If it's cold/cool, I always suggest bumping up the temperature in the car (though not too hot) and getting a small hand warmer for them.
You should have EVERYTHING bought and ready.
This means that the cage should be set up, the heat source should be tested and running 24 hours before pick-up, you have their food, etc.
"Ready for hoglet" checklist -
Heat source (ambient heater, ceramic heat emitter) Checked to be at the right temperature!
Bedding (either pine pellets, pine or aspen shavings/chips, or fleece liner)
Low setting food bowl
Food (Purina One Beyond chicken and whole oat mixed with Blue Buffalo Wilderness chicken formula)
Toys are optional (Handmade hedgie toys coming soon!)
Litterbox and non-clumping cat litter are optional
BEFORE YOU BUY
Ask yourself these questions -
Am I prepared to.....
*Give my hedgie a bath every month, more if needed
*Trim their nails once a month
*Clean their cage once a week, more if needed
*Make sure they have a wheel for exercise
*Play with them at least 15 minutes a day
*Be sure that my hedgehog has an adequate diet, with high protein cat food supplemented by safe treats, such as meal worms, crickets, and some vegetables/fruits
*Find a vet willing to treat hedgehogs
*Pay for any vet bills that might occur
*Deal with my hedghogs behavior if they are moody
*Provide lifelong care, love, and attention for my hedgie (this could be as long as 6-9 years!)
Have you answered with a resounding "yes" to each of these questions? Then please read more about hedgehog care.
Article and its contained information compiled by the Hedgehog Breeders Alliance, Adrian DeRoy (BigFeather Farm), and Gail Dick (Millermeade Farm)
The first thing you will need is a habitat for hedgie. For hedgehogs, the more space the better, but we recommend an absolute minimum of 2.5 square feet of floor space for each animal. As already mentioned, your hedgehog needs a lot of exercise each night while you’re asleep. Cages should always have tops as some hedgehogs love to climb and one should prevent escape rather than look for a possibly injured escapee hedgehog. Large, single-level guinea pig/ferret/rabbit cages make great homes. Sterile plastic bins can be used as cages, however they need to have holes put into the sides for ventilation and a wire/mesh top that allows light to filter in and air to circulate (holes drilled into the top of the lid and the sides ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE!) Multilevel homes, in my opinion, should be entirely avoided as it is all too easy for a hedgehog to fall and break their legs or internally injure themselves. Hedgehog cages should never have a wire floor.
As for play time, many people enjoy building or buying playpens for their hedgies. Childrens inflatable swimming pools make a great choice. Some hedgehogs are great climbers and enjoy solid-floored ramps placed at moderate angles at low heights. Treats can be hidden around inside the playpen for added enrichment. Toilet paper tubes seem to be a favorite toy!
I love to let my hedgies freely explore rooms. However, you must closely supervise your hedgie during a “free roam” period to make sure they do not go somewhere they shouldn’t, or get into things they shouldn’t.
Your hedgehog will need an exercise wheel to play on while you’re sleeping. The best wheels for these creatures are at least 10” in diameter, and are made with solid floors. Wheels made from paint buckets (Bucket Wheels) or solid metal wheels are a very good option, but you can also line a wire wheel with craft foam or another solid substance. The latter, however, tends to be messy as most hogs "go on the go". The important things are that your hedgehog’s feet and toenails should not get trapped in the wheel, as injury can result, and that the wheel clean up easily.
Since your hedgehog is a nocturnal, burrowing animal, s/he will need a private place to sleep during the day. Provide a place where your pet can feel secure, such as a hidey box, a sleeping bag, or a pile of fleece blankets. We have already provided a sleeping bag for you! It is a good idea to buy another sleeping pouch as they will need to be washed often to prevent bacterial growth. They will also eventually wear out, as most hedgehogs LOVE to dig in their bag to re-create the sense of burrowing. We always offer sleeping bags for sale.
You’ll also need some sort of bedding for your pet’s home. Aspen or pine shavings, recycled newsprint cat litter, and fabric cage liners are commonly used. Be careful with some beddings as they can harbor mites (which are very unpleasant for both them and you!) NEVER USE CEDAR as the aromatic oils have been known to cause respiratory problems, lesions, and even death. If you choose to use cage liners, make sure there are no loose threads that can wrap around hedgie’s feet or legs, and if you chose another bedding, watch your hedgehog for a few days to make sure s/he is not eating it, as intestinal blockage can result.
A shallow food bowl is needed, as well as a water bottle. I do not suggest water dishes as they are most usually unsanitary and create a mess.
Playtime and Socialization
Your hedgehog needs you! In order to develop a loving bond with your new friend, you need to handle him or her daily. Hedgehogs are naturally somewhat shy and cautious, but they can socialize well with patience and daily interaction. Snuggle time is a good way to win your hedgehog’s heart. While watching television or reading, you can hold your hedgie on your lap under a fleece blanket. This keeps your pet warm, and teaches him that you are a friend. Treats (like a meal worm, a bit of baked chicken, or a freeze-dried cricket) given by hand while your pet is on your lap will help build a positive bond. Talk to your hedgehog in quiet tones so that s/he becomes accustomed to your voice, and upon arriving home, offer your new hedgehog a worn t-shirt to sleep in. This will help your new pet associate your scent with security and comfort. Just make sure there are no loose strings on the shirt, as they can wrap around tiny legs. The key to winning your hedgehog’s trust is patience. Huffing, rolling into a ball and popping are his or her normal reactions to fear. Your hedgehog does not hate you if s/he does these things. It’s just that you’re a stranger—an unknown—and until you prove yourself otherwise, your pet might be frightened. Once you establish a relationship with your hedgehog, the bond is genuine on both sides.
Many hedgehogs love to explore, and once they are comfortable in their new homes they will enjoy free-ranging in a hedgie-proofed room while you supervise. If you do not feel confident letting your pet roam free, you should invest in some safe toys for out-of-cage play like a large exercise ball or a play pen with hidey houses, cat or ferret balls, or logs to burrow underneath.
Some hedgehogs are naturally more shy than others – and some are naturally more adventurous or sweet. So, some hedgehogs will need more time to trust you than others. Do not give up on your hedgie! Give them the time they need to bond with you and you will be rewarded.
Some hedgehogs can learn to use a litter box. Begin by choosing your hedgehog’s litter box, which can be any container that the hedgehog can easily climb into and that is large enough for him to turn around in, and which is resistant to moisture. Corner ferret litter boxes work very well. Add non-clumping cat litter to the pan; never use clumping type cat litters as these may clump on or in the hedgehog's genitals.
Next, place a few stools in the box and reward your hedgehog for eliminating in the box. If your hedgehog makes a mistake, move the refuse into the litter box and NEVER EVER punish him or her. Not all hedgehogs will learn to use a box, even though they are clean animals and like to keep their waste away from living areas. If your hedgehog does not take to the litter box, you might place a small pan containing litter, or use folded paper towels under the base of his or her wheel and just clean the wheel daily.
There is much debate as to what constitutes proper hedgehog nutrition. But there are certain things that most people agree on. First, unless there is a medical reason to feed something else, your hedgehog should eat a diet low in fat, low in iron, and moderately high in protein. And remember, while babies are growing fast and may need more calories, an adult hedgehog’s needs are different.
It is dangerous to suddenly switch foods, especially when hedgehogs are switched to a new home or in a stressful period such as quilling. Food switches should be slow - over the period of 1-2 weeks.
How to Feed: I suggest daily monitored feeding. This allows you to closely monitor your hedgehogs health and wellbeing – and to get medical attention faster if they begin to turn downhill. Daily monitored feeding also allows you to help prevent obesity. Give your adult hedgehog only enough food so that it is completely gone or almost gone the same time the next day. This will be 1 Tablespoon to ¼ cup depending on your hedgehogs age and activity level. If your hedgehog acts like it is starving at the next meal, increase the ration a bit, but stop increasing the ration when there is food left over. Decrease the ration if they begin to get fat. Be sure to feed at the same time every day!
Kibble: I have given you a small sample of the food your baby hedgehog is used to eating, and I will make you aware of what food I use and recommend. If you chose to change this food, do it gradually, mixing a little more of the new food in every few days. For adult hedgehogs, most people choose a mixture of several low-fat, adult, or senior cat foods and some hedgehog foods. You generally want around 30% protein and less than 15% fat. Look for a high-quality protein source listed as the first or second ingredient, and a lower percentage of fillers. For most adult hedgehogs, 1-2 tablespoons of this staple mix should be fed daily. Some hedgehogs will require foods higher in fat if they have trouble keeping on weight and/or are more active, while others will need less food or a food lower in fat to keep from getting obese. Foods that DO NOT list meat and bone by product meal, poultry by products, animal proteins or animal fats are much better for your hedgehog.
by products, animal digest
beet pulp, pea hulls, brewer's rice, wheat gluten
corn (this includes any kind of corn meal)
BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin -- these all cause cancer
sweeteners (corn syrup, sucrose, propylene glycol...)
nuts and seeds
Treats: The staple food should be supplemented with a variety of other foods. Depending on your animal’s weight and the size of the insects, you can feed: 1-4 freeze-dried or live mealworms OR 1-2 wax worms; 2-4 crickets; 1-3 silkworms; two half-teaspoon servings of protein sources (lean cooked chicken, salmon, trout, turkey, tuna, boiled egg whites, etc.); and fruit and vegetables such as rice cooked in broth, cooked sweet potatoes, watermelon, banana, kiwi, steamed broccoli, cooked green beans, cooked carrots, etc. Make sure all food (except insects) is cut into small pieces, and all seeds are removed. Treats can be fed daily, so long as the hedgehog does not expect them as a staple food. I suggest only feeding treats moderately once a day 4 times a week at most.
DO NOT FEED:
Stringy or hard vegetables
Sticky, stringy, or hard foods
Grapes or Raisins
Vitacraft brand hedgehog food
Wild caught insects
Onion and onion powder
Human junk food (chips, candy, anything really sugary, salty, etc.)
Upset tummy -
When my hogs' have an upset tummy, I use Bene Back and plain organic yogurt with activated charcoal mixed in to help smooth things over.
Hedgehog Health Care
Keeping your hedgehog warm is very important. Since they come from a warm climate, your hedgehog cannot tolerate cooler temperatures. Keep your pet’s habitat away from drafts and in a temperature zone of 70º - 80º Fahrenheit. You should also have a supplemental heat source, like a Snuggle Safe disk in your hedghog’s sleeping area, or a human heating pad set on low and placed under your hedgehog’s habitat, under half of the sleeping area. African hedgehogs cannot actually hibernate, although they will go into a hypothermic state if they are too cool. This can be a life-threatening situation. In the summer, a hedgehog can also aestivate, or go into a lethargic state to conserve energy if temperatures are suddenly too high, and this should be avoided as well. If your hedgehog is too cool, they will seem uncoordinated, have trouble walking, feel cool to the touch, and be somewhat less responsive than normal. Gradually warm your pet by keeping him/her tucked into your shirt, or by placing them in a fabric, carrying bag on top of a heating pad set to low. Do not leave your pet there for an extended time, and check on him/her often! If your hedgehog is too warm, they will “splat” out on their tummy, possibly in the open. S/he will be uninterested in food, and possibly unable to walk. Take the reverse approach by gradually cooling hedgie with a frozen soda bottle wrapped in a towel, or something similar. Aestivation is not as common as hypothermia, and most hedgehogs, if they are given a chance to adjust gradually to warm temperatures, do fine in the warmer months. Great variations in temperature are a problem—if your hedgie is used to having the air conditioning set at 70ºF all summer, and suddenly your power goes out, you will need to make sure s/he has a cool place as soon as possible.
Your new hedgehog should see a vet for a healthy-hedgie check up within two weeks of arriving home. Some hedgehogs are more upset than others after changing homes, and you’ll need to look for loose or green, slimy stools which could indicate a bacterial overgrowth in your pet’s intestines. Most hedgehog health care needs are surprisingly straightforward, if you are prepared. Common hedgehog ailments include obesity, quill loss, tattered ears, and foot injuries can be prevented through proper diet, exercise, and routine care.
Before the need arises, find a veterinarian in your area who has experience with hedgehogs. A yearly well-pet visit is recommended, as a good vet can catch many symptoms before they become emergencies.
See your vet immediately if your hedgehog collapses, is limp, is having difficulty moving or breathing, is having seizures, shows discharge from eyes, nose or ears, has ingested a foreign substance, has blood in urine or feces, isn’t drinking water, or hasn’t eaten for more than two days.