The International Hedgehog Association
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Hedgehog Facts:
The very first hedgehog show was held in Tacoma Washington, USA, on October 22, 1995.  Close to 100 shows across the United States and Canada have been held since.

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Basic Care
  • What is a Hedgehog?
  • Where is the Best Place to Buy a Pet Hedgehog?
  • If There are Several to Choose From, Which Hedgehog Should I Select?
  • Choosing a Healthy Hedgehog
  • How do I Tell the Boys from the Girls?
  • How Old Should My Hedgehog be Before I Take it Home?
  • What Kind of Housing Will He Require?
  • Where to Place the Cage
  • What Should I Feed Him and How Much? 
  • Accessories
  • Care and Management
  • Obesity
  • What is a Hedgehog?
    What is a Hedgehog? Hedgehogs are a small, insectivorous (insect eating) mammal that can be found throughout the world. They are native to England, Europe, Africa and Asia. The hedgehogs typically found in the pet trade of North America are generally a hybrid of two species, the central African hedgehog and the Algerian hedgehog.

    Since there are no native species of hedgehog in either Canada or the United States, many people still mistake the domestic hedgehog for the porcupine - an entirely different and unrelated animal. While porcupine quills are extremely sharp, barbed and very dangerous, the hedgehog quill is smooth and not nearly as sharp. Petting a friendly hedgehog can be compared to petting a hairbrush - bristly, not prickly.

    Adult hedgehogs typically weigh between 350 to 450 grams with a healthy range (depending on the body habitus) between 220 and 1,000 grams. Compared to other small animals, they have very little odor and are not likely to bite (though they can). They have soft, furry bellies and a coat of rough quills on their back. They roll up in a ball to protect themselves when they are frightened or annoyed, and can prickle when in this mode.

    Hedgehogs are intelligent and each has its own personality. They are often solitary in the wild, but may adjust well to interaction with humans. Toys such as flat, solid surfaced running wheels, toilet paper tubes, or kitty toys can entertain them. Many hedgehogs even learn to use a litter box.

    Hedgehogs are not rodents and they do not chew on things. Their life span is approximately 4 to 6 years and they come in a variety of colors.

    Is a Hedgehog for Me?
    One of the most frequently cited reasons for animals being placed in rescue is, “It wasn’t what I expected.”. This section is to help you know what to expect in a pet hedgehog.

    • You will have to provide a high quality food and pay attention to special dietary needs.
    • You will need to clean their habitats daily with complete scrubbing done weekly. Not all hedgehogs will litter train perfectly.
    • Hedgehogs need to stay warm – 72 to 75 degree environmental temperature is required.
    • You will get poked. Even the best hedgehogs have off days.
    • You will need to trim the hedgehog’s toenails even if they don’t want you to.
    • The hedgehog may self-anoint (spread spit on their self).
    • A hedgehog who is not friendly to begin with will require a lot of patience and respect to re-socialize.
    • The hedgehog will be happier with an exercise wheel and a place to hide.
    • If you do not handle the hedgehog frequently, they may not stay as friendly.
    • A hedgehog may bite, though it is unlikely. Anything with teeth can bite.
    • Not all veterinarians are familiar with hedgehogs, so it may be difficult or expensive to secure good veterinary care.
    • Hedgehogs often do not prefer the company of other hedgehogs.
    • Your hedgehog may never seek you out for companionship. Some hedgies do, but some do not.
    • The hedgehog may like you better than other people. Some hedgehogs adjust well to change, while others prefer the familiar.
    • Your hedgehog will prefer to be awake at night. They can make a lot of noise as they eat, drink and explore. Hedgehogs are largely nocturnal.
    • If your hedgehog is a baby, it will go through a phase called “quilling,” where a baby hedgehog is grumpy and loses baby quills.


    Where is the Best Place to Buy a Pet Hedgehog?
    The answer to this question varies depending on many factors, but there are some basic guidelines. Generally, it is better to purchase your new pet from a breeder rather than a pet store, but unfortunately, this isn't always possible. No matter where you end up looking, though, make sure that the breeder or store has at least some information on the age and background of their hedgies.

    If There are Several to Choose From, Which Hedgehog Should I Select?
    You will want to choose a single hedgehog since they are solitary and don’t normally like to share a cage. Never buy a male and female to be placed in the same cage unless you intend to breed! Hedgehogs are ready to breed as early as 8 weeks and females should never be bred before 5 months, so be careful! You may decide to either go to a pet store or check ads and buy from a breeder. In either case, you are looking for a good healthy animal.


    You may decide to either go to a pet store or check ads and buy from a breeder. In either case, you are looking for a good healthy animal.

    Temperament - This is of major importance and should be a deciding factor as to whether you buy a particular animal or not. After picking a potential pet up, examine it closely. Does it unroll after a few seconds? Does he click, jump or hiss? Hissing is okay. It is simply frightened because it doesn’t know you. Clicking, however, means that it's trying to threaten you. This is NOT acceptable hedgehog behavior and you should look at a different, better-tempered animal. Every hedgehog is different and unique. Some like to play and explore, while others are more content to cuddle. You will be most satisfied with your new pet if you carefully choose the one that best suits your own personality and lifestyle.

    Choosing a Healthy Hedgehog
    Look for the following:

    • Are the eyes nice, round, beady, wide open, and bright, without discharge? 
    • Is the nose clean and not running?
    • Are the ears short, clean, with no discharge or crustiness behind them? Sometimes an ear has been chewed on by a sibling. As long as it has healed, this is not something to worry about.
    • Is the fur on the belly soft and not matted?
    • Are the spines all there with no bare spots? Bare spots indicate an unhealthy animal. Is there any sign of mites, fleas, or crustiness on the back?
    • Check the pen, are there any green droppings or diahhrea?
    • Is the hedgehog's body plump? (not fat)
    • Place it on a flat surface such as a table and watch it walk. Does it wobble or have difficulty staying upright? A healthy hedgehog should have a stride that is somewhere between a walk and a shuffle.
    • Can you hear a rattle when it is breathing? (do not mistake normal hedgehog "talk" such as chirping, purring or cheeping for a pneumonia-related rattle)


    Sexing Hedgehogs:
    Both male and female hedgehogs make equally good pets so this decision is entirely your own. You can readily tell a boy from a girl. If the hedgehog is tame and friendly, gently roll it over and look at the area closest to the tail. Male hedgehogs have a large gap between the genitals and the rectum, giving the appearance of a “belly button.” If there is no “belly button” you can presume the hedgehog is female. See Picture for assistance with sexing.


    How Old Should My Hedgehog be Before I Take it Home?
    Never take a hedgehog home before it is at least six weeks of age. Older hedgehogs are OK too, but keep in mind that the younger the hedgehog, the better the odds of him bonding with you.

    What Kind of Housing Will He Require?
    Your hedgehog will require a flat bottom cage that is as large as possible. Hedgehogs should be given as large of a cage as possible, the more space the better, but we recommend an absolute minimum of 4 square feet of floor space for each animal. Rabbit and guinea pig cages with wire coated tops and solid floors make excellent cages as they provide plenty of floor space and proper ventilation. Large clear sided storage tubs, modified ferret cages and home-made enclosures may be used as well. A good cage is one which has a solid floor to prevent leg injuries, walls high enough that a hedgehog cannot climb out, provides good ventilation and can be well lit but is not exposed to direct sunlight during the daytime.

    Cage Placement
    Place your hedgehogs new home in a comfortable, warm, well lit area that is free of drafts and direct sunlight. They are most comfortable at temperatures of between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit. (21-27 degrees Celsius) The basic rule of thumb is, if you are comfortable without a sweater, they will do just fine.


    In addition to a cage, your hedgehog will require the following accessories:
    BEDDING: Cloth cage liners are preferable for hedgehogs. Fleece, flannel or corduroy fabrics work best. Cage liners must be changed daily to ensure cleanliness. Liners made from Vellux are not recommended as it is easily torn by a digging hedgehog and can be colder than other fabric types when wet.

    Aspen and Carefresh are popular substrates, however aspen is not recommended because it contains sharp pieces that can pierce a hedgehog in the eye while burrowing, and hedgehogs are burrowers by nature. If you want to use a substrate bedding CareFresh Ultra (white) is the best type to use. This substrate allows for easier detection of blood, green stool, or discolored urine than other substrates.

    FOOD BOWL: The food bowl needs to be fairly wide and heavy to prevent your pet from dumping out its contents and using it as a toy. Small ceramic crocks that are designed for small rodents are perfect food dishes for hedgehogs. The width or diameter of the dish can be 3 to 6 inches and it should be no more than 3 inches high.

    WATER BOWL: Hedgehogs should always have a source of clean water, whether from a water bowl or waterer. Water bottles are not recommended.

    HIDING PLACE: Hedgehogs naturally seek out a hiding place when they sleep. Commercially available hiding logs, igloos, or snuggle sacks work well. Hedgehogs naturally like to burrow, providing additional bedding gives them a more natural ability to make a bed inside the logs, igloos or snuggle sacks. Many hedgehogs will sleep under the snuggle sack as opposed to inside it. Providing 12x12 squares of fleece also make good sleeping material. Hedgehogs will bury themselves inside the blankets.

    LITTER BOX: Your pet will use a litter box if you provide it with one. A small box that is 2” deep x 6” x 9” will work nicely. Pieces of paper towel, or ultra-white carefresh may be used as litter. Kitty litter is not recommended as it can get stuck in penile sheaths and eyes.

    TOYS: If you choose, you can also add a few toys for your hedgehog to play with. An exercise wheel is an absolute must for hedgehogs. A large wheel, 12 inch diameter or larger, is recommended. The surface should be solid.

    WARMTH: Hedgehogs need to stay relatively warm, as hibernation can be fatal. Supplemental heating may be required.

    If you provide your hedgehog with the tools to keep warm it will utilize those tools to its advantage. A thick layer of bedding, fleece pieces, snuggle sacks are good items for a hedgehog to cuddle up in. The ambient room temp should be no lower than 72 degrees; heating pads under a corner of the cage are fine so they can get up against it or away from it if needed. If your hedgehog does try to go into hibernation the fastest and safest way to warm it up is to put the hedgehog on your chest preferably between two layers of shirts and let it warm with your body’s heat. Usually within 10 minutes the hedgehog will begin to recover. Older or sickly hedgehogs may require warmer environments as they will have more trouble maintaining their body’s temperature.

    What Should I Feed Him and How Much?

    Hedgehogs need a diet that contains a good quality protein, low fat and about 15% fiber. In the wild they eat a lot of beetles, which provide fiber from chitin. Although there are hedgehog foods available in stores, dry low fat cat formula are preferable. Whatever commercial food you choose should be supplemented by a variety of other foods such as vegetables, mealworms and crickets, cooked meats and fruits. Dry food can be fed free choice to all but the more obese hedgehogs.

    Care and Management
    When you bring you new hedgehog home, place him in his new cage and let him have absolute privacy for at least a day. You may pick him up and hold him once or twice for a few minutes the first day, but remember, it will probably be more like a week before he begins to feel at home.

    Baby hedgehogs need quite a bit of sleep the first month after they come home with you, so don't be too concerned if he sleeps a lot at first.

    Since a healthy hedgehog is a bit on the plump side naturally, determining the difference between a healthy animal's "chubby" condition and obesity can be somewhat difficult. There is such a wide variety of size in domestic stock these days. Healthy hedgehogs can range from 220 to more than 1,000 grams. Weight guidelines are of little use in identifying a fat hedgehog!

    Of far more use to you than a set of scales is a weekly or monthly visual inspection of your pet's front legs and chin. While a hedgehog in its normal trim will be a bit chubby in these two locations, an obese specimen will have a double chin and "ham-hocks" for legs and sometimes even rolls of fat under the arm-pits. Such animals will be so fat that they will even be incapable of rolling themselves into a ball!

    If your pet should become this fat eliminate all treats from its diet but do not reduce the amount of dry food - the primary source of necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals. If after a month you see no evidence of weight loss, change the type of dry food that you are feeding to one that has a fat content of at least 20 percent. The theory is that the added fat will cause your pet to "bulk-up" and eat less and will actually help it to lose weight.


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