In some areas hedgehogs are becoming a popular exotic pet however these animals may not be good pets for everyone. Be aware that this article is based on the author’s opinions and observations through owning a hedgehog and talking to other owners.
Hedgehogs cannot be captured wild and kept as pets, in some areas keeping them is illegal. The hedgehogs that are commonly kept as pets are hybrids from hedgehogs that come from Africa. They are sometimes sold at pet stores, or at exotic pet shows and exhibitions. Sometimes animal shelters have them for adoption.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal. This is one of the main concerns with keeping them as pets. They are awake at night and can be noisy. Hedgehogs do best if they are allowed at least two hours out of their cage every night (or at least 5 nights out of 7). We find taking her out between 8:00pm and 10:00pm is fine but later would be better.
Hedgehogs are covered with quills (spines really) that do hurt a little, they do not cut into your skin but also will poke the dust from their bedding into your hands and may cause some irritation.
Pet hedgehogs can have a large wheel in their cage but not all hedgehogs will use the wheels, and wheels can be loud at night. There may be some concern of the wheel not being good for the hedgehog’s back (we do not have a wheel for our pet hedgehog). They can go in a large ball (often marketed as balls for guinea pigs), or you can let it loose to explore a room that has been made “hedgehog proof”.
As for housing, a large guinea pig cage (3ft long x 18inches wide) is fine to house a hedgehog. They prefer a small shelter and many stores sell plastic “igloos” for this. Pine shavings are okay to use as a bedding, but aspen is better. Cedar shavings should never be used for any small caged pet even though they are frequently sold for this purpose. Cedar shavings can cause respiratory problems for some pets.
Hedgehogs do have special dietary needs. In the wild they would eat insects, worms, and so forth. As pets many pet foods do not really meet their needs correctly. Some people feed their hedgehog cat food. Even if you can find a prepared hedgehog food, I have noted a huge range in quality; some hedgehog foods contain a lot of corn (bad) and very little meat. Select a hedgehog food with chicken meal as main ingredient. You can also feed them dried crickets or meal worms.
Hedgehogs should not be younger than 8 weeks of age when you buy them and may live five or six years.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting a Pet Hedgehog
- Are hedgehog legal as pets in my area?
- Am I okay with a pet that will be active at night and not in the day?
Can I let my pet out nightly for exercise?
- Do I have room for the cage?
- Do I have a place to buy good quality hedgehog food?
- Can I make a lifetime commitment to owning a hedgehog?
- Is a hedgehog the right pet for me?
- Would I be better off with a rabbit or guinea pig instead?