Hedgehogs are small nocturnal animals which have become increasingly more popular as pets. They are covered along the top of the back with stiff quills approximately ½ inch in length. Color varieties include white and gray/brown-ticked quills known as “salt and pepper”, and all white quills know as “snowflake”. Adults range in weight from 250 grams to 600 grams, with males being larger than females. The average lifespan is 3 years. African pygmy hedgehogs do not hibernate, unlike some other types of hedgehogs. They have poor eyesight but compensate with keen auditory (hearing) and olfactory (smell) senses. A process called “anoiting”, unique to hedgehogs, consists of the hedgehog hypersalivating (drooling excessively) when encountering a new object, and spreading the foam over its spines. Adults are often not very fond of handling and often will roll into a ball for protection.
Hedgehogs are solitary animals, except for mating, and should be housed alone. A smooth walled enclosure is recommended. A lid does not have to be provided if the cage is sufficiently deep to prevent escape. Aquariums that are 20 gallons or larger with a mesh top may be used. Wire caging is not recommended as hedgehogs may catch their feet in the wire and induce injury. Bedding (newspaper or recycled pelleted/absorbable material – NOT cedar/pine shavings) must be kept dry and changed frequently. A small box, plastic log, or other similar object should be provided as an area for sleeping and hiding. Accessories may include an exercise wheel with large spokes, as hedgehogs will often fall through commercial thin-spoked rodent wheels. A shallow pan of warm water may be used for bathing. Most hedgehogs prefer quiet environments and dimmed lighting.
The temperature of the enclosure should range from 75-85 degrees Farenheight. This is best achieved by placing an under tank heating unit on low under one section of the enclosure to provide a heat gradient for the hedgehog.
Free choice water should always be available for your hedgehog. A low dish may be used, or many will drink freely from a sipper bottle.
Sexual maturity of the hedgehog is reached around 2 months of age. Males can be distinguished from females by the looking for the prepuce on their lower abdomen. Breeding can occur throughout the year, and the length of pregnancy is 34-37 days. Litter size ranges from 1-7 with an average of 3 pups. Please remember to remove the male prior to delivery of the litter. Cannibalism by the female is common if the female is stressed or disturbed. Spines will develop on the pups within 24 hours, and the eyes will open around 13-16 days after birth. Weaning occurs at approximately 4-6 weeks of age. If hand raising is necessary, kitten or puppy milk replacer formula can be used.
Hedgehogs are susceptible to various health problems and should be brought to your veterinarian if problems arise. Problems may consist of weight loss, anorexia, diarrhea, scaly skin, wounds, lumps, sneezing, or reluctance to move. Parasites are not usually a problem in captive bred hedgehogs, but if you suspect intestinal worms, notify your veterinarian. Vaccinations are generally not performed nor recommended for hedgehogs