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Is a hedgehog a good pet?

Who could resist falling in love with an adorable little hedgehog?! If you're considering getting a hedgehog, it's important to understand what your pet will need in order to stay happy and healthy. In today's post our Thomasville vets share a few things you should know about owning a pet hedgehog.

Should I get a hedgehog for a pet?

Due to its compact size and adorable appearance (amongst other things) the African pygmy hedgehog is the most common species of hedgehog kept as a pet. This sweet little creature can make an ideal pet for many people, but it's important to take your time and do your research BEFORE buying so that you can be certain that you can meet the needs of a pet hedgehog, and that this pet will fit in with your lifestyle.

One important thing to note is that hedgehogs can carry salmonella. As such hedgehogs are not recommended for families with children under 5 years of age, seniors, or those with compromised immune systems.

Are hedgehogs cuddly?

Hedgehogs are solitary animals in the wild, meaning that they spend most of their time alone (except during mating season). Their solitary nature means that they tend to be shy and somewhat wary of people. You will need patience and a gentle hand to help you form a trusting bond with a hedgehog. Getting your hedgehog while it's very young can help this process go more smoothly.

Although cuddles aren't really their thing, once your pet hedgehog has become accustomed to being handled, you will be able to stroke their quills and allow your hedgehog to climb up your arms, as well as explore different spaces with supervision.

Is it hard to keep a hedgehog as a pet?

Hedgehogs may be compact pets, but they still require exercise, a nutritious diet, and regular veterinary care. Not only that, hedgehogs come with a host of requirements that will need to be met in order to keep them happy including a large enclosure with plenty of toys and an exercise wheel so they don't become bored.

Another important factor to consider is that hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, which means that they stay awake all night and sleep all day. Your pet hedgehog will likely wake up and become active around dinnertime each day, then begin falling asleep just as you're getting up each morning.

Are hedgehogs dangerous?

While hedgehogs certainly don't look dangerous, there are a number of safety concerns to consider when it comes to owning a hedgehog as a pet. 

Salmonella & Hedgehogs

In 2019 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) investigated a number of cases of salmonella linked to pet hedgehogs and warned that even hedgehogs that appear perfectly healthy can carry salmonella. When handling your pet hedgehog be sure to protect yourself from this condition by taking the following steps:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a hedgehog or cleaning its enclosure.
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth.
  • Don’t allow hedgehogs to roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens or dining tables.
  • Keep your hedgehog's environment squeaky clean! Clean and wash enclosures, toys, and supplies outside when possible, well away from the kitchen or any place where food is prepared, served, or stored.

Hedgehog Quills

Hedgehog quills can penetrate skin and spread bacteria which could lead to illnesses in pet owners. If you get a puncture wound from a hedgehog quill be sure to clean your hands and the puncture area thoroughly, then monitor the area carefully for signs of infection.

Hedgehog Bites

Hedgehogs do bite, although their tiny teeth are unlikely to cause you very much pain. How hard your hedgehog bites will be linked to what your pet is feeling. A really angry hedgehog could cause a bite that hurts a bit. That said, hamsters and other rodents are far more likely than hedgehogs to give their owner a really painful bite.

How much room do pet hedgehogs need?

When out in the wild, hedgehogs will travel for miles each night forging for food. This instinct to roam means that hedgehogs require larger enclosures than you may expect, and a wheel for exercise is absolutely essential! 

To keep a happy and healthy hedgehog for a pet you will need to provide an enclosure that measures at least 24" x 24", (although larger is recommended). Provide your pet hedgehog with the largest enclosure you can accommodate, so that they have plenty of space to play and explore each night.

Keeping a pet hedgehog in your bedroom is not typically recommended since these busy little nocturnal creatures can be surprisingly noisy at night. 

What do hedgehogs need in their cage?

In order to be content, pet hedgehogs need to be kept busy. An exercise wheel, some tunnels, balls, soft toys and places to hide are essential items to include in any hedgehog enclosure. Your pet hedgehog's enclosure will also require a litter box, sleeping box and a designated eating area.

What do pet hedgehogs eat?

In the wild, hedgehogs enjoy a varied diet of insects, plants and roots. So to keep your pet healthy feed your hedgehog a high quality hedgehog specific kibble with at least 30% protein and less than 20% fat, supplemented with some of the following:

  • Fresh fruits (apples, bananas, berries)
  • Live or freeze-dried mealworms
  • Live waxworms
  • Cooked Egg
  • Pinky Mice
  • Cooked meat (chicken)
  • High protein, low fat dog food
  • Live or freeze-dried crickets
  • Fresh veggies (tomatoes, green beans)

Are pet hedgehogs legal where you live?

Hedgehogs are not permitted as pets in many places across the US. This is because pet hedgehogs released into the wild compete with native species for food and habitat, negatively impacting local ecosystems. Many other exotic pets such as sugar gliders, ferrets and Quaker parakeets are also banned in a number of states for the same reason.

Never release a pet into the wild. If you and your pet need to part ways contact your local animal rescue agency for assistance.

You are not legally permitted to own a hedgehog as a pet in the following places:

  • Pennsylvania.
  • Washington, DC
  • All five boroughs of New York City 
  • Georgia
  • California
  • Hawaii

Is a hedgehog the right pet for you?

Owning a pet hedgehog may not be as easy or straightforward as you thought, but by doing your research, visiting breeders and speaking to an exotic mammal vet, you will be able to decide whether a hedgehog is the right pet for you. For many people hedgehogs are playful and amusing pets worth making the extra effort for.

Do you have a new pet hedgehog in need of a wellness exam? Contact Thomasville Veterinary Hospital Urgent Care + Surgery today. Our vets will be able to direct you to a veterinary hospital that can provide the care your tiny companion needs.

Hedgehogs as pets, Thomasville Exotic Companion Mammal Vet

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