Hedgehogs: 38 Amazing Things You Should Know (Updated)

Hedgehogs are amazing creatures and can make excellent pets as we’ve found out. Everyday we seem to learn some new amazing facts about our hedgehog.

Lets take a look at some amazing things about hedgehogs in the rest of this article.

1. Are Hedgehogs nocturnal or diurnal?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal by nature, they sleep during the day and come out at night to feed. They can sleep as much as 18 hours a day. In the wild during the night they forage for food, covering large distances in their search.

When they are kept as pets they will still exhibit this nocturnal behaviour as they come out at night looking for food and then spending hours on their running wheels walking and running for miles. Eventually settling down to sleep when day breaks.

2.  How long do hedgehogs live?

In captivity when hedgehogs are kept as pets they live a lot longer compared to in the wild. As pets, they can live between 3 to 5 years on average with some living to 8 years or more. However, tumors and cancers can cut their lifespan considerably with sarcoma type tumors being popular around the age of 3.

In the wild, they have a lower life expectancy of a couple of years as their most likely cause of death is from predators. For a small animal, their lifespan when kept as a pet is remarkable when you consider other pets of comparable size.

3. Are Hedgehogs Cold-Blooded?

Knowing your pet makeup is necessary before you can adopt them. This is because their natural features will dictate how you design and furnish their enclosures. Genetic makeup will also dictate your pet’s temperament and hence your interactions with it.

Hedgehogs are warm-blooded pets and are not cold-blooded. This implies that they can regulate their body temperatures. However, just like human beings, they have limits beyond which they cannot function well. Their natural habitat is warm and requires these temperatures even in captivity to be healthy. Providing warm temperatures will prevent your pet from going into hibernation.

In captivity, hedgehogs can hibernate if the ambient room temperature is too low. Your pet will feel too cold and start the hibernation process. Usually, this will be partial rather than true hibernation. It may also be dangerous as your pet may waste away and die. Thus, you should keep your hedgehog in a controlled environment in captivity to prevent this.

To provide the right temperatures in your hedgehog’s cage, ensure they have a basking space, which will provide them at least 12 hours of light. This is because hedgehogs are nocturnal; hence, active during the day. Providing light beyond 12 hours will affect your pet’s sleep patterns and health. Their cage should also have the same balanced temperature with no warm or cool ends. Usually, too cold temperatures are a concern than warmer temperatures.

During the cold season, you will need a proper heating system to achieve this. Compared to reptile heating, which also has lighting, hedgehog heating should not provide lighting, especially when your pet is sleeping.  A ceramic heat emitter (CHE) is mostly recommended as it emits heat only; hence, usable even at night without affecting your pet’s sleep patterns. To ensure consistency in your pet’s enclosure temperatures, you will need a thermostat to turn the apparatus on and off as needed.

While hedgehogs have some reptile traits such as hibernation and being solitary, these pets are warm-blooded. For this reason, you should construct their enclosure and ensure a uniform supply of warmth. This is possible through the installation of a warmer and thermostat to regulate the temperatures. The right temperature in a hedgehog enclosure is important to prevent hibernation in captivity which could be fatal.

4. How long do hedgehogs sleep?

Hedgehogs can sleep for as much as 18 hours a day, coming out at night, as they are nocturnal. They come out at night to feed and play and spend the rest of their time sleeping.

This sleep is essential for them to function and helps promote their longevity. They like to sleep in dark places and when kept as pets suitable housing in their cage should provide them with a dark place to sleep. We have a plastic igloo house in the corner of our hedgehog’s ZooZone 2 cage.

5. Do Hedgehogs have a sense of smell?

Hedgehogs have an acute sense of smell and this is one of their primary senses in determining the world around them. Hedgehogs will constantly smell the air around them aswell as objects in their vicinity.

They have evolved this heightened sense of smell to compensate for their poor eyesight and allow them to hunt in the darkness in the wild. 

We generally put our fingers near our hedgehog so he can work out who we are. Just remember to wash those fingers if you’ve been handling food as hedgehogs may think your fingers are dinner. 

Their excellent sense of smell can also cause them distress if smells are dangerous like chemical, oils (from unsealed wood) to certain plants.

We painted our house recently and moved Hynee out of his room to an upstairs bedroom so he wouldn’t get distressed from the paint fumes. We also bought a low odour paint to try to minimise any smells seeping around the house.

6. Do hedgehogs have good hearing?

Hedgehogs have excellent hearing and this another sense that’s well developed in pet hedgehogs. They have large ears in proportion to their body size and this allows them to hear potential food or predators in the wild from distance.

Our hedgehog flinches at most noises he’s not used to and once he’s reassured, he’s a bit more relaxed with the sound. We’ve found talking to him, makes him more relaxed when we’re around him. He’s also got used to the other daily sounds around him, like the early morning barking of our neighbors dog.

7. Do Hedgehogs have poor eyesight?

Hedgehogs have poor eyesight, sometimes they are mistaken for being blind but this is not the case. Hedgehogs have small beady like eyes and these allow them to see outlines and shadows but not detail of their surroundings, and they have poor depth perception, so can fall off ramps.

It doesn’t matter too much to hedgehogs having poor eyesight as in the wild they would normally come out at night when it’s dark. With poor visibility at night, hedgehogs have evolved to be able to forage and hunt in the darkness. Their poor eyesight is compensated by their heightened sense of smell and excellent hearing, 

They also have limited depth perception so it’s important to make sure they are not put in a position where they can fall, like ramps without protections on the side.

They are not great at finding their way around by sight and tend to detect movement so might not be able to see the object in detail but can see if it’s moving. 

Even when it’s dark in the room and I move towards his cage, he’ll stop what he’s doing and the closer I get he’ll start hissing and then curl up. If I stand there for a while and he picks up my scent, he’ll get up and carry on what he’s doing even if I get closer to the cage as he knows it’s me from my scent and I present no threat to him. 

8. Are hedgehogs in the rodent family?

Hedgehogs are not related to the rodent family, instead they are part of their own distinct family. They belong to the sub-family Erinaceinae, in the eulipotyphlan family Erinaceidae.

People mistake hedgehogs as being rodents but they are not part of the rodent family. Instead, they are more related to shrews and have evolved their own distinct lineage. Porcupines are large rodents and this could be why many people assume hedgehogs are rodents too, as both are spiny mammals.

Hedgehogs are not even related to porcupines, even though both animals have some form of quills. In fact, porcupines are classed as rodents and are one of the larger species of rodent.

9. What do you keep a hedgehog in?

Hedgehogs can be kept in a cage or a vivarium, that are at least 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. Keeping their environment warm between 72F (22C) and 80F (26.5C) is essential to stop them going into hibernation.

We keep our hedgehog in a cage (see more here) with enough space from him to move around in. We keep our hedgehog’s house warm using a heat mat pad and this keeps the temperature between 72F (22C) and 80F (26C).

Vivariums need to have good ventilation so hedgehogs can breathe easily, with heating provided by using heat lamps.

10. Do Hedgehogs Like Music?

Hedgehogs are solitary and fragile animals. These features limit the activities you can indulge in with your pet, especially bonding. However, if you love music, then you may use it as a tool during bonding.

Hedgehogs like music. However, they are very choosy in the genre of music. Due to their sensitive hearing, these pets prefer soft music and radio sound played in the background. They find such music relaxing and soothing and will even fall asleep under such conditions. If you have a new hedgehog, playing this type of music will help them adjust faster to their new environment.

While hedgehogs love music, you should play them at low volumes. This is because hedgehogs have a high hearing frequency and will perceive loud noises at a higher pitch. They will then interpret such loud and unfamiliar noises as a predator approaching and become stressed and anxious.

Given that they have limited spaces to hide in captivity, loud noises will affect their health over time. Also, since hedgehogs rely on their ears for food, you should avoid loud music as it can result in loss of hearing and affect their quality of life.

To find out your pet’s music preference, you can play different music and observe your pet’s body language. If your pet is agitated by certain sounds, keep changing them until it becomes relaxed. You can then continue playing such music as long as your pet is comfortable.

While playing the music on the radio or television, you can also sing along. Most hedgehogs love the voice of their owners singing for them and will enjoy such sessions. Some owners even say that their pets become agitated when they stop singing for them. Besides soothing your pet, singing songs your pet loves is also a way of making them associate your voice with good things.

Hedgehogs love soft music and radio sound. They also love the voice of their owner as they sing along with their favorite music. Thus, to keep your pet entertained, identify their music genre and play them at low volumes since they are sensitive and scared of loud music.

11. Do hedgehogs eat cat food

Hedgehogs do eat cat food, eating canned (tinned) also known as wet cat food and also dry cat food, especially dry cat biscuits. The dry cat biscuits are an excellent well-balanced food source as they provide a low fat and good protein-based diet. Whilst wet cat food provides less protein as dry cat food and should be used in conjunction with dry cat food biscuits or additional protein provided using lean meats like chicken.

When kept as pets, hedgehogs staple diet is cat food with the dry cat biscuit variety extremely popular. The indoor variety of dried cat biscuits works best as these are designed for sedentary cats, that is cats that hardly go outside. To compensate for their sedentary nature the cat biscuits are designed to give them just enough energy without making them gain unnecessary weight. This makes these cat biscuits an excellent choice for hedgehogs.

Some dry cat biscuits are a bit fattier and can be used as treats. These biscuits should only be used in moderation as they can have more than 20% fat content. They also can eat wet cat food (canned cat food) in moderation as a treat every now and then.

12. Do hedgehogs eat vegetables?

Hedgehogs do eat vegetables whilst certain vegetables are fine for hedgehogs to eat, some vegetables can be toxic and fatal if consumed. Vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, cucumber, courgettes (zucchini) and swedes are good vegetables for them to eat.

Vegetables like onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic can cause digestive problems and in exceptional cases be fatal.  

13. Can hedgehogs eat fruit?

Certain fruit can be safe for hedgehogs to eat. Fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, strawberries and honeydew melon are considered to be fine. As fruit contains a lot of natural sugar, fruit should only be given in moderation as it can lead to obesity and associated health problems.

Grapes, raisins, avocados, pineapple, oranges and lemons are dangerous fruits to give to hedgehogs. These fruits should be avoided as they are a serious risk to their health.

14. Can a hedgehog run?

Hedgehogs can run and walk for several miles a night in the wild with some estimates of nine miles being common. As a pet, hedgehogs can use running wheels to run for equivalent large distances to keep them healthy.

The distances covered are large distances in relation to their body size are part and parcel of their nightly foraging for food.

When kept as pets, it’s absolutely essential they can keep up their long-distance walking and running behaviour. As this will keep them fit and healthy, especially when combined with a well-balanced feeding regime.

Having a running wheel is essential for giving them the ability to walk and run for long comparative distances. 

I’ve set up an infra-red camera on top of his cage, allowing us to record Hynee at night. By checking the timestamps on the pictures it’s easy to see him doing a stop/start stint on his running wheel for about four hours.

He’ll run for about fifteen minutes, coming off his wheel for some water or some food.  With four hours being some walking and running.

15. Why do hedgehogs curl up?

Hedgehogs curl up for protection with their spikes up to stop any harm coming to them. This protects their delicate furry underside from being injured. They also curl up when they go to sleep, evolving this as a way to stay safe whilst asleep. 

Pygmy hedgehog curled up in ball in his cage on his heat mat pad.
Hedgehog curled into ball

When they go to sleep they also curl up into a ball. This behaviour probably evolved to keep them safe when they are asleep and allow the fur to keep their face and feet warm.

16. Do hedgehogs hibernate as pets?

Pet Hedgehogs will hibernate if it becomes too cold. Hibernating is considered dangerous for them as they simply won’t have enough fat reserves to survive as they have evolved in warmer climates and are not used to colder climates. Resulting in the possibility of falling into hibernation. Pet hedgehogs have evolved in warmer climates and are not used to colder climates. Resulting in the possibility of falling into hibernation, leading to them dying as a result of starvation. The cold itself can cause hypothermia, again causing them to die.

Larger European hedgehogs can hibernate safely as they can build up sufficient reserves. The small size of pet hedgehogs may be a distinct disadvantage combined with their diet when kept as pets, as they have evolved in warmer climates and are not used to colder climates. Resulting in the possibility of falling into hibernation as they tend not to have enough fat reserves.

It’s important when hedgehogs are kept as pets they have a good source of heating like a heat pad mat or heat lamp, to keep them warm.

17. What noise does hedgehog make?

Hedgehogs make many different sounds depending on how they feel. From chirpy purring type, noises to show contentment to hissing when they feel threatened.

Even now our hedgehog Hynee still hisses when he’s not happy with us or if he doesn’t know if there’s danger or a friend nearby. 

When he first arrived at our house, he would hiss a lot and this was because he was in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers. Over the following months, as he became familiar with his surroundings and the people around him, his hissing subsided. 

18. Why is my hedgehog jumping?

Hedgehogs will start to jump if the potential threat they are hissing at gets too close for comfort. Hedgehogs can even do this when they are curled up in a ball and remain curled up in a ball as they bounce. It almost looks like there’s some form of spring underneath them that’s causing them to bounce.

Sometimes when we’ve tried to pick him up and he doesn’t want to be picked up. He’ll bounce at us, then curl up and when we try again, he’ll bounce again. This is obviously a protective measure they evolved to try to warn or even injure any predator who gets too close.

19. Can hedgehogs swim?

Hedgehogs can swim even though they have evolved in dry climates. Swimming instinctively may be used as protectionary measure or when kept as pets, hedgehogs may enjoy the sensation of floating on water.

I’ve never seen our hedgehog try to swim when we’ve given him a wash, but we only put enough water in the bath to be level with the underside of this body. 

Maybe if we put him in the bath with a sufficient amount of water, he may then try to swim but we’ll definitely be at hand should he experience any difficulties, if we ever try to do this.

20. Do hedgehogs bite?

Hedgehogs can bite, even as pets, hedgehogs can still bite if they are distressed and feel threatened. They will instinctively try to hiss and jump to deter a threat, biting only as a last resort. As pets, the likelihood of biting diminishes if a good bond between the owner and hedgehog is established.

Due to their poor eyesight, if they can smell food they will tend to try to eat it, and if there is the smell of food on their owner’s fingers, they may bite as they mistake their owner’s fingers for food. It’s essential to wash your hands after you’ve handled any food including hedgehog food before trying to pick them up.

When my daughter picks up Hynee, sometimes she’d forget to clean her hands after handling his food and placing the cat biscuits into his feeding bowl. When Hynee smelt the food on her fingers he couldn’t distinguish between her fingers and his food, he just saw an opportunity to eat and so tried to eat the food, ending up biting her fingers. 

He drew blood and fortunately after a few tears and plaster, my daughter learnt an important lesson. Fortunately, we were all up to date with our jabs, so there was no need to panic.

Another time we saw the ferocious ability of Hynee when we took him to the vet for his nails to be clipped and the assistant held him using gloves which had previously been used to hold a cat. 

This distressed Hynee as he thought there was a predator and he tried to bite the glove over and over again. My daughter asked if the glove had been used for another animal and after this was confirmed, the decision was taken for my daughter to hold Hynee instead and she managed to calm him down.

21. Are hedgehogs furry?

Hedgehogs are not just spikes and spines, they also have fur clearly visible on their underside and on their face. The fur can help them stay warm especially when they are curled up in a ball. 

Fur also makes it easier to hold hedgehogs without getting hurt from their spikes and once a hedgehog is trusting enough not to ball up, it makes it easier to pick them up with your hands.

22. Why are hedgehogs omnivores?

Hedgehogs are considered to be omnivores as their diet consists of both animals like insects and plant based foods. Hedgehogs can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as insects to lean meats like chicken. 

Insects are their favourite feeding on mealworms, crickets when kept as pets and on other insects like spiders in the wild. Many consider them to be insectivores as they eat more insects in the wild but they are also prone to eating small lizards and small frogs too.

23. Do hedgehogs make purring noises?

When hedgehogs are relaxed especially when they are held, they can make purring noises to show their contentment. The hedgehog will typically be bonded with their owner, allowing them to feel comfortable and fully relaxed in their owners presence.

I’ve noticed when my daughter Jinnee is holding him in her hands and he’s snuggled up, the faint purring sound emanates from his little mouth.

24. Do hedgehogs make chirping sounds?

Hedgehogs can make a chirping sound when they are hungry or want to eat, to let their owners know. They can also make a chirping sound, if they feel content and are relaxed with their owners.

Sometimes we’ve picked our hedgehog up when he really wants to eat and he’s made a faint chirping noise to get our attention that he’s hungry.

25. Why does a hedgehog scream?

When under severe distress or pain, hedgehogs are known to make a screaming noise. This isn’t the type of noise any pet owner needs to hear and urgent medical advice should be sought if they start to scream.

Fortunately, we have not experienced this unsettling noise, we’ve only experienced calmer noises like chirping and purring. Even when we first had our hedgehog, he would hiss at us, until he became sure we weren’t a threat to him and then we hardly ever heard any hissing.

26. Do hedgehogs burrow holes?

Hedgehogs love to burrow using the head to push obstacles out of their way. They burrow to find a place to hide as well as to explore and forage for food, by digging holes into the ground in search for insects.  

With our hedgehog Hynee, we’ll turn over a fleecy fabric sheet, folding it in half. Hynee then tries to find the edge by pushing his nose in between the two pieces. Pushing it open allowing him to burrow and hide inside the sheet.

We also have a plastic tube and a fabric-based tunnel and he loves to burrow into both of them. With the fabric tunnel also being a favoured place for him to sleep.

27. Are hedgehogs solitary?

Hedgehogs are solitary animals and can quite happily live alone for years. This makes them an easy pet to look after as you don’t have to worry too much about them having any company from their own kind.

It’s not advisable to keep two or males together in the same cage, as it’s not practical with the cage size and more importantly male hedgehogs are territorial and will fight each other. 

A male and female hedgehog stand a better chance of getting along than two males but if the female hedgehog becomes pregnant, it’s advisable to keep the male away. As otherwise having a male hedgehog in the same cage as a mother and her babies may stress out the female, leading to her eating her offspring. More likely the male hedgehog could also end up eating the offspring.

Mother and daughter hedgehogs can get along as long as the daughter isn’t reliant on her mother for food, that is milk and can feed herself.

28. Will hedgehogs gorge themselves on food?

Hedgehogs can get obese very quickly by regularly gorging on the wrong types of food. Insects like mealworms, in particular, can be quite fattening and gorging on these can easily push them to obesity, if it is not controlled and minimized to a few small servings once or twice a week. Unfortunately, when insects are put in front of hedgehogs they can’t stop themselves from gorging on them.

Insects especially mealworms are comparable to what candy is like to humans. With moderate amounts being fine, with anything more causing weight gain.

Obese hedgehogs will have problems curling up completely into a ball or when they do, their legs will stick as their fat pushes their legs out.

29. Do hedgehogs poop when they run?

Hedgehogs poop when they move to leave a trail of fresh poop behind them as they walk and run. When they use a running wheel, they poop as they walk and run. This poop ends up landing on the running wheel and as the wheel is moving, the poop is flung off the wheel and ends up around their wheel.

If they step on any of the poop as they walk, this builds up on their feet to form what looks like little boots, little poop boots.

In the wild, as they have moved away from where their poop settles they are less likely to walk through their own poop. However, on a running wheel, the poop falls onto the wheel and either sticks to the wheel surface or ends up being flung off. 

Any poop will need to be cleaned off regularly and by allowing hedgehogs to wade through some warm water, and poop can be gently rubbed off.

30. Is a hedgehog hypoallergenic?

As a general rule, hedgehogs are generally considered hypoallergenic as they produce very little dander. It’s this limited dander which is believed to make people less likely to be allergenic to them. 

Dander is tiny flakes of skin appearing on the body, as opposed to dandruff, tiny flakes of skin appearing on the scalp. For hedgehogs, any dander would appear on their body fur and not on their spikes.

31. Do baby hedgehogs have spines?

When they are born baby hedgehogs have baby spines. These baby spines aren’t as strong as adult spines and don’t hurt as much when touched. As they grow these baby spines get replaced by the tougher adult spines which do sting and hurt if the hedgehog isn’t handled with care.

32. Do hedgehogs eat their babies?

It’s not uncommon for female hedgehogs to eat their babies. They can do this for a number of reasons, with many finding pregnancy stressful or even nursing the baby hedgehogs stressful. When they can’t cope with this stress they can eat their babies.

They can also eat their babies if they think the baby won’t survive, maybe the baby has some deformity (visible or hidden).

Some will eat their offspring if they are not the maternal type, where they become stressed from having offspring they didn’t want.

To keep their stress levels down, male hedgehogs should be kept out of the same cage as pregnant or mother’s with babies.

When we first went to see Hynee, the breeder told us not to stress out the mother with any sudden movements. Because they said this may cause stress and make her eat her three babies of which Hynee was one.

33. Are hedgehogs lactose intolerant?

Milk is not a good idea for hedgehogs as they are naturally lactose intolerant. If they are given any milk or dairy product they will eat and drink it but will suffer from digestion problems later. Their bodies are unable to break down the lactose in the milk. 

Lactose is a sugar and an enzyme called Lactase is required to break this sugar down, hedgehogs don’t have this enzyme, making it painful for them to digest the lactose in the milk.

It’s vitally important to check foods given to hedgehogs for dairy, for example, some cat biscuits contain milk, the cooked chicken may have been cooked in butter.

34. Can hedgehogs have sugar?

Eating food with too much sugar is bad for hedgehogs as they can quickly become overweight or worse still obese. This can cause them to exhibit the diseases associated with weight gain, with diabetes being a possible infliction. 

Tell-tale signs of diabetes may be increased thirst, so keeping an eye on their water bowls and the amount of water being drunk is important. They will need to be checked by a vet if diabetes is suspected.

It is best to keep them on a high protein, a low-fat diet with plenty of exercises using a running wheel. Protein should not exceed 40% and fat should be below 10%. Occasional treats with more fat content are fine as long as it is carefully monitored and doesn’t become part of their staple diet.

35. Does hedgehog poop stink?

Hedgehog poop does stink especially when it’s fresh and being pooped out. However, when the poop begins to dry up, the smell dissipates too and only a very faint smell of poop remains.  As they do poop a lot, the smell can take time for owners to get used to. 

Fortunately, as they poop when they are awake in the night, the smell of fresh poop will have disappeared by the morning. Indoor dry cat biscuits can help a little in their diet to reduce some of the smell. As too with a regular cleaning routine, of removing the poop on a daily basis with a full weekly cage clean.  

Bathing the hedgehog twice a month can remove any lingering smells. As poop tends to get stuck to their feet and fur as they walk through it. 

36. Do hedgehogs have different personalities?

Hedgehogs develop their own personalities, some can be happy go lucky, others groggy, grumpy and miserable. Depending on their personality, it can take longer to bond with hedgehogs who are more grumpy and miserable compared to hedgehogs who are happier. 

They are naturally solitary creatures but this doesn’t necessarily equate to them being shy and spending time bonding with your pet hedgehog can make more them amiable to their owners.

37. Do hedgehogs like to cuddle?

When hedgehogs are relaxed, they let their spines down and stop hissing and shaking. Their heartbeat drops and their breathing becomes slower. This is when they are most likely to cuddle and a relaxed hedgehog can enjoy cuddling with their owners.

When my daughter  Jinnee holds Hynee in her hands, he totally relaxes and cuddles up in her hands. On many occasions he’s been so relaxed he’s fallen asleep. I think too he enjoys the warming hear from Jinnee’s hands, acting like a heater for him to stay all snuggled up 

38. Do hedgehogs have big goofy teeth?

Hedgehogs do have big goofy teeth, along with 40 plus other teeth. The goofy teeth, are canines that protrude out and allow them to grab onto large pieces of food, like pieces of chicken, allowing their other teeth, the incisers and molars then to break the food down.

When I’ve got close up to Hynee, he looks a little goofy with his teeth protruding slightly. I’ve also noticed these teeth from the side sometimes too and it simply doesn’t flatter him.

Hynee showing his teeth

Here’s a picture of our hedgehog, Hynee with his teeth showing. It doesn’t really capture him in his best light.

Final Thoughts

The Hedgehog is a mammal often confused as being a rodent instead of being a separate species. They have short spines for protection with fur covering their face and underside. They have small eyes, with a long snout and large ears, with excellent smell and hearing but poor eyesight.

Hedgehogs are unusual pets to keep and are steadily growing in popularity. They have many differences between themselves and other species which at first seem to be related.

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