The African Pygmy Hedgehog is a clean and affectionate animal and with the proper care can become a loyal and devoted house pet.
Hedgehogs are solitary animals that originated from the African Savanna. It is not unnatural or cruel to keep a single pet hedgehog because several hedgehogs in a large cage would be looking for trouble!
Upon bringing your new hedgehog home you may discover it is dirty and smelly so a bath is essential. Your hedgehog will probably not enjoy it but fill the sink with a few inches of warm water. Add a bit of mild dog or cat shampoo to the water and gently pour water over the hedgehog. Use a soft hair brush (baby brush) to cleanse the spines and rinse thoroughly. Be careful not to get water in the eyes, ears and nose. A bath can be given a few times a year. You may be surprised, but your hedgehog can swim. Don't leave him in the water to swim for too long as he will get tired.
Do a thorough check of your new hedgehog to ensure it has no open wounds. Also check for parasites such as mites, ticks, fleas or maggots. If you find any wounds or parasites please contact your veterinarian immediately.
Soon after your new hedgehog arrives it should be given food and water. It is important to never give frozen food or food that comes directly from the fridge. Always give food at room temperature or warmer. Cold food can cause stomach or intestinal problems resulting in diarrhea.
Commercial hedgehog food can be purchased in your pet store and should be the staple of your hedgehog's diet. If this is unavailable to you, dry cat food can be used. As hedgehogs can become obese easily please provide plenty of exercise or use a low fat or seniors cat food if needed.
Your headehog can be given about 1 ounce of meat per day. It is preferred to cut it into tiny pieces or serve mince and remember to thaw it completely. A mineral supplement can be added to the meat to provide the necessary requirements of these minerals.
Hard boiled eggs may be finely chopped and give to your hedgehog occassionally.
Fruits and vegetables are a welcome addition to any hedgehogs diet, providing they will eat them. They are especially fond of bananas and can be offered a piece daily.
Mealworms are a very important part of a hedgehogs diet but should not be the staple of the diet. 5 mealworms per hedgehog is the recommended daily intake and can be offered live or boiled and offered dead.
It is normal for a new hedgehog to be shy on the first day it arrives in its new home but if it has not eaten by the second day you should consult your veterinarian. Having an exotic vet before purchasing your new hedgehog will be a life saver for both of you. It is highly recommended that you consult your vet if your hedgehog shows signs of the following:
~fasts more than 2 nights.
~loses its appetite and will not acccept even it's most favorite foods.
~has diarrhea for longer than one day with a thin, greenish colored or bloody feces.
~coughs up blood.
~sneezes blood through its nostrils.
~limps, wavers or staggers even though the temperature of its surroundings is at its minimum 70.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 21.5 degrees Celcius.
~is injured or has an ulcer or abscess.
Hedgehogs generally sleep during the day and are active at night, but by offering food and water during daylight hours you should be able to switch your hedgehogs sleep patterns. As this small animal is extremely active a fair sized enclosure should be provided. You can purchase a cage from a pet store or build your own. If using wood, several coats of good Epoxy Resin or Polyurethane paint should be applied to the sides and floor of the cage to prevent the absorption of urine. When choosing a cage allow room for a sleeping box, food and water dishes and an area large enough for play and exercise.
The bottom of the enclosure can be lined with newspaper or pine shavings that should be changed regularly. It is not recommended to use cedar shavings as cedar is hard on a small animals respiratory system and may also cause eye infection. Hedgehogs may be easily litter trained by using a small shallow container filled with non-clumping cat litter. Avoid using clumping litter as a hedgehogs underside is too close to the ground causing the litter to stick to their bottom. Clean the litterbox at least once a week or sooner.
Hedgehogs are notorious escape artists as they can fit through the smallest opening and can easily climb out of an open top cage. It is best to "hedgehog proof" your home to make sure your hedgehog will not get into serious trouble during out-of-cage exercise. You should also provide toys for your hedgehog such as most baby toys, dog and cat toys and leather or rawhide chews. Toilet paper roll tubes, paper grocery bags or old magazines and newspapers can be given which they will rip to shreds to relieve boredom.
There is much to learn about a hedgehog and there are various books you can purchase, along with endless information on the internet to make your life with a hedgehog easy and enjoyable.