When you come to pickup your new baby, we will spend as much time as possible going over their care and handling so that you are comfortable with every aspect of caring for the new member of your family when you leave us. There is a lot of information to remember, so here are some of the basics you can come back to if needed. I am also glad to help if you ever have questions, just ask! Bonding When you bring your new hedgehog home, place him in his new cage and let him have privacy for at least a day. You may pick him up and hold him once or twice for a few minutes the first day, but remember, it will probably be more like a week before he begins to feel at home. Place one of your worn t-shirts in their cage so they begin to learn your smell. Baby hedgehogs need quite a bit of sleep the first month after they come home with you, so don't be too concerned if he sleeps a lot at first. They are naturally nocturnal, so the best time to begin the bonding process is in the evenings or early mornings. Handle them gently, but firmly from the beginning. The best way to pickup a hedgehog is to place open hands on either side and “scoop” them up. Hedgehogs will typically ball up when startled, which can be often when you are getting to know each other. Just hold them patiently and they will usually uncurl if not disturbed for a few moments. They will often begin to lick and “nibble” on your hands, and then anoint themselves with your scent. Although no one can say exactly what this behavior is for, it is adorable. They will learn your scent over time and the more time you can spend with them, the more bonded to you they will be. Offering treats like mealworms, or cooked chicken pieces, cooked egg, anything you see they like, is another good bribery tactic to bring on the hedgie love! Be patient, handle them daily. Carry them in a cuddle sack with you while you do chores around the house. Bathing Because they do love to run, sometimes the little critters just can’t stop long enough to go potty. This is why under the wheel is such a good place for the litter tray. Sometimes an over eager runner will end up with something we like to call “poop boots”. It’s not pretty, and I can’t imagine comfortable so footbaths are sometimes needed. Place a washcloth in the bottom of the sink, fill with just an inch or so of water and place the hedgie in for a few minutes to walk around. Usually just the water on the cloth with soften everything, I use a soft bristle toothbrush to wash the rest. You can do this with water only, or just a bit of bath wash in the water. Be sure to rinse them well if you add soap. Full baths are also acceptable no more frequently than weekly as they are prone to dry skin. Using a little oatmeal bath powder in their water will help with dry skin. You can use a toothbrush to gently clean their quills. Rinse them well; be sure no soap is left on their skin after a bath. It is nice to have a warm towel ready for them as soon as they are out of the water. You may want to have 2, one to dry them initially, then a second to let them finish drying in. They must be completely dry before being placed back in their cage, as they can get cold quickly if left damp. Nail clipping Hedgehogs nails grow constantly just like ours. If not clipped, they can curl under and into the pads of their feet making it uncomfortable for them to walk. The firm but gentle handling comes in handy here. Hedgehogs are squirmy and prickly which makes clipping nails a challenge. Try to hold your hedgehog to you and catch a foot between you fingers, clip the nails and move on to the next foot. If you are having no luck, try to have them walk onto a baking cooling tray (the metal grate thing cakes cool on). Sometimes a foot falls through and you can catch it that way. This works best with a helper. Catching them while they are asleep on your lap is another possible trick. Their nails can bleed if cut too deep just like a cat or dog. Cornstarch is a good thing to get the bleeding to stop. It will grow back, don’t get discouraged or scared if this happens, take a deep breath and keep trying. Take a break and try again in an hour, but don’t give up! I am sure they would rather this happen than have to walk on ingrown nails! Be diligent, you may only get a couple of nails per sitting. I have some hedgies that will sit tight and let me get all 4 done in one session, others it might take me a week to get 4 paws done. Skin Care If you notice excessive quill loss or flaky skin there are a couple of possibilities. Hedgehogs are prone to dry skin, a soak in an oatmeal bath is sometimes soothing, vitamin E is also good. Open a capsule and rub a drop into their ears if they look dry. Flax seed oil can be used as well. Never use tea tree oil! It is toxic to hedgehogs. Mites are another possibility. These are often indicated first with dry skin, then quill loss and excessive scratching. Hedgehogs are prone to them and can be brought in with bedding usually. Topical treatment with Revolution is typically the most effective way to get rid of them. Do a thorough cleaning of the room and cage after each treatment. Never allow a treatment by injection or oral, as hedgehogs are sensitive to these. A spot treatment monthly will prevent further issues. Quilling Hedgehogs will naturally go through a process of dropping old quills, and growing in new quills at 3 main ages. Hoglets will go through their first quilling at 6-8 weeks and again at 4 months. This is understandably uncomfortable for the hoglets and they will be a little grumpier than usual during this process. It typically only lasts for a week or 2, and you can provide oatmeal soaks to help with some of their discomfort. If you see quilling at other times that seems excessive, see skin care above, this is an indication of several possible issues, including mites. Hibernation If they get cold, a hedgehog will attempt to hibernate, which can have serious long-term effects on an APH hedgehog. You will find your little one curled in a tight ball, almost shivering. You can feel the cool air radiating off their body and they will not uncurl. If you find your hedgehog this way, you need to immediately but gradually begin to warm them up. Place them directly on your skin under your shirt. Put a blanket on top of you. Let him lay there so your body heat does the work. After a few minutes, he should begin to move a bit and uncurl. They will be woozy, and will need supplemental heat for several days. Keep an extra close eye on them and ensure their enclosure stays above 75f. Hedgehogs who have attempted hibernation once, are more prone to attempt again. Remember, our pet hedgehogs are not found in the wild. They are a cross of 2 breeds of hedgehogs designed for the pet industry. Their little bodies are not equipped to survive extended hibernation so please keep them warm! Obesity Since a healthy hedgehog is a bit on the plump side naturally, determining the difference between a healthy animal's "chubby" condition and obesity can be somewhat difficult. Since there is such a wide variety of size in domestic stock these days, it is better to track your own hedgehogs weight and take note of major increases or decreases, rather than look to a particular weight to determine your hedgehog’s health. A visual inspection is another way to determine if your hedgie is over or under weight. A healthy hedgehog in its normal trim will be a bit chubby under the chin and front legs, while an obese specimen will have a double chin and "ham-hocks" for legs and sometimes even rolls of fat under the armpits. Such animals are usually so chubby that they can no longer roll themselves into a ball. On the other hand, an underweight hedgehog can be identified by a )( shape when looking from above. They should not have a “waist”. A healthy hedgehog should have a slightly plump, () appearance.
CAGE: Your hedgehog will require a secure home since they are very good climbers. Some guinea pig and small animal cages work well. We do not suggest using cages with horizontal bars. They are very active at night so a minimum floor space of 3-4 square feet is needed to ensure they have room for separate spaces for eating, sleeping, playing and potty. We use a variety of cages but mainly "C&C" cages designed using cube storage shelving and corrugated plastic for our hoggies, which provide ample floor space. Large Sterilite storage bins are an excellent cage option as well.
BEDDING: Aspen, Pine or shavings (NOT CEDAR!), care fresh type paper bedding, or fleece liners are all excellent bedding options. If using a shaving type bedding, place approximately two inches of material evenly over the floor of the cage. Fleece liners can be used in layers of 2 or more.
HEAT SOURCE: The cage should be kept at a consistent 72-80 degrees. If their room is naturally in that range, no additional heat is needed. A small space heater works well to keep a large area warm. CHEs or ceramic heat emitters are an excellent choice to keep the cage only heated. When using a CHE, you need a thermostat or a dimmable lamp to control the heat output – too much heat is a bad thing too!!! Heating pads can be used if you just need a small boost in temps temporarily. Please note heat lamps like you find in reptile supply areas should not be used because the light they emit may disrupt their nighttime activity.
DIET: Although there are hedgehog foods available in stores, dry cat and kitten formulas are more often the superior choice for your hedgehog. They should be fed a good quality dry cat food with fat content between 9-15% and protein levels around 30-35%. We use Purina One Chicken and Turkey for all our hedgehogs; it has a good blend and is readily available. Whatever commercial food you choose can and should supplement with a variety of other foods such as vegetables, mealworms, crickets, cooked meats and fruit and vegetables. However none of these should be fed as anything more than a treat 3 or 4 times a week. The dry food should be the staple. We use Purina One Chicken and Rice formula cat food, approximately 2-3 tbsp. per day.
FOOD BOWL: The food bowl needs to be fairly wide and heavy to prevent your pet from dumping out its contents and using it as a toy. Small ceramic crocks that are designed for small rodents are perfect food dishes for hedgehogs. The width or diameter of the dish can be 3 to 6 inches and it should be no more than 3 inches high.
WATER BOTTLE or BOWL: Water bottles or open dishes are acceptable. Our hoglettes are started on a water dish. If you wish to switch them to a bottle, be sure to leave a dish in their cage until you see them drinking from the bottle to ensure the have access to water at all times. Use the ball type water bottle only.
HIDING PLACE: This can be as simple as a piece of 4 inch PVC pipe, an old plastic pitcher, or an old shoe box with a hole cut in one end (this should be replaced every 2 to 3 weeks). Plastic igloo style small animal hides are also available at pet stores. Fleece cuddle sacks and domes are also great to use.
EXERCISE WHEEL AND TOYS: An exercise wheel is a must and one of the most important parts of the cage. They are vital to the health and happiness of your new baby. Although small, these little critters can and will cover an incredible distance in a night. Although a plastic solid base guinea pig wheel will suffice, there are now specially designed Hedgehog Wheels available from many pet suppliers. These are safer for your pet since they have a solid running surface rather than the more common metal bars which they sometimes get their long legs caught in. We recommend Carolina Storm Bucket Wheels; a wonderful breeder in NC makes them. I keep a supply here available for sale if you want to purchase when you select a baby. Each of our babies and adults has their very own. They are easy to clean and safe. PLEASE!! NEVER use a wire wheel for a hedgehog. Their little feet can get caught causing serious trouble.
LITTER BOX or PUPPY PADS: Your pet will use a litter box if you provide it with one, or a puppy training pad. Placed under the wheel is a good spot.
BATH WASH / NAIL CLIPPERS: A gentle bath wash is needed for bathing. Oatmeal based unscented washes work well. We use Aveeno baby wash here but any brand will do. Baby nail clippers or cuticle trimmers are good clippers to use for their nails.
Other supplies not necessarily required but can be great to have: Cuddle sacks: Made of fleece and/or flannel, they are great for hideouts in the cage and bonding time with a new hedgie. You can mix it up and add a strap to carry “hands-free”. It is a great way to keep a nervous new hedgehog with you while allowing him to still have a “hiding” place.
Carrier: A great thing to have if you plan to travel with your hedgehog. You can use a small plastic bin with ventilation, or a hard or soft-sided pet carrier found at most pet shops.
Toothbrush: Perfect bath-time accessory. Great for cleaning up feet and quills.
Unscented laundry detergent: Requirement if you’ll be using cage liners. Look for dye free and unscented.
Paper Towels and Hand Wipes: Babies poop. A lot. By the time they are 4-5 months they’ve got that under control for the most part, they’ve learned to use a litter box and things slow down quite a bit just naturally. But you’ll want these handy for a while!