Pet Hedgehogs

Caring for Pet African Pygmy Hedgehogs

Genie - African Pygmy Hedgehog
Photo © 2006 Lianne McLeod, Licensed to, Inc.

Pet hedgehogs are unlike most other exotic pets. Not only do they eat a very unique food but they are covered with tiny little spikes and roll into balls when scared. Sonic the hedgehog may have been all blue and cool in his video games to the majority of Sega players but the real things have their own appeal that only hedgie owners can understand.


  • Size:Five to eight inches long
  • Lifespan: Average of five years

Hedgehog Diet

You may be surprised to learn that hedgehogs are insectivores but these snouted critters have quite the taste for things that creep and crawl. Mealworms and crickets are the most commonly fed insects but the staple diet for a hedgehog should be a formulated hedgehog kibble. This kibble has mashed up insects along with vitamins and minerals to create a balanced diet for your hedgie. Many owners and breeders still feed kitten food to their hedgehogs but this is not recommended due to the higher protein kitten food contains. Hedgehog food is available at most pet stores or online.

Keeping Hedgehogs as Pets

Cages made for guinea pigs and rabbits are suitable for hedgehogs but wire grate cage bottoms should be avoided since hedgehogs have small feet that will be injured if they fall through these grates. A soft bedding such as a recycled paper material or towels that are changed out regularly are best for the sensitive feet of your hedgehog.

A large enclosed running wheel should be provided for your hedgie to exercise in along with a hide box, food bowl, and water bottle. Make sure the running wheel is cleaned regularly to avoid fecal matter from building up and causing foot infections on your hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are very active at night and will run several miles a day on their wheel or in their enclosed play area.

If they are unable to get the large amount of exercise they require they may become depressed, overweight, and develop foot sores. If you can't commit to exercising your hedgie daily please don't get one.

Handling Hedgehogs

African pygmy hedgehogs obviously have a lot of spines but that doesn't mean they aren't fun to hold. Tame hedgies will crawl into your hands, take treats from you and even enjoy being carried for a bit. Typically hedgehogs don't like their heads being pet (another reason why dental care can be difficulty) and will roll into spiney balls when scared. They aren't big fans of water but if you are having trouble cleaning your hedgies feet while holding him try giving him a shallow bath where just his legs are immersed in water or have him walk on a wet towel.

Younger hedgehogs are easier to tame than older ones, therefore your best chance to having a hedgehog that loves being held is by getting one at about six to eight weeks of age.

Hedgehog Health

Dental disease, skin issues including mite and lice infestations, intestinal parasites, and tumors can all be issues for pet hedgehogs. Spaying and neutering is recommended as your exotics vet (find an exotics vet near you) recommends to avoid reproductive organ cancers and tumors later in life.

Thorough dental check ups at your yearly exam and the occasional dental cleaning under anesthesia is recommended to prevent your hedgie from losing any teeth or developing a dental abscess. Some owners are able to brush their hedgehog's teeth using a cat toothpaste and small head toothbrush weekly.

Spine loss is normal in small amounts but if your hedgehog is losing so many spines that he has bald patches he probably has a problem such as a parasite infestation. If this is the case it's time for a check up with his vet.

With regular handling and check ups with your vet you'll have many years of spiney love with your new pet.