Hedgehogs are a popular pet choice for many people. In addition to being relative easy to care for, they are cute and can even be cuddly despite their quills. Their small size makes them an attractive option for people living in apartments or homes without a lot of outdoor space.
It is important to learn about these animals that naturally solitary and nocturnal before you consider adopting one. Owning a hedgehog can be a fun and rewarding experience if you are prepared for it.
Hedgehogs make excellent pets, and their nocturnal schedule makes them a particularly good option for people who work long hours during the day. A clean cage, proper diet, and exercise time outside their cage are all a hedgehog needs to be happy and healthy, and they can also be very playful and interactive with their owners once they feel comfortable. Hedgehogs have a life expectancy of between 4 to 6 years, so you need to be willing to commit to their care and needs for a long time.
Although there are 17 different species of hedgehog around, the one that you are most likely to be able to purchase as a pet is the African pygmy hedgehog. They are very cute and their small size means they easily fit in any home environment. This particular species has a naturally shy temperament, but they are likely to warm up to you over time and are generally not aggressive.
Hedgehogs are very intelligent animals, but if you are looking for a pet that can learn a variety of tricks, then a hedgehog is not the best pet for you. You may be able to litter box train your hedgehog by consistently placing their droppings into a littler box filled with bedding in their enclosure. They do, however, require a lot of mental stimulation, so be sure to add tubes and toys to their cage, and take them out to play at least once a day.
Hedgehogs are not an ideal pet if you travel on a regular basis. They need constant care and monitoring to ensure that they are healthy. Their house or cage needs to be kept between 74 and 80 degrees, and their bedding needs to be changed out almost daily. Hedgehogs are solitary animals who do not crave human interaction, but you should handle your hedgehog every day to maintain their comfort level with people.
Hedgehogs are naturally clean animals; as long as you keep their cage very clean, you shouldn't be required to groom them very often. An occasional bath in warm, shallow water may be required if your adventurous hedgehog gets dirt in their quills. Use a soft toothbrush to gently clean their quills. You will need to clip their toenails on a regular basis as their habitat is unlikely to naturally wear the nails down.CasarsaGuru / Getty Images
Hedgehogs don't require any vaccinations and in a human habitat, they are not likely to fall victim to many of the diseases that occur in the wild. In general, you will need to schedule a visit to the vet once a year to check that your pet is healthy and has no major problems. Of course, you should take your pet to the vet if you are at all worried that it is unwell or experience changes in normal behavior.
People are often surprised by just how energetic hedgehogs are at night. To ensure they're getting the exercise they need at night while you're sleeping, provide your hedgehog with as large of a cage as your space will accommodate. A pet playpen is a useful tool for hedgehog owners but are best used when you can supervise your pet while they play. If you have a safe outdoor area, let them outside for an hour or two in the evening. It can be great fun to watch them explore the world around them.
Your hedgehog will get used to cuddling you and sitting on your lap overtime. Hedgehogs are good with children and don't seem to mind other pets in the house, but they generally do not like the company of other hedgehogs. In nature, they are very territorial and only spend time together for mating purposes. If you really want two hedgehogs, make sure they are both female and either have plenty of space or separate cages.
An important thing to note before getting a pet hedgehog is that they are nocturnal. They are also very noisy animals that squeak and sniffle throughout the night. This means that you will battle to sleep if you are a light sleeper or if they are in the same room as you at night.
Feeding hedgehogs is fairly simple as the foods that they require are easy to obtain. A hedgehog's diet should consist mostly of cat food that is high in protein and fiber. Supplement their diet with a bit of fruits and veggies as well as meal worms, which can be bought from a reputable pet store. As with nearly any pet, hedghehogs should have constant access to clean, fresh drinking water.
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