African Pygmy Hedgehog
SIZE & LIFESPAN
African Pygmy Hedgehogs are no bigger than your thumb when they are born, but within just 8-10 short weeks, they'll be their full grown size. Hedgehogs can range in size. Most fall between 250-450 grams as adults. You want to make sure your Hedgehog has a nice teardrop shaped body. If your hedgehog is extremely round or cannot fully ball up, then it is obese and needs to be put on a diet. If your hedgehog is more concave and has an hourglass figure, then it needs and increase in food. If your hedgehog continues to lose weight, be sure to take it to the vet as there may be some other issue preventing your Hedgehog from gaining weight.
HEAT & LIGHTING
Hedgehogs do not require any special lighting. But because they are nocturnal, you want to make sure to keep their enclosure dark at night so they get a true day/night cycle. As for heating, Hedgehogs need to be kept between 75-80 degrees. If a Hedgehog gets too cold, it can go into hibernation. Hedgehogs in captivity do not wake up from hibernation and will pass away, so it is vital to keep them warm. We recommend getting a 100 watt Ceramic Heat Emitter Bulb with a Dome Ceramic Based Heat Lamp plugged into a thermostat set to 78 degrees. The thermostat probe should be on the ground of the enclosure to get proper readings of the enclosures temperature. All heat sources need to be regulated. It is dangerous to put a heat lamp on an enclosure without a thermostat to regulate the temperature.
Hedgehogs can be kept in a variety of different enclosures. They need to be kept in a minimum enclosure size of 2'x3' but a larger cage size will give your hedgehog more room to run around. A few types of enclosures that can be used include Critter Nation Cage, 110qt Storage Bin, Modular Fence Unit, Midwest Guinea Pig Cage or the XL Wabbitat. Hedgehogs have very poor vision and will try to climb if given the chance. If you use an enclosure with wire sides, you need to install either coroplast or plexiglass around the wire so that the hedgehog cannot climb the wire sides. If the cage has any ramps, those should either be removed or have sides installed on both the ramp and the platform so that the hedgehog cannot fall off the side and injure itself. Hedgehogs are solitary animals and do not do well with each other. We recommend keeping all Hedgehogs separate. When getting them out for handling or outside the cage play time, you'll want to make sure that your hedgehogs do not come into contact with each other. They can easily injure one another in the blink of an eye so it's very important to always keep them separate.
There are a few different options when it comes to bedding. You can use aspen bedding, Anti-pill fleece liner, or make the cage bioactive. We personally use fleece liners made to perfectly fit our cage. They are easy to clean and can be thrown in the washer for easy cleaning. We have also used Aspen bedding in the past. It is a great substrate option that lets your Hedgehog naturally burrow. However, it is not reusable and needs changed out weekly. Another option is to go bioactive with your Hedgehog's cage. We recommend checking out the Facebook Group - "Bioactive and Naturalistic Mammal Setups" for more information on going bioactive with your hedgehog. Alongside your bedding, we recommend putting a litterbox under your wheel. The majority of pooping happens while running on the wheel, so having a litterbox to catch the poop will help keep things cleaner between cage cleanings. We use activity trays under our wheels filled with Feline Pine to catch any poop from the wheel while they are running.
Hedgehogs need a few major things in their enclosure to keep them healthy and happy. The first thing is 1-2 hides in your enclosure. In the wild, hedgehogs like to burrow, so providing them with hides will help provide them with burrow like areas and make them feel safe. In our fleece cages, we typically use fleece corner hides and fleece cuddle sacks for hides. You can also use plastic igloo style hide, tunnels (either PVC tubes or fleece tunnels), wood huts, or wood tunnels. We prefer fleece or plastic hides over wooden hides. Wood hides are harder to sanitize and keep clean compared to plastic or fleece. Alongside a hide, your hedgehog needs a good wheel in the enclosure. Many wheels on the market are unsafe for hedgehogs, so be careful when picking out a wheel. We recommend buying either the Comfort Wheel or the Carolina Storm Wheel. Be sure that you get the 12" wheel option so that it is big enough to accommodate your hedgehog. We prefer the Carolina Storm Wheel. They're extremely easy to clean and do not squeak like other wheels on the market. Your hedgehogs should also be offered some toys for enrichment. Some good toys for hedgehogs include ping pong balls, cat crinkle balls, mint sticks, baby bath toys, fleece balls or toilet paper rolls cut open so the hedgehog cannot get its head trapped inside. If you use fleece substrate, you can also put a dig box in your enclosure for more enrichment. The dig box can have fleece strips it in along with toys. This will give your Hedgehog a place to burrow and play.
Hedgehogs can range in personality. We handle our hedgehogs from a very young age to make sure they are used to people touching and handling them. Hedgehogs are almost completely blind so will not recognize you by sight, but by smell and sound. Before you bring your hedgehog home, you should sleep with a piece of fleece for a few nights in a row. This will get your scent all over the piece of fabric. Then put that piece of fabric into your hedgehogs cage so that it can get used to your smell over the next few weeks. When you first bring your new friend home, you should start the bonding process the very next day. We recommend getting your hedgehog out either first thing in the morning or late at night. They can be more grumpy during the day because that is when they are in their deepest sleep. When getting out your hedgehog, it may be a bit painful at first, but your hands will get used to their quills sensation overtime. If you can, do not use gloves to handle your hedgehog. They rely on their sense of smell more than anything else so wearing gloves prevents them from truly getting used to your scent. When picking up your hedgehog, you want to scoop them up from underneath and put them on your lap. They will most likely poop on you when they wake up, so lay down a washable blanket or fleece on your lap for easy clean up. You can also get them out into a playpen. Small animal Playpens are usually big enough to sit in with your hedgehog and are easy to clean up and put away afterwards. Your hedgehog may not want you to pet them right away, so start off with offering them treats. Hedgehogs love live insects. Tong feeding them dubia roaches or meal worms can help create a bond between you. When you start to pet your hedgehog, make sure you are not too gentle. When you just barely graze their quills, you're almost tickling them which can be uncomfortable for the hedgehog. Be sure to pet them firmly, but not roughly. If they start popping or huffing, leave your hand on them until they stop. You do not want your hedgehog to learn that popping or huffing will make the petting stop. Although it is cute, putting your hedgehog on its back to watch it ball up can be extremely stressful. When a hedgehog is on its back, it is at its most vulnerable and will not feel comfortable or safe. It can take time to create a bond, but consistently getting your hedgehog out is the key to making a strong bond between the two of you.
Like most small animals, Hedgehogs go to the bathroom quite a bit. You will want to spot clean your enclosure daily to remove any poop. Alongside that, their wheel should be cleaned daily to prevent poop from building up on it. We like to use Nature's Miracle Small Animal Wipes to clean wheels. You'll want to clean the entire enclosure out weekly. If you use Aspen bedding, that means cleaning any decor items and changing out the bedding weekly to keep the cage sanitary. If you use fleece decor or bedding, that means washing your fleece once a week. We put our fleece in the washer and use Pet Safe Detergent to clean them. We then put them in either the dryer or air dry them depending on what the product requires in their care instructions. All hides and toys should be wiped down and rinsed during your weekly cage cleaning. We use the Small Animal Cleaning wipes to wipe down our enclosures. After we use the wipes, we use a wet paper towel to remove any residue. Be sure everything is dry before putting your hedgehog back in its enclosure.
Hedgehogs do require some grooming. Hedgehogs need their nails clipped every few weeks. As they get used to you, this job will become easier and easier. It's best to have two people when cutting nails at first so you can get used to the process. Hedgehogs have light color nails, so it is easy to see the quick. You should have Kwik-stop or flour on hand in case you accidentally cut the quick. Putting a dab of either powder on the tip of the nail will clot the blood and stop the bleeding. You can use small animal nail clippers for nails but we prefer these baby nail clippers. These baby clippers light up and have a magnifying glass which makes it easier to see what you're doing. Cutting your hedgehogs nails every few weeks is vital to ensure they do not get too long and make it painful for them to walk. There are plenty of videos online to show you techniques on how to cut your hedgehogs nails. Hedgehogs can also get something called "poop boots". This is when poop accumulates on their feet while they run on their wheel. If you get your hedgehog out at night and they have dried poop on their feet, simply let their feet soak in luke warm water in the sink. The poop should come right off after a few minutes of soaking. Hedgehogs should get baths, but shouldn't be bathed too frequently. We typically bathe our hedgehogs every few months. We use Hogwash and a toothbrush to get in between their quills and clean their belly and back. Be sure the water is luke warm and isn't too deep. Be sure to dry your hedgehog thoroughly with a towel before putting it back into the enclosure. Hedgehogs quill 2 times in their life. The first time they quill is when they are between 6-10 weeks old, then they may quill again at around a year of age. Quilling if when baby quills fall out and adult quills come in. There should never be big bald patches on your hedgehog, but you may notice small quills piercing through the skin during this time. Don't be alarmed if you find quills in the cage at these stages in life. They will drop quite a few quills, but they are being replaced with new ones. During this time, they may be more sensitive to your touch, so keep petting to a minimum if they are quilling.
☐ Minimum enclosure of 2x3', you can always go bigger
☐ 3 ceramic bowls for water, food and insects
☐ 1-2 hides
☐ Play toys
☐ Wheel - either Comfort Wheel or Carolina Storm Wheel
☐ Bedding - Aspen or Fleece
☐ Ceramic Heat Emitter Bulb
☐ Ceramic Based Heat Lamp
☐ Thermostat for Heat Lamp
☐ Precision Hedgehog Food or High Quality Cat Food
☐ Live Insects - Dubia Roaches, Mealworms or BSFL
☐ Nail Trimmer
☐ Hedgehog Shampoo
☐ Small Animal Cage Cleaner