Naturally, hedgehogs are burrowing animals, an essential skill they have picked up when living in the wild. When it comes to your pet, it may be a worry to find them regularly scratching their cage’s bottom. Whether it hurts them or not, we understand that it is an issue that demands immediate attention.
So, why does your hedgehog scratch the bottom of the cage? It is common for hedgehogs to dig around on any soft surface they find, especially at the cage’s bottom. They do it to exercise, search for food, and to escape from harsh weather and predators. Secondly, they scratch when the liner in the cage floor is lumpy or uncomfortable or when they want to snuggle up under it. Also, it is common for them to burrow when they are hungry or thirsty.
If the constant scratching worries you or hurts your precious pet, this is the ultimate guide you need. We help you understand why they do it, whether there are consequences, and how to deal with it cleverly. Go through the rest of the sections to find the answers you need.
Why Is My Hedgehog Digging?
As much as different hedgehog species have different digging instincts, each hedgehog has to do it, whether wild or domesticated.
So, why is my hedgehog digging? When the hedgehogs are in their natural setting, the digging instinct comes naturally to them, thanks to their claws and feet specially designed for it. Being nocturnal, they mostly do their burrowing at night. Digging is necessary for the hedgehogs since it is a survival instinct to find shelter from predators and the elements. Similarly, it is necessary as an exercise tool for them to keep in shape; the digging effectively keeps them active.
Since it is an instinct, it is no wonder that you may find them scratching away at the cage bottom. As long as they are out of their typical environment, the hedgehogs are smart enough to carry on the activity even when they live as pets. Apart from doing it based on their instincts, there are other reasons why your pet keeps scratching the bottom of their cages.
For one, they are fond of scratching the cage’s bottom liner, especially when it is lumpy. If your liner is lumpy, it provides a great surface to dig on since it is easy to tug; this would be tasking if it were otherwise tight on the cage.
It could also be an instinct for them to try and make it smooth and even. Besides, your hedgie may love to feel snuggled under the liner, given the pressure under the tight spot. The cold surface under the liner may also contribute to them scratching and trying to snuggle under it.
Otherwise, they do it out of their instinct to dig. You may notice them digging litter, the bedding, or perhaps any other item around. Other times, they do it to try to nest, looking for a great spot to tuck under.
When they feel unsafe, they may start to dig to look for a hiding place. It is also common to find them digging when they need food; it could be their way of telling you that they are famished. When in the wild, they do it to dig for worms, so it could be an instinct when hungry; your pet may be trying to communicate!
What Are the Consequences of the Digging?
So, what are the consequences of my hedgehog’s digging? First, the constant scratching may be a nuisance to any pet owner, given how noisy it can get, especially when they do it for a long time. Depending on the material on the cage’s floor, the noise may be so loud, audible from rooms away. You wouldn’t want to have your sleep ruined.
Secondly, the scratching may be quite messy when the cage is open or made of wire. They will throw around litter or bedding. If there are toys or other items you have placed in the cage, then your pet is likely to knock them down and create a huge mess while at it. So you’ll have to keep arranging and rearranging them.
The scratching may be a hazard to your pet if you don’t intervene. If the cage bottom is made of cloth, meaning it can form loops when pulled back, then it is perilous for your hedgie to keep scratching. It is easy for their toenails to get stuck, meaning it could be painful and cause injuries when they keep digging. Moreover, it could pull out their nails or lead to amputation if a limb gets caught around it for a long time.
The habit may not cause injury per se to your little friend or be a nuisance to you, especially when they seldom do it or do it for a couple of minutes every day. However, they may extend the burrowing to other parts of the house when you let them out of their cage. Imagine having your expensive carpets ripped to pieces.
When they do it frequently, you will have to make frequent vet visits to check whenever they have harmed themselves. Therefore, it is necessary to find a way to get rid of the digging or provide a safe alternative.
What To Do About the Scratching and the Digging
Before you solve the problem, it is necessary to find the root of it. Find out whether your pet is a chronic liner scratcher or just doing it for fun. If the issue is a loose liner, then one way to solve the problem is by straightening it out. A lumpy liner may be irritating them, and they may be trying to make it even for comfort.
You could use a binder to clip it in place or make a liner with the right dimensions. You can also weigh it down to make it grip firmly; this way, the efforts of your hedgie to scratch at it will all be futile.
Another remedy is to alter the bedding to make it more comfortable for them, so they won’t feel the need to dig for a cozy place. Fleece is one of the best bedding alternatives you can use. Similarly, if they dig to hide under the liner because they need to feel snuggled up, then you can make them beddings that close in on them like a sleeping bag.
Once the bedding is cozier, they won’t feel the need to dig, and it will reduce or stop altogether. Alternatively, if they scratch when hungry, you could provide more food and water.
The most efficient way to handle the digging is to make the hedgehog a dig box. It is a soft, spacious box that will help them dig away without making a mess or hurting themselves in the process.
Besides, you can add your favorite toys and treats for your buddies to enjoy as they dig around. They can also use the box as a hiding place when playing. The box is clean and soft, so it is a safe remedy for your pets; they won’t get hurt anymore.
It is a concern when your hedgehog keeps digging and scratching away at the bottom of its cage. Not only is it noisy and messy, but it may also injure them in the process. Even if they do it for a short while in a day, it is necessary to provide them with a safer alternative. You need to find out why they do it so that you solve it.
Therefore, do not be alarmed when they do it because it is an instinct. They are genetically built to burrow when in search of food, shelter, or hiding places. However, if the digging keeps hurting your little friends, then you may also visit a vet to find a way forward.