Hedgehog Care Guide
Bringing Home Baby
· When you first bring your hedgehog home whether it’s a new baby, retiree or rescue you will want to introduce them to their new cage.
· Have cage ready for your new addition by making sure your cage is already at temp, comfortable and have food and water readily accessible. (Recommended minimum cage size is 3ftx2ft but bigger is always better) hanging a water bottle the bottle will need to sit where the tip is about the height of the hedgehog’s shoulders. (Note: Some hedgehogs will not use bottles therefore a short heavy dish is recommended)
· Give your hedgehog time to rest and explore cage after arrival. I recommend leaving your hedgehog alone in their new cage for the first 24 hours before bonding and also keeping the wheel out of the hedgehog’s cage at least for the first 3 days, as you want to make sure your baby has located food and water before introducing extra stimulus.
· I highly recommended quarantine hedgehog from existing animals in the house for about 2 weeks before introducing, this is to help minimize stress and illness.
Behaviors to Expect
· Your hedgehog’s behavior will change in the beginning of being brought into a new home, what once was a confident explorer may now be a shy ball of spikes. This behavior is to be expected has they have just left the only home they ever knew. Their new home will have different sounds, smells and their new owner may handle them different that what they are accustomed to.
· Handling your new addition will take time, patience and practice. The hedgehog will pick up on your emotions so if you are unsure or nervous in handling your new addition then they will be nervous and unsure of you.
· Hedgehogs not being handled daily will also become shyer and more nervous, so I suggest at least handling once a day or carry them in a bonding scarf while you go about your daily activities. (You can purchase awesome bonding scarves from Hope Kerr @ Ab Fab Pet on Facebook, I highly recommend her work.)Vacations or times away from your hedgehog can cause set backs in the bonding process also, here at McIntire’s Mini Mansion we do offer local Hoglet Daycare if needed just msg for requirements and pricing.
· Hedgehogs are nocturnal by nature and will sleep during the daylight hours. Some will wake on occasion to eat, drink or change to a more comfortable area in their cage. Younger hoglets will tend to sleep a bit more and can be seen during the day as they have yet to set their nocturnal clock.
· Just because they are nocturnal doesn’t mean you can not wake them for playtime. Just know that when waking a sleeping hedgehog, you will need to move slowly and allow them to wake up a bit before playing. (No different than waking up a person)
· Temperature suggested for a hedgehog is 75 degrees – 80 degrees, our babies are kept at a comfortable temp of 77 degrees here at McIntire’s Mini Mansion.
· Low temps can lead to eating less and lower activity levels, which can lead to a weakened immune system and hibernation attempts. If your hedgehog falls into hibernation they will die.
· If a hedgehog gets too hot, they will show signs by laying flat with nose in the air panting, (Don’t confuse this with the hedgehog “splat”, the hedgehog splatting is when a hedgehog is content and lays flat one their belly with all legs spread out sleeping a lot of my babies do this)
· As far as how to keep the temperatures of your cage stable, I suggest purchasing the right equipment. Here at McIntire’s Min Mansion we use an 8.5-inch ceramic dome, a 150watt Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE Bulb), LCD thermometer and a Zilla reptile thermostat (All these items can be pre-ordered at McIntire’s Mini Mansion). I also have Coroplast on my cage walls for better insulation at keeping the heat in (Coroplast should be available at your local hardware stores).
Health of your Hedgehog
· Hedgehogs do not require routine vaccinations or checkups; however, an annual well pet care visit is recommended. This will enable your pet to have an acquainted veterinarian and also vets are good at spotting problems we may not see.
· It is important to pick up your hedgehog daily and inspect for any injury’s or illness as they can not tell us when something is wrong, I also suggest checking their gait and if nails need trimming during this time.
Read on for signs of health/illness
· When a hedgehog moves into their new home is its not uncommon for them to not eat the first day or even night, some are stressed, sleeping or just to busy exploring their new surroundings. Its recommended for your breeder to send food with your new addition so you can slowly transition to another nutritional food. Here at McIntire’s Mini Mansion I provide a food to go home with your new addition of our own staple mix of 4 High Quality Grain Free cat kibble (McIntire’s Munchies) fortified with Calcium and Vitamin D3, freeze dried Mealworms and Bene-Bac powder to assist in the normal flora for your baby. If you are interested in changing to a different food for your baby, I can provide you with a list of 60+ approved cat foods for your baby to transition to.
· If you notice your hedgehog doesn’t seem to be eating, I suggest counting the kibble before putting in cage at night and recounting kibble in the morning. Also start weighing your hedgehog as soon as you suspect they are not eating. If your baby starts losing weight this confirms they are not eating and I would recommend a vet visit at this time.
· Green poops can be caused by many factors such as stress, diet change, travel or infection. Green poops is caused due to food moving to fast through their digestive tract, the green color is cause by bile, which would normally break down during digestion. Green poop caused by traveling or environmental changes should clear up in 3 days or so, if it lasts longer, I highly recommend seeing your vet.
· Hedgehogs are prone to dry skin. Dry skin can be cause by low humidity, diet, bedding, over bathing/under bathing or just your hedgehogs’ traits in general. Here at McIntire’s Mini Mansion I have a homemade body wash made specifically with hedgehogs in mind, but also is used on our other hairless critters on the homestead. Our McIntire’s Critter Cleaner consist of many moisturizing properties such as Coconut Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Olive Oil, Castile Soap, Shea Butter, Oat Extract and also includes an Antimicrobial treatment to further treat your hedgehogs’ skin. I lightly scent the body wash so its safe for your hedgehogs’ little nose.
· The most common health problem is mites. Mites can be contracted through many things such as bedding, being outside or in contact with another animal who has them. Signs your hedgehog may have mites include dry flaky skin, excessive scratching, redness of skin, scabs, sores and excessive quill loss. If you suspect your hedgehog may have mites the best thing to do is seek treatment from your vet. (The most popular and recommended treatment is Revolution) We do a preventative treatment every December here on our homestead for all our babies, if you are interested in doing a preventative treatment for your baby you are welcome to contact me. I usually have Revolution on hand but you would be required to keep tract of your treatments. (Initial treatment is 1st day then come back for 2nd treatment 3 weeks later)
Bathing & Nail Trimming
· Many hedgehogs enjoy playing and swimming in warm water others well not so much and this is when you can see the true grump come out. You should only fully bath your hedgehog when they are noticeably dirty or have dry skin. Hedgehogs do not groom themselves like other animals so this is where we come in to assist.
· I recommend only fully bathing (meaning quills, underside and feet) once a month, because if you over bath it can also contribute to them having dry skin. When bathing the water needs to be up to their belly and warm to the touch but not to warm where it will burn your baby. (Think of it as preparing a baby bottle and testing on the wrist) if you notice your baby has poopy boots (Poop on feet) and its not time for their full baths I suggest what we like to call foot baths where water is only high enough to get feet wet and clean off poop.
· There are many bath products you can use but I suggest to stay away from shampoos and look for body wash instead. Shampoo tends to dry out skin and as we have covered, hedgehogs are known to get dry skin very easily. Some of the body washes that are safe: Johnson and Johnson Tear free body wash, Aveeno Oatmeal body wash or of course our homemade McIntire’s Hogwash. Always watch for irritation using body washes what works for one hedgie may not work for another.
· Here at McIntire’s Mini Mansion I offer a onetime free training on how to bath and trim you babies nails, after the free training I do offer grooming services at a reasonable cost.
· Hedgehogs have nails similar to humans. Their nail is relatively clear and they have a quick at the end.
· The frequency of trimming nails will really all depend on your baby and how fast they grow. I have some that require every 2 weeks and others that are once a month, either way it is always a good idea to inspect your babies feet every now and then.
· Nails on the front feet that get to long can curl under and start digging in the pads of their little feet causing damage or even foot deformities, it can inhibit normal walking and run the risk of infection.
· Nails on the back feet don’t normally curl under but can still make walking difficult.
· Each hedgie is different in what technique to use therefor I am not going to explain in detail but will show you in person. Your main concern in trimming nails is to be sure to not over extend or twist the legs, also cutting to short can cause bleeding and is always recommended to have a blood stopping agent on hand. Blood stopping agent recommended is Kwik-Stop or just flour from your cabinet.
· Providing treats to your pet hedgehog is both beneficial to you and your pet. One of the primary reasons for feeding treats to your pet is to provide a variety in their diet. “Hiding” or scattering dry food treats encourages the hedgehog to forage as it would in its natural environment. Dry treats are preferred over moist treats that could spoil if undiscovered when hiding or scattering food. This is also stimulating for the hedgehog and encourages exercise which is beneficial.
·The giver of treats is always more welcome than empty hand. A happy hedgehog is more social and will look forward to handling and interaction. We suggest waiting to give your hedgehogs treats until they are settled into their new home and eating on a regular schedule. Freeze-dried insects or live insects are good starter treats for your hedgehog. Freeze insects can be started right away but allowing a hedgehog adjust to its new environment will help prepare it for the hunting of live food.
· Some hedgehogs love treats but other hedgies will prefer to stick to only their dry food. You may try some treats several times before your hedgehog decides to give it a try. It is important to only introduce one new food or treat at a time. Should your hedgehog develop an upset stomach you will know which food or treat is to blame. Daily nutritious treats in small quantities are acceptable but don’t spoil your hedgie so that it is too full for its staple food. Once you find a food your hedgie likes, don’t over feed it. That way your hedgehog will continue to enjoy it as a treat rather than expect it as a standard part of the diet.
· BEWARE – treats will change your hedgehog’s stool. Some treats may cause diarrhea, green poops, or extremely stinky poop. Treats that provide nutrition are always more beneficial than food items that seem to be little more than empty calories. Insectivores by nature, hedgehogs typically love insects. It is a good idea to include insects as part of your hedgehog’s balanced diet. The most popular insects of hedgehogs and hedgehog owners are mealworms, wax worms, silk worms and crickets. Treats can include live, canned or freeze-dried crickets, mealworms (only one or two per day), wax worms or other insects. Even though hedgehogs are insectivores, a captive hedgehog diet of insects would not be nutritionally complete.
Most meats fine as long as they are grilled, broiled, baked, boiled, or even cooked in the microwave.
Do NOT feed raw meats or processed meats. Meats should be cooked with oil or butter and should not be seasoned. It is never a good idea to feed raw meats because of the risk of salmonella or other bacterial or parasitic infections. Some hedgie meat favorites are: grilled salmon, chicken, and turkey. Beef and pork are acceptable but should be fed in moderation. These meats are less easily digested and contain lower calcium and higher phosphorus levels than other alternatives. Meats are not suitable as a main portion of the hedgehog’s diet. Unsupplemented meats do not provide adequate calcium, balanced minerals, tooth abrasion, and adequate vitamins.
Eggs Scrambled or hard-boiled eggs are a popular favorite with most hedgehogs. The best way to scramble eggs are in the microwave with no added oils or seasonings. Make sure the eggs are not too hot when you give them to your hedgie.
Fruits and Vegetables
Hedgehogs do not breakdown cellulose in plant and vegetable matter as well as other animals. Fruits are softer and typically easier to digest than vegetables. All vegetables should be diced into small pieces and most should be cooked in the microwave, boiled, or steamed so they are soft. Hard vegetable such as carrots and sweet potatoes should be cooked to prevent choking hazards. Corn and peas contain excess phosphorus, which decreases the calcium absorption and should only be fed in small amounts.
Apple Banana Blue Berries Cantaloupe
Honeydew Mango Papaya Pineapple
Asparagus Bell Peppers Carrots (cooked) Corn – small amounts
Cucumber Green Beans Peas Radishes
Sweet Potato (cooked) Turnips Zucchini
Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, and Other Dairy
Hedgehogs are thought to be somewhat lactose intolerant to milk but yogurt and cottage cheese seem to be easier for hedgehogs to digest. The yogurt and cottage cheese provide extra calcium to your hedgies diet and the yogurt provides beneficial bacteria as well.
Non-human foods as treats
Canned or moist cat foods are easily accessible and relatively cheap to try. Ferret treats are another option if you have them available.
Treats to Avoid
Sweet foods containing refined or processed sugars are not a good source of treats for your pet. We suggest that you completely avoid chocolate because it can be toxic for hedgehogs and other animals. Fried foods are not a good idea because the grease can upset the hedgehog’s stomach and the excess calories are not good for hedgehogs on the heavy side. Hedgehogs are somewhat lactose intolerant so milk should be avoided. Dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese can be given in small amounts but they can cause intestinal upset and diarrhea. Hard foods such as peanuts, almonds, and raw carrots are choking hazards. One of our customers had an emergency trip to the veterinarian one night because their hedgehog had an almond lodged in its throat! Sticky foods such as raisins or other dried fruit are not a good idea because they can stick to the roof of the hedgehog’s mouth or to its teeth causing discomfort and tooth decay. Fibrous or stringy foods such as celery are hard to chew and digest. Raw eggs or meat should be completely avoided because of the risk of Salmonella. Spicy and foods such as onions and garlic may be upsetting to your hedgehog’s stomach. Controversial foods in the pet industry include grapes (with seeds) and avocados. Salty foods such as many canned meats and vegetables can not only upset your hedgehogs’ stomach but it can cause electrolyte imbalances as well.
Quick Reference List of Foods to Avoid
Avocado – controversial Chocolate
Eggs – raw Fried foods
Meat – raw Garlic
Grapes – controversial Meat - canned
Meat – processed (hot dogs) Milk
Outdoor insects Raisins and other dried fruit
Hedgehogs that are hand fed or allowed to lick may take the next natural step and bite. Biting the hand that feeds it is only natural when the animal is looking for more food. Your hedgehog is not as tempted to bite your hand if it associates food and treats with an inanimate object.
Quilling and Quill Loss
Spines versus Quills
One of the most confusing and most common misnomers used when talking about hedgehogs is the exchange of the term’s spines and quills. Hedgehogs technically have spines and NOT quills.
Spines are hardened hairs that have a solid center and are tapered at both ends. Spines fall out and are replaced over the entire course of a hedgehog’s life just like dogs, cats, and humans. Quills are hollow (like the shaft of a feather), have barbs on the end, and can be released at will. Hedgehogs cannot shoot quills or detached quills like a porcupine. Now that you know the difference between spines and quills, we’ll be sure to confuse you by continuing to use the terms interchangeably!
The Process of Quilling
There are times when a hedgehog will shed large numbers of spines which is a process called quilling. It is a natural process similar to other animals that change coats during different times of the year. Spines shed out naturally during adolescence and several other times during the hedgehog’s life. Spines that are shed naturally have a root or bulb at the end (like human hair) but spines that are shed due to a skin condition or mites tend to have a flaky or soft tip on the end of the spine. Hedgehog resources report various ages when the quilling begins and how frequently it happens. We have noticed that some colors of babies have much thinner spines at age six weeks than other babies of different colors. Not only are the spines themselves smaller and more delicate but they are fewer quills especially over the back and rump. Most quilling typically occurs first at around six to eight weeks of age and again at around four months. The first quilling is often distinguished by the loss of small fine quills and the growth of new quills. New quills can most easily be seen on a relaxed hedgehog looking down the spine and over the rump. They will be thicker new quills beginning to poke through the skin surface. Quilling is often equated with the “Terrible Twos” or “Adolescents
Problems during the Quilling Process
A good comparison to quilling struggles is to think about threading shoelaces into a tiny hole in a new pair of shoes. You might first have to shove the tip of the shoelace into the new hole quite forcefully to get it to start to go through. Once the new hole is widened the lace fits through more smoothly. Baby quills are much smaller and thinner than adult quills. The new quills must work their way up through holes left behind from former quills. Hedgehogs with extremely coarse spines seem to have the toughest and longest adjustment to quilling. The longer, thicker and bigger spines are found around the skirt (just above the fur line) and around the ears. White quills on snowflake patterns also tend to be bigger and thicker than other quills. A spine that has trouble coming out is similar to an ingrown hair. You will be able to see redness, swelling, or scabbing at the base of the quill. These spines may need to be gently pulled and the area washed with a gentle cleansing solution. Quilling problems are more noticeable on albinos but all colors can have quilling problems. The quilling process can be a painful for your pet and may be noticed in its behavior.
Behavior during Quilling
One might compare teething in human babies to quilling in hedgies. Some hedgehogs show no discomfort during quilling while others might become very grouchy. Hedgehogs that are uncomfortable might huff and puff more and relax less. Instead of attempting to “pet” your hedgehog simply hold it or allow it to crawl over you and explore. You don’t want to avoid handling your pet during the quilling process but you certainly don’t want to increase their agitation by petting them if their behavior indicates they are uncomfortable. The good news is that with consistent handling the grouchiness will get better
How to Comfort Hedgehogs during Quilling
We suggest an oatmeal bath using a homemade oatmeal soak, Aveeno baby shampoo, or other oatmeal-based soaps found at any Health Food Store. Some hedgehog owners follow a bath with a Vitamin E in the rinse to assist in this uncomfortable process. We have found that a couple small drops of olive oil directly on the skin (not spines) will help to soften the skin and make the process a little easier. One must be careful not to put too much oil on the skin because excess oil can cause problems as well.
Determining the Cause of Quill Loss
Young hedgehogs are at the prime age for quilling. Look at the spines that have fallen out to see if they are smaller than most of the remaining quills and to see if they have a bulb shaped root on one tip. Another sign of quilling is that you can see new quills growing in to replace shed quills. The occasional loss of healthy quills is a normal part of the quilling process. The average hedgehog has approximately 5,000 spines and will replace about 90 percent of them during its lifetime. A veterinarian should address quill loss other than what is associated with the natural shedding process. Mites are the most common cause of quill loss other than the quilling process. Quill loss as a result of mites can be any size quill and new quills will not be growing in.