Hedgehogs, affectionately referred to as "hedgies," are adorable, but many people don't know what it's like having a hedgehog as a pet. It's becoming more common to see hedgehog pets because they are unusual and cute small animals that don't require a lot of room.
Pet Hedgehog Care
Hedgehogs have some specific care needs to keep them healthy and happy, especially when it comes to their diet.
- Diet - You can buy commercial hedgehog food or feed them reduced-calorie dried cat food. It's important that they get supplements of fruits, green vegetables, live or frozen insects, and even chopped meats.
- Housing - Hedgehogs can live in a cage made for a rabbit, ferret or Guinea pig as long as it has a solid floor. They will need bedding such as cotton or fleece cage liners.
- Cleaning - It's important to keep their cage cleaned regularly. You can actually litter train your hedgehog to use a small pan in their cage.
- Lighting - Since hedgehogs are nocturnal, their cage should be kept away from bright sunlight, as well as from drafts. You may need to add a heater to the cage to prevent hibernation.
- Hides - Hedgehogs are shy and need to have places to go to hide to feel safe. You can use store-bought igloos and beds or make your own with PVC pipe and small boxes.
- Grooming - Hedgehogs need to be bathed regularly to keep their quills, fur and skin clean. They also require regular nail trims.
- Handling - Hedgehogs need to have regular interaction with you in order to become socialized to people. Your hedgehog may never become a cuddly pet, but they can learn to tolerate and even enjoy your company if you work with them.
19 Interesting Facts About Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs can not only make wonderful pets for some households, but they are unusual creatures and can behave in ways you might not expect.
- Hedgehogs can purr. While hedgies are relatively quiet, they occasionally make a cute purring noise. They can also make noises like a pig, which is how they got their name, as they make pig-like grunting noises as they hunt for food in hedges.
- Hedgehog quills don't hurt if you handle your pet gently and carefully. However, baby quills are typically sharper than adult quills. When hedgies shed their old quills and get new ones, it's known as "quilling."
- Despite their similar appearance, a hedgehog's quills are different from a porcupine's. Their quills are actually "spines" which do not have barbs, are not poisonous and are hollow inside.
- Another difference with the porcupine is that hedgehog quills do not detach and they are primarily used defensively. The hedgehog will curl into a ball so that its quills cover its head and belly.
- Hedgehogs have many quills. A single hedgehog has between 5,000 and 7,000 quills. The quills drop out after a year and are replaced by new ones.
- Hedgehogs don't carry as much body odor as other small pets such as ferrets. If you keep your pet's cage clean, smell shouldn't be an issue. If your hedgie does develop an odor, it may be wise to consult your vet because this might be a sign of illness.
- Hedgehogs don't see very well but have a strong sense of smell and acute hearing.
- Hedgehogs are solitary and only like the company of other hedgehogs when they need to mate, otherwise you'll need to keep your pet alone.
- Hedgehogs have some unusual biological terms. A group of hedgehogs are known as "an array" or "a prickle." A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet.
- There are 17 species of hedgehog, and the African pygmy hedgehog is one commonly sold as a pet in the U.S. The African pygmy is actually a hybrid of the four-toed hedgehog and the North African hedgehog. Long-eared hedgehogs and Indian long-eared hedgehogs are also found in the pet trade but are not as common.
- Hedgehogs are native to every continent except the Americas and Australia. They can also be found in New Zealand although they were introduced there as a species.
- Hedgehogs have been kept as pets as far back as 4 B.C.
- Hedgehogs are not affected by many types of poisonous snake venom. In fact, they are known to eat some poisonous snakes.
- If a hedgehog lives in a cold climate, it will hibernate in the winter. Species of hedgehog that live in the desert will undergo aestivation during extreme heat or droughts. Aestivation is very similar to hibernation and involves a dormant state with a lowered metabolism.
- Hedgehogs "anoint" themselves with their saliva in reaction to certain scents or foods. The reason they do this is not yet understood, but it may be an attempt to mask their scent.
- The hedgehog is called "the gardener's friend" in the United Kingdom because they forage for bugs that damage plants.
- It is illegal to own a hedgehog in certain states and cities, such as Alabama, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington D.C. and Douglas County in Nebraska and New York City. Ownership is regulated in Arizona, New Jersey and Oregon.
- Hedgehogs have a lifespan of about seven years in captivity and about two to four in the wild.
- Hedgehogs carry the risk of certain diseases to humans, which is why cleaning and hand washing are extremely important for hedgehog keepers. Hedgehog owners are at risk of getting ringworm and salmonella from their pets.
How Much Does a Hedgehog Cost?
The average cost to buy a hedgehog can run between $100 to $300. The cost will depend on the age of the hedgehog, how friendly they are, and their coloring.
- The cheapest hedgehogs will be either salt and pepper or cinnamon and "pinto" hedgies will be in the mid-price range.
- The most expensive hedgehogs will tend to be blonde, black or white. Breeders will tend to charge more than a pet store.
You can also find hedgehogs from time to time at local animal shelters and through rescue groups. In this case, pricing will probably be on the lower end for a shelter and higher through a private rescue.
Cost of Caring for a Hedgehog
When considering how much it will cost you to keep a hedgehog, you should figure on the following initial costs:
- A cage will run you from about $50 up to $150 depending on how much you want to spend.
- Your initial set of accessories, such as a water bottle, food bowl, bed, and exercise wheel will run you about $50 to $100. You'll also need a heating pad and a thermometer to keep the cage comfortable, which will cost around $50 to $60 together.
- Regular veterinary visits will vary in cost depending on where you live and the availability of a veterinarian familiar with exotic pets like hedgehogs. It's best to call around to veterinarians prior to getting your pet to check on prices.
- A 5-pound bag of food, such as Exotic Nutrition Hedgehog Complete, cost around $25 and will last you six to seven weeks. You should also consider the cost of supplements such as fresh vegetables and fruit.
- Of course, you can spend more on your hedgehog by buying extra toys, treats, and different types of bedding.
Hedgehogs Can Be Good Pets
Educating yourself about hedgehogs is one of the best ways to help you decide if this is the right pet for you. If you're looking for a relatively low-maintenance pet who is happy to be on his own when you can't be with him, a hedgehog might be just the right fit. Visit a breeder, rescue or a knowledgeable pet shop and spend some time interacting with these animals before you make your final decision.