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Florida Hedgehogs

Established 2006

Hedgehog Owner Checklist

The following items are necessary to provide proper care and housing for a hedgehog.

 Digital Thermometer

 Secure and Safe Enclosure

 Heat Lamp/Ceramic Heat Emitter

 12-inch Exercise Wheel

 Hide (Hut, House, Hideout)

 Food Bowl & Insect Bowl

 Water Bottle

 Kibble (Dry Food) and LIVE Insects

Basic Hedgehog Care Information

Digital Thermometer

It is essential to have a digital thermometer so that you can monitor the temperature of your hedgehog's enclosure.
Trusting your home's thermostat is most-often a mistake.  Your hedgehog's enclosure is not likely to be sitting right under the thermostat and that is the area that the thermometer in the thermostat is monitoring.  The hedgehog's enclosure needs to be monitored to ensure that the hedgehog has the proper temperatures in its living area.

 

Secure & Safe Enclosure

**Hedgehogs are solitary animals and must be housed individually.**  Wire cages are unsafe and can make it difficult to control the temperature.
We recommend a 200 qt Sterilite (clear) storage container.  These are inexpensive, easily modified, easy to clean, and can be sanitized properly.  100 qt and105 qt containers are adequate but the 200 qt offers considerably more floor space.
 
Enclosures:
 •  must have at least 4 sq ft of floor space
 •  must have a solid bottom - Wire bottoms are extremely unsafe for hedgehogs.
 •  must have solid sides - It is important to prevent climbing.
 •  must be constructed of a nonporous surface that can be properly sanitized - Wood and other porous surfaces cannot be properly cleaned and can harbor bacteria and fungus.

Bedding:
Some breeders will tell you that you must use one specific type of bedding.  Our feeling is, as long as the hedgehog has no allergies or intolerance to a particular type of bedding any of the following are suitable and you can choose what works best for you.  NEVER use cedar, ground corn cob, or clay litter.

  • Kiln-dried pine.  We use this for some of our hedgehogs.
  • Pine pellets.  We use this in litter pans.
  • Paper pellets.  Works great in litter pans.
  • Paper bedding such as CareFresh.  We have used this but always go back to pine.
  • Fabric (fleece/flannel) liners.

Locations that are generally unsafe to place your hedgehog's enclosure:
Near Fireplaces – Temperatures near fireplaces exceed 90°F.  Smoke and fumes emitted from fireplaces can be lethal to hedgehogs.
Near Doors & Windows – Entry doors and windows are often drafty and allow marked temperature fluctuations which could result in illness.
Laundry Rooms – Temperature fluctuations and chemical fumes/smells could cause respiratory illness and possibly death.
Kitchens/Dining Rooms – Kitchens could exceed ideal temperatures, fumes/smells can be harmful, noises can be stressful.

 

Heat Lamp & Ceramic Heat Emitter

We do not recommend heating pads or mats which only heat the surface that it is touching.  It is important to heat the air to prevent respiratory illness.  The ambient heat from a heat lamp is ideal and, in our opinion, much safer.

 !! The lamp must have a ceramic socket as plastic sockets are unsafe to use with ceramic heat emitters. !!

While temperatures from 72°F to 85°F are typically tolerated by most hedgehogs, the IDEAL TEMPERATURE RANGE is 75°F - 80°F (23°C-27°C).
 

Exercise Wheel

Hedgehogs generally sleep 18 - 22 hours a day, but during their waking hours, they have a lot of energy to burn.  They often walk up to 7 or 8 miles each night.  We recommend a 12-inch wheel with a solid running surface.  Even newly weaned hedgehogs can use a 12-inch wheel and the large size truly is necessary once they are a few months old as hedgehogs have a fairly long stride.
Hedgehogs are extremely likely to relieve themselves while running the wheel so it is likely that you will have to clean the wheel on a daily basis.
Anecdotal fact:  We have lived with hedgehogs since 2005 and, to date, we have only had 1 hedgehog that did not poop in the wheel.
 

Hide (house/hideout)

It is very important for hedgehogs to have a place where they feel secure and safe when they sleep.  Not having a hide can negatively affect temperament and health.
The hide needs to be at least 12 inches so that the hedgehog can enter and turn around comfortably, yet small enough that they can feel as if they are secluded.
The hide should be made of a nonporous material so that it can be properly disinfected.
 

Water Bottle

Different breeders have different opinions about watering hedgehogs, but our experience has been that offering a water bowl is not ideal.  Hedgehogs will play in the water, walk through the water, flip or tip the bowl, fill the bowl with bedding/toys, even poop in the bowl.  They often have no clean water when offered a water bowl.
We really like the 8 oz or 20 oz wide-mouth water bottles as they are easier to get a bottle brush into for proper cleaning.  Water bottles will need to be disinfected every 2 to 3 day to prevent the growth of bacteria.

We encourage you to offer a separate and different bowl for offering insects.  Both bowls should be shallow enough that the hedgehog will not have difficulty accessing the food and heavy enough that they cannot easily tip it over, because they will.  Bowls will need to be disinfected daily.
 

Kibble (dry food), Live Insects, Treats

When transitioning to a new home hedgehogs may be reluctant to eat typical quantities of food.  They may just nibble at their food for the first several days.  This is normal.  Hedgehogs tend to get nervous about new surroundings and will begin eating their normal quantities again as soon as they feel comfortable.
During the transition to a new home, hedgehogs may have loose and green stool for a couple of days.  This is a stress reaction and will likely resolve itself within 48-72 hours.
**When you bring home a new hedgehog, always start with only a spoonful of kibble in the bowl.  If you fill up the bowl and the hedgehog only eats a few pieces of kibble, you won't be able to tell that they have eaten.  If you start with only a spoonful, you will be able to keep track of how much he/she is consuming.  If they eat everything in the bowl, offer another spoonful.**

We have spent years researching animal diets & digestion.  Our research is continuous as pet foods and the information about them change fairly regularly.
We have lived with hedgehogs since May 2005 (we began breeding them in 2006) and through observation and experience, we have learned a great deal about their health and habits.  This experience/knowledge has led us to the following conclusions; and choices about what we offer to our own hedgehogs:

  • Some of the seemingly-popular, and often less expensive, commercial hedgehog foods are nutritionally inadequate and/or contain ingredients that are harmful to hedgehogs.
  • A mix of quality and carefully selected dry cat foods, along with live insects, provides most hedgehogs** with ideal nutrition.  The reason that we recommend a mix rather than one single type is that the variety keeps them interested and having additional foods often allows you to offset undesired nutritional values.
  • It is advised to avoid foods that have artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.  These chemical-based additives are unhealthy to all pets but especially hedgehogs.
  • Hedgehogs cannot survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet.  They require a daily staple food (kibble) that contains animal-based protein as the main (first) ingredient.  Hedgehogs also require live insects a minimum of a few days a week for proper nutrition and digestion.
    If you are unwilling to feed live insects & dry foods that contain animal products, please do not get a hedgehog.
  • Brands/Formulas/Recipes of kibble that contain plant matter such as peas, beans, wheat, corn, beet pulp, rice, potatoes, carrots, etc. within the first 2 listed ingredients should be avoided.  If you choose to use a food that has a plant-based ingredient within the first 2, there should be no less than 2 additional brands/formulas/recipes added in to offset that high plant content.​

Hedgehogs eat approximately 1 - 3 tablespoons of kibble per day.  Hedgehogs also drink approximately 1 - 3 tablespoons of water per day.  These quantities depend on age and body condition.  Babies, ill, and geriatric hedgehogs may consume less.

​In cases of illness or obesity, the diet may need to be adjusted or supplemented to provide ideal nutrition.

LIVE insects are necessary for a hedgehog's health and proper digestion.

NEVER offer yard-caught insects as they could be contaminated with pesticides or fertilizers which are extremely harmful to hedgehogs.
Freeze-dried insects can cause constipation and in large quantities can cause intestinal blockage.

A variety of live insects is recommended.  Feeding only 1 type of insect could cause nutritional deficiencies such as metabolic bone disease, hypocalcemia. and fatty liver diseases.
We recommend feeding live insects a minimum of twice a week, a maximum of every other day.
A fairly typical insect schedule would be mealworms twice a week and crickets twice a month, BUT... it is best to offer a few other types of insects in addition to that.

We feed isopods, mealworms, hornworms, crickets, wax worms, and occasionally black soldier fly larvae.  These should always be sourced from a reputable vendor to ensure that they are free of parasites, diseases, and growth hormones, or other harmful chemicals.    
 Insect Nutritional Value Chart.

A great source to purchase insects would be a local reptile shop and/or online insect farms.

https://flukerfarms.com/live-mealworms
https://abdragons.com
https://armstrongcrickets.com/shop-worms
https://www.buckeyeorganics.net
https://www.joshsfrogs.com
https://www.hornworms.com
https://www.premiumcrickets.com


Treats
Items that we consider to be safe when offered infrequently (no more than once a week) and in moderation (dime-sized quantity):

  • Fully cooked and cooled poultry (unseasoned)
  • Fully cooked and cooled egg (unseasoned)
  • Meat or poultry baby foods (preferably organic)
  • Canned cat or dog food (check ingredient list)
     

Handling Hedgehogs

TAKE IT SLOW!  You are a stranger and hedgehogs are exotic animals.  They are not domesticated and it is important to have realistic expectations about their behavior.

When bringing home a new hedgehog, it is often best to give them a few hours to get acclimated to their new surroundings.  For less-social hedgehogs, 12 - 24 hours may be needed for them to feel secure.  Hedgehogs typically begin to rouse at sundown and that is when they are most receptive to being handled.

When picking up a hedgehog, it is best to slip your fingers under their belly and lift straight up.  In nature, predators attack from behind so if you grab them from behind, your hedgehog will instinctively curl up to protect itself.  This is a sign of FEAR, NOT AGGRESSION.  If your hedgehog rolls up and huffs, pick him/her up regardless and WAIT patiently for them to open up.  Holding them in the palm of your hand (fingers slightly curled to prevent falls) and being very still and quiet, is the best way to gain a hedgehog's trust.
ATTENTION:  If you try to force them to interact with you or to open up they will resist and it will take even longer to gain their trust.

Do not try to restrain him/her. Allow them to walk around freely (within reason.)  If you try to restrain him/her they will react negatively.  If they are going in a direction that isn't desirable, gently place your hand in front of them and corral them back in your direction.

NOTE: Protect clothing, carpet, and furniture in case he/she makes an oops while roaming.


 

Cleaning and Bathing

Hedgehogs should be bathed only when necessary.  Each bath removes vital oils from their skin and over-bathing will likely result in dry skin issues.
After the bath, give your hedgehog plenty of towel time.  He/She should be completely dry when placed back into their enclosure to prevent any bacterial or fungal issues which can be caused by wet skin.

Cleaning your hedgehog’s enclosure is simple.  Mix 1 part chlorine bleach to 40 parts water and use this to clean the enclosure, and all accessories such as the litter pan, wheel, hide food bowl, and water bottle.  Make sure to rinse thoroughly and drip or towel dry.  This should be done no less than once a week, preferably every 3-4 days.  This will keep down any bacteria growth and odor as well as keeping your hedgie happy and healthy.
Cleaning doesn't have to be a thankless chore.  Spend time with your hedgie while the supplies dry.  By spending time with your hedgehog, then returning him/her to a clean environment, you may strengthen your bond.
 

Hedgehog Illness

FIRST AND FOREMOST, if you suspect that your hedgehog is ill or injured, seek the medical attention of a licensed vet that is experienced with hedgehogs immediately.  While we are knowledgeable about many hedgehog health issues, we are not medical professionals.

We would like our buyers to inform us of all health concerns for our records.
We track the overall health of our hedgehogs, their offspring, and their ancestors for all generations possible.

Several things can affect a hedgehog’s health. Hedgehogs can develop or suffer from issues such as obesity, skin conditions, respiratory infections, injuries, mites, fungal infections, cancers, congenital defects, neurological disorders, etc.  Some of these issues can be researched on the internet and treated successfully at home; however, we recommend that you consult with a licensed vet who is experienced with and knowledgeable about hedgehogs before beginning any treatment.

Some hedgehog owners complain that their hedgehog is wobbling, shaking, or trembling.  Nearly all cases are temperature-related.  When a hedgehog is too cool, he/she will be very unsteady and will begin to tremble or wobble.  Once the hedgehog is properly warmed up all issues should resolve.  If not, the hedgehog could have an ear infection and you should seek medical attention promptly.

Dry skin is a somewhat common complaint and is typically easily corrected.  Exfoliating with a brush while bathing, to remove dead skin cells and any debris, then applying a mix of vitamin E oil and flaxseed oil will often soothe the skin and correct the problem.

Parasites: It is possible for your hedgehog to contract external parasites. Wood shavings can contain mites, and fleas and ticks can be carried in by other animals or even humans.
Signs and symptoms of external parasites could be:
Constant scratching (all animals scratch occasionally)
Dry and flaking skin
Cracked skin or open sores
Excessive quill loss resulting in bald spots
Caked or crusty eyes, ears, or muzzle.
If you observe any of these symptoms, contact your vet.  An infestation of parasites will result in health problems that could lead to death. We are always happy to help and will offer advice in many cases.  When a situation appears to be something significant, we will recommend that you seek medical attention from a vet.