Bringing Home Your Hedgehog: The Basics

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

What is Needed?

Before bringing your hedgehog home, you should have a minimum of the following items in their habitat. Please remember that you will read many varying opinions on various cages, bedding types, etc. and there will be downfalls and risks to anything you choose. However, we have included some items in certain categories that should absolutely not be used for any reason.

Cage | Preferably a clear, plastic tote or a wire rabbit cage with a solid bottom. Your cage must be adequate in size. We suggest a minimum of 105qt for totes, or a standard size rabbit cage. If using a plastic tote, the cage should either have large holes drilled in the lid and sides for ventilation, or the lid should be left off at all times. Bird cages, small rodent cages, and even some guinea pig cages are too small for a hedgehog.

Heating Source | All hedgehogs must have a heating source in their general living environment, regardless of household temperature as drafts and cage location can cause great temperature variations and fluctuations when relying on a furnace alone. Acceptable heating sources include space heaters, or a ceramic heat emitter. Ceramic heat emitter set ups should include a clamp lamp dome to house the bulb, a ceramic heat emitter (CHE) bulb that is 100-150 watts, and a thermostat to regulate temperature. Please remember that CHE bulbs do not produce any kind of light, whether it be traditional light, black light, or red light. Because hedgehogs are nocturnal, constant exposure to light can throw off sleep cycles and cause heath complications. Please ensure you have purchased the right bulb and that it is producing heat only. Please refrain from using heating pads or rocks as a heating source for your hedgehog. These do not heat the air in your hedgehog’s environment and can likewise cause burns to their sensitive little feet. It can be compared difference between, as humans, being in a heated room, vs. being out in the cold weather with a heated floor. Failure to provide your hedgehog with adequate heat can and often will result in hibernation, which can be fatal in as little as 24 hours. This does not mean you cannot take your hedgehog out of its cage. A hedgehog can be out in normal household temperatures for a few hours without issue. However, they should be returned to their heated cage when not being played with and owners should always watch for the first signs of hibernation.

Bedding | Your hedgehog will need some form of bedding in their habitat. Pine or aspen shavings are most popular and what we have personally chosen to use at Muddy Creek Farms. Care Fresh (the fluffy, cotton style bedding), pine pellets such as Equine Fresh or Feline Pine, and fleece liners are all acceptable forms of bedding. Please refrain from using Cedar shavings as they are toxic to hedgehogs! Also remember that most bedding, apart from fleece, can possibly harbor mites. For this reason, it is always a good idea to periodically inspect your hedgehog for signs of mites or treat your hedgehog monthly with Revolution.

Wheel | Should you choose to use a wheel, your hedgehog should have a minimum of a 12”, or “Giant Size” wheel. The wheel should have a plastic bottom and should not be grated or have any form of holes in which the hedgehog’s toes may become stuck while running. **We do not recommend wheels as a primary source of physical activity.

Food Dish & Water Bottle / Bowl | Your hedgehog should be provided with a food dish and either a water bottle or a bowl. At this time, your hedgehog is currently used to drinking out of a water bottle but should have no issue switching to a bowl.

Food | Selecting the proper food is crucial to your hedgehog’s health. Your baby is currently eating a mixture of Farmina Grain-Free Chicken & Pomegranate cat food and Kirkland Super Premium Cat food. We mix these two because often, when hedgehogs are sent home and they have only been fed the Farmina, they will refuse to eat any other type of food. However, we recommend gradually transitioning your hedgehog to a diet consisting only of Farmina. Because the subject of nutrition and food selection is such a broad and detailed topic, we recommend you visit our nutrition article on our website for a more detailed explanation as to why we have chosen to feed Farmina and what we recommend you look for in a food if you decide to make a switch to something else. The article can be found at : Under no circumstances should your hedgehog be fed foods labeled “Hedgehog Food” that can be found at pet stores. These foods often do not provide your hedgehog with adequate nutrition and sometimes even contain ingredients not recommended for hedgehogs at all. We have personally seen this result in many issues in customer’s hedgehogs, including multiple cases of loss of limb function which is reversed when the hedgehog is returned to a diet of quality cat food. Additionally, you should not feed your hedgehog any food that is over 35% protein unless the label states at least 90% of the protein is derived from meat sources. Fillers such as corn and peas should be avoided. They should not be fed cheap cat foods, full of fillers, such as Meow Mix and Friskies. Likewise, many expensive foods, such as Science Diet, are often not much better when it comes to ingredients. Your hedgehog, when provided with nutritionally appropriate food, will cost less to feed each month than even your average rodent and generally will only eat about 1-3 tablespoons of food per day. Please ensure you are making the most out of it by feeding them a quality food.

Supplements | We highly recommend the addition of chitosan powder to your hedgehog's diet. Chitin is a main component in the exoskeletons of arthropods, such as insects and crustaceans which are a staple in the diet of wild hedgehogs. Due to the lack of dietary fiber in cat food and the hedgehog's limited ability to utilize cellulose, chitosan powder serves as an important dietary fiber supplement. Chitosan powder can be added directly to your hedgehog's food. Likewise, we recommend the use of probiotic powder, which is added to their water. Probiotics are important in maintaining balanced flora in the gut. It is said this may potentially decrease issues associated with common bacteria such as e. Coli and Salmonella.

Water | Obviously, your hedgehog is going to need water. We mention this because your baby is currently used to drinking well water, which smells and tastes nothing like the city or bottled water. This will often throw hedgehog’s off when they encounter it for the first time and cause them to quit drinking. If you notice your hedgehog not wanting to drink, simply wipe some of the new water around the bottom of their mouth a few times. This should cause them to lick it off and realize there is no danger in ingesting it. Our adult hedgehogs drink an 8oz bottle of water in approximately 2-3 days for reference, so do not expect your water bottle or bowl to be completely empty each day. As long as they are drinking, they are likely getting what they need.

Sleep Sack or Hideaway | Your hedgehog should be provided with a sleep sack or a hut of some sort where they can get away and hide. We prefer sleep sacks for many reasons, but mainly like them because they provide the hedgehog with extra warmth and security, the hedgehog’s themselves seem to prefer them, and because we use plastic totes with the lids off for our cages, the sleep sacks do not give the hedgehog’s the leverage they need to climb up and escape. Alternatively, “fat quarters” of fleece can be given, although they will not provide all of the advantages of an actual sleep sack. Plastic igloos are also acceptable, although we do recommend providing a fat quarter of fleece in addition to the igloo itself for extra warmth.

Treats | Hedgehogs love treats such as freeze-dried chicken liver, little pieces of cooked egg or chicken, or live meal worms, crickets, and roaches. You should not feed your hedgehog dried insects as they can cause stomach impactions. Additionally, although it is fine to occasionally feed your hedgie very small amounts of fruit and vegetables, hedgehogs have no cecum in their digestive tract to properly digest plant matter, so it is best to stick to meat-based treats.

The First Few Days – What to Expect …

Diarrhea or Green Stool | It is common hedgehogs to develop green, slimy stool during their first few days in a new environment and at any point when their environment or handler changes. This is generally caused by stress and sudden diet changes.

What you can do: Avoid any changes in your hedgehog’s diet the first week home. All diet changes should be made gradually. Crushing half of their food into crumbs may help firm up stools. Try to make sure your hedgehog’s environment is as stress free as possible during this time. Adding probiotics to their food or water will help offset stress related diarrhea.

What to watch for: Blood in stool may indicate serious bowel disturbances. Blood may appear red or black, not to be confused with the normal dark brown of hedgehog feces. It is in your hedgehog’s best interest to be seen by a veterinarian immediately if blood is found in the stool. If diarrhea persists for more than 1 week, please consult your breeder or veterinarian.

Decrease in Food Consumption | It is very common for hedgehogs to decrease their food intake or stop eating altogether due to stress, but most will resume normal eating habits within a few days. Failure to eat due to changes in the brand or formula of food may be a slightly harder issue to resolve.

What you can do: Do not make any changes to your hedgehog’s diet during their first week home. This will give you the opportunity to determine whether your hedgehog is not eating due to the stress of change, or if he or she simply does not like the food you have selected. During the first few days, count the number of pieces of food you put in your hedgehog’s bowl and count them again at the next feeding to see how many pieces your hedgehog has eaten. This will help you to monitor their eating habits. Refrain from feeding your hedgehog any food or treats until normal eating patterns have been established. Many hedgehogs will resume eating if you sprinkle their food with Spike's Stress Less; a high protein food topper. Hedgehogs will often quit eating if they are dehydrated or not drinking enough water. If it seems your hedgehog is not eating due to a change in the brand or variety of food, you may need to consider switching, as many hedgehogs will become quite stubborn and starve themselves when they do not like something.

What to watch for: Please consult with your breeder if your hedgehog has not eaten for 3 days or more, or if they continue to only pick at their food for a week or more. Your hedgehog should be consuming between 1-4 tablespoons of food per day, depending on their age, size, and activity level. They should not appear sunken in on the sides when viewed from the top. A large, sudden drop in weight should be considered serious and your breeder or veterinarian should be contacted immediately.

Decrease in Water Consumption- Hedgehogs rely heavily on their sense of smell. A sudden change in their source of water may cause them to stop drinking altogether. Because your hedgehog is used to the smells and flavor of well water, a change to city or bottled water can often prove challenging.

What you can do: Monitor your hedgehog’s water intake closely. Mark the “starting point” when you first fill the water bottle or bowl with a non-toxic marker and check the levels daily, taking into account the tendency for evaporation in water bowls. If you notice very little or no difference in the levels for more than 24 hours, you may try to “manually adjust” your hedgehog to his or her new water source. You may do this by dipping your finger in the water and wiping it around their mouth a few times daily. Do not attempt to give your hedgehog water by force, as this can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

What to watch for: Pinch the skin on your arm for a few seconds and let it go. If you are well hydrated, it should pop back into place almost immediately. The skin of a well hydrated hedgehog will do the same. If you notice your hedgehog’s skin takes a considerable amount of time to pop back into place, he or she is probably dehydrated, and you should contact your breeder or veterinarian immediately.

Sleeping | It is very normal for hedgehogs, especially young hedgehogs, to sleep a lot. You must remember that they are nocturnal and like newborn babies, they do require a lot of rest. Most activity will be witnessed at night and it is not uncommon to hear of hedgehogs running 7-8 miles per night on their wheels.

What you can do: Make play time short and rewarding. Like humans, hedgehogs may not like being woken up out of a sound sleep. Wake them up slowly and quietly and allow them to realize what is going on. Do not expect them to be happy to see you at first. Some hedgehogs tolerate a lot of handling better than others and will enjoy being awake and exploring. It is also normal for your hedgehog to simply want to curl up, nestled into your clothes and go to sleep.

What to watch for: If your hedgehog does not seem to wake up “normally”, look for these things. A cold belly, “wobbling” after the initial few steps, or any kind of “out of it” reaction. This may indicate a hibernation attempt that must be addressed immediately! Hedgehogs already deeper into hibernation will often be curled up into a tight ball, be fairly unresponsive when touched, and will have a strange “dead cold” feeling, even through their quills. Hedgehogs often sleep rolled into a ball, so that alone is not cause for concern. If your hedgehog is experiencing any of these symptoms, please start slowly warming your hedgehog by holding them on your skin under your shirt and contact your breeder immediately. DO NOT try to warm them up quickly! If your hedgehog has not been eating or drinking and is experiencing these symptoms, you should also contact your breeder for further analysis and instruction.

Behavioral or Personality Changes | It is common for hedgehogs to go through grumpy periods. Like humans, they have their good days and their bad days. Stress, quilling, diet changes, and illness can all play a part in your hedgehog’s behavior and mood. Most babies will be very huffy during their first week in a new environment. They may quill up, pop at you, make huffing noises, and although it is rare, some may even bite if agitated enough. This is not to be confused with “tasting”. Many hedgehogs will “taste” you because they do not know who or even what you are. When a hedgehog “tastes” you, they are usually fairly calm. They may first begin by licking and follow with a bite and reasonably quick release. This will often be followed by an episode of self-anointing. Your hedgehog may appear to be having a seizure, but rest assured that it is normal. They may shake, contort their bodies, fall over, then they will cover themselves in a frothy spit and then may return to have a second go at whatever it was they just tasted. This is not a behavioral problem and they will cease doing this once they start to recognize your scent. You will also notice this whenever they are given a new food or treat.

What you can do: How often you handle your hedgehog really depends on their personality. We do not suggest leaving a cranky hedgehog alone simply because they are cranky. They must learn to trust you and will not be able to do so if they are never handled. However, get to know your hedgehog’s limits. Sometimes a good snuggle is just as beneficial as actively playing with them. Handle your hedgehog with intent and purpose. Poking at them, light strokes and touches (especially when your hand is hovering over their body) and speaking soft words into their face is terrifying for most hedgehogs. A fair amount of pressure and whole hand movements while playing with your hedgehog is generally best and will make them the most comfortable. Quilling is a painful process for hedgehogs and we recommend keeping handling to a minimum while they are quilling heavily. The last heavy quilling period is usually complete by 10 weeks of age. Because this process can make them itchy, putting a few drops of oil on the hedgehog’s skin will relieve some of their discomfort and help prevent them from scratching; therefore preventing any related skin infection. Hedgehog “tasting” and biting is often brought on by new scents; hand lotions, soaps, perfume, food, and cigarette smoke are only a few of the things that may cause this.

What to watch for: Sudden mood changes and decrease or increase in activity can be brought on by illness and pain. It is important to monitor the other aspects of your hedgehog’s behavior and note any sudden changes in activity. bowel movements, sleeping patterns, or eating and drinking habits. If something in your hedgehog’s behavior seems “off”, please contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

No matter how long you have had your hedgehog, it is important to check them daily for any of these issues. If you have any questions, please consult your breeder or licensed exotic veterinarian. This information is not a substitute for veterinary care and advice. If you feel your situation is an emergency and that your hedgehog is in immediate danger, please do not hesitate to take them directly to your veterinarian!

For further information, please visit our Hedgehog Information Blog

located on our website:

Muddy Creek Farms

Oxford, MI

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