Hedgehogs are great pets for those who are dedicated and patient. But do you know that these cute and friendly chaps can also help you deal with snail control in the garden? If you have a small area of flowers or veggies in the backyard, raising a hedgehog can be a good idea to keep the balance with nature. As with any pets, it is necessary to do thorough research on the habits and required care before you decide to choose one for your home. Keep reading to learn how to look after a hedgehog and make it your great friend and garden protector.
1. Create a spacious hedgehog house
Your hedgehog needs a large space to feel comfortable when it lives in. Ideally, a good hedgehog house house should be at least 45 x 60 centimetres. But if you could afford a more spacious area, 60×75 centimetres or 75×75 centimetres are very generous. The height of the house can be around 40 to 50 centimetres.
Depending on your needs, the side options are varied. While many people use smooth walls, this style can make ventilation more difficult. Also, be careful with wired sides because your hedgehog can climb and escape the house. That’s why it is necessary to secure it with a closed top.
2. Choose a good material for bedding
Having a comfortable bedding is important for your hedgehog because this is the place where it spends most of the time. Hedgehogs typically enjoy wood shavings, but it is advisable to use aspen shavings instead of cedar because it contains carcinogenic phenols which might cause cancer when inhaled. Alternatively, considering lining the cage with a soft yet sturdy cloth such as fleece or corduroy.
3. Ensure the right temperature
Typically, hedgehogs require a slightly warm temperature, ranging from 220C to 270C. If the temperature gets cooler, it might try to “hibernate”, which could be lethal, while a hotter level can cause heat stress. Whenever you see the hedgehog spreading out in the enclosure, make sure to adjust the temperature immediately. When it is lethargic, or its body temperature gets cooler than usual, put your hedgehog under the shirt and use your body heat to warm it up immediately.
4. Feed a varied diet
Hedgehogs are insectivores, making them ideal pets for your garden. Some common insects such as wax worms, crickets, and mealworms can provide vital nutrition. However, do not feed wild-caught ones because some might contain harmful pesticides or parasites which can infect your pet.
Also, you can feed them other things such as meat, eggs, veggies, and fruits to provide adequate nutrients. A stable diet with cat kibble which is supplemented with these foods is a good option for your hedgehog. Keep in mind to look for products that are holistic and organic.
While hedgehogs can take a wide range of foods, you should never feed them the following: seeds, nuts, raw meat, dried fruits, raisins, grapes, avocado, hard uncooked veggies, hard/sticky/stringy foods, dairy products or milk, bread, celery, alcohol, onion, tomatoes, raw carrots, honey, and junk foods like candies or chips.
5. Keep your hedgehog in a peaceful, quiet area
Do not house your hedgehog near a noisy space such as around the TV or stereo player. As a prey species in the wild which mainly depends on its hearing sense, it might find excessive activities and noises too distressing and annoying. Keep in mind to ensure a low level of activity, lighting, and noise around the case. The good news is that hedgehogs might get accustomed to noises if you introduce gradually.
6. Do exercises
Hedgehogs can put on weight quickly, so regular exercises are a must to keep them healthy. This means you should place a lot of toys in the cage so that they can tip over, nuzzle, push, or chew. Some possible options include rubber figures, old children’s toys, rubber balls, toilet paper tubes, teething rings, bird toys, or cat balls.
7. Watch for unusual behaviours
Hedgehogs are quite good at concealing illnesses, so it is very important to keep an eye on your pet. Keep track of any unusual behaviours or changes in their daily activities and call a vet immediately. For example:
- If it doesn’t eat or drink for 1 or 2 days, something might wrong, and it requires veterinary attention to prevent life-threatening conditions.
- Watch out for dry, scaly skin around its quills. These might be a common indicator of mites, which could lead to serious complications if left untreated.
- Crackly or wheezing discharge and respiration on the wrists or face can be a sign of respiratory diseases.
- Soft stools in many days and lack of appetite might suggest a parasite illness.
8. Bathe on an as-needed basis
The frequency of bathing on your hedgehog might depend on its living condition and daily activities. However, make sure to do this at least once per week to keep it clean and fresh. Firstly, fill the sink with lukewarm water to the belly of the hog to prevent it from getting into the nose or ears. Add a mild puppy or oatmeal bath and brush out the feet and quills with a toothbrush. Finally, rinse with lukewarm water and dry it a clean, soft towel. Take a look at the following clip to learn more:
9. Trim the nails regularly
When the nails of your hedgehog grow too long and curl around, make sure to trim them immediately. Otherwise, these parts might be ripped off as they move around. You can do this easily with manicure scissors. Keep in mind to trim off the very tips to avoid touching the sensitive areas. In case of bleeding, use a q-tip to dab cornstarch on the affected spot instead of commercially powders, which can cause a sting.