

The cage must allow the pygmy hedgehog to be able to roam and explore their cage even when additional items like running wheels, feeding bowls and housing has been added to the cage. Contentment at having space to rummage around and explore is essential in making them live longer.  

ZooZone 2 large cage

Pygmy hedgehogs are solitary animals, so having more than one pygmy hedgehog in a cage isn’t a good idea as they don’t like being with other pygmy hedgehogs.

The only time I’ve seen more than one pygmy hedgehog in a cage was when we went to collect Hynee and he was in a cage with his mother and his two siblings. So if you do have a pregnant pygmy hedgehog then it makes sense to have a cage big enough to accommodate her and her offspring.

Cage materials

The cage must not be made from toxic materials, cedarwood, for example, is known to be toxic to pygmy hedgehogs. Choosing a cage made of safe materials like glass or a safe plastic is a good option. 

Be careful with the heating options with your cage, as safe plastic cages could pose a fire risk if you elect to use a heat lamp as your primary source of heating. Heat mats are a safer choice for plastic-based cages.

Vivariums can also be used to house pygmy hedgehogs but do make sure any wooden parts to the vivarium isn’t made from wood that’s toxic to them. Heating vivariums with heat lamps don’t pose fire risks as long as the cage materials are fire-safe and that includes the items in the cage, like igloo housing, feeding bowls and running wheels.  

2. Keep obesity away

Obesity in pygmy hedgehogs can shorten their lives by introducing diseases like diabetes to serious cancers. With this in mind, it’s essential to ensure an eye is kept on their eating, exercising and obesity levels. 

We find it easier to check if Hynee has put on weight when we bathe him, as the spines don’t puff out and we get to see his real body line. 

A better method would be to regularly weight your hedgehog and see if there’s a change in weight to make sure obesity isn’t creeping in. 

Gorging on food

Pygmy hedgehogs have a reputation on gorging on food whilst this may not necessarily be the case for all pygmy hedgehogs, it’s important to understand the implication of this gorging behaviour. We’ve only seen this with mealworms.

Mealworms and insects for food

Mealworms can provide a source of chiton to African Pygmy Hedgehogs to help them with the health of their spines. However, limit the number of mealworms in their diet each week.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs love mealworms and left to their own devices they would gorge themselves on them. But mealworms can be extremely dangerous to African Pygmy Hedgehogs as they not only damage their bones but cause life-threatening health problems when eaten regularly in large quantities.

pygmy hedgehog eating mealworm
Pygmy hedgehogs love mealworms

Make sure you feed your African Pygmy Hedgehog in moderation and limit foods like mealworms and insects to maybe 1 or 2 a week at most. The phosphorus in mealworms and other insects can cause bone deterioration and this can be very painful for them, causing them stress and health issues.


Keeping the pygmy hedgehogs healthy is paramount and exercise (along with diet) is key in keeping obesity at bay. In the wild these little creatures spend a lot of time at night foraging for food and relative to their size, they walk large distances, covering several miles a night. 

To give pygmy hedgehogs space to stretch their legs and try to walk (or run) the long distances they would in the wild, a running wheel is an essential item any cage setup can not do without. Our hedgehog spends many hours a night walking and running on his wheel, providing an excellent way for him to remain fit and healthy. 

Exercise Wheel

Bear in mind a running wheel can be noisy when being used and as it’s mainly used during the night, you don’t want to keep their cage where the noise can become disturbing.

Running wheels will need to be cleaned regularly as African Pygmy Hedgehogs will be pooping as they walk and this poop end up drying up on the wheel. If the poops not removed regularly then the African Pygmy Hedgehog could get injured.

When they use the running wheel, they start walking and then break into running, so do make sure the bedding used doesn’t cause the running wheel to flip over if it becomes unbalanced. We use fabric-based bedding with fleece lining and this provides a little grip to the base of the running wheel stopping it from slipping.  

We have two running wheels, one we leave in the cage and the other is soaked in some water during the day to dissolve the dried poop. We then dry this wheel and swap it with the wheel in the cage. This allows us to keep the wheels clean and not have to do any hard scrubbing to get the dried poop off.

3. Reduce Stress

It can take a while for African Pygmy Hedgehogs to adjust to new surroundings. When African Pygmy Hedgehogs are scared or stressed, they tend to curl up and start hissing. You may also notice their chest area moving up and down rapidly as their heart rate increases.

Bond with your African Pygmy Hedgehog

It’s imperative to build a good relationship with your African Pygmy Hedgehog as quickly as possible, so they get used to you and don’t stress out every time you take them out of the cage.

Bonding with a hedgehog

We made a mistake at first by using a cloth to put on Hynee to allow us to pick him up. This stopped us being hurt by his spines but this didn’t allow us to bond with him.

To compensate for our mistake, my daughter decided to see if she could tame Hynee in a month by getting him used to her smell. She wore an old T-Shirt for a day and then she put this in Hynee’s cage. He crawled into the T-shirt and hid, helping him become accustomed to my daughter’s smell.

When she went to pick him up from his cage, she would put her fingers close to his chest but away from his face. This would allow Hynee to check the smell of the fingers and realise it was the same as the T-shirt so it was a friendly smell.

A word of warning, make sure you have not handled any food before you put your fingers near an African Pygmy Hedgehog. My daughter had forgotten to wash her hands after putting Hynee’s food into his food dish.

As soon as she put her fingers near him, he could smell food and he actually bit her. She screamed and started to cry but no serious harm was done. This was an important less she and the rest of the family learnt.

Hynee is so tame now,  my daughter can pick him up and let him curl up in her hands. On many occasions, he’s fallen asleep in her hands.

Transporting African Pygmy Hedgehogs

When we go away for longer vacations, more than three days, we don’t feel comfortable leaving Hynee home alone for an extended period of time. Instead, a family member looks after Hynee and my daughter regularly Skype video calls to check on him for her own reassurance. 

We have to transport Hynee twenty miles to the family members house and this in itself can be quite stressful for him. So we have a transport box with two slats on the side of the top allowing air to come in.

In the base of the box we put some of his bedding that hasn’t been washed or something clean bedding but with his current pouch with any dried up poop removed. 

Transport box

We put in some food, scattering a few dry cat biscuits and then put in more fabric-based bedding on top. When we put him inside, he crawls under the top layer of bedding and settles down. As it’s dark you can hear him eating.

My daughter also carries the transport box in her laps in the car and doesn’t put it in the trunk (boot). This helps us keep an eye on him and who knows what could happen with the box moving around under its own accord in the trunk with the cage and other hedgehog paraphernalia in there.

When we arrive at our destination my husband sets up the cage and then my daughter takes Hynee out of his box and pits him into his cage. We give him a treat like Dreamies cat biscuits. We would give him a mealworm but our family member has told us they do not want these things in their house.

By taking these steps we’ve found Hynee isn’t too stressed when he arrives at his new destination. There’s hardly any hissing or shaking in the box during the journey.

Poop changes

When African Pygmy Hedgehogs are very stressed they may start producing diarrhoea or even green poops. If their pooping doesn’t go back to normal, you will probably need to take your African Pygmy Hedgehog to the vets and get them checked out to see if there isn’t an underlying issue other than stress causing the poop changes.

4. Keep other pets away 

If you have other pets, keep them away, let your African Pygmy Hedgehog get used to the smells and sounds in the area where their cage is.

Try the human bonding method described previously before trying to introduce them to your other pets. They’ll need a comforting friend before they meet your pets.

Pet scents

Don’t share anything used by other pets with your pygmy hedgehog until you are comfortable they are at ease with your other pets. As the scent left on shared items will distress the hedgehog.

We had an incident at the vets where we take Hynee to have his claws clipped every four months. The vet assistant clipping his claws used a glove to hold him and he went wild, snapping and trying to bite the glove. We realised something wasn’t right and asked on what pet had the glove been used before?

It was a cat and their scent was still on the glove. This was distressing to Hynee so the assistant took off the glove and my daughter managed to calm him down. I also gave him a cat biscuit every time he had the claws trimmed from each leg.

5. Avoid outside risks

We don’t take Hynee outside into our garden, so he doesn’t get the opportunity to run through the grass and explore. This is sad but we don’t know what he could pick up from something innocent as rummaging through the grass.

As he’s not grown up in the outside world, he’s probably not had enough opportunity to build up his immune defences to the outside world or inherited them from his parents who were also pets. So we just don’t risk taking him outside. My biggest fear is mites and these minuscule nasties if they affect Hynee could cause him some serious health problems.

6. Make sure they get enough sleep

African Pygmy Hedgehogs need plenty of sleep and as they’re nocturnal, sleeping during the day is paramount in maintaining their health. They’ll come out at night and search for food, exercise and investigate their cage.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs need a dark area to sleep but one where they can tell the difference between daylight and night time. Our African Pygmy Hedgehogs cage has a plastic house which we cover with a thin blanket. This is dark enough for him to sleep in the daylight but there’s still a difference in light when daylight ends, as it goes pitch black, signalling that daytime has ended.

We also have a cloth-based tunnel, which he sometimes crawls into and goes to sleep. The light can come in from either end of the tunnel, so he’s aware of the distinction of night and day. Over time his body clock has adjusted and readjusts when we have to change our clocks to daylight savings as the nights get shorter and the days get longer.  

7. Keep cold away

Heating a cage to provide an environment where the hedgehog doesn’t get too cold and go into hibernation is very important. Hibernation can be fatal to pygmy hedgehogs as they don’t have enough fat and starve to death.

There are a number of ways you can keep a cage warm but care should be taken to make sure the heating device isn’t a fire risk and/or dangerous to the pygmy hedgehog.

Fire risk

The right type of heating for a cage is important as some types of heating may not be appropriate for some cages, as they may introduce a fire risk.

Cages made of plastic pose a fire risk if heating lamps are used. In fact, if other items in the cage are also made of plastic like the running wheel, there’s a fire risk with these items too with heat lamps.

We don’t use a heat lamp for these specific reasons as the cage we use is a ZooZone Habitat Large cage and most of this cage is made of plastic. 

The non-plastic based vivarium type cages are probably a better bet for heat lamps but these cages whilst mostly glass may still contain fire risk materials.

We also have a plastic-based food/water bowl, plastic running wheel and a plastic house for our hedgehog making it difficult to choose the heat lamp as an adequate heat source. 

We could move these plastic items away from a heat lamp (if we chose one) but I think this would severely limit the areas kept warm and prove to be pointless in ensuring our hedgehog’s well-being. 

Personally I would always try to make sure the area where our hedgehog spends most of their time, should be the area kept warm at all times when the temperature drops. So for us, this is the sleeping area and we chose a heat mat as the primary heat source instead.

Reputable supplier

Make sure any heating device is brought from a reputable supplier as this should minimise fire risk and reduce the risk of hedgehogs being injured from burns, electrical shocks and electrical overloads. 

Cheaper heating devices may be made with inferior components. To us, it was a no brainer to pay the extra for a tried and tested heat mat instead of trying to save a few pennies on a cheaper untested model. 

Surge protection

Make sure any heating device you use is plugged into an electrical socket with surge protection (you can buy also use the surge protected electric socket extenders) just in case the heat mat isn’t overloaded and destroyed by a surge of electricity thereby protecting our hedgehog.

Surge protection

Inspect regularly

I regularly physically check the heat mat to ensure it’s still working by touching the top when our hedgehog eats away at night. 

This is important as the lights on the thermostat could show the heat mat is working but in reality, the heat mat could have stopped working. 

Regular inspection is advised to make sure the heating device isn’t becoming dangerous like cables and hot surfaces becoming exposed.

Thermostat controlled

Any heating device needs to have a thermostat and thermometer, the thermostat will keep the temperature within the safe temperature zone and the thermometer will keep an eye on the temperature. 


The thermometer needs to be placed inside the cage and the one we have with our heat mat has a sucker, allowing us to stick it to the cage. 

Thermometer with sucker attachment

We take care to make sure our hedgehog can’t get access to the thermometer or it’s connecting wire (connection to the thermostat) as he would most probably chew on it and get a shock from the current passing through. By sticking it to the side of the cage above half-height is effective to keep him away.

Direct access to heat

We put the heat mat on top of the bedding so he has direct access to the heat. Putting the heat mat under the bedding may inhibit the amount of heat permeating through the bedding. 

Having a heat mat in the sleeping area can minimise the risk of hibernation, as the hedgehog is kept warm continuously while they sleep.

Heat Mat

This is very important as the hedgehog gets older, their resistance to cold becomes less pronounced and having heating in the space they spend most of their time may well keep them alive longer and bring peace of mind. 

Getting another heat mat to heat other areas of the cage-like their feeding area is a good idea as they are inexpensive to run. 

Watch out for light

Any heating device mustn’t affect the pygmy hedgehog’s body clock and their routines. Some heat lamps also emit light and these models are popular with reptile owners as they provide a good source of heating and light for reptiles to feed.

These light-emitting heat lamps are a bad idea of pygmy hedgehogs as the light confuses the hedgehog into thinking it’s still daytime and most probably stopping them from leaving their housing to come out to eat and exercise. Pygmy hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures so an understanding of the time of day is essential for their body clocks to appreciate.

Heat lamps emitting only heat and not light are the ones suited for pygmy hedgehog as they won’t confuse the hedgehog’s body clock. Keeping them in the routine of feeding at night when it’s dark and sleeping in the day when it’s light. These types of heat lamps are called Ceramic Heat Emitters (CEH) and provide a good source of heating.

8. Watch out for hibernation signs

If it gets too cold, African Pygmy Hedgehogs may go into hibernation especially as they get older. There is a risk here, they might not come out of hibernation. In the wild, they don’t tend to hibernate as they are in a warm climate. It’s imperative if they do go into hibernation they are received. 

Generally by putting the African Pygmy Hedgehog next to your body can be sufficient. Put them on your chest (make sure you have light clothing on like a T-shirt) and then put a towel over them. Your body heat should slowly help them. If this doesn’t help then seek immediate veterinary care.

Pygmy hedgehogs can exhibit going into hibernation signs that need to be acted on quickly to ensure the hedgehog doesn’t fall into hibernation.

  • Looks tired all time;
  • Struggles to uncurl;
  • Struggles to curl up;
  • Struggles to stand;
  • Cold to touch
  • Eating less; and
  • Large weight loss.

It’s essential to get to grips with how your hedgehog behaves normally as any changes to their behaviour become easier to spot and potential changes leading to hibernation can be stopped earlier.

9. Cleanliness is important 

Cleaning the cage regularly is important as this can reduce the risk of injury and from infections. Dried up poop can not only end up on the floor of the cage but if they have a running wheel, poop can end up on the hedgehog’s feet, this is known as poop boots and could cause injuries to limbs when they are running on their running wheels.

Poop can also lead to infections, especially if food or water becomes soiled with poop and urine, allowing nasties like mites and parasites to build up. 

Cleaning pygmy hedgehogs at least twice a month is essential to get any poop and urine out of their fur, spikes and off their limbs.

10. Get the right bedding

The right bedding is essential to help protect our pygmy hedgehog.


The right bedding will need to be non-toxic to pygmy hedgehogs as some forms of bedding like cedar shaving are toxic and MUST BE AVOIDED.

Watch out for any chemicals or oils that could be toxic being added to bedding. Any scents or chemicals added to bedding to try to control odour may also be highly problematic. 


The choice of bedding is very important as good bedding allows hedgehogs to keep warm, shielding them from the cold of the cage base and allowing them to snuggle up and stay warm. 

There is little point in having bedding which allows the cold of the cage to permeate across it such as straw and instead of using bedding such as fabric with a fleece lining acting as a barrier for the cold is a much better choice.

We have a fabric tunnel with a fleece lining next to our hedgehogs heat mat and this gathers up some of the heat from his heat mat, allowing him to burrow through it whilst still remaining warm at night.


In winter the temperature in our house can drop to about 61F (16C), there are colder parts of the house like our conservatory but we would never dream of putting Hynee there. We put our homes central heating on twice a day, for about 2 hours in the early morning at 66F (19C) and then again in the early evening, again at 66F (19C). 

If it gets really cold then we may leave the heating on for prolonged periods. By stopping the temperature from falling below 66F (16C) in the house but having the heat mat set to a minimum of 72F (22C) degrees, Hynee can still get enough heat. 

11. Know their eating habits

We’re still not sure about Hynee gorging on food like his dry cat biscuits but when it comes to mealworms, that’s a different story. They are highly addictive and he would gorge on them all day if he could. So we severely limit his access to mealworms.

We also know we can leave Hynee alone for a few days with enough food and he’ll eat all he needs each night and no more. When we come back, there’s still a little bit of food left.

We regularly check Hynee’s poop and see if it’s different than normal, don’t worry this is just a visual check and nothing more sinister. What we’re looking for is any changes visually, like he’s pooping diarrhoea and not the log type of poop he normally does. 

12. Give them the right food balance

Pygmy hedgehogs need a balance of proteins and fats in their food to eliminate the chances of them becoming obese.

Low fat

It’s important Pygmy Hedgehogs don’t have too much fat in their diet as this could lead to obesity. Unlike in the wild where they can expend a lot of energy as they forage for food at night. When kept as pets even with exercise, it’s going to be a struggle for them to keep weight off when they’re regularly consuming too much fat.

Protein below 40%

In the wild pygmy hedgehogs would eat more protein than when kept as pets however the protein in the wild isn’t concentrated protein, as is the case with cat biscuits. It’s generally from insects and includes the water within the insect as well as the protein.

This liquid addition to the protein makes any excess protein easier to remove. With concentrated protein as in dry cat biscuits, there’s no liquid to help remove any excess and even if they drink water it isn’t quite the same as in the wild eating insects.

Excess protein can lead to liver and kidney damage and result in shortening a pygmy hedgehogs life.

Dry cat biscuits for indoor cats

The dry cat biscuits especially the indoor variety make a great choice as a staple food for pygmy hedgehogs because of their low-fat content at around 5% and the protein content being below 35%.

Lean meat

Additional occasional sources of lean protein are fine as long as they are not seasoned or have any oils or butter added. 

We give our hedgehog some roast chicken once a week when we have this for Sunday lunch. I take care of breaking down the chicken into small pieces so he can easily chomp away later when he wakes up.

Bad food

Certain types of food can be toxic to pygmy hedgehogs and it’s very important to avoid these. They should never be given raw meat as this can have dangerous bacteria like Salmonella and E.Coli present.

Milk and dairy are no-no’s as pygmy hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and unable to break down the lactose in milk causing them digestive issues.

Need fibre too

Pygmy hedgehogs need fibre in their diet too and this will predominantly come from their dry cat biscuits. A good brand of cat biscuits will have some element of fibre added.

Watch out for hidden vegetables

Vegetables provide vitamins and minerals with some of these vitamins essential but only in moderation as hedgehogs organs find it difficult to remove the excess. The excess becomes toxic to their organs resulting in organ problems and failure.

It’s important to check the vegetable content of their staple food and make sure you are not feeding your hedgehog additional vegetables with the same levels of vitamins. As the vitamins in quality dry cat biscuits will have been carefully controlled and eating additional vegetables or fruit with extra vitamins could become fatal to the hedgehog over time.

Vitamin A and Vitamin D are the ones to watch out for as these can not be easily removed by the hedgehog’s organs and end up becoming toxic if too much of these vitamins are ingested. 

Organic fruit and vegetables

Try to use organic fruit and vegetables to reduce the number of pesticides. Washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly before serving is a good idea and make sure any fruit and vegetables are cut into small pieces to avoid the risk of choking.

13.  Don’t supplement vitamins

Don’t give pygmy hedgehogs vitamin supplements as what’s good for us humans might not necessarily be good for hedgehogs and additional vitamins may become toxic to hedgehogs as their organs may struggle to remove the excess.

I’ve read of many pygmy hedgehog owners giving their pets vitamin D supplements and I find this extremely troubling. Vitamin D the sunshine vitamin is one of those vitamins that is difficult to mop up when it’s in excess, so it has a high likelihood of becoming toxic. Promoting organ failure in pygmy hedgehogs. 

The dosage given to pygmy hedgehogs whilst being perfectly fine for a human being could be too much for a pygmy hedgehog, especially based on their organs which process excess like the liver being substantially smaller than humans. 

Vitamin D whilst promoting the absorption of calcium without vitamin K2 will cause this calcium to end up costing the blood vessels leading to cardiovascular diseases.

What I can’t understand about this vitamin D supplementing owners, is have they thought about the fact their hedgehog is nocturnal? So in the wild, they would not be out in the sunlight so wouldn’t be getting any vitamin D from the sunlight? Pygmy hedgehogs must, therefore, have adapted to this and evolved to get vitamins from their food sources.

14. Keep them hydrated

African Pygmy Hedgehog needs water to function and having a plentiful supply of clean water is absolutely essential. 

We have a water tray and we replace the water in this every night. When we are away for a few days, we leave two small bowls of water at different ends of the cage to supplement the water in the water tray. This is important because sometimes he can soil his water, as he’s moving around, so having an alternate supply of clean water over the days we’re away is vital.

The water tray is very difficult to knock over as would be a water bowl, providing reassurance Hynee has a water supply.  

We used to also have a water dispenser in the cage but he just didn’t use it. I think the angle of the drip even when it was quite close to the bedding still made it difficult for him to drink. I also read about the nozzle being dangerous to pygmy hedgehogs as they could get their tongues hurt on it, so we collectively decided to remove the water dispenser.

If you plan to transport your hedgehog it may be wise to give them a bowl of water during their journey just in case they get thirsty.

15. Watch out for toxins

Toxins can be fatal to pygmy hedgehogs and steps must be taken to keep hedgehogs safe from there toxins.


Certain plants can be toxic to pets including pygmy hedgehogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA) provides a list of toxic and non-toxic plants


Cedarwood is a known toxic wood to pygmy hedgehogs and products, shavings made from this wood must be avoided.

Oils in wood can be toxic and even if the wood is deemed safe type care must be taken to ensure its properly sealed as the oils used to preserve it may leak out of the wood.  

Cleaning products

Pygmy hedgehogs have an acute sense of smell, it’s one of their most prolific tools in determining what’s around them. This sense of smell can also become irritated by smells and care should be taken when using scented cleaning products, wipes or using air fresheners to limit odours. These types of products can irritate pygmy hedgehogs and cause havoc with their sense of smell.


Take care with poisons as simple things like bug zappers may be toxic to hedgehogs if sprayed in the vicinity of their cages. Bug zappers may be good at killing bugs but they can also be lethal to hedgehogs.

Some products like incense sticks may look innocuous to us but when burned could give of chemicals dangerous to hedgehogs. 


Food in itself could be toxic and I’ve mentioned earlier about vitamins becoming toxic. 

Be careful where insects for hedgehog consumption are purchased from like those from reputable pet shops should be fine. Whilst those from places like bait shops may have insects with other nasties inside them.

16. Diseases

A pygmy hedgehogs life spans may be limited by a disease with obesity-related diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular problems (heart disease) and cancers being common. Tumours are also 

Wobbly leg syndrome  

Wobbly leg syndrome is a neurological disease where pygmy hedgehogs show signs of wobbling when they walk, progressively getting worse over time. Starting primarily in the back legs of hedgehogs, wobbly leg syndrome progresses to their front legs.

They end up having problems walking, standing and curling up into a ball. They will regularly fall over as the disease takes hold, damaging their nerves. There is no cure or treatment for this disease, resulting in premature death. 

Skin diseases

Skin diseases need to be treated promptly as they can lead to infections. Mites and ringworm can cause skins and quill problems resulting in dry and flaky skin with skin crusts causing pain. 

Dental problems

Dry cat biscuits can help in reducing plaque build-up on their teeth avoiding gum related problems, infections, and severe dental issues like abscesses. Tumors can cause form in and around their mouth and other areas of their body leading to painful symptoms. 


Tumors are common amongst pygmy hedgehogs and if picked up early, pygmy hedgehogs could stand some chance of recovery. Unfortunately for our hedgehog, the tumor was picked up too late.

Regular checks need to be done with a vet to make sure the health of the hedgehog isn’t being compromised.

17. Medicines

Medicines given by vets can sometimes cause fatal reactions or leave the pygmy hedgehogs health in bad shape. As pygmy hedgehogs are not a common pet, many vets may not understand the implications of the medicine they use. So it’s vitally important some further research is done on any medicine proposed. 

I’ve read about a lot of hedgehogs dying from medicines given to them by vets so it’s best to reach out to a knowledgeable vet who understands hedgehogs and appropriate medicines.

African Pygmy Hedgehog lifespan in captivity

For your pygmy hedgehog to live as long as possible, you need to know how to take care of it properly. As pygmy hedgehogs aren’t as popular as other pets, information about them can be limited and sometimes inaccurate.

There are a number of things you can do to not only make sure your hedgehog is safe but also healthy to aid a prolonged life. As their life span is reflective of how they are cared for. As poor care can shorten their lifespan to between 3 to 5 years or even less.

For a small animal, the lifespan is quite impressive, especially as other small animals like hamsters only live for 3 years at most with most surviving only 1.5 to 2 years.

Related Questions

Can African pygmy hedgehogs live together? Generally, pygmy hedgehogs are considered solitary animals who live alone. Male pygmy hedgehogs can be territorial and find it difficult to live together, resulting in aggressive behaviour. Male and female hedgehogs can live together, as can mother and an adult daughter hedgehogs, as long as the daughter hedgehog is capable of feeding herself. 

What is the lifespan of a pet African Pygmy hedgehog? As pets, they can live on average between three to five years. Their lifespan depends on their health and the care they receive as pets. There are cases where they have lived for seven or more years as pets. 

Eating chicken laced in painkiller

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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