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How to care for your African Hedgehog

October 2nd, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

African hedgehogs are native to grass prairie areas of central and eastern Africa. Most are bred in captivity because, thankfully, importing them from the wild is no longer allowed. They are most active at night. In the wild, they hunt insects, worms, slugs and snails. They can jog for several miles in their quest for food! They are also good at digging and they can swim.

Hedgehogs can learn simple commands and they tolerate and even enjoy human contact. They do not do well with another hedgehog as a room-mate.

Hedgehogs are covered with several thousand spines on the top of their head and back. The spines last about one and a half years and are shed one at a time; in other words, hedgehogs do not molt. They can raise their spines when they are feeling nervous and pull them to cover their entire body when they are really afraid. They can also puff, cough and hiss when frightened. A hedgehog can stay rolled up in a ball for hours with little effort. One odd hedgehog behavior is called “anting”, where they anoint themselves with strong-smelling materials such as fish, wool and certain vegetables.

Male and female hedgehogs are easy to tell apart. Males have a prepuce on the belly, whereas females have an opening quite close to the anus. Females can have many heats per year. The gestation period is 34 to 37 days. At birth, the spines are under the skin but they appear a few hours afterwards.
Your pet’s cage should be as large as possible, at least 2 by 3 feet. Hedgehogs can climb and escape, so a lid is a must. If the cage has metal bars, they should be less than 1 inch square. Hedgehogs need a hiding place, such as a cardboard box or PVC tube. Bedding can be recycled newspaper or alfalfa pellets. Cedar, pine, corncob, fabric, and dusty materials are not recommended for bedding. Hedgehogs like their bedding to be 4 inches deep, so they can dig. Placing messy droppings onto a litter tray daily, or placing your hedgehog into the litter tray after it eats, might encourage it to eliminate in one location. You should clean the cage at least once a day, including the hiding boxes and exercise wheels. Please provide cardboard tubes, straw, swimming tubs, play structures and exercise wheels to keep your hedgehog entertained.

Hedgehogs need a temperature between 22-32 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, they can go into a dormant state. You can provide warmth via a heating pad under part of the cage, or a ceramic reptile heater. Your pet should have 10-14 hours of light per day, but not too bright. If you want to play with your hedgehog during the day, you can try reversing the lighting and feeding schedules. Use natural plant cat litter because clumping litter can stick to the hedgehog.

You will need to feed your hedgehog a special diet formulated for them. Alternatively, premium food for less active cats can be fed. Food should not be offered ad lib, but rather as portioned meals, to prevent obesity. You can also supplement the diet with cooked meat or egg, mealworms, low fat cottage cheese, and a small amount of fruit and vegetables. Do not feed raw meat, milk nor hard foods such as carrots. Mealworms and dry food items can be hidden in the bedding to encourage natural foraging behavior.

Hedgehogs have a short lifespan and are good at hiding signs of illness, so an exam every 6 months is recommended to keep them as healthy as possible.

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