We created Hedgehogs and Friends to make it easy for hedgehog lovers to find great and safe products for their quilled best friends. This desire to offer hedgehog-specific products was born out of our interactions with potential hedgehog owners-to-be in our breeding program. Over the years, we have compiled several facts about hedgies we wish that all potential hedgehog owners knew. We hope these facts are useful and entertaining, whether you’re a long-time hedgie owner, adopting your first hedgehog, a hedgie-admirer, or just shopping for the hedgehog-lover in their life.
Top 10 Things We Wish Potential Hedgehog Owners Knew
Before Getting a Hedgehog
1. Hedgehog poop is not like gerbil/rat poops. They’re not pellets, instead they’re like mini dog poop.
This may come as a shock to new hedgehog owners, but you're probably going to get pooped on! Because hedgehogs are not vegetarians, their poop is very different from the pellet-like poop of rodents. Luckily, we have found that a high-quality food, such as our Really Good Hedgehog Food, helps promote better, less smelly poops.
2. Speaking of poop, have you heard of poop boots?
Why are poop related things the first two items on our list? Sorry, but we're just keeping it real! Hedgies poop, a lot! And if your hedgehog has a wheel, as they run on their wheel, they're going to end up running through their own poop, creating "poop boots." Don't despair though, Squeaky Clean is great for soaking and cleaning your wheel effectively but without using harsh or dangerous chemicals. Afterwards, Hogwash is great for soaking those gross, poopy feet clean. Just say no to “poop boots”.
3. Hedgehog Food isn't great for hedgehogs.
MOST brands of hedgehog food are nutritionally inappropriate for hedgehogs. It's sad but true. Many brands of hedgehog food are actually just bird feed with a hedgehog on the label! We've had new owners tell us their hedgehog is thin and lethargic, and most of the time it's because the food they thought was suitable was actually one of these inappropriately marked "bird food" brands. This is what sparked us to create Really Good Hedgehog Food and name it what we did. We wanted to make it really easy for hedgehog owners to feel confident in what they were feeding their darling hogs. Our food isn’t for everyhog however (hedgies like people have likes and dislikes), so remember to feed a high-quality cat food if you’re not feeding one of the few good hedgehog foods on the market. We’ve fed Blue Buffalo Adult Chicken in the past with great success, for example.
4. Hedgehogs need warm ambient temperature around their cages.
As desert animals, hedgehogs NEED it to be warm. A heating pad doesn't warm the air around their cage, so if your home is kept below the minimum temperature hedgies need to be safe (74°F), a non-light emitting ceramic bulb is necessary to keep the air around the cage warm. The non-light emitting part is important because constant light all day and night will throw off your hedgie's sleep schedule, which is terrible for their health.
5. Hedgehog quills are not like porcupine's, they don't shoot them at people!
They're like very prickly hairbrushes, and goodness help you if you step barefoot on a shedded quill! Ouch! But no, they're not going to shoot their quills at you. (We’ve found that this typically is a question coming from the parent or significant other of the new hedgehog owner we’re meeting with.)
6. Hedgehogs do not need roommates.
In the wild, hedgehogs are solitary creatures, so they do not need a roommate. In fact, hedgehogs housed together can and will fight. Sometimes mother/daughters and sisters can be housed together successfully, but they don't need or crave the company of other hedgehogs. In fact, housing them together can make it challenging to notice if one hedgie isn't eating or drinking enough.
7. There is no difference between the friendliness of male versus female hedgehogs.
A majority of hedgehog owners and breeders agree that there aren’t any major differences in temperament between males and females. However, there is about a 4:1 ratio of male to female hedgehogs in our breeding experience, so those waiting for female hedgies hoping they are more friendly tend to have to wait longer. So forget the battle of the sexes, when it comes to hedgehogs either sex can make a great pet :)
8. The bigger the cage, the better!
We've had some new owners think that a hedgehog can be housed in a hamster-sized cage. In the wild, our hedgehogs would be traveling many miles a day and they really need as big a habitat as you can provide. Hamster-size isn't going to cut it, in fact, it would be dangerous for the health and wellbeing of your pet hedgehog for them to live in such a small habitat. They need at minimum 6 square feet of floor space. (You can calculate this by multiplying the width by the length of your container.) Large rubbermaid containers (the long ones) can provide this minimum of space. Bonus is that they're inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to clean!
9. Your hedgehog may get mites, but please don't use Ivermectin to treat it.
Mites can unfortunately happen when you use aspen or pine shavings, even when you work hard to keep the cage clean and buy kiln-dried shavings or put the shavings in the freezer. It's just the nature of shavings. Mites can cause big problems if left untreated, but are thankfully typically easy to treat! Just ask your vet for a prescription for kitten Revolution. In our experience, most vets are going to try to recommend Ivermectin. They’ll tell you that it's safe and effective, but in our experience (and many others) Ivermectin is NOT safe for hedgehogs, not even the spray version. We've had hedgehogs sadly die after being treated with Ivermectin when our vet insisted we use it. Now we draw a hardline and demand a prescription for kitten Revolution (luckily we've found a vet that listens to us and we no longer have to push on this point). It only takes one safe dose of Revolution in most cases to successfully treat a mite infestation. Make sure to speak up if you find yourself needing to treat for mites, and be the best advocate you can be for your hedgie.
10. Check the ball bearing of your water bottle every day!
For all the great things about water bottles (they’re more sanitary than bowls, they can't be tipped so you can track how much water your hedgie is drinking, and if you use ours, they don't leak) one important downside is that the ball bearing of any water bottle can get stuck. If the ball gets stuck, your hedgehog will not be able to drink and could suffer fatal dehydration. We recommend checking the ball bearing for debris and making sure the ball bearing is loose everyday to ensure that your hedgie has constant access to fresh water to prevent dehydration. An added benefit is you will learn how much water your hedgehog drinks each day and you’ll notice if they suddenly stop drinking for other reasons, which can alert you in time to treat a major health concern.
What did you think of our Top 10 list? What are some things YOU think are important for potential hedgehog owners to know? Let us know on our Instagram by using the hashtag #hedgehog411.