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Temperatures & Heating

► A digital thermometer is essential for monitoring the temperature of the hedgehog's enclosure. 

► The ideal temperature range for African hedgehogs is 75ºF - 80ºF.

Adult hedgehogs can tolerate temperatures from 72°F - 85°F but will thrive and be at their healthiest if kept within the ideal range mentioned above.
Baby hedgehogs can tolerate temperatures from 74°F - 83°F but will thrive and flourish if kept within the ideal range.

For more information regarding hedgehogs and temperatures, please see the "Hibernation, Torpor, Aestivation" section which is located under
the "Illness and Health Concerns" category near the bottom of this page.

Heating Options

Hedgehog require radiant heat to warm the air that they breathe.  Heating pads, heat tape and heat rocks/stones are NOT recommended.
Hedgehog owners should always have a supplemental heat source on hand ... and do not forget the thermometer.
Suitable heat sources include:

  • Space/Room heaters
  • Heat lamp w/ceramic socket and ceramic heat emitter
  • Electronic thermostat - if your schedule prevents you from checking the temperature of the enclosure frequently, a thermostat can help control your heating device.

The wattage of the ceramic heat emitter would be dependent on where you are located.  Someone living in the deep south may only need a 75W emitter while someone in the far north would likely need a 100W to 150W.  A digital thermometer truly is essential to help you maintain the proper temperatures.

NOTE:  It is recommended that you have a back up heat source for emergencies.  Heat packs such as Hot Hands or UniHeat, placed into a sock for safety, will work great as a temporary measure.

Enclosure

There's a fair amount of debate regarding what is ideal and/or appropriate for hedgehogs when it comes to enclosures.  We will do our best to outline each type so that you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Plastic Storage Bins
Sterilite/Rubbermaid/Hefty, 105 quart - 120 quart size or larger.

Pros

  • Proper temperature is easily achieved
  • Widely available (Walmart, Target, etc.)
  • Variety of choices
  • Inexpensive ($10 - $18)
  • Easily modified
  • Lightweight and easy to clean
  • Solid sides to prevent climbing
  • Solid bottom prevents injuries to tiny feet
  • Lids can be modified to accommodate the heat source

Cons

  • Proper ventilation could be a problem if lid is not
    properly modified
  • Height may not accommodate some exercise wheels
  • Measures must be taken to prevent escape when
    using traditional igloos
Wire Cages
Top required.  Solid bottom required.  Strongly recommend coroplast or equivalent on all sides.

Pros

  • Widely available (pet stores and online)
  • Variety of choices
  • Some mid-range prices available ($30 - $60)
  • Plenty of ventilation
  • Can typically accommodate exercise wheel
  • Can typically accommodate heat source easily

Cons

  • Can be difficult to achieve ideal temperatures
  • Climbing the sides can lead to injuries or escaping
  • Climbing could provide hedgehog access to heat
    source, burn risk
  • Depending on type/style cleaning could be difficult
    or time consuming
  • Some cages are quite expensive
Aquariums
20 gallon long or larger.

Pros

  • Proper temperature is easily achieved
  • Available in most pet shops and even some major retailers
  • Variety of choices
  • Solid sides to prevent climbing
  • Solid bottom to prevent injuries to tiny hedgehog feet
  • Some can accommodate exercise wheel
  • Lids can be modified to accommodate the heat source

Cons

  • Proper ventilation could be a problem with certain
    types of tops/lids
  • Heavy and cumbersome to clean
  • Fragile, hot/cold spots may cause glass to shatter,
    any crack (even small) requires complete replacement
    to prevent cuts
  • All caulking must be removed before use with hedgehogs
Handmade Enclosures
Made using wood or wood furniture. 

These setups can be constructed very differently depending on the person.

  • Ensure that all wood is completely sealed with a pet safe paint, lacquer or shellac.
  • Ensure that there is adequate ventilation throughout the enclosure.
  • Ensure that the enclosure can reach and maintain the ideal temperature.
  • Ensure that there is adequate floor space for the hedgehog to roam.
  • Ensure that the enclosure is secure and there are no escape points.

Substrate

There are a few options when it comes to substrate or bedding for hedgehogs.  Some suitable choices are:

  • Fleece or flannel liners
  • Kiln dried pine
  • Paper bedding

​Never use cedar with any caged animal.  Cedar contains oils that are toxic and cause respiratory distress and urinary illness.
Aspen is a controversial bedding.  Many breeders discourage its use because of its tiny particles which can be eye or genital irritants.

Accessories

Exercise Wheel
Hedgehogs are foragers and often walk 1-7 miles each night.  Exercise wheels provide hedgehogs with a way to satisfy their natural need to walk.  Wheels also aid in maintaining a healthy weight and can help to alleviate stress and anxiety.  The wheel should have a solid running surface, no wire mesh.  Some examples of acceptable wheels are:

12 inch
Comfort Wheel
12 inch
Flying Saucer Wheel
11 inch or 14 inch
Treadmill Wheel

 

10 inch (for smaller hedgehogs)
Carolina Storm Express Wheel
10.5 inch
Carolina Storm Bucket Wheel
 
 

FACT:  Nearly all hedgehogs will poop on their wheel as they run.  Cleaning will need to take place daily in many cases.  Many hedgehog owners place a litter pan under the wheel.

NOTE:  Do not apply sandpaper to the surface of the wheel.  This can severely injure a hedgehog's feet.

Hide
Having a hide is important to hedgehogs.  It provides hedgehogs with a place of their own where they feel a sense of safety and security.  Whether it is a snuggle sack, igloo style or something you make yourself, it should be 100% washable material.  Wood is not recommended.  Plastic is ideal as it can be bleached.  Fabric is suitable as it can be washed in hot water and some can be washed with bleach.  Hides should be sanitized at least weekly and more often if needed.  It is important to wash snuggle sacks to remove dead skin debris and any loose fibers.  Check hedgehog feet regularly to ensure that the snuggle sack is not shedding fibers (also look for human hair) that can become wound around feet and toes and cut off circulation.
The hide should be large enough for the hedgehog to enter and turn around with ease.  If the hedgehog cannot exit the hide, they will be unable to access food and water.  Hides that are 12 inches or more in diameter are generally adequate.

Food Bowl
Kibble bowls should be somewhat shallow and heavy.  Ceramic, Pyrex glass, crocks, etc. tend to be ideal.  Hedgehogs are burrowers and may try to burrow under their bowl, flipping it.  This is especially frustrating when you've just filled the bowl but it is just something that is in their nature.  This should be washed daily to prevent growth of bacteria and mold.

Insect Bowl
Many breeders recommend that you have a bowl specifically for insects.  This bowl should differ greatly from the kibble bowl because hedgehogs can distinguish the difference between the bowls and will typically make a mad dash to the insect bowl and consume their insects more quickly.  This should be washed with each use to prevent growth of bacteria and mold.

Water Bowl vs Water Bottle
This has been a much debated topic among hedgehog breeders for many years.
Some breeders will only use water bowls and insist that nozzles of water bottles can chip teeth and even entrap a hedgehog's tongue.
Some breeders will only use water bottles and say that have never had a single issue.

Whether you choose a bottle or bowl here are a few things to keep in mind:
Bottles

  • Water bottles should have a gravity fed nozzle rather than spring-loaded.  To check if a nozzle is gravity fed, tip it and the ball should roll freely up into the nozzle.  If it does not, it is spring-loaded and you should not use it for your hedgehog.
  • Water bottles need to be disinfected, especially the nozzle, at least once a week to remove any bacteria.
  • Wide mouth bottles are easier to clean as they allow for the use of a bottle brush.

​Bowls

  • Water bowls should be heavy and shallow enough for the hedgehog to drink from without climbing onto it.
  • Water bowls need to be disinfected daily to remove any bacteria.
  • Bowls need to be large enough to contain no less than 1 cup of water.
  • Bowls should be checked every few hours to ensure the availability of clean water at all times.

FACT:  If given a water bowl many hedgehogs either dump it, fill it with bedding, or play in it.  This leaves them with no access to clean water.  If you use a water bowl, check it frequently to ensure that your hedgehog has water.

Litter Pan
Many hedgehogs can develop a habit of using a litter pan.  Some hedgehogs pick one spot to "go" and tend to stick with it.  You can often place a litter pan with pelleted litter in the area and coax them to use it.  Clay litter is not recommended.  Pine pellets and paper pellets make suitable litter pan fill.  An ideal sized litter pan would be 8" X 8" or similar size and 2"-3" deep.  Keep in mind that the pelleted litter expands greatly when it gets wet so never fill the pan more than half full.  You need only to cover the bottom.
If you find that your hedgehog is reluctant to use the litter pan, you can use a paper towel to pick up the poop and place it in the litter pan.  This trick sometimes works but there are hedgehogs that are just plain stubborn.

Toys
Hedgehogs are all unique when it comes to personality.  Some will play with toys, some will not.  Some are attracted to toys that make noise.  Some will give chase to toys that roll.  Owners have to experiment to see what their hedgehog will show interest in ... and some never show interest in any toy.
To ensure that toys are safe you need to consider a few simple things.

  • Is this a scented toy?  If yes, it is best to not offer it to your hedgehog.
  • Do the materials contain chemicals that could be toxic?  If the label says no chemicals but it has a chemical smell it is best not to offer it to your hedgehog.
  • Is there a chance that the hedgehog could get their mouth or feet stuck in it?  Hedgehogs have been known to get their mouths stuck on cage style cat balls.
  • Would it be possible for the hedgehog to tear a part off and ingest it?  In addition to a choking hazard, it could cause toxicity or blockage requiring immediate vet care.

Some hedgehogs like dig boxes (container filled with rocks and/or various toys) because the items in the box make noise when they dig through them.  Some hedgehogs seem to like a variety of textures.  Keep in mind that they may urinate or defecate while in the dig box and you will need to sanitize it.

Foods and Treats

Kibble
When it comes to feeding hedgehogs the first thing that you need to consider is the information that is given to you by the breeder.
The AHC does not wish to cause conflict with any breeder/buyer relationship.  The information being offered is merely to provide alternative options for those who may need them. The information is based on advice from collective breeders.

  • Many breeders recommend a mix of 2 - 5 different dry cat foods that do not contain soy, peas, or artificial preservatives and that do not have grains in the first 5 ingredients.
      Evidence suggests that soy, peas and legumes can have an estrogenic effect on animals, meaning it could interfere with the natural hormone process and possibly lead to serious health issues.
      There is strong evidence to suggest that artificial preservatives in pet foods can cause various types of benign and malignant tumors. 
  • Some breeders recommend a commercial hedgehog food.
  • Some breeders recommend a raw diet.

ALL breeders should recommend that you offer insects no less than 2 days a week to supplement this dry food.
Chart:  Insect Nutritional Value

Treats
Offering treats to hedgehogs should be infrequent and in moderation.  Infrequent meaning not more than once a week.  Moderation in our opinion is about 1/2 teaspoon which is approximate the size of an acorn.  The reason you need to keep treats infrequent and in moderation is that you do not want your hedgehog to begin to expect the treat as this could cause them to start refusing their kibble.
 * When offering produce please consider that it could cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.  Only offer very small portions and always wash thoroughly before feeding it to your hedgehog.
 * When offering food that your hedgehog has never eaten, do not offer any other new foods for at least 24 hours.  If there is an allergic reaction you need to know which food it was.

Providing a list of foods that are safe for hedgehogs would be rather complex and lengthy.

THESE ARE TOXIC, UNSAFE, OR UNHEALTHY FOR HEDGEHOGS

Meats, Fish, Poultry, Egg
Canned
Deli
Fat 
Fried
Raw

Produce
All leaves, stems, skins, peels
Avocado
Cherries
Citrus fruits
Grapes and raisins
Green potatoes
Green tomatoes
Mushroom
Onion, garlic, shallots, chives
Pineapple
Potato (white or yellow)
Rhubarb
Tomato

Other
All foods containing alcohol, Caffeine
All foods containing Aspartame, Saccharine
All foods containing Xylitol
All human supplements, vitamins
All salts, seasonings, spices
All breads
Candy, chocolate, sugary foods
Dairy that contains lactose
Dough of any kind
Nuts and seeds of all kinds
Pasta
Rice (white)
Seeds of all kinds

Bathing and Hygiene

Over-bathing a hedgehog can cause dry skin problems.  Each bath washes away the natural oils on their skin and causes dry, itchy, flaky skin which can make your hedgehog grumpy and possibly ill.  If your hedgehog has obvious soiled spots on them, bathe them.  If they have an odor, bathe them.  If it has been more than a month or they need a nail trim, bathe them.  Otherwise, skip the bath.

After bathing your hedgehog should always be put into a clean enclosure.  A suggestion is to clean the enclosure and all supplies before bathing so that once they're dry you can just take them to their home.  Your hedgehog will thank you for it.

Proper bathing begins with a sink, tub or container that is appropriately sized.  There should be enough room for the hedgehog to swim around a bit but not so big that he/she can get out of your reach.  You need to be able to reach and pick them up at a second's notice should they start to struggle or go under the water.
Water temperature should always be lukewarm.  Cold water can cause shock and hot water can cause scalding.  Take a moment to run the water and get it to the correct temperature before doing anything else.  Check the water on your wrist or forearm to ensure that the temperature is proper before placing the hedgehog in it.  Once the water is running at the correct temperature, you can then place the hedgehog in (and stopper if necessary) and begin raising the water level.
Shampoo/Soap is rarely needed and can cause eye and skin irritation.  If you absolutely need shampoo, please choose a product that has no dye or fragrance.
Brushing while they soak is suggested to remove any debris, dead skin, or to thoroughly clean soiled areas.  An old toothbrush is very helpful but manicure nail brushes work great too.
Rinse, rinse, rinse!  You need to ensure that you have removed all debris, and if you've used any kind of shampoo it needs to be thoroughly removed.
Towel time is very important.  Placing a wet or damp hedgehog into its enclosure can encourage fungal or bacterial growth.  Any bedding or fibers that adhere to them while they're wet will hold the moisture and likely result in a skin infection.
Once your hedgehog is completely dry you can place them back into their nice clean home and allow them to rest.
Remember your hedgehog basically just "worked out" and will need a little time to unwind and recuperate.

NOTE:  NEVER leave your hedgehog unattended in water.  Even the best swimmers can have an off day and it could result in tragedy.

TIP:  The very best time to trim nails is while a hedgehog is in the bath.  If you are slow and gentle you can typically grab a foot very lightly and snip those nails without too much fuss.

Handling and Temperament

Trust - Relationships with hedgehogs are completely dependent on trust.  Other animals will often interact with you based on curiosity, interest in food, sounds, smells, etc. but hedgehogs will not.  If they feel that you may harm them they will roll up, make defensive noises, pop (jerk their body), and you aren't likely to coax them to do anything else.  Even the sweetest and most social hedgehogs will have a bad day.  At some point, pretty much all hedgehog owners will have to deal with a major case of the grumpies.  Whether you have a reluctant hedgehog or just one that is having a bad day, these tips may help.

Patience is key.  Hedgehogs can sense if you are anxious.  If you are uptight about the hedgehog not opening up, your anxiety is adding to the problem.  Relax.  In many cases you can hold a hedgehog in your hand and wait motionless and quietly for them to open.  Do not move.  Do not talk to them.  Do not stroke them.  Just hold them.  It may take a minute, it may take 10 minutes, or it may not happen that particular day.  Eventually most do come around.  As soon as they feel comfortable and secure, they will slowly unroll and have a look around.  They may immediately roll back up at any little movement or noise but do not give up hope.  Just remind yourself that to the hedgehog ... humans are enormous and scary.  If the hedgehog has not opened within 20 - 30 minutes, try tomorrow.  Too much time trying can be a negative thing.  But DO try again.  Some hedgehogs who've been grumpy and shy for a year or more have been known to come around with the right owner and some patience.

Tips

  • A small piece of fabric (6 - 12 inches square) can be a great tool.  Keep the fabric on you, against your body for several hours so that it picks up your scent.  Place the the fabric inside of the hedgehog's hide.  This teaches them to associate your scent with their safe place.  NOTE:  Ensure that the fabric has sealed edges to prevent shed fibers that can become wound or tangled on hedgehog toes or quills.
  • Making sure that the hedgehog sees you placing food in their enclosure (and not trying to interact with them at that time) can be a step toward gaining trust.
  • Being very gentle and talking in a calm tone during bath time can help build trust.
  • Have the hedgehog hang out on your lap while watching TV but not forcing interaction works very well.  NOTE:  Remember to protect clothing and furniture.

Illness and Health Concerns

Hibernation, Torpor, Aestivation - Why temperatures are so important
When introduced to cooler temperatures African hedgehogs do not have the natural ability to enter a state of dormancy and successfully recover from it.  They are indigenous to a climate that frequently experiences extremely high temperatures and rarely experiences cooler temperatures.  They have not evolved with the biological ability to endure cooler climates by means of hibernation.  They are very vulnerable to temperatures below 72°F.
!! Their inability to live in cooler temperatures is not a matter of conditioning so please do not attempt to acclimate your hedgehog to cooler temperatures. !!

What are the signs of a hibernation attempt?
The signs to look for are:

  • Stomach is cold to the touch
  • Inability to move on their own
  • Lethargic and hard to rouse
  • Abnormal breathing - this could be very shallow breathing or labored breathing
  • Wobbling and unsteady on their feet
  • Loss of appetite

What do I do?
NEVER place them in water to warm them up.  This can cause shock and in addition will make it even more difficult to warm them up.
Warm them up slowly using your body heat as described below.

  • Place the hedgehog on your chest or stomach and cover with a blanket, towel, etc. to contain your body heat.
  • Talk to him/her to encourage alertness.
  • Continue to warm him/her up slowly.  This can take quite some time in many cases.
  • If you notice minor movement after a few minutes, continue warming.

If the hedgehog begins to struggle to get away, assess the movements to see if they seem "normal".  If the movements do not seem normal, keep warming.  If the movements seem normal and intentional, place the hedgehog on a non-slip surface and see if there is any wobbling.  If yes, keep warming.  If there is no noticeable wobble, you can place the hedgehog in its enclosure and ensure that the temperature is between 78°F - 82°F.  The temperature of the enclosure should remain at this slightly elevated range for at least a week as another hibernation attempt is likely.  Monitor your hedgehog closely.  Check on him/her every 1-2 hours for a few days so that you can be aware of any problems.

Respiratory Issues
Signs of a respiratory infection are sneezing, coughing and mucus, crustiness or bubbles around the eyes, nose and mouth. 
What to do:

  • Check the temperature.  If the temperature is not between 75°F - 80°F, adjust the heat to achieve that temperature range.
  • Clean away all mucus with a warm washcloth.  Mucus is full of bacteria and can prevent recovery.
  • Check for drafts.  If you discover that there is a draft around the hedgehog's enclosure, correct the problem.
  • Check the enclosure to ensure that there are no damp or wet areas as these can grow mold and fungus which can cause severe respiratory illness.
  • Remove any aromatic products.  Air fresheners, perfumes, candles, oils etc. can cause and prolong respiratory issues.

Digestive Issues
Signs of digestive issues can include constipation and straining, dry and crumbly stool, green slimy stool (this could also be stress), undigested bits of kibble or insects in the stool and vomiting, heaving or coughing.

  • Constipation and dry stool can usually be remedied with canned pumpkin; 1 teaspoon, once a day for 3 days.
  • Minor upset stomach or stress issues can often be remedied with Bene-bac Plus gel or powder, which are probiotics.
  • Issues not responding to the above mentioned remedies will require veterinary attention.
  • Any blood or signs of blood requires veterinary attention.  

Skin Issues
The first thing to know is that seeing flakes on your clothes, furniture, etc. does not necessarily mean that your hedgehog has dry skin.  When hedgehogs anoint and the saliva dries, it flakes off much like dandruff.  A thorough rinse in lukewarm water can remove the dried saliva.
If you see actual flakes on the skin and you've tried a bath to remove any dead skin and debris, there are oils that are safe for hedgehogs.  That being said, a bath is typically needed to remove all debris from the skin before applying any kind of treatment.

The oils listed below are safe to apply to a hedgehog's skin:

  • Canola oil **
  • Coconut oil ** ♦
  • Flax seed oil
  • Olive oil **
  • Sunflower oil **
  • Sweet almond oil **
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Wheat germ oil

♦  This oil can be very drying if used solely.  It has antimicrobial properties which, while beneficial, can strip natural oil from the skin.  There is also a possibility of clogged pores.

** These oils should not be used solely.  They should be cut (mixed) with either flax seed oil, vitamin E oil or wheat germ oil.

There are many oils that are unsafe for hedgehogs and some are extremely toxic to hedgehogs.  Before using any oil that is not listed above, please discuss it with your veterinarian.

WHS (Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome)
This is a slow progressing and degenerative neurologic condition that can only be diagnosed with a post-mortem necropsy.
A tentative diagnosis can be given by properly educated veterinarians based on the symptoms below.
Symptoms mimic a stroke and the condition is incurable.  Palliative care to manage symptoms and basic needs are required.
Some evidence suggests that specific vitamin supplements, antibiotics, steroids, and even CBD may provide benefits in the management of symptoms.
The following symptoms are suggestive of WHS if all other diagnoses have been ruled out.

  • Uncontrolled wobbling
  • Frequent falling over lacking any obvious reason
  • Paralysis of singular or multiple limbs - Most frequently presents in the hind limbs.
  • Paralysis or partial paralysis of the body
  • Muscle atrophy associated with paralysis
  • Prolonged head tilt
  • Seizures
  • Prolonged loss of appetite
  • Wasting - Slow progressing weight loss.
  • Inattentiveness - Failure to achieve or maintain an alert state.

NOTE:  If a veterinarian has diagnosed your hedgehog with WHS we encourage you to reach out to others who have cared for hedgehogs with this disease.  These folks can often provide extremely helpful suggestions for palliative care.  They can also offer advice for coping during the difficult journey.

Prolapse: Orbital
This is when the orb (eyeball) protrudes from its socket.  Only a veterinarian can determine if the orb is simply swollen from minor injury and may be treated or if the orb has actually prolapsed and requires removal.  If removal is required, most vets can do this procedure and send the hedgehog home the same day.  Most vets will sew the eyelids together to prevent any debris from entering the now-empty socket.  Hedgehogs can live a nearly normal life with only one eye.
NOTE:  Have your vet place an E-collar on the hedgehog directly after surgery.  Hedgehogs are known to scratch at the surgical site, causing injury.

Prolapse: Rectal
This is when the tissue inside the anus has become grossly inflamed and begins to protrude outside of the rectum.  This is often caused by constipation and/or straining to have a bowel movement.  This requires medical treatment.  A vet can typically clean and prep the area, push the tissue back inside, and place a stitch to hold it in place until it has healed (usually about 1 week).  The vet may also prescribe a laxative and a mild muscle relaxer.  This is to prevent straining that may tear the suture and cause the rectum to prolapse again.
NOTE:  If you notice that your hedgehog's stool is extremely dry or if your hedgehog is straining during bowel movements, you can offer your hedgehog a teaspoon of unseasoned canned pumpkin.  Pumpkin has a natural stool-softening affect.

Prolapse: Genital
Females - This is when the internal tissue of the genitalia, and in some cases even the uterus, protrude from the outer opening of the vagina.  This is an urgent and life-threatening condition.  It is vital to get the hedgehog to the vet immediately.  This condition will almost certainly require surgery.  In most cases the vet will recommend spaying the hedgehog as it is likely that the prolapse will occur again.
Causes of genital prolapse in female hedgehogs can include:

  • Complications of pregnancy or delivery
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Polyps
  • Cancer

Males - This is when the internal tissue of the penis sheath, and in some cases the penis itself, protrude from the outer opening of the sheath.  It is important to keep the area clean until you can get him to the vet.  There is a chance that the protrusion can be corrected without surgical intervention and possibly without even a suture.  However, the vet may recommend neutering the animal if it is suspected that the cause is hormonal.
Causes of genital prolapse in male hedgehogs can include:

  • Irritation, inflammation, or infection from entrapped debris (usually bedding) inside of the penis sheath
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Injury from breeding
  • Cancer

More to come...

This website is an ongoing effort to bring education to hedgehog enthusiasts.

We are continuously working to prepare more information to be published on this website.