Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Hedgehogs are simple animals, really. They only need a few things to keep them happy, healthy, and content with their environment. Although some cage set ups are quite elaborate, here we will discuss the basics of what you will need for your baby's home.
Cage | For a detailed rundown regarding cage types, including specific benefits and downfalls, please see the post entitled "Selecting a Cage."
Heating Source | A heating source is by far one of the most important things you can purchase for your hedgehog. Too often families will purchase a hedgie, see the cost of a heat set up (around $60), and assume that their home heat will be enough because they keep their thermostat set to 75 degrees. More often than not, your home heat WILL NOT be sufficient to prevent hibernation, which can kill a hedgehog in 24-48 hours. Proper temperatures are so important to your hedgehog's health that failure to provide an approved heat source will void any health guarantee we have offered. For more information regarding approved heat sources, please see the post entitled "Selecting a Heating Source."
Food | There is much controversy surrounding the appropriate diet for captive hedgehogs. Unfortunately, research regarding the subject is quite limited. For our personal opinion regarding diet, please see the post entitled "Feeding Your Hedgehog - An Obligate Carnivore."
Supplements | We highly recommend the addition of chitosan powder as a supplement in 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.
Bedding | There are many types of bedding to chose from. We personally use pine or aspen shavings due to the convenience and odor absorption. Please avoid Cedar, as it is toxic to hedgehogs. For more information regarding bedding types, please see the post entitled Selecting Your Bedding.
Shelter | Hedgehogs prefer to have a dark, warm place to hide. Although they do like plastic igloos and huts, we simply give our hedgehogs fleece-lined sleep sacks, as they provide more warmth and seem to be preferred over the huts by our hedgies.
Wheel | Wheels can be an excellent source of physical activity when used correctly, but should not be a primary source of exercise. Because hedgehogs do not possess the cognitive ability to know when to stop running, they will often run up to 8 miles a night. Over time, exercising in this unnatural position can cause damage to their spine. If a wheel is used, it should be a minimum of 12" or "Giant" size.
Dig Boxes & Enrichment | As an alternative to wheels, you can provide your hedgehog with "dig boxes" and other forms of enrichment. A "dig box" can be elaborate, or something as simple as a shoe box filled with fleece strips and a few meal worms. The goal is to create a more natural environment where they are able to use some of their basic instincts.
Water Source | All of our hedgehogs have learned to use a water bottle before leaving our home. We prefer bottles over bowls for sanitary reasons. However, some hedgehogs chomp viciously at the nozzle, which can lead to broken teeth and facial wounds. Additionally, bowls encourage hedgies to drink more water and proper hydration is crucial to overall health. If you choose to use a water bowl, please ensure to inspect it for fecal matter at least twice a day, as hedgies love to poop in water bowls.
Food Bowl | We actually prefer not to use food bowls for the same reasons we prefer not to use water bowls; hedgies absolutely love to poop in them. We have found that putting their food in a neat little pile, directly on the bedding, will more frequently discourage them from defecating on or near it. However, if you prefer to use a bowl, please be sure to inspect it frequently for fecal matter. Discard any uneaten food within 24 hours.
Litter Box & Litter | Some people like to keep things tidy by litter training their hedgehog. In this case, a corner litter pan, or a stacking, 3 sided storage bin with a short lip is recommended. If using shavings, or beddings like Care Fresh, we have found it is easier and more effective to use the same thing in your litter box as you are using for bedding. However, if you are using fleece bedding, we recommend compressed pine pellets, such as Feline Pine or Equine Fresh. Please avoid using cat litter or corn cob bedding, as these can prove hazardous to your hedgehog.
Toys & Entertainment | Honestly, most hedgehogs are not big on playing with toys, but the one thing that is almost universally adored would be toilet paper tubes. Hedgehogs love to push them around and will spend a considerable amount of time doing so. Other things that some hedgies will play with include cat crinkle toys and small squares of fleece. We do not recommend the large exercise balls that are used to contain rodents as they run around the house. Hedgehogs too often will catch their toes in the cracks, causing unnecessary injury.
Treats | Come on now, who doesn't like a treat now and then? Treats, in the appropriate form and quantity, can provide additional enrichment and entertainment for your pet. For more information on suggested treats to feed your hedgehog, please see the post entitled "Selecting Treats for Your Hedgehog."
Grooming Supplies | General grooming supplies will include a nail clipper, a toothbrush or something similar, a "shampoo" of some sort, an after bath oil, and a shallow area for soaking dirty feet. For the nail clipper, we prefer the type used for babies. It is simply easier than using cat nail clippers when it comes to hedgies. The toothbrush will be used to brush your hedgehog's quills during bath time, in order to remove any buildup or debris. For "shampoo" we recommend HogWash, which is available in our online shop. It is more of a moisturizing exfoliating scrub than a shampoo and does not foam. Alternatively, we recommend Aveeno baby shampoo. We then follow up with a moisturizing oil called Hedgie So Soft, which is also available in our online shop. However, you may also opt to use pure olive oil. In this case, you can expect your hedgie to remain a bit greasy for a day or two. Please avoid any products containing Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus, as these are toxic to hedgies. Lastly, you will certainly want to have a shallow area to soak your hedgehog's feet, if need be. This could be a pan of some sort, a bathroom sink, etc. Remember, your hedgehog will run on their wheel for up to 8 miles each night and it is unlikely they will veer off course for a potty break. This will lead to what we call "poop boots." The easiest way to get rid of "poop boots" is to let them soak their tootsies for a few minutes in some warm water.
That is about it. These are the basic things you will need to have ready for your hedgehog's arrival, although we wouldn't fault you for building them a mansion, of course.